Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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If you’re not a touch typist…

Although I use a computer for several hours every day, I have never learnt to touch type. I’m mostly a four-finger typist, and I still need to look at the keyboard every few keystrokes to keep myself orientated.

I don’t know who invented the dark coloured keyboard, but whoever did should be taken out and shot. White/cream/beige keyboards were the norm until the early years of this millenium, and are so much easier to read in poor light, but now they are are as rare as hens’ teeth.

As I have aged, my gripe with dark keyboards has increased, so much so that my son gave me a backlit keyboard last Christmas. Problem solved I thought to myself as I gratefully thanked the son for the considerate gift.

My tired old eyes struggle with this keyboard

But it was not to be. I’m not sure if all backlit keyboards are the same in this regard: The lettering on this particular keyboard was clearly visible only when the eyes were directly above the key – not the most comfortable of positions. Otherwise they were more difficult to see than the standard white lettering on black keys.

I persevered for months, but finally has to acknowledge that the keyboard and I would never be on friendly terms, and it was time to part company. But what could I replace it with?

I searched online for several weeks before I found what I was looking for. It was love at first sight! I ordered it on the spot and just one day later I was was tearing at the packaging like a child at Christmas.

We’ve been together for two weeks now, and I know it has been a match made in heaven. It might not be the most attractive keyboard ever made. One person has commented that it’s ugly and more than a little garish. But it has done wonders to my soul, not to mention my eyesight, and as they say, beauty is only skin deep.

Even when the only illumination is from the computer screen, the keys are still very readable. The lettering is four time larger than found on a typical keyboard, and you could almost say that the keys glow. They are radiant.

I’m in love with this keyboard!


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Birthday anniversary

Today would have been my mother’s 100th birthday if she had not passed away in February 2017.

I’m reminded of the occasion because the wife showed me a Facebook posting by my sister (the wife has a Facebook account, I don’t, but that’s a story for another day). Otherwise the occasion would have gone unnoticed by me.

The wife mentions that she misses Mum, but it’s not a feeling I share. Not because I have any negative thoughts towards her, in fact I can’t think of anything negative to say about my mother, and I’m still very fond of her. But that’s where it ends. I feel the same about her now as I did four years ago, when she was a 96 year old bundle of energy. Her passing hasn’t changed that.

I have been told that it’s unhealthy not to have a sense of loss when losing someone close, but I have no idea what a sense of loss is supposed to feel like, but then I find it difficult to identify most emotions within myself. I’m more empathetic to emotions in others than in myself if they are emotions related to sadness or distress or joy, but otherwise I’m virtually blind to emotions in others as well as myself.

Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties in identifying, describing, and processing one’s own feelings, often marked by a lack of understanding of the feelings of others, and difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal. It’s more common than most people realise

Around 10% of men and 2% of women have alexithymia to some degree. It’s also often associated with PTSD. Research indicates that between 50% and 85% of autistics have alexithymia. Whether it a characteristic of autism or a comorbid condition is open to debate, but it’s definitely a condition that many of us on the autism spectrum share.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m devoid of emotion. I suspect I’m just as emotional at the next person, but I’m not able to differentiate one emotion from another, especially when it comes to feelings. On the other hand I have come to recognise the physical manifestations associated with some emotions. For example, I recognise that I clench my fists and clench my jaws in situations where unfairness or injustice arises. I presume these are physical responses of anger?

Do I miss Mum? Not that I’m aware of.
Should I? I Haven’t a clue, And for me it does not matter.


Edit: For anyone who knows the actual date of my mother’s passing, and wondering why it’s being published on the wrong day, all I’ll say is I’m a slow writer.


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Osime Brown: A Life Sentence for Not Stealing a Mobile Phone — NeuroClastic

Minority groups are typically disadvantaged and treated more harshly, especially by the law, than the rest of the population. And for every minority group one belongs to, the problems multiply many fold. Being autistic and of colour can be a deadly combination. For example Matthew Rushin’s Fifty year sentence for a car crash or in the example linked to below, being tried and found guilty as an adult for a crime he didn’t commit as a juvenile, and now facing deportation.

Osime was sentenced to 5 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, Osime has been scheduled for deportation to Jamaica where he knows no one and would have nothing. The post Osime Brown: A Life Sentence for Not Stealing a Mobile Phone appeared first on NeuroClastic.

Osime Brown: A Life Sentence for Not Stealing a Mobile Phone — NeuroClastic


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A new strange world!

What a strange world COVID-19 is creating! The entire season of the New Zealand National Basketball League is being streamed on ESPN – all 56 games!

I have to ask why. It’s not like we rank highly in international basketball, and while its popularity as a participant sport is increasing, it has a very long way to go as a spectator sport here to match the likes of Rugby Union, Netball, or Rugby League. Is it because so little sport is being played in the US that broadcasters are desperate for any form of familiar sports code, irrespective of its source and quality?

If, at the beginning of the year, someone had suggested that a season of any NZ sports code would be live streamed in the USA, we would have laughed ourselves silly.

As I said, it’s a strange new world we live in!


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Two worlds (or living in a bubble)

It’s almost surreal. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we’ve almost forgotten what social distancing is, face masks are rarely seen and life is mostly back to normal.

Sure, there’s reminders of COVID days: Perspex screens remain at almost every checkout; a few shops display a QR code for scanning into the official COVID tracer app (but not enough to make use of the app meaningful); foreign visitors are conspicuous by their absence; and the Director General of Health still gives daily live updates on TV.

Other subtle changes like extra flexibility in the workplace and changes in advertising to promote domestic tourism and “buy local” may well become permanent fixtures.

Many ads that have used the allure of status, ego, excitement, adventure, one upmanship, or perfection to promote products have been replaced with ones where product promotion seems to be secondary to messages promoting kindness, empathy, sharing and similar sentiments. I doubt this will be a permanent feature, even though I would like them to continue.

For myself personally, the pandemic has given me the opportunity to attend Quaker worship on a more regular basis through the platform of Zoom – something that may never have been considered had COVID-19 not arrived.

Geographically, Aotearoa New Zealand is indeed isolated from the rest of the world, and we have compensated by being one of the world’s most prolific international travellers. The Big OE (Overseas Experience) has almost become a rite of passage into adulthood and responsibility for young Kiwis.

On the whole life here is back to normal, but I and many other Kiwis are beginning to feel that the metaphor of us being a bubble of 5 million is taking on an ominous reality.

Our borders are closed, and may well remain that way for years. Social unrest across the world, and particularly in America, is played out daily in news broadcasts. In some sections of the community, antagonism towards returning Kiwis is replacing antagonism towards immigrants.

There are now two worlds: A safe kind Aotearoa, and an increasingly hostile world “out there” where the Trumps of that world would like nothing better than to see our bubble fail if only to make themselves look less ridiculous. That may be an exaggerated metaphor at the moment, but the trend is definitely there.

Usually I’m blind to growth and changes in social mood and prejudice, but the trend towards isolationism, a “them and us” attitude,  I find unsettling. In the long term it’s unhealthy, especially for a small nation that has placed a heavy reliance on international cooperation in the course of its development.

The optimism and excitement that existed and I experienced as a teenager and young adult in the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by something darker, at times almost sinister, at least in the eyes this child of the ’60s social revolution.

I hope I’m wrong, but my once enthusiastic optimism is now tempered with a little more caution and realism. Perhaps I am a child of another era and I’m mistaken in thinking the current generation is more conservative, serious, sombre and pessimistic than the one I have been immersed in all my life. But I have my doubts.


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Dixie’s gone, thanks to the Chicks

So, the Dixie Chicks are no more. They are now officially known as The Chicks. In the current political and social climate in the USA, I’m not surprised that the trio would want to change their name.

Caution: nostalgia follows

But they will never by my Chicks. You see, The Chicks was a household name in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1960s, belonging to the pop duo sisters Judy and Suzanne Donaldson. They were among the few singers and groups that I idolised as a teenager growing up in provincial Whanganui.

The elder sister, Judy is around a year older than I am, while Suzanne is around 2 years younger than me, and would have been around 13 or 14 when the duo grabbed my attention. A year or two later, they were the prime motivation for me to not to miss C’MON, shown every Saturday evening on the only TV channel available at that time, as they were regular stars on the show. You could say that I had a teenage crush, particularly on Suzanne.

Here’s a black & white Youtube clip of the duo from around 1967 – colour TV broadcasting didn’t commence in NZ until 1972.

The group formerly known as the Dixie Chicks, have been granted permission by Judy and Suzanne to share the name The Chicks with them.

Kiwi band The Chicks on sharing name with The Dixie Chicks – NZ hearald


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Second wave? What second wave?

Yesterday as I was passing through the supermarket checkout I overheard two women in an adjacent isle complaining that New Zealand is doing no better than other countries and is now seeing a rise in new infections after being COVID-19 free for weeks They were convinced that the 14 cases now active in NZ are the beginning of a second wave. They are wrong.

Their concern appears to be widespread as the public demand for testing has soared over the past week to the point that demand exceeds the ability of the health system to process tests in a timely manner. The health authorities have had to apply limitations on eligibility for free testing.

We are now testing at a rate of 10,000 per day, which by way of comparison is equivalent to the US population being tested at the rate of 700,000 per day. The difference is that not one test over the last month has returned positive, whereas in the US, approximately one in nineteen tests is a positive result. NZ: 0%, US: 5%.

So why am I confident that the two women are wrong? True, there are now 14 active cases after being COVID-19 free for weeks, But those 14 cases are actually evidence that our system of managing the pandemic is working as planned.

For those who are unaware, NZ closed its borders completely way back in March and they will remain tightly closed for the foreseeable future. The only people permitted to enter the country are NZ citizens and permanent residents. Everyone else is excluded (although exemptions may be granted in exceptional circumstances). In effect we are closed off from the rest of the world

Expat Kiwis are returning home in ever increasing droves, and it does not seem that it will ease for some time. Everyone arriving in New Zealand is placed into “managed isolation” – quarantine facilities that are now overseen by the military. The number of daily returnees has stretched the capacity of the quarantine facilities in Auckland beyond breaking point, and new facilities are being set up in other parts of the country.

All those put into managed isolation are tested at day 3 and day 12 of isolation, before being permitted to leave after 14 days. Currently there are around 4300 people in isolation, and this is expected to increase significantly over the coming weeks and months.

All COVID-19 tests that have returned a positive result are from returnees while they are in managed isolation. These are people who have brought the virus with them on their journey home. So long as the virus is on the loose in the rest of the world, those returning will bring COVID-19 with them. It does not mean that it exists within the NZ bubble of 5 million people.

Community transmission of COVID-19 has been eliminated from Aotearoa New Zealand and remains so. As long as all cases are confined to isolation facilities, it doesn’t matter what the number of infections are. At the height of the pandemic here, there were less than 90 active cases on any given day, and even if the number of cases among returnees in isolation ran into the hundreds, its a reflection of the situation outside the country, not inside it.

Currently, hotels emptied by the lack of tourists are being used as isolation facilities, but as the rate of returning expats increases, the pool of suitable accommodation will become more and more fragmented, increasing the risk of of COVID-19 escaping from isolation.

How many Kiwis will return of the coming months and possibly years? how long is a piece of string? There are half a million Kiwis living in Australia, and hundreds of thousands scattered across the rest of the globe. I can foresee a situation where it might be necessary to restrict the flow rate of our own nationals into the country.

Public opinion here is swinging towards hostility of those returning home due to the perceived risk of returnees reintroducing the virus into the community, and the fear that they will swell the ranks of the unemployed , or worse, take jobs from those already working here. Now where have I heard similar sentiment before, but applied to a different group of people? The simple fact is that immigrants to this country are now almost exclusively Kiwis!

I’m more sympathetic towards returning expats, and this is one situation where the wife and I have agreed to disagree. Actually I’ve agreed to disagree, she’s adamant she’s right and I’m wrong. As far as she’s concerned they are placing us all in danger, and they are being selfish by choosing to return home at this time. And this is coming from someone who is an immigrant herself!

There’s probably as many reasons for returning home as there are returnees, but I think a major factor for many will be the lack of a support network in a crisis. For example Kiwis living in Australia are not eligible for unemployment benefits or other forms of social security, even though they are required to contribute to those services in the form of taxes and levies at the same rate as Australians. I dare say the situation is similar in other jurisdictions.

The cost of managed isolation is around NZ$4000 per person, and let’s face it, hotels are not really set up for prolonged periods of confinement. Currently the taxpayer foots the entire bill and there seems to be growing public demand for most all all of the cost fall on those who are quarantined. I disagree. Having to stump up with airfare up to ten times higher than pre-pandemic days, many will not be in a position cover isolation costs as well.

As an alternative to using hotels for isolation, there is one very under used resource that wouldn’t cost any more be person than currently, but would for a more pleasant confinement. Anchored all over the world are large cruise ships that would provide more secure isolation and provide facilities that would no hotel can. Why not transfer a few such ships to NZ waters where they could provide more beds than the total capacity of all the hotels in the country?


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Update Aotearoa 19th June 2020

Call in the military
A Police shooting in Aotearoa
Gun registration in Aotearoa

Call in the military!

And we were doing so well!

It seems that Ministry of Health (MoH) staff managing the quarantine of incoming travellers have failed to follow the processes and procedures that have been laid down by their own organisation. Among their numerous guffaws was granting “compassionate leave” to two recent arrivals without first testing them for COVID-19. The pair traveled from Auckland to Wellington by car, a trip of approximately eight hours.

The day after their arrival in Wellington they were tested and the result two days later was positive. In the meantime they had come in contact directly and indirectly with more than 200 people, all of who must now be traced, and go into self isolation for two weeks.

This is just one of many errors, including allowing those in quarantine to take supervised walks outside the quarantine facilities where two metre distancing from the public was not observed, instances where new arrivals in quarantine were allowed to intermingle with those whose quarantine was about to expire, and the failure to perform the madatory two tests over the two weeks for all those in quarantine.

As a result of the very lacklustre performance of MoH staff, the Prime Minister has called in the defence force to manage the entire quarantine process. Given the number of anecdotal stories about poor quarantine management, I’m surprised that our defence forces weren’t called in weeks ago. This is an area of operation where the military should perform better than civil servants. Let’s hope so.

A Police shooting in Aotearoa

No, this isn’t a report of NZ police shooting a member of the public. It’s a report of members of the public shooting NZ police officers. This morning two police officers were shot while undertaking a routine traffic incident. One has since died. A passerby was run down and seriously injured by the offenders’ vehicle as they made their escape.

Such events are rare in Aotearoa New Zealand, and it does not alter my position on arming the police. Unfortunately, we will likely see some call for such action, as often happens after unfortunate events like this.

There’s a significant section of society that genuinely believes that the number of murders is increasing year by year, when the facts show a very different trend. In the 1970s there were 60 to 80 murders per year. In the last decade, that number is down to less than 40. Last year, 2019, is the outstanding exception where more people were murdered in the Christchurch mosque shooting than occurred throughout the rest of the year.

In the history of this nation, 33 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, The last occasion prior to today was eleven years ago. While that’s 33 too many, it’s about on par with the number of people killed by police, mainly after discharging a weapon at police or presenting a weapon with an apparent intent to use it.

Gun registration in Aotearoa

Yesterday, a significant change in gun laws passed its third and final reading in Parliament. Up until now there has been no system of firearms registration in this country, even for those weapons that became prohibited in the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacre. I was beginning to think that the legislation would not be passed into law before the General Elections in September due to differences of opinion between the parties that make up the governing coalition.

After some intense negotiation between Labour and NZ First, the government got the numbers to progress the reforms. In essence, some reforms have immediate effect, while some such as a firearms registry won’t come into effect until 2023.

Immediate changes

  • A Ministerial Arms Advisory group will be established
  • Reduced length of firearms licence from 10 years to 5 years
  • Offences and penalties that will include a two year jail sentence and $20,000 fine
  • More high-risk firearms are prohibited including short (pistol-length) semi-automatic rifles
  • Endorsements for pest control have a shorter duration and need to be renewed
  • More people involved in agricultural and similar businesses can obtain pest endorsements
  • Those who come to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year will no longer be able to purchase and take ownership of a firearm in New Zealand

Changes over the next three years

  • In six months’ time anyone who sells ammunition will need a firearms licence
  • New rules will take effect in six months to determine who is “fit and proper” to possess firearms and who will be disqualified from holding a firearms licence
  • After one year, new rules governing a gun dealer’s licence. This is to recognise the range of dealer activities and associated risks of theft or misuse of firearms
  • In two years time, there will be new requirements for shooting clubs and ranges, which up till now have not been regulated by law
  • The establishment of an independent authority by 2023 to manage the licensing of firearms owners and the registration of firearms. Currently police are responsible for firearms licensing.

The legislation makes no change in our rights to gun ownership. As has always been the case here, there is no right to own guns. It’s a privilege, and more than ever, this legislation spells that such a privilege comes with responsibilities.


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Police Armed Response Teams

Aotearoa New Zealand is one of just a few jurisdictions worldwide where the police are not routinely armed. I have had great concerns that that was about to change.

Last year Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced that a patrols with armed police known as Armed Response Teams (ARTs) would be trialed for six months in selected areas of the country. If they were successful (what criteria would be used to measure “success”?), ARTs would be rolled out across the country. The trial ended in April.

I was one of tens of thousands of Kiwis who were sufficiently concerned about the prospect of police being routinely armed on patrol that we communicated our concerns to the police and to our Members of Parliament. It seems our concerns have been listened to.

In early April the Commissioner retired and was replaced by Andrew Coster. On the 9th of June Commissioner Coster announced that ARTs have been abandoned permanently. The pushback from the public and especially minorities has been strong. That’s good news.

In an interview on The AM Show on Wednesday, he said that police listened to feedback from the public before scrapping the ARTs. He said:

“The key issue here is having people routinely carrying firearms – I’ve made it really clear that’s not part of the policing model that I would support for New Zealand.

“Absolutely, we do have access to firearms when they’re required but the point is, 99 percent of the time when we’re interacting with the public we are not carrying a firearm and that, for me, is the style difference that’s important.

“We need to remember it was a trial and we are going to take a range of learnings from the trial, particularly in terms of how we keep evolving the skills and training available to the frontline to deal with the high-end firearms incidents.”

In an interview with Stuff, Commissioner Coster said:

“We have a model of policing by consent and that means we need the vast majority of people to see as legitimate the style in which we’re policing and it’s been clear to me that there has not been acceptance of this as an appropriate style of policing in New Zealand.”

How much of the decision to scrap the ARTs was based on public pressure and how much was based on the personal preference of the Commissioner, we’ll probably never know, but what concerns me is that our politicians considered that the arming or non-arming of the police is an “operational matter”.

As commissioner Coster said, policing is by consent, and on this basis, I believe it is important that any change in operations only occur with public consent after widespread consultation. While I don’t want to see politicians become involved with normal police activity, I believe there is room for legislation that would prevent major operational changes from occurring without parliamentary approval.


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Will there be a “new normal”?

During COVID-19 lockdown much discussion was made about changes in socialising and doing business becoming a “new normal”. For example, working from home where possible, staggering work hours to reduce the density of foot traffic and crowding in office spaces.

A great many businesses have discovered that productivity increased markedly in stay at home workers, and the majority of such workers found both work and general life-style more satisfying. While city centres were much quieter, pollution was down considerably. But now that all restrictions have been lifted there is pressure from central and local authorities for businesses to return to pre-COVID conditions.

The argument is that this is necessary to restore the “vibrancy” of city centres and to help inner city cafés, bars and such recover from dire financial situations. Is this a satisfactory reason to go back to the old normal? is it worth sacrificing the health and well being of thousands of workers for the sake of a few struggling enterprises?

How about considering the interests of the many as well as the interests of a few. Some of our major telecommunications providers have all but closed down their bricks and mortar call centres, with all or most staff working from home. Apparently this is what most of the staff prefer. The telcos benefit from increased productivity, happier staff, and lower costs associated with smaller premises.

Not only does it remove the stress and wasted travel time involved in commuting to work, but it allows staff a great deal of flexibility, particularly when it come to family, but also with lifestyle in general. A win all round don’t you think?

A major insurer here has announced that it too is to downsize its head office, moving much of its operation to the suburbs and to working from home where possible. Disappointingly, the government has criticised the the company claiming that it will harm the recovery of city centre.

Other businesses have found rostering staff on a 4-day week has improved productivity, staff satisfaction and staff loyalty. Other organisations have adopted a mixture of practices such as requiring office attendance only one or two days each week, and flexible office work hours. How many people wish to return to rush hour commuting that the authorities are pushing for?

Most of my readers are aware I’m not a fan of “vibrant” when it comes to city crowds, but I really think we’re missing an opportunity to re-evaluate the wisdom of cramming so much into city centres, and making suburbs little more than dull lifeless dormitories for city workers.

Perhaps, before the advent of modern forms of telecommunications, concentrating commerce into compact areas was the most productive means of conducting business. But does that still hold true today with modern forms of telecommunications? I’m not convinced.

At the least we should take the opportunity provided to us by COVID-19 to look at life/work balance, not just individually, but as communities and societies. Perhaps we’ll end up choosing the old normal, but unless we look, we’ll miss any chance of finding a better alternative.