Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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“Trump might do some good for democracy”

Now before you conclude that I have lost my marbles, read on.

Throughout the world, voter turnout at national elections have been declining, mainly due to apathy of younger voters. This is also true in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our most recent General Elections were held in 2014 and the voter turnout was at an all time low of 77%. Voter turnout for those under 30 years of age was 62%, while 88% of people my age voted.

The main reason put forward for poor voter participation by younger people is that they feel that they can make very little difference to the results. While there is some degree of truth in that, especially in electoral systems where “winner takes all” such as with FFP (First Past the Post), the same can’t be said of systems with proportional representation such that used here in Parliamentary elections. If a party gains 5% of the votes, it gets 5% of the seats in the Parliament. in other words, every vote counts.

We next go to the polls on Saturday the 23rd of September 2017 to elect our 52nd Parliament. The head of the Electoral Commission (the body that oversees national and local elections in NZ) believes we may see a reversal in the decline in voter participation this year. She gave two reasons: Brexit and Trump.

The results of both Brexit and the US presidential elections were due largely to voter apathy. In both cases, younger voters were strongly against the final result, and had younger voters participated in numbers approaching the national average, the results would have been different. It seems that finally there is evidence that NOT taking part in the democratic process can have serious consequences.

The good news here is that the younger generations are talking about how and why results such as Brexit and Trump as president could possibly occur. Both results seem contrary to common sense. I do hope that the head of the Electoral Commission is correct and that such discussion will lead to greater voter participation, especially among the young.

So thank you Donald, you are the reason the next generation of Kiwis are beginning to take a greater interest in the democratic process. They don’t want to see our leaders behaving as you do.


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The Auld Mug is ours!

Almost every nation finds a sporting event so captivating, that it comes to a virtual standstill during the event. For Kiwis, this happens with international Rugby events such as the Rugby World Cup, the Bledisloe Cup and the current British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand. The Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games would also be top contenders.

There is one other sporting event that sees our nation pause and television news shows devote prime spots for. And for this we have to thank the Australians. I don’t believe I just thanked the Aussies – I must be delirious.

Way back in the 1970s Australia started challenging the United States for the world’s oldest international sporting trophy – the America’s Cup. It had been held by the New York Yacht Club since 1857, and when Australia finally won the cup in 1983, they ended the longest winning streak in sporting history.

Australia is a nation we don’t mind supporting if we are not competing against them, and as we’re both sailing mad nations and small fry compared to America, our interest in the America’s Cup grew with each challenge. When Australia finally won, us Kiwis were cheering as loudly, if not more so, than the Aussies.

With the next challenge to be close by in Australia, and our natural desire to beat the Aussies at anything, interest was high enough to raise the funding necessary to make a challenge for the cup in 1987.

NZ’s KZ 7 (Kiwi Magic) was one of 13 yachts to compete for the right to challenge Australia for the cup. Perhaps our interest in the challenge series would not have been so intense if it had not been for one factor: Dennis Conner (who had lost to the Australians four years previously and went on to win the Cup back for America) accused the Kiwi team of Cheating: “Why would you want to build a fibreglass 12-metre [yacht] unless you wanted to cheat?”

We like to think that we are special when it comes to the matter of fair play, and that it is more important than winning. So when we were accused of cheating, everyone saw red and the cup challenge become personal to almost every Kiwi. How dare someone accuse us of cheating.

The Kiwis had no experience at building aluminium hull racing yachts, which was the international standard at the time, but had years of building ferro-cement and glass reinforced plastic yachts, so it was only natural for us to use that technology in an America’s Cup challenge. The challenges to the legitimacy of what became fondly known as the Plastic Fantastic saw Conner rise to the status of “Dirty Den – the American that kiwis loved to hate”.

I guess the fact that New Zealand is a tiny country gives us a sense of “David verses Goliath” mentality especially in events such as the America’s Cup where vast sums of money are sunk into challenges and defences. The kiwis have only a fraction of the funding available to other teams, yet in the America’s Cup events following our first attempt, New Zealand has won the right to challenge for the cup five times and defended it twice. In other words New Zealand has been in seven of the last nine America’s Cup finals.

Today, New Zealand once more becomes the proud holder of the America’s Cup and during that final race, much of the country came to a standstill, and news bulletins have headlined the win and very little else. When the team arrive home next week, there’ll be ticker-tape parades and numerous official and unofficial functions in honour of their success.

Then there’ll be the hard work to prepare for a defence in Auckland in 2021. With any luck, I’ll be there to cheer on my favourite team. Go Team New Zealand!


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Stepping into the unknown…

Not really, but it makes a catchy title.

Today we decided to change power companies. We’ve been with our current supplier for over 15 years and two addresses, and while we have no complaints about their service, we felt that as a long term customer we had been taken for granted and largely ignored.

I don’t know how electricity is provided in your locality, but here in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is a highly competitive market. A quick online search of suppliers in our region revealed we have a choice of 59 suppliers! Other regions of the country have more, while some regions have a little less less. Some suppliers generate electricity from 100% renewable resources, others have a mix of renewable resources and fossil fuels, and a few don’t do any generation themselves, but buy on the spot market. Talk about being spoilt for choice!

To make it even more complex, each supplier provides many plans for domestic consumers. Our old supplier has around ten plans, as does our new supplier. All up, I’m guessing we had a choice of well over 200 plans!

Power charges here are made up of three elements: cost per Unit (a Unit is 1 kilowatt hour); line charge (daily charge for connection to the power network; and Electricity Authority fee (the authority oversees and regulates the electricity market).

The electricity Authority fee is common across all suppliers, but the line charges and price per unit varies by as much as 50% between suppliers. Then there’s prompt payment discounts, loyalty card schemes and happy hour schemes. Some suppliers offer cheaper rates for hot water, or different day and night rates. Some guarantee a fixed price per unit and line charge fees for one or two years, others don’t. The choices are bewildering, which is why it’s taken so many years to actually decide to change.

Have we found the best deal? I have no idea. It would take far too long to crunch all the numbers. But we have found a much better deal with our new supplier. Our monthly electricity bill will be 25% cheaper than what we are currently paying, fixed for two years. We get a $100 credit for signing up with them, plus we get a 10 cents per litre (38 cents per US gallon, 45 cents per UK gallon) discount on petrol through a fuel card scheme we already belong to.

When we have been paying between $250 and $400 per month for electricity (depending on the season) on a household income of around $2200 per month, the savings are not insignificant.

Now that we’ve finally made the plunge, and found a good deal, I’ll need to seriously look at doing the same for our telecommunications supplier. How difficult can it be? After all there’s only about 70 suppliers and 500 plans to choose from.

On second thoughts…


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Three days lost

There are two conditions that conspire to make my life difficult at times. One is considered a mental disorder by the medical profession although I hope that in time this attitude will change. Once homosexuality was considered a disorder by the medical profession, and when I was a child, left handedness was certainly treated as punishable condition.

How times have changed. Today we understand that what is considered “normal” is in many cases, just the bulge in a bell curve of human variability, and one doesn’t need to be “cured” if one tends to be at either end of the curve.

Of course I’m referring to autism. While autism has its challenges, most of those challenges are because of the way other people, in other words “society”, respond to how I exhibit aspects of autism. While I think autism awareness is ideal in theory, I’m afraid that awareness isn’t accompanied by understanding. In Western culture, it seems that it’s being demonised as an epidemic; something that needs to eradicated, even to the point where the desire to  eradicate the person with autism is seen as understandable, although thankfully not condoned. This must change.

The other condition, and the one that has had the most effect on me over the last few days, is considered a disorder, by the medical profession, and with which I heartily concur, is migraine. Having been laid low by a particularly painful attack that has kept me in a darkened room for three days, unable to eat, think rationally or coherent thoughts, I would like nothing better than for science to find a cure, or even to reduce the severity, frequency and duration of attacks. Looking at the Migraine Buddy app on my phone, I see the following statistics for the last 31 days:

No. of attacks: 14
Average attack duration: 32 hrs 25 mins
Attack days: 27
Attack-free days: 4
Pain Intensity
(1 – 10 scale)
Minimum: 3
Average: 6.3
Maximum: 9

The three most common symptoms (apart from pain) are sensitivity to light and noise, and Tinnitus. These occurred in every attack. However following symptoms occurred in at least half of attacks: Aphasia, giddiness, sensitivity to smells, fatigue, blurred vision, blind spots, ataxia, and confusion, with nausea occurring in only six of the attacks. Distorted spatial awareness, hemiparesis, tremors, dysarthria, and facial numbness occurred in five attacks. There are a few other less common symptoms, but I think the list is long enough as it is.

While the frequency and duration of attacks are a little up on a normal month, it’s not by much. Migraines do limit what I can do and it means that I’m not able to make definite plans. Everything depends on my condition at the time. It means that I’m often seen as “unreliable” because I can’t commit to being at a particular place at a particular time.

Even blogging has to go by the wayside during a migraine, as I’m unable to string a coherent paragraph together, and I’m unable to perform even the basics of proof reading during many attacks.

Currently I’m in the postdrome phase of the last migraine. This means that although the throbbing head pain is gone, it still feels like I’ve been hit by a bus, and I’m not sure how coherent my writing is. The postdrome phase can take as long as a day, sometimes longer,  to finally fade away, but at least, that little guy with the sledgehammer who has been so busy inside my skull for the last 3 days has gone for now. For that I’m extremely grateful.


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Three years already?

When I opened my Web browser to the WordPress page this morning, the little notification indicator indicated that there was a notification (there must be a better way of phrasing that, but currently it doesn’t come to mind). It wasn’t a comment, a like, or a follow. It was a message from WordPress!

Screenshot_2017-06-06_11-19-52

Three years already? Surely not. But a quick check revealed that I signed up and posted my first blog on 6 June 2014. As for flying, I think not. Only 130 posts in 1095 days, or one post every 8.4 days hardly rates as flying in my view.

What I find fascinating is the tags and categories that attract the most readers. Mention atheism or religion and the number rise dramatically. Nothing else compares, not even matters related to sex or gender gets readership much above a yawn. If I was looking to maintain a high readership I know what I should write about, and it seems everyone except Kiwis have strong views on religion, one way or another.

Perhaps I should post more often, but I find most of my leisure time on line is spent following other blogs. You’re such an interesting, even fascinating, bunch of folk. Some I relate to almost as if they were family. Others are just the opposite. I follow out of morbid curiousity – can they post something even more idiotic today than they posted yesterday?

I do have a special interest in following blogs related to migraine and autism/Aspergers, but as both play a significant role in my day to day living, that’s probably to be expected. I also follow many blogs related to aspects of social justice, and it’s these on which I comment more than others. It’s also something I want to post on more often except it’s also the topic where I have greatest issues in expressing myself succinctly. I have around 20 articles related to social justice concerns in draft form, but my feelings on the issues seem to get in the way speaking my mind. Even if they never get published the continual rewriting helps clarify my thoughts, so the effort is not entirely wasted.

Where from here? Who knows. I would like to think that I can work up to posting more regularly and perhaps two or three times per week. But for now I’ll settle for an easier goal of one per week. Who knows, I might even make it by this time next year!