Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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How to massacre the National Anthem

I’m not referring to the Star Spangled Banner. Americans can mangle that to their heart’s content. No, what I’m referring to is the rendition, if it can even be called that, sung in Denver, Colorado over the weekend, prior to the international Rugby League match between England and New Zealand.

The singer, Crystal Collins, started by singing a shaky version of God Save The Queen, but when she attempted Aotearoa / God Defend New Zealand, not only did she horribly mangle the words and timing of the first verse in Māori, she didn’t do any better with the verse in English, where she was completely out of sync with the backing music, and even at times seemed to be singing to the tune of Good King Wenceslas!

What a way to insult a nation! It would have been much more respectful to have simply played a pre-recorded orchestral version than allowing Crystal Collins to get behind the microphone.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to locate a video that I can embed in this post, so the best I can do is provide a link. If you’re American, be prepared to be suitably embarrassed: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-24/singer-delivers-interesting-rendition-of-nz/9903662. You could use that to demonstrate how not to win friends and influence people.

 

 

Once you’ve recovered from that, you might like to see how it should be rendered:

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It’s a girl!

Amid much less fanfare that I thought was likely, our Prime Minister gave birth to a baby daughter yesterday. Rather surprisingly, when Google’s landing page is opened from a New Zealand IP address, a rather small image acknowledges the arrival. This is what you see:Selection_070

Unless you know what the image really is, you could be forgiven for mistaking it as some stylised question marks. Why Google chose to make the image so small, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s much else on the Web-page. In fact the image consists of a small fish hook cradled between 2 big fish hooks representing two parents and child:Selection_071

If you know that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, is the host of a popular TV fishing show, then the use of fish hooks starts to mean something. The image is the work of artist Stephen Templer of Wellington who based the design on one Jacinda and Clarke posted to Instagram when they announced they were expecting. As an aside, Clarke will be a stay at home dad and full time carer of the baby when Jacinda returns to work in six weeks time.

Matau (fish hook) is a prominent feature of Māori art alongside the koru (unfurling fern frond) and features in Māori mythology – New Zealand’s North Island was pulled from the depths of the ocean by a fish hook fashioned from the jawbone of Maui’s grandmother.

Hei matau are highly stylised fish hook ornaments, traditionally carved from pounamu or whalebone. Today it’s not unusual to see them made from other materials, but those with the most mana are made in the traditional manner.

Hei_matau


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Now for something different

Unlike my father, who was an avid sports enthusiast, and who in his younger days was selected as an All Black trialist in the late 1930s, and later in life participated in golf and lawn bowls, I showed little talent or interest in sport. My father was also very fond of horse racing, and on most Saturdays, he had his ear glued to the radio listening to the live race commentaries from the various race meetings around the country. When major race meetings began to be televised, my father could often be seen watching races on TV with the sound turned down and the radio turned up as he much preferred the racy fast paced style of radio commentary over the more laid back style of television commentators.

If he wasn’t listening to horse racing, he’d be listening to rugby in winter and cricket in summer. As a game of cricket can last up to five days, that was almost all we heard on the radio during summer. At least once a month he’d be off to watch a sporting event or to attend a race meeting. His “excuse” for purchasing our first colour TV was so that we could watch the Christchurch Commonwealth Games of 1974 in “all its glory”.

Of course my father was not very different to most men of his era when it came to sports. They were all sports mad, and it is still true that as a nation we have an obsession for sport. Often times, you’ll hear the comment that sport is the national religion of Aotearoa New Zealand. As an example, with a population of about 4.7 million, one broadcasting network has 2 television channels and 32 radio stations dedicated entirely to thoroughbred and harness horse racing, and greyhound racing. And that’s just one network.

My interest in sport tends to be the occasional watching of sporting highlights during the evening news bulletin, although I’m glued to the TV during America’s Cup events and to a lesser extent I enjoy watching Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

But occasionally a sporting moment piques my interest, and one of those happened last weekend. A rider fell off his horse at the first jump in a steeplechase, yet was able to remount and win the race! As the event happened only a few kilometres from where I live, and has been shown numerous times on TV, I couldn’t not be interested.

Here’s the fall:

If you’d like to watch the race from beginning to end, here is all seven and a half minutes of it in “all its glory”

As the title says, this post has been somewhat different from my usual fare. Normal transmission will resume eventually (when this series of daily migraines eventually runs its course).


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Jeff Sessions and Romans 13

I have no tolerance for Bible idolatry, and a similar tolerance of the current US administration, so when Jeff Sessions quotes the Bible to justify the inhumanity of separating children from their parents at American borders, I can’t stay silent.

Firstly, how can an administration of a country that supposedly is neutral on the matter of religion, quote any “holy” text to justify its actions? Why the Bible and not the Quran,  Shreemad Bhagavad Gita, Tripitakas, Kojiki, Agamas, or Kitáb-i-Aqdas? Come to think of it, what defines a “holy” text? What’s wrong with using reason, compassion and common sense? These are “God given gifts” that we should be using at every opportunity.

Secondly, Sessions is selectively using a Biblical passage out of context. There’s a very good explanation of what Romans 13 is all about from a peace maker’s point of view over on Thinking Pacifism. I’m not a fan of Paul’s writing, as he was a man of his time, and in today’s context, much of it is out of place or simply wrong. A USA Today article gives further insight into the passage and shows how it has been used and abused in American history.

Whatever evangelical and fundamentalist American “Christians” believe the message of Jesus of Nazareth is, it most certainly is not supporting or obeying unjust laws.


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Freezing!

I guess the term freezing is somewhat of an exaggeration. It’s actually 7°C (44°F), but as it’s close to that temperature inside my home office, and I’m sitting at my computer, it feels fricking cold.

Why so cold? We are replacing the windows and ranchsliders [Nu Zild for a fully glazed  sliding door with a moving panel that slides behind a fixed panel] on the the main floor with double glazing. Huge gaping holes where the glass was doesn’t do much for keeping heat in and cold out. However we are looking towards cheaper power bills and a more evenly heated home when the job is completed hopefully by tomorrow evening.

Our house was built in the mid 1980s and apart from a regulation requiring  minimal ceiling insulation, little consideration was given to keeping homes warm. What heating there was was on a room by room basis. Central heating was unheard of and it is still very much a rarity. It wasn’t until early this century that double glazing, wall, ceiling and underfloor insulation became mandatory for all new home construction. Why? I could claim that were are a hardy lot, but the large immigrant population are a namby-pamby softies, and can’t stand a little cold.

The truth is that compared to much of the rest of the world, we have a very mild climate. Summers are not overly hot, and winters are not extremely cold. Where I live, anything below 15°C (59°F) is considered cold and it’s bitterly cold if it drops below 10°C (50°F). We get between 5 and 15 frosts per year and a smattering of snow once per decade at most. It’s hot at 25°C (77°F) and insufferably hot at 30°C (86°F). So artificial heating and cooling is not necessary for survival – it’s a luxury to make life more pleasant.

However, cold homes are also damp homes. Dampness brings in mould and mildew, which is now acknowledged to be a serious health risk. We have a very high rate of respiratory illnesses in this country. Hence the the warm home regulations. Existing homes don’t need to be insulated to new home standards, but the government is looking at mandating all rental accommodation be brought up to the modern standard.

A few years ago, we took advantage of a government subsidy on underfloor and ceiling insulation and that made a big difference in reducing the daily extremes of hot and cold and eliminated mould from much of the house. Our sole form of heating was a woodburner, which made one end of the main floor cosy to too hot while the rest of the house remained cold. It was also somewhat expensive to run. Even lighting it late afternoon and not feeding it after 10PM cost us close to $700 per year for firewood and cleaning, even though we only used it for the coldest three months of the year.

So we had a heat pump installed. Typically in NZ they are used to heat a single room, and multiple units are used to heat a whole house. Ours is a larger unit installed in the main floor hallway with the goal of maintaining a comfortable background heat throughout the main floor while allowing some heat to rise up the stairwell to the upper floor where the bedrooms are. Mostly it works well and is very much cheaper to run even though it’s running 24/7. But on very cold days, the rooms at either end of the main floor can drop to as low as 15°C if the curtains aren’t drawn. And who wants to draw the curtains during the day, especially when we have such a great view. (If you view this blog directly in a browser and not via the WordPress Reader, the views in the random image at the top of the page are taken from our home.)

Neither of us are getting any younger, and we are both more sensitive to variations in temperature than we were even ten years ago. So we dipped into our savings for the double glazing. We’re doing the main floor except for the utility rooms (laundry, bathroom, toilet, exercise room) as they are used less frequently and/or have smaller windows. Even so, there’s 30 square metres (320 square feet) of glass to be replaced, and as our children will no doubt say, it has taken a not so insignificant bite out of their inheritance ($19,000 to be precise). Not that that worries me. I came into this world with nothing, and if everything goes to plan, that’s how I intend to leave it.

There’s a few more “big ticket” expenses that are looming on the horizon. Our car is now 12 years old, and while it’s still very reliable, the day can’t be too far away, when its reliability will be called into question. And as all cars are imports (there’s no local car manufacturing), they are not exactly cheap. A new sub 2000cc car such as a Toyota Corolla or Mitsubishi Mirage is around $28,000 to $30,000.

The exterior of the house is due for a repaint. Once upon a time I would have tackled this task myself, but age, injury and a multi-storey home means this is not a reasonable option any longer. OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) requirements mean that the use of regulation scaffolding and safety harnesses etc is mandatory for our dwelling due to its height, all of which does not come cheaply. I’d be surprised if an external paint job sees any change out of $15,000.

Then there’s floor coverings. With the exception of the kitchen, they’re all original, which means they are over 30 years old. In typical New Zealand fashion, most of the floors are covered in woollen carpet. It’s getting threadbare in places and a decision will need to be made soon as to whether we replace all the carpet or only in those rooms showing the worst wear. Re-carpeting the whole house will cost around $20,000 for a medium priced carpet, so it’s more likely to be done in stages.

Some rooms require repainting and new wallpaper – the grandchildren seem to have the ability to locate seams that have slightly lifted and then tearing the wallpaper back to where it is adhered firmly. At least this is one task I’m still capable of doing (I hope), having papered and repapered three previous homes. But If I need to hire a professional, then it’s goodbye to another $8,000 to $10,000. So this is also likely to be a project completed in stages.

And finally, we’d like to become less dependent on the national grid for electricity. Now that storage batteries are reasonably cost effective, we’d like to install a solar power system large enough to allow ourselves to be close to a net zero user of external electricity. How much? Not sure, as prices are still falling. I suspect something over $25,000, but if the Greens get their wish, there might well be a subsidy similar to the one they obtained for insulation (around 25%). Time will tell.

When we built our first home a couple of years after we married, it cost us a grand total of $12,000 for the land, house, fixtures and fittings, and we managed to finance it with a deposit of only $130! Mind you, my weekly pay package back then was around half of today’s minimum hourly wage. How times have changed!

And in case you’re wondering why I used main floor and upper floor instead of first, second etc, there are two very good reasons:

  1. Difference in NZ and US usage. What Americans call the first floor, Kiwis (and many other Commonwealth countries) call the ground floor. So our first floor is the second floor in the US.
  2. Because the house is on a sloping section (Nu Zild for lot) the main floor is the ground floor (US first floor) when accessed from the west, but the first floor (US second floor) when accessed from the east. The upper floor is the first floor (US second floor) when accessed from the west and the second floor (US third floor) when accessed from the east. And finally, the lower floor is the basement when accessed from the west, but the ground floor (US first floor) when accessed from the east. Confused? So am I!