Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Christmas past

I haven’t been able to find the time nor the energy to blog over the past few days. It’s a hectic time of the year with extra family and dogs, days too warm for my comfort, a mild migraine that kept me in a sort of brain fog for days and hayfever medication that makes me drowsy regardless of the counterclaims on the packaging.

In our household, Christmas is usually a time of overindulgence when it comes to food, and this year was no exception. The one glaring difference was that we had our family Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, as family obligations meant some were not able to be present on the day. There were ten of us present, which is about as many as I can cope with: myself, The Wife, our son and his wife, our daughter, her three children, her partner and his son, plus two dogs.

The meal itself was typical family favourites and I daresay is not too different from that served up at many Kiwi Christmas get togethers. We started off with a watermelon and cucumber soup (cold of course). For mains we had glazed ham, chicken nibbles, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, and a selection of salads. As it was three days ago I am struggling to remember them all but here goes: pasta salad with with (lots of) preserved ginger, red and green glazed cherries, pineapple, red capsicum, baby peas and and beans, and corn; mandarin, almonds and rocket salad; apple and celery salad with dried cranberries and feta cheese; watermelon and cucumber salad with mint and crumbled feta; cucumber salad with red and yellow Tom Thumb tomatoes and pan fried halloumi cheese.

For desserts we had trifle (the grandchildren claim it wouldn’t be Christmas without it), pavlova topped with whipped cream and berries, fresh cherries, an assortment of fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries if I remember correctly), tiramisu, apple crumble and an assortment of ice creams (triple chocolate, salted caramel, rum and raisin).

Then gifts were exchanged with those who would not be present on Christmas morning, and what was left of the day was spent quietly recovering from eating too much. On Christmas morning, gifts were exchanged and by 9 am something like normality resumed, with just myself, The Wife, our daughter and one dog remaining. Tonight our daughter is staying with a friend who lives nearby leaving her dog with us, and tomorrow it will be fully back to normal with just The Wife and I occupying the house. Until next year…


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Quaker conversation

One thing I do notice when with Quakers, is how much my comfort level varies depending on the occasion. In other groups and settings, even on occasions the family, I always feel like a fish out of water, and I feel much the same with Quakers in “unstructured” situations, for example chatting during refreshments after worship. But in more structured situations such as meeting for worship itself, “Afterwords” (a time for reflexions or thoughts that arose during, or outside of, meeting but one felt wasn’t suitable for ministry) or business meetings or discussion groups, I feel “at home”.

What sets “structured” conversation apart is the mode of communication that follows implicit but undefined guidelines. These include moments of silence between each speaker, and one doesn’t respond directly to another speaker but simply speaks their own mind or thoughts. “Let your truth speak” (an old Quaker saying). The idea here is that one should speak to their own truths, not oppose or argue against those of another person or group. It allows individual Quakers to hold a wide variety of perspectives, without being judged right or wrong, and perhaps more importantly, encourages one not to pass judgements on others based on one’s own biases and prejudices. We all have them.

For me this mode of conversation provides me the opportunity to truly communicate. It allows me the time to digest what has been spoken and time for me to convert my own thoughts into reasonably structured sentences. I really struggle forming sentences “on the fly”. Not only do I have to find the right words and put them in the correct order, I then have to manipulate the jaw, lips and tongue “in real time” to convert those words into sounds that will be intelligible to the listener.

This is a tall order for me, even in company that I’m comfortable and familiar with, but in other situations the fear of misunderstanding, or worse, being misunderstood generates stress that has a negative impact on how I perform. Perhaps I’ve mastered the art of conversation to a limited degree, but in my youth I was extremely clumsy. Let me assure you that fear caused through being subjected to violence, both verbal and physical due to communication failures has left an indelible mark on my confidence in social situations.

Simply knowing I don’t need to respond directly to anything anyone else has said is comforting and allows me to feel an equal among equals. Simply knowing I’m not going to be judged by what I might say alleviates that subconscious fear of violence that always lurks when when in company of others. Simply knowing I will be given the space to allow my thoughts to grow into words that can be shared gives me a freedom of expression I seldom experience elsewhere. I feel valued.

Over the years, a number of atheist fellow bloggers have recommended I would be better off joining a sports club than “wasting my time with religion”, but I beg to differ. At least their suggestions have been with the best of intentions, which is more than I can say of some other sections of society. For me religion isn’t about theories, theology, dogma or creeds (absent within quakerism) nor about deities or about believing what others claim is The Truth. For me religion is experiential and how one responds to that experience.

I don’t believe in the supernatural, but often my response to the good within humanity, the beauty found in nature, the awesomeness of the universe, and even simply knowing I’m uniquely me, is so intense that it feels like there is “something” that others might explain as being supernatural or divine. Please note the emphasis on how the experience feels, not that there actually is a supernatural dimension. This is most fully experienced in the company of others with a similar perspective. For me that’s among Quakers.

What gave rise to this post was that I was strongly reminded of how awkward, uncomfortable, and dare I say fearful I feel in unfamiliar situations. In the early hours of yesterday morning (about 12:20 am from recollection) I Zoomed into an online Quaker meeting for worship at Woodbrooke in the UK. As always with silent worship, I felt right at home, and I remained that way until the end of the meeting. Then as conversation started, I felt the panic set in.

There was only one person at the meeting that I knew. I have known her through the medium of blogging for seven or so years, and while I am very comfortable about sharing my thoughts with her through the medium of WordPress, in the “real time” environment of Zoom, I struggled to make any form of “normal” conversation, what is often referred to a “small talk”. I should have reminded myself that she too is a Quaker and that we both could have slipped into the Quakerly “structured” mode where moments of silence aren’t considered awkward and where conversation doesn’t need to imitate small talk. I’ll try to remind myself of that next time.

One final observation. It occurs to me how much the Quakerly form of communication suits the autistic experience. Generally Autistics are not interested in games of one upmanship, debating or winning arguments. In spite of our social awkwardness, we’re more amenable to sharing and cooperation, and due to our minority status in a neuro-normative world, are more appreciative of differences being … well, just different. It’s not a case of being better or worse, right or wrong. When austics get together their form of communication is often along the lines I’ve described here, with perhaps shorter silent periods between speakers. Our normal mode of conversation parallels the Quakerly “structured” mode to a remarkable degree.


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7 years

This morning WordPress reminded me that it is seven years ago today that I opened a WordPress account. I’m not the most prolific writer by any means. My posts occur at erratic intervals – sometimes weeks and occasionally months between posts. Over all, I have averaged one post every 5.1 days. Meanwhile most of the WordPress posters I follow post daily and quite a number post several times every day!

I don’t know about other WordPress users, but if I were to count all the words I’ve used in my posts and compare that to the number of words I’ve used in comments, I suspect that words in comments would outnumber words in posts by at least 2:1. I confess it’s much easier for me to comment on what others say than to convert my own ideas, concerns and joys into meaningful posts.

Even when I have something I would like to share, putting into words is never easy – it comes from not thinking with words. The fact that I currently have 73 drafts in various stages of readiness for publication, some dating as far back as five years ago, perhaps illustrates the difficulty I have in organizing my thoughts in a way that might be intelligible to others. I recently purged a great many drafts that were specific to a particular event, and I still have a few that should go as the moment for their publication has passed. But who knows, the way history repeats itself, especially with politics, perhaps a few drafts might become relevant again soon – very soon in the case of US politics.

I still have followers from my first months of blogging and especially to them but also to all my followers, thank you for taking a a few moments of your time to read the personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind.


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Balmy Summer Days

As we head into late February and temperature climbing above 29°C (84°F), today, my thoughts had turned to enjoying a pleasant relaxed day accompanied by some equally relaxing music. Then the painters arrived.

We’ve contracted painter to give the exterior of the house a total going over – all three storeys. The next few days are going to be constant noise with water blasters and minor repairs taking place before the painting starts in earnest. Not precisely a relaxing atmosphere.

Normally on days like this, the ranchsliders (Kiwi name for aluminium framed glass panel sliding doors) and windows are fully open to allow any breeze to flow through the house keeping temperatures in the comfortable range. Not today. While I might just be able to tolerate the noise (perhaps), the jet and spray from the water blasters are a different matter altogether. So they are all closed for the moment.

Best I can do is suffer the heat – anything over 25°C (77°F) is above my comfort zone, hope that headphones played up loud will drown out the water blaster, and listen to music while pretending to sit under a tree in dappled shade listening to songs such as in the three video clips below. Not sure why, but I’m in the right frame of mind to listen to songs such as these.

Bic Runga – Something Good
Something Good

 Just wanna know ya
 Just wanna talk to ya
 I wanna hear about your day
 I'd never leave ya
 Never be mean to ya
 I'd always let you get your way

 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today

 If I were honest
 I'd tell you everything
 But it keeps coming out as lies
 Its' not a promise
 In case your wondering
 It's not some blessing in disguise
 
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today

 I know romance is not in fashion
 And my heart is on the line
 If you would be so kind
 To help me kill some time
 Then something good just might come crashing
 From the stars that light the sky
 If you would be so kind
 To help me kill some time

 Just wanna know ya
 Just wanna talk to ya
 I wanna hear about your day
 I'd never leave ya
 Never be mean to ya
 I'd always let you get your way

 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
 Something good will come our way
 And maybe this good thing's gonna happen today
TEEKS – Remember Me
Remember me

 I wish I had the strength
 To tell you how I feel
 I wish I was brave
 Like the soldier on the battlefield
 See, my heart it races
 Every time you're around
 And I try so hard to speak
 But I can't seem to make a sound
 
 I know that if I walk away
 I'll wonder what you would have said
 And if you felt the same
 But if you don't
 It's okay
 
 I'll be right here waiting if you change your mind
 I don't care how long it takes
 I don't care about my pride
 If it's a thousand years
 Or a thousand more
 I'll be waiting
 And darling all I ask
 Please remember me
 Please remеmber me
 
 I wish I had rhythm
 Maybe I'd ask you to dancе
 I wish I could hold you
 Like my father holds my mother's hand
 
 I know that if I walk away
 I'll wonder what you would have said
 And if you felt the same
 But if you don't
 It's okay
 
 I'll be right here waiting if you change your mind
 I don't care how long it takes
 I don't care about my pride
 If it's a thousand years
 Or a thousand more
 I'll be waiting
 And darling all I ask
 I'll be right here waiting if you change your mind
 I don't care how long it takes
 I don't care about my pride
 If it's a thousand years
 Or a thousand more
 I'll be waiting
 And darling all I ask
 Please remember me
 Please remember me
 Please remember me

 All I ask
 Please remember me
Goldenhorse – Maybe Tomorrow
Maybe Tomorrow

 There's a story I know
 We all leave and let go
 There is nothing to hold us

 In a moment of time
 When the fruit becomes wine
 And the thought becomes the memory

 All of your sorrow
 Maybe tomorrow
 Will fade away in the air

 Trying to please me
 Making it easy
 It won't be there
 It won't be there
 In your life
 In your life

 There's a story I know
 We all leave and let go
 There is nothing to hold us

 In a moment of time
 When the fruit becomes wine
 And the thought becomes the memory

 All of your sorrow
 Maybe tomorrow
 Will fade away in the air

 Trying to please me
 Making it easy
 It won't be there
 It won't be there
 In your life
 In your life

 All of your sorrow
 Maybe tomorrow
 Will fade away in the air

 Trying to please me
 Making it easy
 It won't be there
 It won't be there
 In your life
 In your life
 In your life
 Oh, In your life


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Triggers

Many folk who have experienced a trauma develop emotional triggers that can be set off by apparently innocuous events. This is perfectly understandable. I have a few of my own.

Usually, when someone is triggered others display some degree of empathy or sympathy to that person and make some allowances for the response. Usually, the party or event that inadvertently caused the trigger is not considered blameworthy because there is usually no reason for them to think their action could be harmful..

So how come, no matter whether I’m the trigger or the triggered, I’m an arsehole and the other party is the victim. How does that work?


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How to embarrass yourself…

Use the word twink in an online forum where you’re possibly the only Kiwi.


I discovered a new use (for me) of that term today, and it was definitely not what I had in mind. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, Twink is the leading brand of correction fluid. It’s also become a generic term when referring to correction fluid in general. It’s used as a verb to name the action of correcting a (typing) mistake much the same way as hover is used in the UK to name the action of vacuuming.

New Zealand’s most popular brand of correction fluid


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Jet boating NZ style

For most of my regular readers the remote possibility of visiting Aotearoa New Zealand has become even more remote since the arrival of the current pandemic, and for the foreseeable future is likely to remain so.

I’m now at the age where an adrenaline rush does little more than remind me that my body isn’t what it once was. I prefer to reminisce and relive past experiences from memory rather than seek out new ones.

With that in mind, here’s a modern video clip of the same experience I had on the same river forty-nine years ago. As far as I can recall, the boat appears to be identical to the one I rode in way back in April 1971.

Rushing through a narrow river valley with literally just a few inches of water beneath you while travelling at a speed of 80 kph (50 mph) relative to the water (somewhat faster relative to the valley walls on the downstream run) definitely does create an adrenaline rush, but unlike a bungy jump, it’s not over in a few seconds. The g-forces you’re subject to apparently are similar to those experienced on a rollercoaster but as I have never ridden a roller coaster, I am not able to confirm. Certainly, decelerating from full speed to a standstill in just a boat length while doing a 360 degree turn (otherwise known as a Hamilton turn) is an unforgettable sensation.

So without further ado, here’s a recreation of my jet boat experience five decades on. I recommend you take the link to Youtube and watch it at full screen.

Here’s another jet boat tour. Observe the terrain you pass through on your way to the river.

If g-forces are your thing, then hitch a ride in jet sprint boat. These boats can accelerate from 0 to 130 Kph (80 mph) in less than 2 seconds. The top boats can pull 7 g-forces while maneuvering through the course. I’ve been told that there are more jet sprint tracks in this country than race car tracks. The jet sprint park below is about a forty minute drive from where I live.

On the other hand, if a little bit of white water is your thing, there’s rides such as this one at Taupō.

or this (but I’d recommend wearing a safety helmet here).


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And on the fourth week…

Kia ora e hoa

It’s getting difficult to remember when it was “normal” around here. I’m not referring to COVID-19. That returned to normal many weeks ago. In fact lockdown and its precautions are definitely a fading memory

No, the normal I’m referring to is the one we had prior to the commencement of bathroom renovations. Today marks the start of the fourth week of a major makeover of the upper floor toilet and bathroom including expansion into the roof cavity and the installation of a skylight, converting part of the roof cavity into a walk in wardrobe for the adjacent bedroom, the installation of a solar light tube to brighten up a dark corner of the dining room, the removal of two woodburners at opposite ends of the main floor that are too expensive to run and maintain, and the renovation of the toilet on the main floor.

Apart from weekends, the place has been a hive of activity with chippies, sparkies, plumbers and others constantly traversing between the basement garage and the upper floor via the main floor. Part of the basement has been taken over by storage of bathroom fixtures and part as a temporary workshop where larger equipment such as circular saws, framing jigs and whatnot have been set up. This way, most work can be carried out regardless of the weather.

The problem with this arrangement is that the garage doors and every door between the garage and the bathroom seem to be open more often than not. To make matters worse, for much of the last three weeks, the renovation area has been open to the uninsulated roof space. It’s the middle of winter here, and the stairwell extending over the three floors has been acting as a funnel drawing all the heat generated on the main floor up to the top floor and out into the roof space. In the process it draws cold air from the basement and distributes it across the main floor.

The airflow from basement to roof space has been exacerbated over the past ten days by strong easterly winds that rush through the open garage doors and create a hurricane-like gale up the stairwell. I’ve taken to switching off the heatpump when the first of the workers arrives at around 7:30 in the morning and not turning it back on until the last of them leaves when it starts to get dark at around 5:00 as its heat output, even on maximum is miniscule compared to the draught up the stairwell. Effectively, all the heat generated was being transferred outside. Let’s just say it’s been decidedly chilly over the last few weeks.

Thankfully the builders have almost finished their work on the upper floor bathroom/toilet renovation – The only major task remaining is the installation of the skylight. Weather permitting, that should all be done by tommorrow. After that, it should be much quieter for a while as the plumbers, sparkies, floorers and such finish off their work.

It never occurred to me to take some “before” photos of the project, so although I have captured a few at major milestones since, you’re all spared a series of photo blogs of “work in progress”. I’ve also realised that the phone camera is not up to the task of recording the work. Bathrooms are relatively small and unless the camera has a wide angle mode, which mine doesn’t, it’s not possible to capture more than a small section of wall/floor/ceiling at a time. I suppose it might be possible to use panorama mode to create a better field of view, but it’s not something I’ve experimented with. Perhaps a video clip that pans around the room might be another option.

My home office is almost directly below the upper floor bathroom and at this point in time the noise is becoming decidedly unpleasant. I’m not sure what they’re doing, but the sound that is emanating from above reminds me very much of a dentist’s drill. So I think it’s time to withdraw and find a quite corner in which to hole up. So for now, ka kite anō.


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It does surprise me how well Michael’s Summary of the year here Aotearoa New Zealand matches my feelings even though I’m a whole generation older. So rather than try to re-invent the wheel, I invite my readers to read his post.

Oh, and Michael, keep blogging. You really have been conspicuous by your absence over recent months.

While I have been conspicuous by my absence, New Zealand has been conspicuous for all the wrong reasons. New Zealand is the place I call home. It is my country of birth, the place where my wife was born and the birthplace of my children. In my limited time on this planet I have seen […]

via Conspicuous — Michael Bracey