Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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X marks the spot

Kia ora.

Yesterday (before the nation closed down apart from essential services), I visited the service station (gas station) to top up the car petrol tank, and the supermarket to do our weekly shopping. I’m determined not to stock up on more than we usually do, and I was surprised that the urge to buy a little bit extra didn’t arise at all.

Mind you, the environment in the supermarket wasn’t conducive to looking out for bargins. The particular supermarket we frequent has a “quiet time” on Wednesdays between 2:30 PM and 3:30 PM with reduced lighting, reduced restocking of shelves, reduced noise (no public announcements or promotions, sound turned off on checkout scanners and registers etc) – perfect for those of us with sensory issues. Except yesterday.

Even though the store was no busier than on a typical Wednesday, the bright lighting, noise – especially the continuous COVID-19 safety warnings – made the whole experience less than pleasant. And as I’m the designated shopper for our household I had no choice but to grin and bear it. And get out as quickly as possible.

Neither the supermarket nor the service station were busier than a typical Wednesday. At the supermarket, I found a park right in front of the building entrance, and at the service station only four of the eight refueling bays were occupied. The most noticeable difference from normal were the bright yellow X’s at both locations.

At the supermarket there was a line of bright yellow crosses at two metre intervals on the floor at every checkout (four at each lane). And as we were reminded every few minutes over the public address system, the crosses were to mark the required separation space between shoppers. The only other obvious indication that the circumstances were unusual was that we had to pack our own bags and a requirement to use hand sanitiser before entering one’s PIN into the EFT-POS terminal.

The unusual circumstances were a little more obvious at the service station. The convenience store was closed and payments were made through the after hours night-pay window. Here they’d set up some barriers to form temporary lanes, and there on the ground, two metres apart were a line of bright yellow X’s, and several notices reminding us to stand on a cross while queueing.

So for the foreseeable future, X will indeed mark the spot.

From the vantage point of our home, we have a great view over our town amd extending to the ranges and wind farms in the distance. Feilding is not an especially busy place, but today, the absence of vehicles and people in the streets give the town an eerie post-apocalypse feeling. If I’d seen a line of zombies stumbling up the hill towards our home, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It’s that surreal.

This evening, as I look across town, vehicle headlights are conspicuous by their absence. However what is more prevalent than usual is the frequency of seeing blue and red flashing lights. I’m guessing the police are checking that the few cars still on the road are there for a valid reason.

So, as our first day of lockdown draws to a close, I have to wonder: Is this the new normal?

Kia haumaru, kia kaha


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Alert level 3 now, alert level 4 in 48 hours

Kia ora.

Life as we have known it is about to change. Three hours ago the Prime Minister announced that the country has moved from COVID-19 alert level 2 to level 3 immediately and will move to alert level 4 in 48 hours time.

The effect of Level alert 3 means:

  • Travel in areas with clusters or community transmission limited
  • Affected educational facilities closed
  • Mass gatherings cancelled
  • Public venues closed (e.g. libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks)
  • Alternative ways of working required and some non-essential businesses should close
  • Non face-to-face primary care consultations
  • Non acute (elective) services and procedures in hospitals deferred and healthcare staff reprioritised

On Wednesday when we move to level 4:

  • Everyone must self isolate – Stay at home
  • Educational facilities will close
  • All businesses closed except for essential services
  • Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities
  • Travel severely limited
  • Major reprioritisation of healthcare services

In effect the country will shut down.

We’re fortunate in that at time of writing, there are only two confirmed cases where the source of infection cannot be traced. It was on that basis of there being a possibility of community transmission occurring that the alert level was raised to level 3.

In effect the country is shutting down for at least four weeks, and for the first time in our history, the government will introduce quantitative easing in order to lessen the hardships we’re about to face.

I am very pleased to see the government is in active negotiation with opposition political parties and the media about how those groupings can continue to play their part holding the government to account; there’s no suggestion of forming a grand coalition, which would in effect drastically reduce accountability of government decisions.

I also praise the Prime Minister in reminding Kiwis that kindness and cooperation within communities is of vital importance and in no way should citizens attempt to enforce the restrictions – don’t judge the appropriateness of the actions of others. That is the role of the authorities, if it is required.

The wife had intended to refill the car today as some of the discounts on her loyalty cards are about to expire. We can usually save between $30 and $40 on a tank of petrol. However, I’m confident that enough people will ignore the advice not to panic buy that there will now be very long queues at every petrol station in town and there’s a possibility that supplies will temporarily run out today.

She’s taken my advice to forego the discounts and delay refilling until we need to, and given the requirement for self isolation, we’re not likely to need to top up the tank for a week or two. By then the panic and queues will be over and stocks will have been replenished. It’s also likely that petrol prices will have dropped significantly and we’ll be able to claw back some of the lost discounts.

It’s at times like this that I’m grateful we have a publicly funded health system. It would appear that directives to the health system in the America, especially to cease elective services, will result in significant loss of income at a time when it’s most needed. That can’t happen here. Also, with health services not being profit driven, health resources on a per capita basis are higher here.

But more than anything else, I’m grateful we don’t have an orange dimwit at the helm.

Keep safe, be strong.
kia haumaru, kia kaha


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Improving with age

Like good wine, I’m improving with age. For instance:

  • Mindfulness: Whenever I bend down or squat to retrieve something at or near ground level, I make a conscious sweep of the area to see what else I might be able to do while in that position.
  • Descending stairs: Once upon a time I used to descend stairs one step at a time. I’ve recently discovered bouncing down stairs one your behind is faster. I have to admit this skill is I don’t intentionally use due to the discomfort it causes, and I still start the descent with the intention of doing it one step at a time. But nevertheless, I often find I’m at the foot of the stairs earlier than expected.
  • Hearing: With my hearing aid turned on, I hear every sound. And I mean every sound, whether I want to or not. In particular the rustling of paper or plastic, and water from a tap or loo flushing sound like a jet airliner taking off.
  • Taste: I can now eat super spicy food that one I couldn’t tolerate. Now I can actually get to perspire profusely, turn bright read, and partially loose my voice and still enjoy a super hot Thai, Indonesian or Indian dish.
  • Forgetfulness: This is a skill that I have always been rather good at, especially with faces and names. But nowadays, I’m capable of forgetting almost anything.
  • Temperature sensitivity: when I was young, I was scarcely aware of changes in temperature. So much so that I more or less wore the same attire and footwear all year round. My improved sensitivity means that even a few degrees variance sees me looking to change my attire.
  • Awareness if pavement/footpath irregularity: Until I hit sixty, it was extremely unusual for me to notice uneven surfaces. I could even step over a curb and be almost unaware that I had. Now I notice almost every surface irregularity. The irregularity alarm (a sudden lurch forward to regain balance) is now triggered several time a day.
  • Understanding time: when I was young, I was under the mistaken impression that days were too short and years too long. Nowadays, I realise that days are much longer, and years are really very, very short.
  • Maturity: I used to associate growing up with growing old. Now I understand that they are unrelated. I wonder if I’ll ever truly grow up?
  • Wisdom: If only I had some of the wisdom I possess now when I was much younger…


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Unlike the writer of the post below, I am verbal, although somewhat clumsy at times, especially prior, during, and after a migraine attack. Sometimes during an attack, I’m unable to comprehend the speech of others as well as being limited in my ability to express myself. At such times my cognitive skills are limited and I have no idea whether or not I find such situations distressing.

However, there are times where I am fully aware of my surroundings and can fully understand those around me, but due to migraine induced ataxia, my ability to communicate is compromised. Fortunately these occurrences are infrequent and short lived – typically no more than a few hours, but they are extremely frustrating.

At such times, I know what it’s like to be talked about, to be treated as though you have limited mental capacity. In my case, this may be understandable, as outwardly I guess I appear that same as when my cognitive skills are limited.

However for many people who are non-verbal, and in particular autistic people who are nonverbal, their mental capacity is not compromised, only the ability to express their thoughts in a way neurotypical people demand. To make matters worse, their very attempts at communicating are written off as non-consequential.

Ido in Autismland challenges neurotypical people to “experience”, even for a short while what people who have communication difficulties must face every day. After reading through the terms of the challenge, do you think you could do it?

You work with autistic people. You have an autistic relative. You are adventurous and into new experiences. If you fall into any of these groups, my… 912 more words

via The Autism Experience Challenge — Ido in Autismland


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The Debate over an Autism Cure (7 min read)

Autism is not the problem. Hate, ignorance, and stubborn resistance to reflection, education, and self-improvement are the problems

I see the debate over a cure for autism similar to that with regards to a cure for homosexuality in the mid to late 20th century. Personally, I see no reason why I need to be “cured”. Sure autism does cause some difficulties for me – my hyper sensitivity to external stimuli and my hypo-awareness of nuances of language and non-verbal forms of communication. But I am who I am because of the way I process and interpret the world around me.

The following article is by patrickmagpie published over at THE ASPERGIAN. Unlike Autism Speaks, which does not speak for me, the article does speak for me, and is well worth the read…

Few things cause more feverish reactions in the autism community than talk of a cure. While the majority of autistic people hate the C word, some cling to the idea of a cure as if it’s their only hope. Meanwhile, parents of autistic children are often the most vocal about finding a cure for autism.…

Source: The Debate over an Autism Cure7 min read


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Herd immunity: we have lost it!

Countries around the globe are beginning to loose their elimination status with regards to measles. Aotearoa New Zealand has not lost its elimination status – yet. But according to the director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, we have lost our herd immunity. For measles, a 95% immunisation rate is required to maintain herd immunity. We are no longer have the rate of immunisation. This doesn’t bode well when it comes to eliminating the current outbreak, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

So far this year, around 850 cases have been reported, most occurring in Auckland. In the last fortnight, there have been 10 new cases reported outside of Auckland, but within the city there have been 230 new cases.

Child immunisation is free in this country, so why are fewer parents immunising their children than in the past? Complacency is possibly a major reason. We have been officially measles free for such a long time that some parents simply don’t see the need to make an effort. These parents simply ignore or fail to understand the herd immunity concept.

I wonder how the anti-vax movement has formed opinion in this country? A Pew research poll in the US indicated that anti-vaxxers were almost evenly distributed between conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, rich and poor. I don’t think there’s as many conspiracy theorists here as in America, but if there is, they hide themselves better.  Has there been any research into identifying what sections of the community have lower rates of immunisation, and have there been any programs targeting those sections, particularly where immunisation rates are lower than that required for herd immunity?

While there have been no deaths attributed to the current measles outbreak, health officials have stated it’s only a matter of time, before someone succumbs – probably where age or a medical condition that prevents him/her from being vaccinated and who must rely on herd immunity for protection.

What really makes me angry is those parents who avoid vaccinating their children because they believe there’s a link between vaccinations and autism. For goodness sake, even if there was a link, which there isn’t, is the death of your child (or someone else’s due to that lack of herd immunity) or a life time of problems resulting from a serious infection a better option than your child being autistic?

What is so terrible about being autistic? While it’s true that we experience the world differently, that in itself does not make our life a burden nor should it be one for a parent with proper resources. Our struggles as autistics are due to society being unwilling to accommodate our needs. If the tide was turned and non-autistic people were a tiny minority in an autistic world, they too would find life very difficult at times.

If you believe we are facing an autism epidemic, you’re wrong. I’m not convinced that autism is anymore prevalent today than it was a century ago or even a millennium ago. I did not become autistic when I turned 60. I have been the same all my life. I was not misdiagnosed as not being autistic when I was a child. The thought never occurred to those who loved me. If I had been presented for an autism diagnosis I would not have got one when I was a child. The reality is that the clinical definition of autism has changed. Turn it back to what it was in the 1950s and bingo! The “epidemic” will disappear overnight. Would that be wise? Hell no! It would be turning the clock back to the bad old days. We’d still be the same, but our difficulties would be ignored, punished, or hidden away in institutions

On the other hand, the measles epidemic is real. It’s not something that has been created with smoke and mirrors. Isolation wards are real. Herd immunity is a real phenomenon. It relies on everyone who is able to play their part. That means being immunised. If you or your children haven’t been immunised, do it! Now!


Abortion law reform passes first reading

The first reading of the abortion reform legislation has just passed 94 votes to 23. It was a conscience vote, meaning MPs were not required to vote down party lines.

Source: Abortion law reform passes first reading


Although 94 votes to 23 might seem like overwhelming support to non-Kiwi readers, this is not how we do things. After a bill passes its first reading it’s referred to a Select Committee where it is considered in detail and where interested parties can make submissions. This process can typically take around six months. This is the forum where the issues are debated, and the public are listened to. Rarely does a bill pass through this stage without some changes. Shutting down debate does not resolve issues – it’s more likely to harden prejudices.

The Committee process will see and hear submissions from all sides including health professionals, women’s groups, the legal profession, social workers, members of the public – in fact, anyone who wishes to have a say on the matter. MPs (Members of Parliament), whether they support or oppose the legislation understand this, and realise that without reasoned discussion, an informed decision cannot be made. Many, but not all, are open to persuasion based on the facts presented.

I expect the vote at the final reading will be much closer, perhaps 65 votes to 55.


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Practicalities of abortion law reform

Somewhere between one in three and one in four women in Aotearoa New Zealand will seek and have a legal abortion at some time in their life. A decade ago, there were almost 21 abortions per year per 1000 women of child bearing ages, but  has been declining since. Last year it was 13 per 1000. Better education and contraceptives have seen a dramatic drop in teenage abortions while abortions in women in their twenties and thirties have risen slightly. Our abortion rates are not too different from countries in North America or western Europe, but unlike in the US, abortion here is a crime.

The law as it is now

The Crimes Act 1961 determines the grounds for an abortion under 20 weeks, which can be serious danger to life, any form of incest or sexual relations with a guardian, mental sub normality and foetal abnormality. Extremes of age and sexual violation can also be taken into account but aren’t grounds in themselves.

After 20 weeks gestation the grounds are different. Abortions can only be performed to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother.

The law is an ass

Around 98% of abortions are perform on mental health grounds, and are essentially a means of getting around the current criminal nature of abortions. The Dunedin longitudinal study reveals that the most common reason given for having an abortion was not being ready, followed by relationship reasons, including being in the wrong relationship and being alone. In other words the law is an ass. The law should be either enforced or changed.

And here we differ markedly from the trend that we observe is going on in America. In early 2018, Andrew Little, the Minister of justice, asked the Law Commission to provide advice on what alternative approaches could be taken to ensure New Zealand’s abortion laws are consistent with treating abortion as a health issue.

Law Commission recommendations

Earlier this year, the Commission presented its ministerial briefing paper and offered three possible models:

  • Under Model A there would be no statutory test that must be satisfied before an abortion could be performed. The decision whether to have an abortion would be made by the woman concerned in consultation with her health practitioner.
  • Under Model B there would be a statutory test. The health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Under Model C, there would be no statutory test until 22 weeks of a pregnancy. After 22 weeks, the health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Regardless of which model may be preferred, the briefing paper sets out several other changes that could be made to align the law with a health approach to abortion. They include:

  • Repealing the current grounds for abortion in the Crimes Act.
  • Removing the requirement for abortions to be authorised by two specially appointed doctors called ‘certifying consultants’.
  • Repealing the criminal offences in the Crimes Act relating to abortion. Instead, other offences in the Crimes Act and health legislation that currently exist would protect women from unsafe abortions. If Model B or C is adopted, an additional offence could be introduced in health legislation for people who perform abortions that don’t meet the statutory test. In no case would the woman be subject to an offence.
  • Allowing women to access abortion services directly, rather than having to get a referral from a doctor as they do under the current law.
  • Removing the current restrictions around who may perform an abortion and where abortions must be performed. Instead, the provision of abortion services would be regulated by appropriate health bodies, the same as any other health care procedure.
  • Moving the Abortion Supervisory Committee’s oversight responsibilities to the Ministry of Health.
  • Requiring health practitioners who do not wish to provide health services in relation to abortion because of a conscientious objection to refer women to someone who can provide the service.

The full briefing paper can be found here.

The art of the possible

The legislation that is to be introduced into the parliament is essentially model C with all the suggested changes, but with the statutory test being at 20 weeks instead of 22. Andrew Little would have preferred model A, but politics is the art of the possible. It’s unlikely that a bill based on model A would be able to make its way through all stages of the process required to make it law. He’s indicated that the 20 week threshold was another of those compromises he needed to make to gain support from some members of parliament, notably members of the New Zealand First party. While the reforms might not be ideal, it’s certainly far better than keeping the status quo. As the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern commented “Ultimately, it is about putting something to Parliament that has the strongest likelihood of succeeding. This issue should not be in the Crimes Act.”

Polls indicate that around 70% to 75% of the NZ adult population favour decriminalising abortion, but to what degree liberalisation should occur is less clear. However, as elsewhere, those opposing reform are by far the loudest. In this country opposition is not entirely along religious or gender lines.

Passage through parliament

If the bill passes its first reading it will be referred to a select committee, which can then take months to hear submissions from all interested parties, and you can be sure that on this topic there will be a great many submissions. It’s most likely the the select committee stage will be a prolonged affair, as more that the usual numbers supporters and opponents will wish to make vocal submissions as well as written ones. This can be expected on issues where emotions run high.

After the select committee process the bill then has to pass the second and third reading before being passed into law, and as the minister of justice admits, there’s no guarantee that this will happen. However, it’s very unlikely that he would introduce the legislation unless he believed there was a better than even chance that it would get through all stages. Time will tell if he is correct.


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Update Aoteraroa 22nd May 2019

As selection of Aotearoa New Zealand news items I found interesting…

Member of Parliament is provided with security escort

Sigh. Even in our relatively liberal multicultural society and perhaps because of the Christchurch massacre, white extremists seem to be more confident about expressing themselves more openly, while still hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

Green MP (Member of Parliament) Golriz Ghahraman is being provided with a security escort any time she leave Parliament due to the nature of of online comments about her. Comments go so far as to discuss lynching. I don’t know what security is provided to legislators in other countries, but here the only other polititian to have a security escort is the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Read more (Reuters)…

Surge in Australians pondering move to New Zealand after election

There has been a spike in interest among Australians in moving to New Zealand since the Australian elections.

Immigration New Zealand says four times the usual number of Australians visited its website and information site New Zealand Now on Sunday, the day after the Liberal coalition’s surprise win.

Expressions of interest in moving to New Zealand were 25 times higher than the week before.

But as the video on the linked article suggests, there may be other reasons why Aussies want to move here 🙂

Read more (Stuff)…

What if NZ movies and TV actually included all New Zealanders?

Migration plays an important role in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand society. New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, is now “more diverse than London“, and one in four New Zealanders have come from elsewhere.

[The above link to Statistics NZ is broken at time of publication. Instead, refer to this news release]

The large number of arrivals from across the Pacific region has given Auckland the largest Pacific Islander population of any city in the world. Almost one-quarter of Auckland’s population is now classified as Asian. This itself is a catch-all term for a wide range of peoples and cultures covering half of humanity.

But while diversity in New Zealand is greater than ever, there is a gap between the society we see around us and what is reflected on screen.

Read more (NZ Herald)…

New Zealand-led research could change the way doctors treat asthma

New Zealand-led research on asthma treatment is being called a “game changer” for stopping mild asthmatics from having severe attacks, an author of the study says.

The four-country study conducted by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It involved 675 people who had been taking medication to relieve their symptoms, and divided them into three groups: one just using a reliever inhaler when they had symptom, one using preventer and reliever inhalers and one using a combined preventer-reliever inhaler only when they had symptoms.

Study co-author Richard Beasley said the third group had half the risk of a severe attack compared to using the reliever inhaler alone.

Read more (TVNZ News)…