Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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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!

 

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Lloyd Geering: on meaning

Before we can enter profitably into discussion with one another on any particular subject, it is important to ensure that we are all using our words in much the same way. Words are not the fixed objects which people often imagine them to be. Many words change their meaning over a period of time. Even at one particular time a word may possess not just one meaning, but in fact hold together a whole family of meanings. One meaning may be intended in one place but at a later stage another meaning implied. Because words sometimes depend upon their context for their exact meaning, even the speaker himself may be misled, not realizing that the new verbal context has given the word a slightly different meaning from what it had in an earlier context. This ambiguity in the very nature of the verbal language with which we communicate means that the value of our discussion or debate may be greatly reduced if, unknowingly, we are using one or more of the key words in different ways. Where difference of opinion rests solely on the different uses of words, it is called a merely verbal argument.

Some verbal battles can be avoided at the outset if we simply take more care with our use of words. But they are not so easy to avoid wherever it is a question of that small number of basic words in the language, which by their very fundamental nature are either difficult or impossible to define in terms of others less basic. One such word, for example, is the basic term ‘God’ and the problem to which we have been referring often causes the modern debate between atheist and theist to be fruitless, for there is little use in discussing whether God exists until there is some agreement about the precise meaning to be given to the word.

Lloyd Geering, Resurrection: A Symbol of Hope


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Shock Horror: A racist in the NBA

Steven Adams is a Kiwi playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s come under some criticism for using the term “quick little monkeys” to describe Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Apparently this has raised the ire of some sports fans and commentators, accusing Steven of racism. In some quarters his apology is not accepted, or seen as not genuine.

I must admit that I had to do some Googling to understand why the term is considered a racist remark in America. Here “little monkeys” has absolutely no racial overtone. It’s usually used either as an endearment for a group of active children, or in frustration when unable to keep them under control. A child escaping the clutches of a parent is likely to be called a “quick little monkey”.

The term is less often used when referring to adults, but to a Kiwi, describing opponents who you can’t pin down or control as quick little monkeys would come naturally. I suspect He was going to say they were “quick little buggers” (perfectly okay in NZ) or perhaps “quick little f**kers” (not suitable for early evening TV), and thought better of it in case they weren’t acceptable in the US.

The whole thing is a storm in a teacup. The issue should died down as soon as Steven gave his apology and explanation. But apparently not…

The Nightly Show


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What a load of bull!

Whenever I travel to Whanganui to visit friends and family, I pass through the small town of Bulls (population: 1,800). There is not much that is particularly remark-a-bull about the town, except it enjoys making unforget-a-bull puns with its name. They are to be seen everywhere, which does make the town rather memor-a-bull. A large sign as you enter Bulls makes it obvious that the locals enjoy making fun of the name: Herd of Bulls? It’s a town like no udder.

Some of the puns are terr-a-bull, others are incred-a-bull. So here, without further ado are just a few of the building signs that can bee seen as you pass through.

  • Avail-a-bull: Dairy (convenience store)
  • Bank-a-bull: Bank
  • Const-a-bull: Police station
  • Cure-a-bull: medical centre
  • Delect-a-bull: Café
  • Eat-a-bull: A delicatessen
  • Everything imagine-a-bull: Farm park & café
  • Extinguish-a-bull: Fire station
  • Fashion-a-bull: Women’s apparel
  • Forgive-a-bull: Anglican church
  • Full-as-a-bull: local pub
  • Indispense-a-bull: Pharmacy
  • Inform-a-bull: The information centre
  • Irresist-a-bull: Sweet shop (candy store)
  • List-a-bull: A real estate agency
  • Live-a-bull: Another real estate agency
  • Love-a-bull: Childcare centre
  • Memor-a-bull: Museum
  • Non-return-a-bull: Plunket Society (support services for the development, health and well-being of children under 5)
  • Park-a-bull: A car park (parking lot)
  • Read-a-bull: Public Library
  • Reliev-a-bull: Public restrooms
  • ReSpect-A-bull: RSA (Returned Services Association – a non-profit society for ex-military personnel)
  • Stock-a-bull: Supermarket
  • Store-a-bull: Storage facility
  • Social-a-bull: Town hall
  • Veget-a-bull: Fruit & vegetable shop
  • Wear-a-bull: Clothing shop

They haven’t stopped at building signs. For example, wording on public rubbish bins (trash cans) urge you to be “RESPONSE-A-BULL”.

One company in particular (Palat-a-bull) has taken the Bulls branding to another level. Here’s a list of some of their products:bulls-semen-salad-sauce3

  • Genuine Bulls Cream – Cream from Bulls (cream)
  • Bulls Semen – extracted from Bulls with their consent (salad sauce)
  • Bulls Eye Chilli Sauce – This ‘lord of the ring’ chilli sauce was tested on Bulls
  • Grill-a-Bulls (a range of sausages)
  • Bulls Wool – It’s about ewe and your baa skin (a range of merino wool products)

A signpost at the intersection of two highways even includes a sign pointing to Cowes in Australia!

What makes this town so remark-a-bull is that it’s the only place in the world where you can get milk from Bulls. I think that’s enough puns for one day.


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Please don’t eat Kiwis

I consider myself a reasonably tolerant person, but in one aspect I realise I fall somewhat short. There are some things that irk me – particularly where there is a New Zealand connection. One in particular is the use of the word “kiwi“.

Google for an image of a kiwi, and you’re likely to find this:kiwifruitThat is not a kiwi. This is:

1024px-ApteryxHaastiiKeulemansIt makes as much sense to call it a kiwi bird as it does to refer to a turkey as a turkey bird or a sparrow as a sparrow bird. The kiwi has been named just that for around a thousand years, and I can see no rhyme or reason for adding bird to its name today. And while we’re on the subject of kiwi, the plural of kiwi is not kiwis, The plural is kiwi. The day that the plural of sheep becomes sheeps is the day I will reconsider my stand on this.

As to the name of that brown furry fruit: it’s a kiwifruit (pl. kiwifruit). It is not native to New Zealand. Seeds were originally imported from southern China in 1904, and at that time it had a small, gooseberry sized fruit. Locally it was known as a Chinese gooseberry.

Export of kiwifruit to the U.S. started in the 1950s, but due to the cold war, the The name Chinese gooseberry proved to be somewhat of a stumbling block. The name melonettes was first thought of as an alternative, but as the U.S. had high import tariffs on melons, bureaucracy could have become the hurdle. Eventually the name kiwifruit was chosen because it is brown and furry like a kiwi, and has a NZ connection.

The name was originally a brand name, but the exporters didn’t think to register it, so the name has become generic instead.

In case you’re thinking that everyone knows its real name is kiwifruit, but it is shortened to to kiwi for convenience, I have news for you. When visiting the U.S. I got a kick out of seeing the incredulous look on the faces of Americans when I mentioned that in NZ it was a serious offence to own or eat kiwi, and that dogs must be muzzled when going into areas where there are kiwi. I was also often asked why New Zealanders liked to identify themselves with a fruit. When I said we didn’t, they would ask what we prefer to be known as, and I would say “Kiwis”, which usually resulted in a very confused look. Invariably I had to explain. Clearly a great many Americans don’t know the difference between kiwi and kiwifruit.

So why have I used the word Kiwis in the title when I’ve stated that the plural of kiwi is kiwi? When it comes to the mammalian variety (NZers), the word is spelt with a capital “K” and the plural does end with an “s“.

So ends this rant lesson.


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New Zealand 6, Australia 0

Over the last week I seem to have come across an unusually large number of blogs discussing the oddities of the English language. So here is my little contribution to the discussion relating to regional dialects.

Most English speakers from outside the antipodes are unable to distinguish the difference between New Zealand and Australian English. But there are differences, particularly in vowel shifts. In Australian English (Strine) The “I” sound in hit has moved to sound more like heat. In New Zealand English (Nyu Zild), Vowels have moved further but in the opposite direction, resulting in hit sounding more like hut.

Nyu Zild has also seen shift in “e” in red and pen so that it sounds like rid and pin to British and American speakers. A similar shift has occurred with the “a” sound as in mat and sad sound like met and said.

So If I were to say “Peck the pack of pickles“, an American might hear “Pick the peck of puckles“. If I said “Fix the bit that’s bent” they might hear “Fucks the but thets bint“.

A New Zealander can sound like Lyn of Tawa:

Or like Member of Parliament Maurice Williamson during his speech supporting the the final reading of the Definition of Marriage Bill:

Oh what a beautiful sound!

So what’s the relevance to the Title of this post?

A Kiwi was driving on an Australian motorway, and noticed some graffiti on a overpass, which read NZ sux (New Zealand sucks). A few days later, he passed under the overpass, but now someone had added AUS nil. Get it?


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What’s in a word?

Since I began posting comments online some five years ago, I have been careful in choosing what words to use. No, it’s not because I use words that are offensive — I’ve never had the urge to use them — it’s because I’m not sure how well I’d be understood if if wrote using my natural language.

Most of the forums and blogs I frequent are either international or American. This is inevitable considering the small size of NZ compared to the rest of the English speaking world. I do post on a few kiwi sites, where I can use language I’m comfortable with, and be reasonably sure I will be understood. However, on other sites I often agonise over what words and expressions to use. English varies from region to region, and while many variations are obvious, others are less so.

One advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of coming from a small place such as NZ is that I am probably more aware of how my English differs from the dominant American variant than the typical American is about how his language differs from NZ English.

Now that I have started blogging, I want to be able to express myself in language I’m comfortable with, but if I want to increase readership, I need to use language that the readers are comfortable with. I’m not sure how successful I can be at achieving both objectives.

Many words can be used safely, even if not universally used. For example every English speaker understands railway and railroad even though they are likely to use just one of them. Similarly, while a speaker may use only petrol or gasoline he/she will understand both. If I used the word cattle-stop, you would more than likely guess that it refers to a stock grid or cattle-guard.

chocolate-fishOn the other hand, I’m not going to say that my best mate is a hooker for the All Blacks on a non-NZ forum. I’d say that my best friend plays for our national rugby team. Nor am I likely to say that you deserve a chocolate fish. And I wouldn’t attempt to write that my mate has hired a chippie to fix the bach on his section by the lake that was munted in the shake a fortnight ago.

I know when an American refers to a fanny, he’s referring to the part of the anatomy you sit on, and not what the word means in NZ. And if an American or British visitor asks where the bathroom is, I know he doesn’t really want to know where the bathroom is. He wants to know where the toilet is instead.

If an American wants to know where to find the elevator to the second floor, he actually wants to know where to find the lift to the first floor. If I mention biscuit, he’ll probably think of what I know as a scone, whereas I’m referring to what he calls a cookie. If he asks for jello, he really wants jelly, and if he asks for jelly, he really wants jam.

If an American child makes a spelling mistake, she will likely use an eraser or white-out to correct it. A kiwi kid will use a rubber or twink instead. Our ankle biters like candy-floss and lollies, whereas American children like cotton-candy and candy. Our children like soft drinks, but American children prefer soda or pop.

I know non NZers won’t know what I meant if I decided to join the business waka, or I said I feel a box of birds. I doubt that they would know what I meant if I said I avoided a certain bar because it was chocka. There are many expressions I would like to use, which may be universally understood, but because I’m not sure of that fact I avoid using them.

Would you know what to do if I ask you to boil the jug, mow the berm or rattle your dags? Do you know the difference between being pissed, being pissed aroundbeing pissed off and taking the piss, or the difference between pissing down and pissing up? If I mentioned that someone wasn’t only a bit of a dag, he was the whole sheep’s arse, what would you think of that person?

Do you know what I’m doing if I go tramping? Do you know the difference between bugger, bugger me, bugger off, bugger all, Well I’ll be buggered and I’m buggered?

If I posted a motoring blog, would you know what parts of a car a bonnet, boot, bumper, wing, accelerator and windscreen are? Would you know what I meant by a tar sealed road or a metal road? How about if I top up? You probably know what a roundabout is, but do you know what a give way or a zig-zag are? If I told you that a pavement isn’t for driving on, would you think I’m talking a load of cods wollop?

If I talk politics, would you understand what I mean when I refer to MMP, Rogernomics or waka jumping? How about the beehive or coat-tailing?

Is a unit a house, apartment, a farming property, an electric fence system, a stock carrier, an electric train, or a section of study?

Does crook mean angry, bad, broken, inadequate, empty, ill, used-up, thief, unproductive or weak? If I’m crook as a dog, what am I? If I put you crook, what have I done?

My problem is there are many words and expressions similar those above that I would use if they were correctly understood by most readers. I don’t want to cater just for a New Zealand readership, but I would like to be able to express myself freely without causing confusion.

If I haven’t confused you with strange expressions and you’re not a kiwi, then you deserve a chocolate fish. on the other hand, don’t spit the dummy if it all seems like nonsense. I’ll eventually suss it out, which will make it sweet as.