Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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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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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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Stubbies

A comment over on Behind the Glass regarding short shorts, reminded me of the era when such attire was part of the modern man’s wardrobe in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was even appropriate where in other parts of the world a business suit would be more appropriate. Such fashion is now a distant memory for those of us who lived through the seventies, but perhaps Trump’s determination to accelerate climate change, will see them return before too long.

This is what sprung to mind on reading short shorts:


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What’s wrong with some Kiwis??

In a recent Colmar Brunton poll conducted for TVNZ’s One News, 18% of the population believe that our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ability to govern the country will be negatively impacted by the birth of her first child in June. That means almost one in five Kiwis believe motherhood is incompatible with running a country! I thought we were beyond that sort of thinking.

There have been several PMs (Prime Ministers) in the past who have had children while in office, but I can not find a single poll that queried the nation’s opinion and about whether or not the upcoming birth would have a negative impact.

The difference? The other PMs were male. Strangely, although the number of comments by the public in the media are few, there does not seem to be a significant difference of opinion by gender in how becoming a parent might affect her ability to run the country.

Most comments have been around the fact that due to the many sleepless nights ahead, the PM will not be in a condition to make wise decisions. For goodness sake! This is Aotearoa New Zealand. Most Kiwi fathers will have just as many sleepless nights as their partners, and during the night might even change the baby’s nappy (nappy = diaper) more often than his partner, leaving her to perform the one task he is incapable of: breast feeding. The odds are that previous PMs have also been just as sleep deprived as Jacinda will be.

Why did One News think up the idea that a poll on her ability to govern was even newsworthy? This has me somewhat baffled. Perhaps they thought it might be more controversial that it turned out to be? There’s no doubt in my mind that news media are just as capable of creating news as they are of reporting it.

Perhaps they wanted to show how progressive we as a nation are. If so, that fact that one in five of us think that motherhood is incompatible with a major role outside the home reveals we are not as progressive as we like to imagine.

On the other hand, if the intent was to create controversy by illustrating how conservative and traditional we are in contrast to our image of ourselves as being progressive and liberal, especially regarding gender roles, the result must be disappointing. The response from the public has been much along the lines of “(Yawn) So? (Yawn)”.

For those who missed the results in the clip above, the results of the poll How do you think becoming a parent will affect Jacinda Ardern’s performance as Prime Minister? are:
59% No difference
18% worse than now
15% better than now
6%  don’t know
1%  refused to answer

Thank goodness, no one has conducted a poll regarding the appropriateness of the PM being in a relationship that is not formalised in the manner of a marriage or civil union. I can be reasonably confident that the reason for there being no such poll is because (a) more than 90% of the population would consider it irrelevant, and (b) it would bring out the very worst of the very small number religious fundamentalists who like nothing better than to vilify anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideas of morality. While controversy might be good for business, being seen as vehicle for hatred and bigotry is not. Perhaps this is just a “Kiwi thing” that extreme views are not encouraged.

When I think about the fact the the leaders of the two political parties that make up the current government (Jacinda Ardern of Labour and Winston Peters of New Zealand First and who are also Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister respectively) are not married to their partners, yet no one here thinks anything of it (the few religious fundamentalists excluded), or considers it in any way remarkable, perhaps we are somewhat progressive in our thinking after all.


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To speak or not to speak, that is the question

That dear readers, is a question I’m unable to answer. At (almost) 68 years of age, I still don’t have a clue when it’s my turn to speak. And it’s not for the want of trying.

I often get it wrong even in one on one conversations, but if I’m in a group of two or more other people I’m like a fish out of water when it come to practising  conversational turn taking.

It appears to me that conversations consist of one person leading and others following, adding variable length interjections from time to time  (the nature and frequency of which varies from culture to culture), and then by some mysterious mechanism the lead is transferred to another member of the group.

To a person like me, the ability of others to smoothly navigate a conversation is more than an art or skill. It has the appearance of the participants having some sort of ESP or supernatural ability that is used to negotiate who says what, and when. In fact there was a period in my childhood when I was convinced this was true, which goes a long way to explain my brief fascination of the paranormal at that time.

I’m sure there’s a discipline of science that studies the mechanism by which people negotiate  conversations, but the average person seems to have no idea how they do it. Believe me, I’ve asked. Typical responses are “I’ve never thought about it” (so I gather), “It comes naturally” (no it doesn’t), “It’s instinctive” (no it’s not), “what a stupid question!” (why?), “everyone can do it” (really? I can’t)), “just take your turn” (when is it my turn?), “just observe and you’ll learn” (I’ve been observing for more than 60 years, so how about a hint or clue?).

It was only eight years ago that I learnt there is an explanation for the reason I find conversation so difficult: I discovered I am on the autism spectrum. However being armed with the knowledge why I fail to recognise non-verbal clues (a skill most people don’t realise they possess), does little to help me. If I concentrate exclusively on another’s body movements or tone of voice, I can maybe recognise something that possibly might be non-verbal clues. However, it’s a moot point as the concentration required means the words spoken have gone in one ear and out the other and I’m unable to relate what might have been expressed non-verbally with what the person has said.

When I first learnt I was on the spectrum, my only “knowledge” of autism was through the film Rain Man. I wanted to prove I wasn’t autistic, and tried many online tests in an attempt to prove the experts wrong. I failed totally. One test I tried (on many occasions) is the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. This test measures one’s ability to identify emotions in others by looking at an area around the eyes and without any other input.

The test consists of looking at a total of 36 pairs of eyes and choosing one of four emotions to match the image. The mean score is roughly 27/36 for women, 25/36 for mean and 22/36 for people who have been identified as having Asperger Syndrome or “High Functioning” Autism. I’ve tried this test on numerous occasions, and the very best I have achieved is 16/36. However most of my results have been close been between 10 and 13, which is only marginally better than one would expect from a tossing a dice to choose an emotion.

So the next time someone appears to be rude by interrupting inappropriately, just consider the possibility that they might struggling, almost to the point of exhaustion, of trying to fit in and having no idea why they don’t. They struggle to fit into your world almost every moment they are awake. It won’t hurt you to try to fit into their world sometimes.

For those who would like to try the test for themselves, there are online versions at http://socialintelligence.labinthewild.org/mite/ and https://www.questionwritertracker.com/quiz/61/Z4MK3TKB.html. The latter requires Adobe Flash, and provides the answers, both of which are good reasons for me to avoid it.


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The land of awkward terrorists, communists and fascists

For several weeks, I’ve been struggling with completing a post regarding the Kiwi propensity to avoid conflict and how it has a tendency to neutralise extremist views. Today I stumbled across an opinion piece first published in April 2017 which neatly summarises what I was attempting to write, and even poses a question very similar to what I wanted to ask.

So in the interests of getting a post out at all, I have abandoned writing my own, and refer readers to the Stuff article New Zealand: the land of awkward terrorists, communists and fascists.


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The Kiwi Rite of Passage

Taking an OE, or Overseas Experience, has become a characteristic activity of Young Kiwis over the last fifty years. Young New Zealanders head overseas for an extended period, usually immediately after graduating university, although often before beginning (and sometimes instead of undertaking) tertiary study. It has become such a social norm, that failing to show some work experience or extended stay overseas on one’s CV can put one at a disadvantage in job applications. Colloquially termed The Big OE, it’s estimated, that at any one time, one in five kiwis are living or travelling overseas. To make up for this “loss”, we have a high immigration rate. One in four New Zealand residents are immigrants.

So what lures young Kiwis to foreign shores?

A sense of adventure? Its been argued that the reason NZ had such a high rate of military volunteers during the first and second world wars was that young men saw it as the only opportunity they would have for an adventure in a foreign land. There’s no doubt that our isolation and small population makes other places seem more enticing and exciting.

Seeking one’s roots? Aotearoa New Zealand is a young country, and there would be very few individuals who don’t have at least one parent, grandparent or great grand parent who was born overseas. Depending on which branch of the family tree I follow, I am a second generation, third generation, fourth generation or fifth generation New Zealander. My wife is an immigrant, as is my daughter-in-law. In that respect, I’m a typical kiwi. Young people today have a greater interest in their roots than do people of my generation and have a genuine interest in where their family came from.

Career prospects? Kiwis are often highly sought after, particularly where the reputation of our work ethic and “can do” attitude precedes them. There’s certainly no denial that overseas there are pay scales and career opportunities that we can only dream about here. On returning home, that experience gives them a distinct advantage in the job market.

The lure of bright city lights? Sure, why not? World wide, there are over sixty cities with populations larger than our entire country, and if you include metropolitan areas, that number swells to 100. I have a distinct dislike for it, but most young people seem to crave for the excitement that can be found where the lights are brightest.

Economising? Strange as it may seem, this is a factor. New Zealand is very isolated geographically, and to get anywhere outside the country is expensive and takes a long time. The cost of travel to and from foreign destinations is relatively high compared to the cost of living there. So why not cram as much into one journey as possible by making it last a year or three?

There’s no doubt a myriad of other reasons, including that fact that this country and even its biggest cities just too quiet or dull for some. But eventually most return, sometimes with a new partner in tow to set up a new family. For although it’s an expensive place to live in, there’s no better place in which to raise a family.

A beneficial outcome of such a significant number of our young adults spending an extended period abroad is that they experience a wide variety of cultures different from their own. This means that on return they are, generally, more accepting, tolerant and appreciative of alternative cultures and life styles found within Aotearoa New Zealand. And that can only be a good thing.

So our rite of passage is the Big OE. What’s the rite of passage where you live?


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(Not) Windows Support Desk

[Ring ring. Ring ring]
ME: G’day. This is Barry
CALLER: Hello this is Windows support. I’m calling regarding a problem with your computer.
ME: Oh? what kind of problem?
CALLER: Do you realise that your computer is generating a lot of Internet traffic that is related to viruses and malware?
ME: No. Is that bad?
CALLER: Very bad. You can get into a lot of trouble if you let it continue.
ME: Bugger! So what should I do?
CALLER: That is why I am calling sir. So we can repair your computer and make it safe. Just follow what I tell you to do. Do you understand?
ME: yes
CALLER: OK. Please turn your computer on.
ME: It’s already on
CALLER: Ok. Hold down the Windows key, press the “R” key and release the Windows key.
ME: What’s the Windows key?
CALLER: Do you see the key at the front left of the keyboard? It should have the letters CTRL in it.
ME: Yes
CALLER: Well the to its right should be the Windows key.
ME: Oh you mean the one with a kind of wriggly 4-paned window one it?
CALLER: That’s the one. Hold it down and then press the “R” key then release both keys. Got That?
ME: Yes. [pause] Done it.
CALLER: Ok. Now type in E V E N [unrecognisable] [unrecognisable] W R
ME: Sorry my hearing’s not the best. Can you spell it out again please?
CALLER: E for echo, V for victory, E for echo, N for November, T for tango, V for victory, W for whisky, R for Romeo.
ME: [pause] Ok. Now what?
CALLER: Click Ok.
ME: I don’t see an Ok button. Should I just press Enter
CALLER: What? Ah, yes, just press Enter. Then tell me what you see.
ME: Nothing
CALLER: Huh? What do you mean nothing? Can you describe exactly what you see on your screen.
ME: well, I mean Nothing happened. The box that I typed E V E N T V W R into is still sitting in the middle of the screen.
CALLER: Do you have any other programs running?
ME: Yes, I have my email program, a web browser, a word processor,and a [Caller interupts]
CALLER: [cross tone] You must close all programs completely. Do you understand? I want just the desktop like when you first start your computer. Am I clear?
ME: No need to be so short. If you wanted a clean screen you should have said so at the beginning. Now, when you say “Like when you first start your computer”, do you mean before I log in or afterwards?
CALLER: [sounding flustered] Before. No, I mean Afterwards.
ME: [sounding doubtful] Ok. Hang on a mo.
[long pause]
CALLER: Hello? Hello, are you there sir?
ME: Yes. I was just closing down everything. I’m ready now.
CALLER: [speaking slowly and deliberately] Ok. Hold down the Windows key, and while holding it down, press the “R” key. Then release the “R” key and then the Windows key.
ME: [short pause] Ok, Done.
CALLER: Has a box appeared?
ME: Yes
CALLER: Type E V E N T V W R into the box and then read out what you have entered.
[slow typing can be heard]
ME: Done. I’ve typed in E for echo, V for victory, E for echo, N for November, T for tango, V for victory, W for whisky, R for Romeo
CALLER: Very good! Now click the Ok button.
ME: Like I said before, there’s no Ok button.
CALLER: [pause] What buttons to you see?
ME: There are 3 buttons: “Preferences”, “Close”, and one that is greyed out with the label “Launch”.
CALLER: Does the box have a title at the top?
ME: Yes.
[silence]
CALLER: Well?
ME: Well what?
CALLER: [exasperated] What it the title?
ME: Oh sorry. “Application Finder”
CALLER: And you got there when you pressed the Windows key and the R Key – are you Sure?
ME: If you mean the R key between the E key and the T key and below the 4 key and the 5 key and above the D key and the F key, then, yes, I am sure. If there’s another R key somewhere else, you’ll need to direct me to it.

The above conversation is the beginning of a 31 minute 17 second session I had with a guy that was trying to “help” me fix a “serious problem” on my computer. After several more unsuccessful attempts to run Event Viewer, he tried another approach:

CALLER: I want you to click on the Start Button.
ME: Where do I find the Start Button?
CALLER: At the bottom left hand corner of the screen
ME: There’s no button there
CALLER: [sounds like he’s talking with clenched teeth] There is a bar that runs along the bottom of the screen. On the left side there is a button that says “Start” or it has the Windows logo on it. I want you to click on it.
ME: Look mate, I’m telling you there’s no bar along the bottom of the screen and there’s no button with Start or the logo on it. I’d tell you if there was. Are you sure you’re qualified to be doing this?
CALLER: You little sh*t! Do you know how much trouble you can get into by messing around with Windows Security Office? You don’t want to f*ck with us.

Usually these types of calls end abruptly when I question the qualification of the caller, but this was a new approach. He clearly thought I was a young person trying to be smart. He then went on to explain how I could be banned from the Internet for life for knowingly distributing malware; that my telephone would be monitored, and as distributing viruses and ransomware was regarded as terrorism by the authorities, I’d be put on the terror watch list and the No Fly list, and so would my parents. He then threatened to set the wheels in motion unless I cooperated fully, and asked me again to click the Start button.

I gently explained that I was in fact 69 years old, and as I have autism I often take instructions too literally, and rather than assuming my screen looked exactly like his, he should ask questions that would lead him to understand how my computer is different. I then gave the example of Instead of being rude when I said I didn’t have a Start button, he could have enquired what I do to start up a program.

This seemed to calm him down and we spent another 20 minutes or so as he fruitlessly tried to lead me through installing a remote desktop, a key logger and backdoor, and finally an attempt to install TeamViewer. If only he had bothered to ascertain what operating system was installed on my computer, he would have had a much easier time. My home has been Microsoft Windows free for almost 15 years. Our 2 desktops, a laptop and our media and backup server all run variants of Linux.

Eventually it dawned on him that I might be leading him on and he directly asked if I was wasting his time. So I told the first porky of the evening. I mentioned that New Zealand was a member of the Five Eyes Spy network and I had been using delaying tactics so that his precise location could be identified. It was just a matter of deciding whether to use the local law enforcement agency to arrest him, or the Internet Rendition Unit to whisk him to a jurisdiction where Internet crime is better dealt with. The decision would be made within 24 hours. At that point he hung up. I have no idea if he believed any of the lie, but I hope he sweats for a few hours at least.

I don’t like lying and on the rare occasions I do, I always feel physically uncomfortable afterwards. But on this occasion I actually feel good.


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Census “Night”

Once every five years, on a Tuesday evening in March, everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand completes a personal census form, and one person in each household completes a dwelling census form. This year Census night was the 6th of March, but unlike previous censuses, this one is being conducted online. Already this has caused widespread concern.

While there is an option to complete a paper based census form, you have to request that the forms be posted to your home address. Unlike previous censuses, there is not an army of thousands of enumerators armed with forms roaming the countryside to ensure every resident, tourist, freedom camper, homeless person etc receives and returns the census forms. The fact that a household pass-code was mailed only to dwellings with known addresses means that many more people than in previous years will miss out.

And as in many cases the letter containing the pass-code arrived only a few days before census night, those that are unable or unwilling to go online will not have enough time to request and have delivered paper forms in time for census night.

As I see it, the poorer sections of the community and also the elderly are more likely to not have a means of completing an online form. Within both groups, the odds of not having access to an internet connection or a smart phone are much higher than for other groups, yet these are the very people that are most likely to benefit from services and support that is funded according to population counts. For example, health districts are funded by central government based on the population within the district.

Even with a paper based census, some health districts have been underfunded as those in the lower socio-economic groups are more likely to fail to complete a census. And as these are the very people that place the most load on the resources of health districts, some district health authorities are struggling to remain solvent. The new method of collecting census data is only going to exacerbate the problem.

I appreciate that collecting census data on line results in a considerable cost saving, but if it results in inadequate or inaccurate data, what’s the point? I do hope that more thought goes into how data is gathered by the time the next census roll around in 2023.

Census Questions

The range of question asked were very similar to those of previous years, but I was pleased to see that some were more open ended than previously.

Damp Homes

Until the 1990s, newly built homes were poorly insulated and a great many NZ homes suffer from dampness, mildew and mould. Then around the start of the millennium, many homes built in the 1990s began to display what is now termed “Leaky Home Syndrome“. This is likely to be a financial burden on home owners, local authorities and central government for some time.

I don’t recall seeing questions about damp homes in previous census, but this time there were two questions specifically about damp homes: “Is this dwelling damp?” and:
Can you see mould
I have a sneaky feeling that if the previous government had not lost the November elections, this question would not have been included.

Religion

In previous censuses, this question was usually multi-choice and asked for your religious affiliation, with the major religions and denominations, “no religion” and “object to answering” listed, plus an option of “other” with a small space for writing a name of an unlisted religion. This year, the question is more open ended and did not ask for affiliation, but one’s actual religion.

I thought quite a bit how I should respond to this question. In previous years, I’ve either selected  “other” and written “Religious Society of Friends”, or selected “none” as I’m not a believer in the supernatural. I’ve never been completely happy with either choice as Quakers are included in “Christian, other” for statistical purposes, and I don’t usually consider myself Christian. On the other hand, although I don’t believe in a supreme being or any other supernatural manifestations, I consider myself religious and take the tenets of Quakerism seriously. I finally settled on “Non-theist Quakerism”, and I’ll leave to the statisticians to decide what that means.
What_is_your_religion
At the last census, 42% claimed no religious affiliation, while 49% claimed a Christian affiliation. It’ll be interesting to see if “no religion” outnumbers all the Christian factions/denominations combined.

Ethnicity

For the third census in a row, the question on ethnicity has annoyed me. The term Pākehā has been dropped from the multi-choice answer in favour of “New Zealand European”. I don’t identify as European, and prefer to use Pākehā. So once again I selected my ethnicity as “other” and wrote in “Pākehā”.

Health

There seemed to be more questions about difficulties one experiences due to health issues. These included:

  • Do you have difficulty seeing, even if wearing glasses?
  • Do you have difficulty hearing, even if using a hearing aid?
  • Do you have difficulty walking or climbing steps?
  • Do you have difficulty remembering or concentrating?
  • Do you have difficulty washing all over  or dressing?
  • Do you have difficulty communicating using your usual language, for example understanding or being understood by others.

I don’t recall a similar series of questions in previous censuses, but perhaps the questions have more significance now that I’m in my late 60s, and I found myself answering some of them in the affirmative.

Other questions such as sex, income, voluntary work, employment status, education levels etc. were similar to those in previous censuses. I made a mental note that my income 20 years ago was more than seven times larger than it is today, and when inflation is taken into account it was more than 10 times greater. Such is life. Yet we don’t feel any worse off than we did back then. We’ve been on three ocean cruises in the last five years and generally have spent more on leisure activities over the last decade than we ever did when both of us had full-time professional careers. In hindsight, perhaps we didn’t have our work/life balance quite right.

In past years Census Night was a family affair, all sitting around the table completing our forms. That feeling just wasn’t there tonight. Sitting in front of the computer screen doesn’t compare. Will I ask for printed forms next time round? Definitely not. I will miss the “good old days”, but completing the census online was quick and effortless, not to mention that mistakes were easier to correct!

Why are our censuses always conducted on a Tuesday in March? Statistically, these are the days when the least number of people are in transit within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Now we just need to wait until the early results of the number crunching starts to trickle out in a month or two.