Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Will there be a “new normal”?

During COVID-19 lockdown much discussion was made about changes in socialising and doing business becoming a “new normal”. For example, working from home where possible, staggering work hours to reduce the density of foot traffic and crowding in office spaces.

A great many businesses have discovered that productivity increased markedly in stay at home workers, and the majority of such workers found both work and general life-style more satisfying. While city centres were much quieter, pollution was down considerably. But now that all restrictions have been lifted there is pressure from central and local authorities for businesses to return to pre-COVID conditions.

The argument is that this is necessary to restore the “vibrancy” of city centres and to help inner city cafés, bars and such recover from dire financial situations. Is this a satisfactory reason to go back to the old normal? is it worth sacrificing the health and well being of thousands of workers for the sake of a few struggling enterprises?

How about considering the interests of the many as well as the interests of a few. Some of our major telecommunications providers have all but closed down their bricks and mortar call centres, with all or most staff working from home. Apparently this is what most of the staff prefer. The telcos benefit from increased productivity, happier staff, and lower costs associated with smaller premises.

Not only does it remove the stress and wasted travel time involved in commuting to work, but it allows staff a great deal of flexibility, particularly when it come to family, but also with lifestyle in general. A win all round don’t you think?

A major insurer here has announced that it too is to downsize its head office, moving much of its operation to the suburbs and to working from home where possible. Disappointingly, the government has criticised the the company claiming that it will harm the recovery of city centre.

Other businesses have found rostering staff on a 4-day week has improved productivity, staff satisfaction and staff loyalty. Other organisations have adopted a mixture of practices such as requiring office attendance only one or two days each week, and flexible office work hours. How many people wish to return to rush hour commuting that the authorities are pushing for?

Most of my readers are aware I’m not a fan of “vibrant” when it comes to city crowds, but I really think we’re missing an opportunity to re-evaluate the wisdom of cramming so much into city centres, and making suburbs little more than dull lifeless dormitories for city workers.

Perhaps, before the advent of modern forms of telecommunications, concentrating commerce into compact areas was the most productive means of conducting business. But does that still hold true today with modern forms of telecommunications? I’m not convinced.

At the least we should take the opportunity provided to us by COVID-19 to look at life/work balance, not just individually, but as communities and societies. Perhaps we’ll end up choosing the old normal, but unless we look, we’ll miss any chance of finding a better alternative.


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No walk in the park

As we near the end of day 11 in lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand, there are some activities I am beginning to miss. Perhaps the one I miss the most, is doing the boardwalk through the Awahuri Forest. It’s just a short 4 Km drive from home, but under the current COVID-19 restrictions, it’s too far by about 3.5 Km for non essential travel.

The forest is a remnant of wetland forests that once covered much of the region before 19th century settlers destroyed most of it by converting it into pasture for sheep and dairy farming. Some of the remaining trees are over 800 years old and probably started life before any humans set foot in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Until the 1980s the forest was slowly dying. Introduced pests such as possums and rats prevented its regeneration by eating seedlings,fruit and berries, allowing non-native plant species to invade and smothering those seedlings that hadn’t been eaten.

Fortunately there is now active management of the forest, including the ongoing destruction of introduced pests. Native bird life is making a comeback, and it’s a delight listening to the calls of so many birds. And of course the pīwakawaka is often flittering within arm’s length as they perform their aerobatics catching insects that we disturb as we make our way through the forest.

Back problems force the wife to keep to the boardwalk which is a loop of a little over one kilometre and bench seats are dotted along the walk at approximately one hundred metre intervals. If I’m by myself or with the grandkids, I like to take some of the alternative tracks that can add up to another 5 Km of somewhat uneven surfaces – some of which is impassable in wetter months.

I do miss this:


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Curmudgeon day

Today I’m “officially” a curmudgeon. Opinions expressed here today may not necessarily be held by me tomorrow.

He’s no husband

I’ve watched a number of video clips from American current affairs programs and talk shows related to our Prime Minister’s visit to the United States. I’m surprised that Clark Gayford was frequently referred to as her husband (and occasionally spouse). Only recently has it occurred to me that this occurred during daytime shows, while late shows referred to him as Prime Minister Ardern’s partner.

Just to make it clear America, Jacinda Ardern and Clark Gayford are not married, have never been married, nor are they in a civil union. And yes they have a daughter. Why haven’t they got married? Because they haven’t got round to discussing that. Will they get married? It’s nobody’s business but their own.

I’m sure such relationships are not that unusual in the USA these days, although perhaps not as common as here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Is there some unwritten rule, some remnant of nineteenth century religious fundamentalist morality that says that such arrangements are socially unacceptable for political leaders and cannot be openly mentioned in case it corrupts delicate minds, hence the need to refer to Clark as “husband”? I kid you not, that is how it appears from this distance.

And while we’re on the subject, Jacinda’s family name is Ardern, not Adern or Arden, or as in one case, Aden.  I saw all those forms in online publication that should have known better. Yes, I’ll acknowledge that New Zealand English in non-rhotic, but that simply means we don’t pronounce the letter R at the ends of words or within words unless it’s followed by a vowel. It doesn’t mean we drop the R when writing.

Oh, and when spoken, the stress is on the second syllable of Ardern, not the first. It’s not supposed to rhyme with harden. And ease up on the formality will you! When addressing her directly, especially on talk shows, it’s Jacinda, just as with previous Prime Ministers it was Bill, John, and Helen. The job title is attached rarely and only if really necessary (or if you don’t like the person or their policies).


Literal idiots

Anyone who reads the Bible as a literal work or thinks that is how it should be read is an idiot. This applies to both the religious on one side and the agnostic and atheist on the other. There is a much sense in attempting to prove the Bible is true by constructing implausible explanations as to why obvious inconsistencies are not inconsistent as there is in attempting to prove it false by finding its many inconsistencies – and let’s face it, there are many.

The Bible is no more than a collection of works by multiple authors, some dating back to when culture was preserved through oral history. It’s value today lies in the fact that it gives us a glimpse into the evolution of a very anthropomorphic tribal god of war into a perfect, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing deity. It consists of allegory, metaphors, oral history, lessons in morality, essays on the human condition, even erotica. It displays prejudice, bigotry, hatred, kindness, generosity, ignorance and wisdom. In fact it tells us a lot about ourselves as human beings, about the human experience. What it doesn’t do is tell us how to apply what we can learn from it (and the many other works from the many traditions that modern society has access to) to how we live today. That’s up to us, individually and collectively.


Work and play

The fourth Monday in October is celebrated as Labour Day here in Aotearoa New Zealand. This year, it fell on Monday the 22nd. Legend has it that a carpenter by the name of Samuel Parnell fought for, and gained, the right of an eight hour working day way back in 1840. It became an official public holiday in 1900.

Essentially it recognises the right to have a healthy work/life balance. In light of modern technology, work can now intrude on one’s own life 24/7 and can seriously impact one’s life and health, is it time to re-evaluate what Labour Day represents?