Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Thanksgiving

No, it’s not celebrated in Aotearoa, although Black Friday is now firmly on the retailers’ calendar, replacing Boxing day (December 26) as the day with the highest retail turnover. Besides, it celebrates a myth and a whitewashing of America’s colonial past.

Before ill health forced me into early retirement 15 years before I anticipated, I worked for the New Zealand subsidiary of a multinational information technology company. The managing director of the NZ subsidiary was typically (but not always) a foreign national – often American. In the early years of the 1990s an American was appointed to the role of managing director, and in his wisdom, he decided that as the parent company headquarters were located in the US, the NZ subsidiary should follow the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Staff located in Auckland where the NZ head office was located were “treated” to a luncheon with turkey and speeches that were mostly meaningless to the attendees. Staff in the fifteen or so branches scattered across the country were “less fortunate”, as all we were “treated” to was turkey sandwiches that had been couriered to each staff member in every branch.

I hate to think what it cost the company, as turkey was almost unknown here at the time. I presume it was imported specially for the occasion. The six staff members in the branch I was based at took one bite of a sandwich, and instantly tossed all their sandwiches into the rubbish. None of us had tasted turkey before, and not one of us liked the taste one tiny bit. The same occurred in every branch, and apparently most of the turkey served in Auckland had a similar fate. It’s not something the Kiwi palate could easily accommodate.

No one had the courage to inform the managing director what they thought of the whole Thanksgiving fiasco, so he decided to celebrate Thanksgiving the following year. While many Auckland staff found excuses not to attend the luncheon, the branches hatched up a plan of their own. Every sandwich package delivered to the branches was carefully repackaged, addressed to the Managing director and sent by overnight courier back to Auckland. There were about 80 staff members across all the branches, so when he arrived at his office the following morning, the managing director found 80 packages of stale turkey sandwiches waiting for him.

We never heard mention of Thanksgiving again.


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Just another statutory holiday

Today, being the fourth Monday of October, is for most Kiwis these days little more than a public holiday known a Labour day. For most its history is unknown, and the reason why it’s commemorated at all is forgotten.

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day in Aotearoa New Zealand. It seems that no matter what date Labour Day or its equivalent is commemorated in numerous other nations, there seems to be an individual who is acknowledged as being the catalyst for the occasion. In Aotearoa it is an individual by the name of Samuel Parnell.

Samuel Parnell. Wright, Henry Charles Clarke, 1844-1936 :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-020462-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23133932

Parnell, a carpenter from London, emigrated to New Zealand in 1840, and amongst his fellow passengers was George Hunter, a shipping agent, and on arrival in Wellington, Hunter asked Parnell to build him a store. According to Kiwi folklore, Parnell responded “I will do my best, but I must make this condition, Mr. Hunter, that on the job the hours shall only be eight for the day … There are twenty-four hours per day given us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves. I am ready to start tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, but it must be on these terms or none at all.”

Hunter had little option but to concede to Parnell’s demands as skilled labour was critically short in supply. Parnell with the help of other Wellington workers set about making the eight hour working day the standard, informing all new immigrants that the eight hour day was the “custom” of the new settlement. In October 1840, Wellington workmen made a ruling that the working day was between 8am and 5pm, and according to legend, anyone found guilty of breaking this “commandment” was tossed into the harbour for their efforts.

The first Labour Day was celebrated on 28 October 1890 when thousands of workers participated in parades across the country. Government workers and many others were granted a day off work to attend. By this time the majority of workers enjoyed an eight hour day, but it was not a legal requirement. The fledgeling union movement wanted the Liberal Government of the day to legislate an eight hour working day, The Liberal Party was reluctant to upset the business community, and Kiwis had to wait for the arrival of the first Labour government which introduced the 40 hour week.

However, the Liberal government did introduce an industrial conciliation and arbitration system in 1894 – a world innovation at the time, and in 1899 made labour day a statutory holiday, with the date set as the second Wednesday of October. Ten years later it was “Mondayised” to the fourth Monday of October.

Over the following decades, the celebratory nature of Labour Day declined and certainly from my earliest memory of the 1950s Labour day parades were all but forgotten and the day had become “just another holiday”. It’s now late evening and as the day draws to a close, I wonder how many of my fellow Kiwis realise how much our way of life, has been influenced by the those early unionists who understood better than many of us today the importance of a proper life balance.


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Autism “awareness”

Ngā kaipānui kia ora

When I tell people about Autistic Pride they say, “how can you be proud of something that you have no control over? That doesn’t make sense? How can you be proud of being Autistic?”

Lyric Holmans, Neurodivergent Rebel

April is Autism Awareness month, and today, Saturday 2nd April is World Autism Awareness Day. It’s a time when many autistic people “go into hiding”. Why? Because autism is still portrayed as a bogeyman – something that is undesirable, that destroys families, causes misery to “sufferers”, that needs to be eliminated. No it’s not. From my perspective, autism describes a way of perceiving and experiencing the world that is different from the way the majority of the population perceives and experiences the world. It’s not so much about deficits and disabilities, it’s about an alternate way of being. The bogeyman, if there is one, is that the non-autistic world writes of the autistic world as something undesirable.

So back to the question “How can you be proud of being Autistic?” I’d answer by saying “In the same way one can be proud of being gay or black or trans or Māori or Native American or…”. It’s a way of saying “Even though society devalues me for being who I am, and puts obstacles in my path that limits my ability to develop to my potential, I deserve to be recognised as a worthy and valuable member of society, and my rights and needs are no less important than the rights and needs of anyone else”.

I object to having an Autism Awareness month for the same reason I’d object to a Gay Awareness month of a Māori Awareness month. Look at it this way: there isn’t anyone who isn’t aware of there being gay people, trans people or people of colour, but that does not prevent the likes of racists, homophobes and transphobes from spreading hate and disinformation about them. It doesn’t prevent normal, intelligent people from failing to appreciate the social barriers that are placed in the way of individuals who are members of minority groups – in other words intentional and unintentional discrimination.

Likewise, I doubt that today there is a single person who isn’t aware of autism. For goodness sake, in some quarters, there’s panic about an “autism epidemic” being accelerated by vaccines or 5G or plastics or the New World Order or GMOs or… something. In fact it’s nothing more that a growing realisation within the health sector of what autism actually is. What is sad is if they had consulted with actually autistic people instead of making lab rats of us, they would have had that “Ah ha” moment long ago.

What we need is not awareness, but acceptance at a minimum. Better yet would be valuing the alternative perspectives that autistics and other other forms of neurodiversity bring to society. Because Autistic people perceive and experience society and the world differently, we express our experiences and understandings differently. Accept that our differences are not deficits, but are a valuable and important part of the diversity that makes the human species what it is.

Embrace diversity!


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Adopted

But who adopted who?

Let’s step back to last winter. Often when we opened the home office curtains in the morning we’d notice a fluffy cat asleep on one of the seats on the balcony. If it heard the curtains open it would wake and run away. I began to be careful opening the curtains so as not to disturb the cat.

As the weather warmed, we’d see it more often, either in it’s favourite seat on the balcony or taking advantage of a sunny spot in our garden. At first it would keep its distance from me, but I’d gently talk to it as I went about chores outside. It’s an extremely vocal cat and would let me know it was nearby. By mid Spring she (I think it’s a she) would flop down right in front of me (even when I was walking) roll on her back and demand a tummy rub and a head scratch. How could I refuse?

At first, I assumed she was a friendly neighbourhood pet that had decided our section (property/lot) was part of her territory, but as spring turned into summer and our exterior doors were open for much of the day, the cat decided that the interior of our home belonged to her as well. I had no objection, but the Wife disagreed, and would chase the cat away whenever it approached the house. However the cat persisted.

By midsummer, the cat seemed to be spending nearly all her time near our house and irrespective of the weather and we’d often see her on one of the front balconies or in the back porch depending of the prevailing wind, and she’d often meow for up to an hour pleading to be let in. The wife still wouldn’t let the cat inside, but ceased chasing it away.

My migraines can put me into a kind of dissociative state. At such times the presence of an animal can help me keep a grip on reality. Sitting outside where I can feel a breeze can also help. When that type of migraine started, I would sit outside, and the cat would come close and knead whatever part part of my anatomy it could reach – usually an arm or a leg. No demand to be rubbed and scratched as it usually did. That was the clincher!

The Wife recognised the therapeutic effect the cat had on me and relented – so long as the cat kept out of the kitchen and the master bedroom. We’re still working on the kitchen, but the cat now knows the bedroom is a no go area. Up until this point we had not fed her, but I kept clean water available for her outside as I noticed she’d drink from any source available, even from an abandoned algae filled flower pot I discovered hidden in an overgrown corner the garden.

By early March she had taken an armchair in the lounge as her own, and as the days where a door could be left open for her became fewer, I found myself becoming her personal doorman, at her beck and call as she made her very vocal demands to be let in or out. And I mean very vocal. The solution? I installed a cat flap in the back door. It took just a few days for her to learn how to use it. Now she comes and goes as she pleases.

The cat has taken to bringing us thank you presents for making her welcome – in the form of mice. Usually one or two every day, but often more. She sits outside with her gift and meows until either I go out and praise her or until she gives up waiting and brings the mouse inside to present personally. I’ve learnt not to keep her waiting.

At least she’s not wasteful, consuming the rodent in its entirely. We haven’t had a cat for more than than 30 years, but previous cats tended to leave the tails. Not this cat.

If the cat does belong to a household in the neighbourhood, it’s not from one nearby. I suspect that if it has had an owner, they have moved and abandoned it or the cat has found its way back to familiar territory. Either way there seems to be an adoption in progress. Our next move will be to take her to the vet and find out if she’s been microchipped, vaccinated and spayed. And if she belongs to a nearby family. In the meantime, we have started feeding her. Not that she eats much. It depends on the number of mice she’s caught. On a good hunting day, she doesn’t ask for food at all.

We haven’t given her a name. She’s referred to as The Cat or Puss. That seems to be sufficient in my view and it appears she’s not bothered, but some family members are demanding she be given a “proper” name. I’ve suggested neko or ngeru (the word for cat in Japanese and Māori respectively), but for some reason neither name has met with approval.

I give you The Cat:

The newest addition to the family – The Cat


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Murphy’s law

We’ve had a few days of torrential rain. Of course at started after I hung up several loads of laundry on the clothesline. Then the gods decided to apply Murphy’s law. It wasn’t quite dry when the the skies opened and the rain fell by the bucket load. There was no way I was going out to bring washing that was wetter than when it was hung up, so I left it up to nature to give the clothes an ultra rinse.

I really didn’t expect it to be a two day rinse, but that’s what it was. This morning the sun came out, so we did some more washing and hung that up alongside the loads from two days earlier, which by that time was partially dry. Time to go for a pre-Christmas haircut. The Wife and I duly drive to the Hairdresser a mere 5 minutes away and in less than thirty minutes we’re both done.

The sky looked decidedly grey as we came out, and just as we closed the car doors, a light rain shower started. The washing! We weren’t going to let Murphy get the better of us time. Our plans to visit the pharmacy and a D.I.Y. store on the way home were abandoned as we made a dash to save the washing. It was a futile effort. This is what we found when we arrived home.

Another ultra rinse is in progress. Tomorrow promises more of the same.


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Truth

Fiction is a lie that tells us true things over and over again.

Neil Gaiman

We have art in order not do die from the truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Emily Dickinson

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.

Maya Angelou


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Musical Monday (2021/11/08) – One tree Hill

This song is very personal to me. It was written in honour of a young man I new well – Greg Carroll. We worked together as engineers for a large multinational I.T. company. We were part of a small provincial branch with four staff members located in the city of Whanganui. Greg was a very personable young man and was held in high regard by our customers – more perhaps for his genuineness, honesty and likeable personality than for his engineering skills.

I stayed with the company for a total of thirty-five years, but Greg moved on after a year, perhaps two, when he became the sound engineer for a local rock band. That may not seem long to get to know someone well, but our job required a considerable amount of driving and often Greg would accompany me as I drove between the small, widely scattered towns that made up our branch territory. A typical day might consist of up to four hours on the road, and a return trip to Turangi, our farthest outpost took six hours. You can cover a wide spectrum of topics over that period of time.

I’m not a good conversationalist, but somehow Greg, my junior by about 11 years, had the ability to make everyone at ease, including me. I honestly can no longer recall what we talked about on the road and the occasional overnight stay in a motel or hotel several hours from home, but I do remember that outside of my immediate family there was no-one I felt more comfortable being with. Unfortunately Greg died in a motorcycle crash in Dublin in 1986.

There are several Youtube video clips of U2 performing One Tree Hill, mostly from live performances in various locations around the world, but the one I have chosen here is a video cobbled together by TVNZ for their weekly music show Ready to Roll. One Tree Hill has been released as a single in Aotearoa and quickly rose to the number one spot on the NZ hit parade. This is the version I remember seeing in 1988.

There being no official music video, TVNZ brought together clips of previous U2 visits to Aotearoa, segments of the tangihanga (funeral) at the Kai-iwi Marae near Whanganui, and images of One Tree Hill and Greg. It also includes images of the Whanganui River and the rugged hill country inland from the city of Whanganui. The journey inland to the nearest township of Raetihi took approximately eighty minutes in ideal conditions. For much of its length, the road winds along the valley wall of the Upokongaro Stream, a contributory of the Whanganui River, rising 760 m (2500 ft) in 87 Km (54 miles).

This was a road I traversed at least one a week, often with Greg’s company. If you do the maths, you’ll notice that the average speed for the journey was 65 km/h (40 mph) and that was a good run without stops or hazards such as slips (common in wet weather) or flocks of sheep being moved to fresh pastures (common all year round) or semi-feral sheep that had escaped the confines of farms and were of the opinion that they were the masters of the road. Other vehicles were few and far between so the opportunities to opine world affairs or share dreams and aspiration were plentiful. We did.

One Tree Hill – U2 (captured from TVNZ’s RTR in 1988)

"One Tree Hill" – U2

We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill
As the day begs the night for mercy love
The sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of earth
The moon is up and over One Tree Hill
We see the sun go down in your eyes

You run like river, on like a sea
You run like a river runs to the sea

And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground

It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea

I don't believe in painted roses
Or bleeding hearts
While bullets rape the night of the merciful
I'll see you again
When the stars fall from the sky
And the moon has turned red
Over One Tree Hill

We run like a river
Run to the sea
We run like a river to the sea
And when it's raining
Raining hard
That's when the rain will
Break my heart

Raining...raining in the heart
Raining in your heart
Raining...raining to your heart
Raining, raining...raining
Raining to your heart
Raining...raining in your heart
Raining in your heart..
To the sea

Oh great ocean
Oh great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea


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Some people…

Yesterday

I had one of those pesky con artists, this time claiming to be from the Spark Security office (Spark is NZ’s largest ISP) informing me that there was a problem with my internet connection and it would need to be shut down, however if I cooperated the issue could be fixed on the spot. As usual, I let the caller lead me through the various steps of trying to gain control of my computer. As typically happens, she incorrectly assumed I was using Windows (I was asked to describe the key to the right of the left Ctrl key) and we spent a fruitless half hour trying to bring up the Run command box. However as I run a variant of Linux, that’s not an option.

Finally she attempted to get me to download and install a remote desktop application, on this occasion AnyDesk, usually it’s TeamViewer. It was at this point that let her know I wasn’t entirely stupid and needed verification that she was indeed who she said she was. We then spent another twenty-five minutes discussing or perhaps arguing about her credential. Strangely, when I told her that so far this year I’d had at least ten hoax internet related calls she tried the “not everyone is evil, so you should be more trusting”. Yeah right.

We spent another twenty or so minutes while she tried to persuade me that all I needed to do was trust her, and I insisted I wasn’t able to do that. She finally gave up after (for her) a frustrating fifty-four minutes. I despise the actions of such individuals. I’m not going to judge the person as harshly as I don’t know their circumstances, but attempting to fleece someone simply because one can is surely a marker of one’s contempt for others.

Today

The Wife and I went to our usual barber/hair stylist for haircuts plus a beard trim for me. He’s a very sociable guy who seems to be able to encourage his clients to chat about all and nothing. The Wife had her hair done first and the room filled with loud and very public conversation between her and Ihaia (the barber) including politics (NZ and the US), families (his and ours), the weather (it’s been atrocious today), and of course Covid (especially the regarding deniers and anti-vaxers). Even I am able to participate although perhaps less fluidly than other customers, and always privately. During my time in the chair, I happened to mention that yesterday was our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Afterwards, as the Wife was about to take out her EFTPOS card Ihaia told her to put it away as the haircuts were on him. When the Wife asked why, he said it was a fiftieth anniversary gift. Obviously, she hadn’t heard my conversation with him. While the Wife almost broke his neck in a heartfelt hug, the other customer clapped and cheered. Now that’s a good feeling.

Conclusion

While I’ve been at the receiving end of abuse for much of my life, I understand why. Most people are able to empathise only with what is familiar to them. They have no way of understanding what an autistic person experiences – hell, even many so called autism experts have no clue – so they judge my behaviour in neurotypical terms. Making allowances for that, I find most (but not all) are kind and generous.

Then there are the few who have little or no interest in the well being of others, and seem to have utter contempt for them. One being the former POTUS and another being yesterday’s “Spark security officer”. Fortunately I’ve never met one in person. They either arrive in news items, by email or telephone, always from a location outside of Aotearoa. It’s only since the internet has become ubiquitous that I have had personally experienced scam attempts. I wonder if this says something about the internet, or modern society, or is it simply a reflection of the fact that I’m fortunate to have been born in the least corrupt nation on earth?


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A long journey, but oh so quick

Fifty years ago today, in the privacy of a suite in a ryokan (Japanese style inn), the wife prostrated herself in front of me and vowed to be a good, dutiful and obedient wife. I suppose some new husbands might delight in such a moving offer, but I was shocked and appalled. That was not what I envisioned. I had grown up in a very egalitarian society and in a whānau that was even more so.

I had seen in her – and still do – a wilful, independent spirit that was at the same time, tender, gentle, wild and fierce. What she was offering was servitude. What I wanted was someone to share my life with – as equal partners. For life. I don’t recall exactly what I said in response, but I remember lifting her up from the floor and (apparently crossly, according to the wife) telling her that if that was what she wanted, we may as well end the relationship right now, as I wanted her to be herself, my partner and friend, not my servant.

I’ve made many mistakes during my life, and I sometimes joke that my biggest mistake was telling the wife I didn’t want her to be obedient. It certainly has made life more unpredictable and challenging, but oh so wonderful – exciting even. I still sometimes wonder what she saw in me – a reserved, socially awkward undiagnosed autistic, not known for expressing or showing emotions. Certainly not handsome by western standards, more exotic than handsome by Japanese standards of the day, but she often reminds me that my patience, sense of fairness, absence of negativity and being ridiculously accepting and tolerant of alternative beliefs and perspectives attracted her, and my declaration in that ryokan confirmed her choice. She makes a point of emphasising ‘ridiculously‘ at times as she often finds tolerating my tolerance very difficult.

Fifty years seem to have flown by in less than a blink of an eye. I have spent 70% of my life with a woman who is both delightful and charming yet at times tests my patience and tolerance almost to breaking point. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We really have shared out delights and dispairs together.

As to the future, there’s little chance of another fifty years together, but with a history of longevity in both our families, another twenty to twenty-five years is a distinct possibility. I sincerely hope that those years pass at a more leisurely pace than those already gone for no other reason than to delight in the company of the person I have grown to love in a way I never thought possible.

It’s unlikely that she will read this post – she’s never asked me to provide her with a link to my blog – but I wish to extend a public expression of my gratitude for having her as my life partner. So thank you Sayoko, my Honey-chan, for being my friend, confidante and lover.