Dear PETA: wool is not the problem

Recently PETA came out with a campaign against woollen clothing. A couple of famous people got posed under slogans which said, basically, that they'd rather go naked than wear wool.

To which I'd like to say: dear PETA, there are many problems in the modern clothing industry, but wool is not at the top of those.

If you find cruelty during shearing a problem, please advocate for better treatment of sheep, and not against wool.

What would you, rather, see people wear instead? Synthetic fibres such as polyester which are petrochemicals and pollute oceans with microfibres? Cotton which is water-intensive to grow and gets sprayed with a variety of toxins?

PETA, you already argue against wearing of silk, and leather. If you now also argue against wool, what clothing, exactly, is there left? Linen?

Wool has excellent thermal properties. It is biodegradable. Durable. Many breeds of sheep don't even self-shed wool any more, so if such sheep don't get shorn they grow into unsustainable mountains of wool and eventually die, slowly, because they aren't able to see, or eat, from inside their coats.

Many sheep farmers are responsible, ethical people who care about the animals and are interested in their well-being. But just like with any other human-involved activity, there are some some who don't.

Advocate against those. Set standards and frameworks for ensuring quality in animal rights.

But do not advocate against wool.

Because otherwise you're insane.

When milestones arrive sooner, and then it kind of throws the entire system

Another morning at the hospital: orthotist casted The Kid's foot so he can make us a new ankle brace, and then we just chilled out in the paediatric department play area I've written about before.



But the reason I'm actually writing about it is this:

The Kid chose a new brace design. It's a right we celebrate: wearing clothes/footwear he is proud of is part of being a strong, individual person. We do argue when choices are not weather-appropriate, but generally what he wears is his own choice - and I just exercise my parental power at the point of buying clothes ;)

But nevertheless, his choice totally threw me. For a while, I sat there with a grin on my face, unsure whether to laugh or not.

Because he chose skulls.


I mean, I knew that design was probably going to come our way one day - but I did not expect that it would be at 6 years old. Ten, maybe. Even thirteen?

But not six.

Nevertheless, this is what he chose and it's his right I will continue to celebrate. Even if it means that, in my head, I need to re-evaluate some other milestones that'll be coming our way, because seeing this come today made me think, "Ukoh! What else will be coming sooner than I expect it to?"

Parental life is an exciting one, isn't it.

No TB vaccines in New Zealand at all?

Well... I didn't see that coming!

Yesterday I called the medical centre to organise TB immunisations for both of my kids - we're heading to Estonia soon, and Estonia has high rates of TB.

Except I was told that vaccines are not available at the moment. IN WHOLE OF NEW ZEALAND.

That next March there may be a new shipment of vaccines coming through Pharmac (New Zealand drug buying agency), but until then - nothing.

And I was, like, uhm... Yeah.

Girls' life versus boys' life

A quick post before I run off to do other stuff.

I don't know if you've heard, but awhile ago there was an interesting discussion over gender stereotypes on womenyoushouldknow.net. Basically, someone went into a US library and noticed two magazines side-by-side on the shelf:

Image from womenyoushouldknow.net/girls-deserve-a-better-life...

They took a photo of them and uploaded it on the internet for other people to see. (The one on the left is marketed for teenage girls, the other for teenage boys.)

Notice a certain... pattern? Apparently, lots of people have, and have been appalled by it. Going by the two magazines the girls' job is to look pretty and the boys' is to explore the world.

(The full article is at womenyoushouldknow.net/girls-deserve-a-better-life-better-than-the-inane-stereotyped-version-marketed-to-them)

A graphic designer named Katherine Young was one of the people who saw the image and she felt as appalled as many others before her. She quickly whipped up a version of what she thought Girls' Life cover should look like instead and sent it to the magazine.

Image from womenyoushouldknow.net/appalled-graphic-designer-shows-girls-life-magazine...

The contrast is impressive and, again, I know which magazine I'd prefer to read.

(The full article of the re-do version is at womenyoushouldknow.net/appalled-graphic-designer-shows-girls-life-magazine-what-their-cover-should-look-like)

Do children go hungry at school? Sometimes, yes.

It's a... pet peeve of mine, I guess.

Food at schools.

Students in New Zealand schools don't, generally, get food provided to them - not in a way Nordic countries feed kids. Everyone tends to bring their own lunch, packed in a box or a bag or whatever, and kids eat whatever they brought along from home.

Low decile schools, ie schools where students' parents tend to earn little money (decile 10 are top earners 90-100%, decile 1 are low earners 0-10%, etc), they tend to have some government funding or council funding to make sure that kids get at least some food, so the schools provide kids with a piece of fruit in the morning, or some milk to drink - stuff like that.

But still. It's a pet peeve of mine.

My kids eat well because... I pack food which I think is good for them.

But not everyone does. Not everyone has the means, even. Some lunchboxes I've seen in The Kid's school, I've thought, man, I wish the lunch doesn't look like that every day...

Recently a program on Radio New Zealand National introduced this problem through two videos, and I think they're worthwhile seeing.




To anyone reading this from Estonia or other Nordic countries, where you may not have even heard about an approach like that... let's just put it that way, seeing this video may make your eyes widen.

When private landowners treat their land like national parks, and protect them forever

Me and The Man attended a fascinating public talk last night, presented by Jesse Bythel from QEII National Trust.

(That we ended up attending at all was a coincidence - the babysitter who sometimes watches our children/house in the evening so me and The Man can have a date night, she couldn't come on her usual evening. We proposed, okay, how about Monday evening?

Monday evening suited her well. We scrolled through various calendars of the city to figure out where to go on a Monday, and this event was one of the very few, so we thought, okay, let's go check it out. AND I'M SO GLAD WE DID!

Because here's what QEII National Trust is - a concept I had never heard of before, though I did think there would be setups similar somewhere, just not sure how they'd work exactly.)

You have probably heard of National Parks that are reasonably common throughout the world. They are publicly owned, protected lands which (though managed and developed to an extent) remain very close to their natural state, therefore allowing parts of the world to have protection from damaging human interference.

Well, QEII National Trust in New Zealand does something similar, but it's on privately owned land.

About 40 years ago there was a farming couple on the North Island of New Zealand who witnessed rapid land development around them and wanted to to protect part of the land that belonged to them. But they didn't want to just protect it themselves - they wanted to set up a legal covenant which would protect that land for generations to come. They wanted to make sure that even if another person bought the land, the covenant would remain on the land record, unable to be removed, and therefore the next owner would also be prohibited from turning the land into farmland or a mine or whatever.

Kind of like a national park, but on private land.

And that's what, basically, QEII National Trust now does. It offers legal support, and part of the funding, to people who throughout New Zealand want to set up protected areas on their lands.

Owners do not give land away to QEII National Trust. Land remains private - able to be sold, and re-sold.

Neither do owners give away management of the land. They remain owners and managers of the land, and they deal with pest control, weed control, planting. They continue receiving support from QEII National Trust, and the trust visits their land every 2 years to check on it - but otherwise, it's still owners' responsibility to deal with the land.

The setup has been through the court on several occasions and remains a strong legal concept. There have been people who've bought land and have then attempted to remove the QEII National Trust covenants, but they haven't succeeded. Even, basically, if land "accidentally" caught fire and the native bush burned off, it still would be a protected area, unable to be developed.

The list of private lands protected in such a manner continues to grow. I think Jesse said it's approximately two new areas each week? Some are small, a couple of hectares each - a bunch of bush around a pond in the middle of a farmland, fenced off. Others are massive - I think Jesse said the biggest is 93 000 hectares, managed by an overseas owner who bought a large piece of land and turned 90% of it into protected bush.

It provides important migration corridors to protected species of wetland birds. There are rare orchids on some, rivers which remain blocked off from farmland on others and, as a result, remain clean.

Fascinating topic. Absolutely fascinating!

QEII National Trust.

She picks it up pretty quickly

As me and The Girlie watched a short documentary about Cassini's last approach to Saturn where it burned up three days ago...



...The Girlie sketched a couple of planets with surface variations and rings.


A pretty good effort for a 3-year-old, if I may say so myself.

I have time again!!!

On Tuesday, I submitted my last school assignment for the year. From now onwards, it's just lectures and then one big exam at the end.

The relief is... palpable.

Or shall I phrase it instead: WOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! :D

The backlog I ended up in in May when The Kid had to change schools and for a month I dragged him along to my lectures - whilst he didn't have a school to go to - and I got very little schoolwork done due to meetings, research, paperwork and then both kids having chickenpox - it's really only now that I've cleared it. It's really only now that the last assignment is submitted and I am free (I am free!), I am no longer behind the rest of the class.

It is such a joy. Such joyful relief. Such joyfully relieving calming of life.

I thought it would immediately translate into more spare time, but at the moment it hasn't yet. Instead, I am catching up on the rest of the life that's kind of been pushed back.

I vacuum floors, including tricky corners and under furniture where big dustballs have been gathering. I sort the kitchen cupboards, pouring ingredients into containers rather than having them sit in plastic bags in a pile. I look through "needs sorting"-pile of paperwork on my dresser where by this point, I don't even remember what's in there - all I know is, for a while I have been putting "important" paperwork onto my dresser, to be looked through "later", and it's been steadily growing since... May, really.

I've also started to blog again.

And write.

I've discovered a painful truth that whilst I've been busy with life, a book deal that's been waiting on me for EIGHT years has been given away to someone else.

It's unfortunate. I've finally got myself to a place where I've thought, this summer I will actually get done!, but it has turned out that... the publishing house is no longer waiting on me. They had a change of management, the new manager signed up another author without telling me about it, and whilst I was discussing my book with Invercargill's writers' group, figuring out how to structure my work, it turns out another person was already working on it - and by the time I contacted the publishing house, saying, I think I can do it!, the answer was, basically, sorry.

Though the immediate reaction was sadness - I have to admit, I did tear up - in some ways it has brought on excitement. I am no longer in the privileged position of having a book deal even before writing it, however the passion for writing it has returned, which makes me think I am probably going to write it anyway, whether there's a publishing house wanting to back it or not, and I am going to see what happens.

It's... wonderful, after a long time of not having time, not having time, not having time - school, kids, moving, life - to suddenly have time and it feels like my whole brain is going, POOF! THE OPPORTUNITIES! ALL THE THINGS I CAN DO WITH MY LIFE NOW!

Springs is coming. The trees are blooming. The sun is out.

On Matt Vickers and refugees

I am processing two difficult thoughts this morning.

One is a beautifully written article by Matt Vickers, On Simon O’Connor’s Comments On Suicide. (lecretia.org/on-simon-oconnors-comments)

***

The other is a public meeting I attended last night.

It was about Invercargill soon becoming a place for refugee resettlement and as much as I feel strongly about the importance of support towards refugees, I came away feeling quite... uncomfortable.

It started off lovely. Dawit, a former refugee from Ethiopia gave his account of his journey to New Zealand in the 80's and 90's, talking about the violence he's witnessed along the way and the importance of support towards the displaced. 


Red Cross spoke. Andrew Lockhart from Immigration NZ spoke.

And then... that's when it turned kind of sour.

The organisers had invited two women from Colombia to talk about the country - to introduce the place where Invercargill's refugees will be from (for the foreseeable future, anyway). And I mean no disrespect to them, their talk was heartfelt... but I felt it set such an unhelpful tone to the rest of the evening.

The first speaker did her best to talk about the positive things about Colombia: she showed us a tourism-oriented marketing video, talked about the wonderful food, about the importance of festivals, how bright the country is, about the beautiful landscape is.

The second speaker talked about Colombia's high cost of living, and how moving to New Zealand allows people to have better opportunities.

They did not talk about Colombian refugees, or about reasons people may get classified as refugees in the first place.

By the time they finished and it was time for questions and answers, the first question was from an older gentleman who asked what, I think, many other attendees were already thinking: that after seeing that wonderful video and hearing about the positives about Colombia why, exactly, are the people coming to New Zealand?

Please understand: I know it is possible to talk warmly about lots of places in the world that are torn apart by conflict. Someone can show beautiful landscapes of Afganistan without even *mentioning* the cost of human life there, and the atrocities committed every day.

But... seeing that sort of tone set for a *refugee* meeting as Invercargill prepares for becoming a refugee settlement, it made me feel so sad about the evening.

It took several questions and answers before the problems of Colombia even started getting discussed - about the pockets of violence remaining in the country, and why people get displaced in the first place.

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half. Some people spoke of the support they have towards the program, others of concerns they have for the region's housing etc.

In the end, having the meeting was a very important step taken by the council, thank you!

But... nevertheless as I process what I heard yesterday, I so wish some of that marketing-type presentation had not been made last night, and feel sad for the tone it had set for the rest of the evening.

In our own times

Reading Ashley-Ann's article "In her own times" made me tear up for two reasons.

One, it reminded me of a time when my first serious relationship ended and I cried every day for almost a year. Every day.

Then, one day, there was a day I didn't cry. Then, a while later, another day I didn't cry. Eventually breaks between those days grew shorter, until there were more days I didn't cry than days I did cry.

Eventually, the pain subsided altogether. Other seasons of my life started and with it, growth.

If I could go back to that girl I was back then, I would put my hand on her shoulder and say, "It's okay." I would assure her that life will move on, and help her understand that she did what she did because she didn't know any better - and that's okay.

No-one knows things until they learn them; and learning comes with time.

Ashley-Ann's article reminded me of that change of seasons - how, as hard as that time was back then and as much as I thought life would not move on, it has.

Just as life moves on now.

Another reason I teared up reading the article is to do with my family. I won't go into it other than to say, seasons change - and with the change, come new challenges, and new joys.

We are doing well.

That's not to say life is easy, but we are doing well.

Righto, computer down, off to school.

PS. If any of you know good flight offers London-Tallinn-London, let me know. I am going to sort out my Estonian travel dates within the next few weeks, I hope, and then I am going to start badgering you, friends, on where the hell in the world you will be in 2018 so I can figure out who I can see in person and where ;)

On sketching

At the moment, the house is in a very similar condition to when we bought it in March. Yes, the backyard no longer looks overgrown, but the house itself hasn't changed much because the changes we've made are mostly "invisible": insulation, removal of mould, putting in an attic hatch etc.

The reasons for that are many, but mostly it's to do with lack of time: I spend long hours on schoolwork, The Man works, Saturdays I work, too, and the spare time we do have together, we try to spend it relaxing and enjoying ourselves, so as much as it'd be cool to do more house stuff... at the moment the priorities are different.

However, there's a silver lining: it means that we get to plan slowly and calmly. We don't rush into renovation or restoration, and we get to think and then re-think a lot of the ideas we come up with.

Part of my study involves learning to sketch well. By sketching, I don't mean just "proper" architectural sketching (where I sit behind a table with rulers and good pencils - although next year I'll do that, too) - I mean sketching on the go where I jot down quick, hand-drawn lines to explain an idea to someone, or try to figure out on my own if something I want to do will work.

In the future, it'll be a skill I will most likely need as I move around construction sites, discussing things with builders and architects and project managers, needing to grab a pen and quickly sketch down a diagram on the back of a business card or a restaurant flyer or whatever.

Basically, I need to know how to jot something down quickly, with very basic lines, and have confidence in my ability to explain my ideas through drawings.

And the reason I am telling you about it is that... I sketch our house a lot.

In spare moments of my days - arriving to class 5 minutes early, sitting in the library waiting for my kids, having lunch, whatever - I take out a notepad and sketch.

I visualise what garden beds in front of the house would look like.


I think about built-in shelving we'll put up once we take down chimneys and fireplaces in all three bedrooms.


I think about how to set up the laundry.


I plan the kitchen.


When I show The Man these sketches, it's much easier to discuss things with him: we know that we talk about the same things, and it helps him visualise, too.

And to me... it helps both to plan the house, but also to do schoolwork well.

Win-win.

A good video

A student from Dunedin travelled around New Zealand's South island for a few weeks and took a lot of photos which he then put together to form a sort of a "collection of time-lapses".

Good work, I think.

An article I wrote a while ago

“Why’d you guys come?” I asked him and the answer, though comically elegant, wasn’t much different from why most of us have come: “My wife got offered less work for more money if we moved down here,” he said. After I was done grinning I thought to myself: yeah, that about sums it up.

I’ve only lived in Invercargill for a couple of months, but I’ve already met over a dozen other “evacuees” from other parts of New Zealand. We've all moved down here for reasons that are either to do with 1) money, 2) spare time or 3) the balance between the two. We’ve been overworked, underpaid or tired from trying to keep up, and we’ve attempted to restore balance to our personal and working lives by going down South - to Invercargill.

It’s both a testament to how well this city is doing and how wacked-out-crazy the rest of country is, because most of us - the dozen that I am referring to here - are educated, mid-thirties, married and with children. None of us are freeloaders; all of us are craving a sense of ownership in our own lives.

Who are we? I, personally, am not a good example for the sake of illustrating this story because having arrived in New Zealand only eight years ago I’m technically a recent migrant and therefore expected to encounter difficulties settling in.

The others, however, are not. They are Kiwis - either New Zealand born and bred, or have lived here since early childhood. Unlike recent arrivals with complicated backgrounds, they’re the “real deal”: people with established familial circles, continuous histories and relevant cultural upbringing. They’ve come from all over New Zealand where they’ve packed up their lives and their families, and they’ve come down South in a bid to restore balance to their lives. They’ve wanted houses that cost less, jobs that are easier to commute to, children who they can see more of.

A guy pushing shopping trolleys in my local supermarket, for example, came down from Wanaka - they’re building a house here and Wanaka’s own prices were simply too prohibitive to even attempt a build. A girl I met at a dog park is originally from Auckland - having moved to Invercargill she’s been able to buy a house at a tender age of 23 when, had she stayed in Auckland, she would’ve kept saving for another ten years before even getting a deposit together, or just continued to rent forever. A mom of three preschoolers I met at a playground a week ago is from Wellington - they are looking for a house to buy, their first-ever, very own home.

And I could go on, but it gets kind of repetitive and pointless.

I’ve been astounded by the apparent abundance of people like that and the ease with which I’ve come across them. I expected there’d be a fair amount of us, but I didn’t think it would, literally, mean that every fourth person I made an effort to chat to would say they’ve moved to Invercargill less than a year ago. I’m not even counting the people who’ve said they’ve come five, ten, fifteen years ago.

Almost all of them agree that weather sucks, almost none of them have regretted the move.

It has, on one hand, filled me with confidence to see the town grow in such a manner. Young families with children bring life and enthusiasm to where they arrive, and I think Invercargill needs that.

On the other hand, it’s made me worry. Invercargill is the last reasonably priced city in New Zealand hovering at three times annual income for an averagely priced house, and though now a homeowner, I worry for the people yet to come, and about Invercargill in general.

The dozen I’ve described in this article have come from other parts of New Zealand for a chance at owning their own home, and working less. When Invercargill becomes like those other cities in New Zealand already are, where will people go then?

Worth seeing / hearing / learning

I hope they don't mind me using the photo here, but... have you heard the story of a Canadian couple who put up a vegetable garden in their front yard, like this...

Image source: http://www.ecosnippets.com/gardening/city-asks-couple-to-remove-their-garden/

... and then an inspector from the city council came 'round and asked them to pull it out, and make it into a grass lawn again? It's a fascinating story.

The story about it is here and the video here.



***

Also, have you read a book called Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy? Its author, Tim Harford, gave an interview to Radio New Zealand National which is available at www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/201857379/50-things-that-made-the-modern-economy . It's a good listen!

It felt like a very long drive

Imagine driving along to the tune of a 3-year-old going on the back seat, "That's not preschool. That's not preschool. That's not preschool. Oh, that library! That's not preschool. That's not preschool. That's not..." etc

Kids and vegetables

The Kid sees I am about to cut cauliflower into his lunchbox.

"No, mom, don't put cauliflower!" he pleads, "I already eat cauliflower last week! That's enough."

So it's a once-a-week ration I take it ;)

The things I learn

It's funny sometimes, doing homework.

I'm writing out another assignment on the various ways a building material can fail - this time glass - and in the process I came across descriptions of a skyscraper called 'Walkie-Talkie' in London.

Ever heard of it?

Up until today, I hadn't. But now that I have, I have laughed out loud on several occasions, learning about it. An excerpt from my file:

***


***

It was, basically, a building which focused the sun's rays onto the street below at such an intensity that, at peak times, it was about 6 times stronger than direct sunlight.

A journalist who brought along a frying pan cooked an egg on the pavement.
A man left his Jaguar on a street nearby and came back an hour later to find the side mirrors melted.
A barbershop had its doormat catch light, spontaneously.

Even funnier thing is, the very same architect designed a curved building in Las Vegas which had the same problem: gathering sunlight in a tight spot nearby, dubbed by locals "the death ray".