A late winter snow

On Monday a snow storm rolled through South Island. Snow itself didn't settle in Invercargill, all we got was cold rain on the coast here - but higher up inland, it settled.

And wow, it was pretty.

The Man was, incidentally, just on his way to Walter Peak Station on Monday to do a week's work on their sheep shearing sheds there, so he drove (alongside his workmates) through the fresh snow which was still falling.

Like this:


Well, at first they were still on the highway, so there was traffic in both directions:


But then they turned off the highway, onto a gravel road and started following what is quite a little used public road towards Walter Peak Station.


Sheep in the distance

They helped a farmer lift a sheep onto the back of his truck:


They met (and spoke to) the road grader. He warned them against going across the bridge ahead because the road is very steep directly after the bridge, he said, and if the truck goes off the road, it'll roll into the river below, he said. (He urged them to cross the river via a ford instead, which they did.)


And then, a little later, they came to a point where the tracks simply... ran out.

Please note that in true New Zealand fashion the men are still wearing shorts.

They hadn't realised when talking to the road grader that he hadn't gone all the way to Walter Peak. The grader had turned back at some point, and where he had, no-one else had gone through yet, so it was just them and piles (and piles) of snow.

They could hardly see where the road was.

But, they decided to continue on, so part of the way they had a man walk ahead of the truck to find the way, and other times the boys would hang off either side of the truck, looking out for the roadside.



Eventually, they got there. 7 hours for what is usually a 90-minute journey.

***

Within a few days, the snow had melted.


They enjoyed sunshine and daily boat rides across lake Wakatipu into their accommodation in Queenstown.



By the end of the week, the snow remained only up where the ski fields are - the tops of mountains. A welcome end-of-the-season dump which, I assume, was greeted by snowboarders and skiers alike.


Now, it looks more like this:


Welcome to New Zealand.

How coming out 'too late' with a sexual misconduct story somehow doesn't make sense to me

I said I would not read American news so much any more, but to be honest, I haven't actually managed to decrease the consumption of current news dramatically. Maybe a little - not enough to warrant describing it as 'decreased', anyway. And in a way, it's harder anyway, because stories about Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford are even on New Zealand news now.

But I have, however, modified my response to these stories and keep reminding myself that there is very little I can do about what's happening in US, so there's very little point to me feeling so undone about it.

But. (There's always a but, isn't there?)

I cannot help but wonder about my own life and the parallels these stories throw up in the air. Christine Blasey Ford, for example: she is being attacked at the moment by two kinds of people. One kind are making threats to her and her family (and those are, really, nutjobs who need to be dealt with by police) but there are also others who are saying in more polite, but nevertheless firm words that she has come up with accusations against Kavanaugh too late.

Too late, as in, what exactly?

What, exactly, is too late to reveal sexual misconduct / harassment / assault cases?

I wondered about it today as I was planting a feijoa tree in front of my house. Last year I admitted publicly that over 10 years ago I, too, was taken advantage of sexually by a man who was well known to my family and who should not have had any sexual contact with me. However, he did, and I managed to walk away from the event feeling confused and embarrassed enough that... I did not speak about it to anyone.

Literally, anyone. I kept it a secret for over a decade until I shared it with my husband about two years ago and in the light of the #metoo movement started understanding that what had happened was 1) inappropriate and 2) not my fault. Which, by the way, is harder to come to grips with than it sounds.

Last year I even shared the story publicly.

However, apart from my husband, I have not named the man to anyone. I'm not sure what's keeping me from doing it, exactly, but I have played out different scenarios in my head, trying to picture what would happen if I did, and the picture is not necessarily pretty. There is a wide variety of reactions I can imagine people having to such news. Some would probably be distressed, which I don't actually want them to be, because there's not heck of a lot anyone can do about it now. Some would probably want more answers or accountability, which they won't get, because the man in question has now died.

Which, by the way, is an entirely another story because when he was still alive, I tried to imagine what he would do and say if I let my family and friends know what he'd done, and what his family would do and say to me (and my family), and what my family would do and say to me (and him), and... Hell, whichever way I imagined it, it was a social accusations bonfire which I was not wanting to be part of, and so it seemed simply easier to just not name him. Then, when he died, I thought: "Okay, well that makes it easier now." Except, I then realised that if I then made the name public, the accusations would probably fly my way of how do I dare to accuse a person who's not even here to defend themselves, and some people would probably not believe me anyway. Which, again, is something I'm not interested in being part of, either.

But then I keep coming back to this question that... if I somehow feel that it's now somehow my responsibility to keep his name secret, and the details of this event secret, then... HOW DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE, EITHER!?!

How!?!

I was a young adult at the time. He was many, many years older than me. He put his hand down my underwear and started fiddling around. It was not, in any way, a consensual act and I was left feeling stunned by what had happened.

And yet, I did not tell anyone.

Why did I not tell? In hindsight it's easy to say that I should've talked. But hindsight is a beautiful thing.

When I was a teenager and then a young adult, I don't remember ever having a conversation with an adult, let alone a knowledgeable adult, on the topic of sexual misconduct by people the victim already knows. I knew what to do in case of rape and sexual assault, but I had no social 'framework' in place for being violated by a person who I wouldn't expect it from. I had never thought to play such a scenario out in my head ahead of time, so when it happened, I kinda fumbled around trying to figure it out on my own.

And the problem was, it would not have been a straightforward process, because making it public would've meant having to deal with reactions with a whole lotta people. The man who did this was well-known by my extended family, respected socially and quite a few people, I assumed, would've simply said that I was 'blowing bubbles'. (Which I'm not.)

Rather than deal with this situation back then, around the time of becoming an adult, I simply buried the event in the secrecy of my own head and made sure to never be around this man in private again, and... carried on.

A decade later #metoo movement reminded me of it all and now, watching Kavanaugh hearings and the way Christine Blasey Ford is treated, it's all coming to the forefront of my thinking again and I am, on one hand, wanting to name the man simply because I want to assert to myself that IT IS NOT MY JOB TO KEEP QUIET ABOUT IT (because why would it, ever, be the victim's job to stay silent?! Why!?). On another hand, I don't want to, because I still know that making any of this public is not simply making it public. It's having to deal with a whole lot of people who may have opinions about it and reactions to it, and I don't actually want to deal with any it.

But I do know something important I've learned from all this: in my family, we have such conversations early on.

My kids are 4 and 7, so the conversations we've had so far are age-appropriate. We've talked about private parts, and that we don't touch other people's private parts, and we don't let other people touch our private parts. We have nakedness in the family - when using the swimming pool we change together in the family change room, and we see each other coming out of bathrooms, and getting out of bed in the morning. But already at 4 and 7 we gently breach the topics of what's nakedness and what's appropriate and what to do if something feels troubling.

Most of all, it's about 'keeping the communication lines open' with my kids. We talk, and I particularly have to remind myself to not react to when my kids tell me about things they've broken or done wrong, because as much as I would like them not to screw up - I need them to be able to talk to me more. I need them to be able to not be afraid of me getting angry, because especially as they get older now, it's really important that they have a 'safe person' to go to, and I'd like it to be me and The Man, if at all possible. If there's ever a situation where they feel uncomfortable, unsafe, unsure, I want them to be comfortable enough to come to me or The Man and talk to us about it.

I want them to have access to parental guidance. Knowledgeable adult guidance. Whatever you call it, but basically: access to a person who can help them and support them, so if for whatever reason they find themselves in a situation like I did over a decade ago, they have someone they can feel they can talk to.

It has also taught me that even if there is a person who I think wouldn't do such a thing, it's important to hear out the other side and seriously consider it because, sometimes, people do stuff that doesn't make sense.

PS. And to people who say that it's too late to share a story of sexual misconduct, I would like them to explain to me what, exactly, is 'too late' and why the responsibility of coming out quickly somehow lies on the person who's the victim, because it sure as heck is not obvious to me. Thanks.

PPS. Which reminds me, by the way: next week I've got an interview scheduled with John Parsons. Probably in about 3-4 weeks I'll be able to share with you the finished article.

Things I learn at school: construction programming

I know a couple of you may be interested in this, so just popping in quickly to share this.

One of the things I learn at school is 'construction programming' which is, basically, making a timetable for a construction project. It lays out all important stages of a building project and 'links' them all together, ie I can't paint the walls until the drywall is up, or I need to wait 4 weeks from pouring the top floor concrete slab before I can take away the supporting Acrow props.

It's a schedule, basically.

The software we've used this term is Microsoft Project, which is kind of like... Excel, but made to create charts with 'critical path' on them. Like this:





The idea is, it helps plan a building project and makes it clear where the 'critical path' is, ie what are the tasks that, if delayed, will push the entire project into delay. So blue tasks are the ones that can be moved a little, but the red ones show the 'straightest' way into the finish line.

A grumble about real estate

A friend is looking for a rental house in Invercargill. Their landlord gave them notice - he is moving back to Invercargill and wants the house for himself - so the friends are having to find another place to go to.

It is not easy. The real estate market is running high - there are not many houses to rent nor to buy at the moment, and the ones that are on the market are not cheap. They are probably going to need to choose between living in a house that's 1) cold, 2) expensive or 3) far. With two children in the family, none of these options are awesome.

I have said this before, but I dislike real estate agents. Although on my mailbox there is a label 'No advertising', the real estate agents keep putting their leaflets in it. Thinking of selling? Call me! Potential buyers are ready to buy!

I get very suspicious at the times when real estate agents run around happily, proclaiming the strength of the market, because usually it's an indication of something very f*cked up going on in the economy. There is either an abundance of unsustainable finance, or there is an intensive redistribution of wealth.

Neither is good.

Another friend has just bought a house 'for investment purposes'. I haven't been in it, but it is a 1960's building, so it is probably of very limited thermal efficiency or comfort - or to put it bluntly, probably cold in winter. (People who have lived in New Zealand, especially in rentals, will know what I'm referring to.) I know the price it sold for - it is very unlikely that a house that's warm will sell for that price, so at this point I simply assume that it's old and cold.

Their mortgage payment is $170 a week. The price they get from tenants is $300. It is on the outskirts of the city.

Yet another friend has just sold a house. They are moving back to North island. Two points: 1) in just two years that they've owned the house the price has gone up over $100,000 and 2) buyers offered them above asking price. Ie, two years ago they bought it for $260k, they wanted to sell it for $340k, and they actually got $370k for it.

(If someone works, say, as a primary school teacher their income starts at $47,000 a year. So $100,000 is equivalent of more than two years of full time work of a teacher.)

This is not 'normal'. I mean, it is normal in New Zealand in a sense this is what the real estate is doing here, basically, and Invercargill is simply the last to get on the bandwagon - but it is not 'normal' in a sense of the health of either the society nor the individuals. It is f*cked up. The money moves from people who don't have a lot, to people who are already wealthy, increasing the inequality.

The friend who is looking for a new rental spoke to several real estate agents, and they said that the bulk of the buyers who are amassing houses in Invercargill at the moment are people from Auckland and Wellington who are doing it for 'investment purposes' alone. 'Investment purposes', by the way, in most cases means that no substantial improvements will be done to the houses, so the houses will simply have new out-of-town owners, increased rent (which includes rental agents' fees which tenants, in the end, are paying for because the owners are not in town to deal with the houses themselves) and... that's it, basically.

When real estate agents sell old houses, they are not selling a product that has been produced to improve lives or efficiency of people who buy them. The estate agents simply move something that already exists, to new owners at a higher price than the previous owners were bought-in for. The sole purpose of the transaction is - if at all possible - to involve the new owner at a higher rate than the previous owners were, and hopefully continue moving the houses and increasing the buy-in rate (and on and on) at an ever-increasing rate.

And it is never as evident as at a time of a real estate boom, which in Invercargill is... now.

When we bought our house 1.5 years ago, I think we 'got in' JUST before it started. The listings were dropping and the buyers were increasing just as we were trying to hunt down our house, and the fact that we got hold of it was... luck. I mean, it was also persistence and several years of saving, but it was also luck. I am immensely grateful to be able to own a house and STAY IN ONE PLACE. My kids can built friendships and retain them.

The Kid is 7 years old. It is the 7th house he has lived in. I expect him to STAY HERE for a while. (Luckily, he has stopped asking me when we're going to move again.)

The friends who are looking for a new rental are saying that their children are now struggling to build friendships. The family have lived in Israel, in US, in New Zealand. The kids are old enough now that when they've moved (most recently a year ago from Christchurch) the kids have landed in new schools amongst people who've already built friendships with other people, and so after a year in Invercargill, they still feel there is no-one they can invite to a birthday party.

It's not all bad, of course. The whole family is tri-lingual (four, if you include limited Hebrew) and with a wide cultural experience from having lived in such a variety of places and climates before, but there has also been a tradeoff, and friendships for kids is one of them.

And it's not real estate agents' fault. The agents are simply people who are taking up the opportunity offered by the society to them, and are willing to do it (I would not), but I find it f*cked up that a primary school teacher drives a 1993 Honda and a real estate agent talks to my husband in a queue in a cafe and promptly offers to pay for the coffees and pies for the three men there, saying to them that if they ever sell a house, they need to call this agent first.

Like... Bleh.

Oh how I wish the school was over already

Another assignment is getting close to being done.

Imagine me dancing around the living room to this:



Oh how I wish the school was over already.

A pillow question

When people put up "fancy" photos of their bedrooms (think "styled" photos in bedroom furniture catalogs, or maybe on blogs where people show before and afters of their renovations) the beds are often piled with an absolute ton of pillows - and then a quilt (or two) on top of the duvet, too.

The photo is from www.younghouselove.com/podcast-110


My question is: does anyone actually use their bedroom like that?

And if you do, can you please tell me: where on earth do you put all the pillows when you get in bed at night?! And the quilts/throws - do you fold them away each night and then put them on the bed again next day?

And if you do, why? Like, what's the function to so many pillows?

Opening of the beach season and other stuff



Don't let the sunny disposition fool you: the wind was actually quite cold outside :). 14 degrees C, cold SW wind.

***

A kereru (native NZ pigeon) chillin' out on the tree in the backyard, watching me hang up washing. I love that when they fly, it's a bit like a bird's version of a Boeing 787 - woosh, woosh, WOOOOOSH!


***

First Clip'n'Climb after the kids have been ill. The Kid actually gave up after 40 minutes :)




Saturday evening

I'm starting to really resent schoolwork. Several reasons. And not all of it, either, only a very specific class run by a tutor who is being a bit of a jerk. (A widely-accepted sentiment, by the way, amongst other students.)

But like many other things in my life that I haven't particularly enjoyed but have known that I'd be better for having completed them, I open the book, pick up my pen, start doing the necessary work and then work at it until it's done.

Also, a useful skill. Nike would probably call it "Just do it".

I call it perseverance.


All to the soundtrack of:










...amongst other things.

***

Meanwhile, around my house, spring is happening. All of these are within 20 metres of my house!


Magnolia tree


Leaf-buds on the currant



Catkins off the alder tree

***

Readying the planter-box for some climbing peas.


The front of it will probably have salad plants: basil, coriander, dill, parsley. In the backyard there is plenty more space for kale etc :)

Worse than fiction

I am watching videos of Kavanaugh hearings in US and it's astounding to me that this stuff is ACTUALLY HAPPENING. I mean... Jesus. F*ck.

Does any of this look familiar to you?! Does it!?

Because it looks to me. It looks familiar to what I understand of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of modern-day Russia to me. It even looks similar to the history of 1930's Germany.

Kavanaugh hearings are not fictional Hollywood movies. It's an ACTUAL SUPREME COURT NOMINATION process. There are no actors there. THIS IS FOR REAL!!!







It's a theatre.

Meanwhile, this. What is this country!?

Edited to add: I think I am going to stop watching US news. All I'm getting is frustrated, can't do much about it and it's actually really getting on my nerves that I'm getting frustrated without the ability to do much about it. I need time off.

More random things about me

1-36. are here

37-49. are here

50.-64. are here

65. I am usually asleep within 5 minutes of getting in bed.

66. I speak a combination of British and US English, but I prefer British spelling and occasionally come up with ridiculously British sentences such as "I fancy me some dumplings."

67. By nature, I am impatient, judgemental and selfish. These are all traits I try to manage so they would benefit my life - and others' - rather than hindering it.

68. Most people I meet in New Zealand cannot pinpoint my accent; most ask if I am Dutch. Occasionally I get asked if I am Irish (wtf?!), Canadian, Danish. 8 years ago I used to get asked if I am American, but that never happens any more.

69. As a child, I took part in a variety of extracurricular activities. Most of them I stayed at for 3-4 years (becoming moderately proficient but never excelling at any of them), which in hindsight is sort of... useful, because I now have a variety of skills I am comfortable with: art, music, singing, dancing, sports etc. For example, I did:
* ages 6-10 music school (2.5 years of piano and 1.5 years of flute),
* ages 8-12 art school,
* ages 11-15 (competitive) athletics,
* ages 14-17 choir singing,
* ages 14-19 mathematics competitions,
* ages 14-19 folk dancing,
* ages 15-18 show dancing.

70. During my years with the athletics club, I absolutely loved the short-distance running (100 m and 200 m) and absolutely loathed the 400 m - and yet, I was constantly put onto the 400 m running track instead because it was the distance I could earn the most "points" for the athletics club. I don't know if people who haven't run competitively will understand this, but 400 m is the absolute death of oxygen transportation to the muscles, and I felt like I was about to die during the last 100 metres of every single 400 m race I ever ran. Even at age 33, I can vividly remember the feeling of rounding the last bend, seeing ANOTHER 100 METRES AHEAD OF ME and thinking that there is absolutely no way I can actually get to the finish line in the same pace when all I actually want to do is to throw myself on the ground and vomit. Even lifting a goddamn leg is hard when it's the last 100 m of a 400 m race. Seriously. (Looking back, I think I learned some very important life-strategies and endurance during my years of doing sports.) I peaked at 63 seconds aged 15 and said to my coach that if they put me on one more 400 m race, I quit - and I did. (That's how/why I ended up taking up dancing school at age 15 instead, basically.)

71. I have good teeth. Not sure if it's due to genetics or good brushing habits.

Could you take your headphones off, please

Did I tell you this story already, by the way?

So here I was, laying inside an MRI machine, listening to Ed Sheeran - they had asked me in the beginning if I wanted to listen to any music and I had asked them, "Sure, what've you got?" - "Anything. We've got Spotify, so we've got literally everything." - "Yeah, okay. John Mayer?" - "Sure."

(Then, after about 10 seconds I had thought, sod that, I bet they're gonna play stuff like "Your body is a wonderland" or something, and I haven't got time for that. I can't make them play the exact albums I want, can I. So rather than being a d*ck, I instead asked them if they could put on Ed Sheeran instead - I can tolerate almost anything that he's sung, so that seemed like a better option.)

ANYWAY, so here I was, laying inside an MRI machine, listening to Ed Sheeran when, suddenly, a really chirpy woman (I had never heard her before) said in those headphones, "Could you take your headphones off for a moment, please?"

...

I mean...

WTF?!

To those of you who have not been inside an MRI machine before, let me tell you this: THERE IS NOT ENOUGH SPACE IN THERE TO TAKE OFF ANYTHING. I mean, really: the ceiling of the MRI machine is about 8 cm above my forehead and with obese people, I don't even know how they get them inside there (maybe they have large MRI machines for, you know, "large" people?), and besides, I'm supposed to lay absolutely still whilst the machine is doing its thing, and I could definitely hear the machine doing its DODONK! DODONK! DODONK! Were they really expecting me to move and somehow take my headphones off whilst squeezed into a tuna can, whilst I wasn't sure I'd even manage to lift my arm to my chin, let alone the headphones!?

And it was good, turns out, that I just kept laying there, still as a mussel, and then said, "Sorry?" into the microphone, because... the chirpy woman in the headphones continued talking and I realised: it was an ad.

IT WAS A SPOTIFY AD.

I kid you not, the ad started with the words, "Could you take your headphones off for a moment, please?" and I spent the rest of the MRI session thinking, man, what are the chances.

***

When the MRI session was over and they slid me out of the machine, I asked the radiologist, "Did you hear that ad about 5 minutes in?" and looked at him expectedly.

He rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, I know, it's such a pain! Can't get rid of it. It's so inconvenient having it play when people are in there."

***

When I told my boss at work about it, his only reply was pretty much, "They shouldn't even have the ads there. They need to pay for the commercial license, not use the free version."

:)

***

And just because:

Hard times let me see
I’m a good man with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go


That's what I sing loudly as I go about my house picking up washing and putting away bedsheets :)




***

For the last 4 days I've been spending evenings in front of Netflix watching comedians. Russell Howard, Chris Rock etc. I've been listening to them talk about the things that hurt us all so much, and yet they've managed to make me laugh at the same time. Bigotry, police violence, racism, homophobia - and I've managed to walk away from listening to their stand-up comedy feeling refreshed for the future of the planet and the human race.

God, how good it is to laugh.

I don't know if it's simply me growing older, or it's New Zealand, but I think I am laughing at myself more. It's a skill, actually, to be able to look at myself and say, well, that was a fuck-up, wasn't it? :D

***

And just because vol 2 ;)

No homework

Yesterday Dooce (Heather Armstrong) posted on Instagram about the bane of homework and WOULD YOU LOOK AT THOSE COMMENTS. Parent after parent saying, yes, there should not be homework for the youngsters! And I agree. So much.


Leta resumed her dance class tonight which meant my mother volunteered to drive her, stay through the lesson, and then get her dinner so that I could cram in the last several hours of my book edits. She agreed to take Marlo with her and discovered “4th Grade Homework.” Ahem. I know I’m going to get in trouble for this post (hi, principal!), but I don’t care. My mom came back from the dance class with Marlo and had a look of WHAT IN THE EVER LOVING FUCK on her face. Exactly that face. It’s not *that* bad but, you know, homework and piano practice and dance and then oral reports and science projects and, oh, therapy? They need therapy? A trip to the orthodontist? It all adds up to LIFE CANNOT BE LIVED LIKE THIS. This is total insanity. Add in multiple kids and you’ve got a nuclear disaster. There has to be a better way. Thank you, Mom. I still couldn’t do it without you. 💙❤️
A post shared by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

Croup

Croup. I highly recommend it. Croup is awesome! Kids will love it, parents will love it. At nighttime especially! Croup is the best at 3 am, served fresh with paracetamol, ibuprofen, warm drink, honey and a heat bag. Don't forget to socialise whilst you're at it - croup loves to spread its love.

PS. In case it wasn't obvious enough, I was sarcastic.

I have a lopsided skull

Okay, so the "lopsided skull" is not a medical term, obviously :). Rather, it's my own reaction to seeing an MRI image of my head, which looks like this:


Kinda lopsided, don't you think? :D

But seriously: the appointment with the neurologist went pretty much exactly how I'd pictured it. My brain MRI is clear apart from one tiny "dot" (a.k.a lesion) deep inside the white matter, here:


It's tiny enough that it's very unlikely to be causing anything of importance. Apparently, most people's MRIs show something, somewhere. Having one tiny lesion puts me pretty much smack bang in the middle of "people with structurally normal brains", and therefore the migraines are an enigma to both me and my neurologist and... yeah.

I have to admit though, even the neurologist was kind of stumped why I would suddenly start having migraines whilst on progesterone because progesterone supplementation is, medically speaking, protective against migraines. Ever since having started taking it, I haven't had seizures - but I have started having migraines. It just doesn't make sense. The migraines have started suddenly (6 weeks ago) and have continued on frequently (averaging once a week), which - neurologically speaking - is a very unusual presentation, so we're both in a kind of a have-no-idea-what-this-is situation.

The takeaway is, I will need to start keeping a diary about what I eat, how much I sleep, how stressed I've been etc and MAYBE we'll see a pattern emerging.

But if not, then it will be exactly what I thought it'd be, and that is: an annoying, but not debilitating health issue which I will simply learn to live with.

How's that for a motivational message, eh.

Almost everything becomes harder with kids

A classmate comes up to me during break. "Hey, Maria, can I ask you a personal question?"

I raise my eyebrows and grin widely. "Yeah, sure. What's up?"

He says, "Do you ever have time just for yourself? You know, free time?" I continue grinning, because when he said "personal question" I really hadn't known what to expect, and this turned out to be a very amusing question, instead of an uncomfortable one.

He continues, "Because, you know, you study. You work on the weekends. You take care of your kids. D says you're fixing windows in your house and getting ready to paint it. When do you have time for yourself? Do you even HAVE time for yourself?"

I laugh. "Well, sometimes. Not much."
- "How do you do it? I don't think I could do it. I need time to just be, you know. I like to meditate in the morning. Between that and school and homework, I don't have much time left - I don't understand how you do it."
- "I just suck it up, I think. But to be honest... almost everything becomes harder with kids. If I want to get stuff done, I just suck it up and do it. Kind of get used to it after a few years."
- "Yeah..."

He looks at me and I can see, he's not convinced :).

Both beautiful, but different

The difference in my kids' temperaments is apparent even when they're ill.

When The Girlie (a.k.a Little Miss Attitude) is sick, everyone must be aware of it, goddammit! But when The Kid is ill, he curls up on the sofa quietly and tries to go to sleep.

Today even The Man looked at The Kid and said, "Doesn't look that bad." I got out a thermometer and checked. "38.4."

When The Girlie is 38.4, YOU WILL KNOW IT. It's not a realistic expectation that anyone'd miss it. But when The Kid is 38.4, it's... quiet.

Both beautiful, but different.

6 migraines in 6 weeks

On Thursday I will have an appointment with a neurologist. Hopefully he will already have at hand the results from my brain MRI scan which was done 2 weeks ago.

But either way, it is kind of going to suck because I have had 6 migraines in 6 weeks and on each occasion, I have lost part of my vision. Neurologist is either going to say that 1) I have some lesions or something in my brain, or he's going to say that 2) my brain scan is clear (which I think will be the case) in which case it's possible that this whole thing will continue being fuelled by some god-damn hormones.

Yes, I know, many people have it way worse. But I am nevertheless pissed off because I pick up paperwork to finish an assignment that's due in school and, suddenly, I cannot read any more. I can not see what's written on the page - nut functionally anyway. I have blind spots all throughout my vision.

I'm going to have to start completing school assignments a week in advance simply because I can no longer rely on being able to have vision, say, on a Monday evening when an assignment is due on Wednesday.

Why ecosystems are kind of like money

It occurred to me the other day that there is a neat way of explaining the concept of an 'ecosystem' (and why environmental protection is important) to someone who is otherwise a very money/finances type of a person.

Ecosystem is, basically, a movement of nutrients from one organism to another. (British Oxford dictionary defines ecosystem as a 'biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment'.) Say, a plant will 'pull' nutrients from the soil and grow fruit; a monkey will come along and eat the fruit; a tiger will kill the monkey and eat its meat; both monkey and the tiger will secrete poop/urine which will be used up by a variety of worms and bugs in the soil; and when all aforementioned organisms die their remains will be used up by something else. Basically, STUFF IS CONSTANTLY MOVING.

That's an ecosystem - a way of nutrients/elements constantly moving.

It's the same with money. When a finance person measures the size of someone's economy, they don't count the amount of money sitting in someone's pocket  - they measure turnover. They want to know how money moves. They analyse speed and efficiency with which money (and product!) moves from one person to another, and what is achieved in the process. The faster/better money is moving, the better a finance person will say an economy is doing.

Do you remember the global financial crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008? Much was said about the governments 'bailing out' banks (and a variety of other financial institutions). It was almost unanimously agreed at the time that many of the banks' problems were the banks' own wrongdoing. But, as many politicians were admitting, they were bailing them out not because they were necessarily wanting to help the banks, but because they were trying to avoid the collapse of a financial system. They were needing the money to keep on moving. They knew that, if enough "parts" of a financial system toppled, the entire system would topple - it would 'collapse'.

That's what scientists mean when they talk about environmental ecosystems 'collapsing'.

Ecosystem relies on a variety of organisms in order to move nutrients from one organism to another. Each organism has only very specific ways in which it is able to move nutrients. A plant can not 'throw' (at least in most cases :D) rotting leaves and a handful of seeds across a desert and create a 'bed' for another plant to grow from - but a bird can. A bird can eat a plant and then 'poop' the remains out elsewhere. Birds regularly move seeds and nuts in their guts, and poop them out in places where new plants can then grow.

Whales - have you heard about the importance of whale poop in an ocean? (If you are interested, it makes for fascinating reading/listening in this Wikipedia article and this Radio New Zealand interview.) In short, a whale can eat A WHOLE LOTTA' krill - and krills' bodies, by the way, are very rich in iron. Because krill tend to live deep in the water, if it weren't for whales, that iron stored in krills' bodies would perpetually stay in the deep water because most things tend to 'sink' in the ocean and once they get to dark ocean floor, very few organisms are there to do anything with it. But whales eat the krill, digest the iron, poop it out near the surface and therefore, like a huge factory machine, whales are constantly bringing nutrients that would otherwise be 'lost' in the darkness of the ocean floor (where very few organisms live) up to the surface where a whole lot of organisms are able to take benefit of it.

That's how an ecosystem works.

When someone talks about an 'ecosystem collapse' then what they mean is, once a couple of strategic species are lost from any given location, the whole chain of nutrient movement can stop because if there isn't a species capable of delivering nutrient A from location B to location C, then... all that nutrient stockpiles into B, nothing is left in C at which point species at C will die, too, because they haven't got food any more and... yeah.

That's how it, basically, works.

Ecosystems can be rebuilt, yes - but it takes time. And effort. And time. It's the same like saying, well, actually the politicians could've let the whole array of banks and money-lenders go bust in 2008 and the financial system would've rebuilt itself over time.

And it would've. Probably.

But the politicians didn't want to do that. They elected instead to keep the system moving because, I think, they probably weren't sure what the heck would happen, exactly, if they simply let everything collapse like a domino and just hope for the best. (A lot of war and suffering, is my guess, but in the end war and suffering were happening REGARDLESS, so it's kind of a mute point.)

When Aswan dams were built in Egypt in 1960's (in Estonian it's spelled "Assuan"), the government at the time was proclaiming the benefits that would result from the flood protection, electricity production, water availability for agriculture etc. Some of those benefits arrived, too.

But the problem was, a whole lot of problems arrived, too. When river Nile was no longer bringing nutrients and sediment onto surrounding land on a yearly basis, farmers needed to start fertilising instead. Constant irrigation caused high levels of water table which, in turn, lead to increase in soil salinity which then started to kill off crops.

What I'm saying is, ecosystems evolve with time, but the most capable ones do so gradually - and have a high variety of organisms that can 'take over' each other's tasks to a degree. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more resilient it is to stress, because there are more ways of 'moving' nutrient from one place to another. But take away a couple of essential links and, boom!, the whole thing collapses.

Money is only worth something if you have someone to buy from and someone to sell to, and a product/service to move. If there isn't a buyer or a seller - or there isn't a product - then money's worthless.

It only works when the whole system is working.

A happy childhood [Omaui hill track]

On the Omaui hill track again. About 5 km roundtrip, 180 m elevation gain and, later, time spent on the beach flying the kite. He likes using the walking poles. (Yuss!)


Empty cicada shells on trees again

The walking pole became quite handy at reminding The Dog that I am the boss here - not her. I tied her lead to my waistband and asked her to 'heel'. Every time she tried to run past me, the walking pole blocked the way. She wasn't very impressed, but there wasn't much she could do about it, so not very willingly, she 'heeled'. :)


That's what it looks like on Google Earth


The last of the bush before 'breaking out' into the open hill country








Someone had built a massive fort on the beach