This is such a typical construction story!

My friend owns an old house in Southern Invercargill. I think it was built in the 1940's. The previous owners had floral carpet throughout - including the kitchen.

About 3 months ago he finally decided to pull the trigger and strip the kitchen carpet. Who can blame him? (And who would put carpet IN FRONT OF A SINK in the first place!?) Underneath the carpet he discovered rimu tongue-and-groove flooring - otherwise beautiful stuff, but a couple of the boards were borer-damaged.

He hunted down replacement rimu flooring from Demolition World (which I adore), but it didn't quite fit - it's hard to find flooring with the original 1940's dimensions. And anyway, when he pulled up the damaged boards it appeared that some floor joists were damaged, too.

So he had to replace some floor joists and pull up more flooring in the process.

By the time he replaced the joists and kinda-sorta fixed the floorboards, he didn't like the hodge-podge look of the mismatched timber flooring. He decided to lay vinyl flooring over the timber.

Initially, he planned to put what's called a 'quarter round' around the edges of the room, so conceal the narrow gap between the vinyl flooring and the wall. But then he thought, come on, man, do it properly! He pulled up the skirting-board, laid down the vinyl flooring and was about to put the skirting back when he thought...

Hmm, it would make sense to replace the wallpaper now that the skirting is off, rather than trying to cut the wallpaper in the future to match the top end of skirting.

So now he's replacing wallpaper.

And it all started with a carpet he did not like :)


Stuff I've found whilst looking around

A team of researchers have discovered that playing techno music (and, more specifically, a song by an artist Skrillex) puts mosquitos off from biting. 

The theory is, male and female mosquitos struggle to harmonise their flight tones in the presence of techno music. Something about the combination of high frequency and low frequency sounds keeps them from mating and, as a result, from biting and sucking blood. There is now research underway to develop sound-based insect repellent products for people. (Man, I hope they're going to develop something which is inaudible to a human ear, because when I listened to Skrillex's music that was used in this research, I kind of got the feeling that if I blast this sort of stuff from portable speakers, then it's going to drive away both mosquitos and humans who may be nearby.)



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@suddenlysamantha is an interesting Instagram account of a transgender woman. She used to be a father to 4 boys and now, after gender-transitioning, remains married to the same woman and they together continue raising their family as two mums (is the correct term gay relationship? Not sure.). Her wife, Laura, is described in this interesting Wbur story.

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I still haven't figured out if it's true that certain monkey babies tend to play with 'gendered' toys: boy monkeys with boy toys and girl monkeys with girl toys. But this Reddit is a good place to start.

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A gallery of a family who photograph themselves once a year for 21 years.

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Kyle Griffin is the last remaining Twitter account I follow in terms of watching the garbage bin fire that is the US politics.

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Did you know that it's possible to give birth to children who are NOT genetically related to you? Or that 1 in 8 people are actually twins, but their twin was reabsorbed and they were born 'single'? Or that some women carry within them cells of their born and un-born children? From this North & South article:

"Bianchi found a woman with goitre, which had destroyed her own thyroid cells. Oddly, the gland was still secreting healthy amounts of thyroid hormone. The gland, it turned out, was stuffed with her son’s cells. The evidence, writes Zimmer, pointed to an amazing conclusion.

“A fetal cell from her son had wended its way through her body to her diseased thyroid gland. It had sensed the damage there and responded by multiplying into new thyroid cells, regenerating the gland.”

In another case, a woman’s liver had been ravaged by hepatitis C. Years before, she’d had a pregnancy terminated. Incredibly, her aborted son’s cells, still bearing the Y chromosome of the father, came to the rescue by rebuilding an entire lobe of her liver."


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New Zealand Geographic explains in this article how sea ice helps to cool the planet not just by acting as a 'reflecting mirror', but through a mechanism I had not heard about before:

"When sea ice forms on the Southern Ocean, the salt is expelled, leaving very dense, saline water sinking onto the Antarctic Continental Shelf. It forms a kind of river system, pouring through canyons into the abyss of the deep ocean. As the cold water descends, it also transports heat [...]."

A New Zealander in Estonia, an Estonian in New Zealand

I just listened to this interview and laughed. 

Calling Home: Don Payne in Estonia www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/2018691821/calling-home-don-payne-in-estonia

Don is from Invercargill, but he is now living and working in Tallinn, Estonia - after having gone to Europe on a 'working holiday' in 1987 and never gone back to New Zealand. I am an Estonian living in Invercargill, New Zealand - after having gone to New Zealand on a 'working holiday' in 2009 and never gone back to Estonia.

He talked in this interview about looking for a place to live that would be affordable - which is exactly how I ended up in Invercargill, having also looked for a place to live that would be affordable.

Fun times :)

PS. Estonians, let me know: can you access these RNZ interviews that I keep on linking here?

Saving more than just a Hutton's shearwater

In an old New Zealand Geographic magazine, March-April 2017, is a beautiful article about Hutton's shearwaters.

In it, the author Rebekah White describes how Kaikoura - a little town on New Zealand's South island - has become protective of these wonderful little seabirds. Education programs are weaved into the children's schoolwork: data gathered by the public gets processed by high-school statistics students, a biology class does DNA testing on fledglings etc. The local 'Hutton's champion', a lady called Nicky McArthur, has correctly anticipated that the most effective way to disseminate information within a community is to give it to children as homework - it is working.

The article ends with beautiful two paragraphs (bold lettering added by me):

"But what Harrow and McArthur and the trust recognise is that most people don’t get to take part in the care of anything fragile. The work of saving things goes on around us as invisibly as the dawn flight of the Hutton’s.

Looking out for little birds on the road means that people are looking out in the first place, that they’ve started to notice a world that’s not their own. To recognise a shearwater and pick it up and put it in a box is to exercise a muscle of care for something outside the human realm. Perhaps, after all, it’s worth saving one of a hundred thousand shearwaters, granting it another chance to race down the ranges to the sea, just as the stars are fading out, for breakfast."


Fundamentally, this is the building block of empathy - the difference between someone who learns empathy, and someone who goes through the world without care for others, standing up only for their own, personal needs.

I don't remember which other article it was that I read a couple of weeks ago, but in it the author made a point that to protect something (in this case, they were talking about New Zealand's native forests) people need to experience a sense of ownership and belonging. It is what will drive them to take protective action on behalf of 'inanimate' objects such as trees and rivers and such.

And that begins with taking kids outside.

Invercargill's Queens park at the moment
Cold, foggy mornings of the autumn

Very, very disappointed tonight

I titled this post "Winston Peters is an idiot" at first but then thought better of it. Because, fundamentally, it is never a fault of a single person - it is a system.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/387253/no-mandate-for-capital-gains-tax-pm

https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/on-the-inside/387291/capital-gains-tax-shutdown-threatens-govt-s-other-plans

So, to sum it up: tonight, I feel very disappointed. However, this, too, shall pass. Having already started to move off from the 'anger' part of reaction to today's news, I am looking forward and seeing what needs to be done next.

New Zealand is my home.

The side-effect of having drugs with lots of side-effects

A while ago I talked to a pharmacist who said that, by the time people take 7-8 different drugs, half of the drugs are probably to counteract side-effects of other half of the drugs. In fact, it often becomes difficult to tell apart symptoms at all. A patient may start experiencing, say, heartburn - if they are on drugs which may (or may not) cause heartburn then doctors don't really know if the heartburn is caused by 1) other drugs or if 2) it's caused by something in the physiology of the person.

So the patient gets prescribed antacids - which then start interacting with something else the patient is already taking, and the patient gets prescribed another drug to counteract the problem. And then another problem appears, so they get prescribed another drug. And then another. Meanwhile, the pesky heartburn may have been a symptom of a genuine medical problem after all, but it got overlooked because everyone assumed that it was just a side-effect of another drug. Or not.

(You see where this is going, right?)

In extreme cases it may be necessary - under medical supervision - to remove all (or most) drugs and start from zero. If for no other benefit, then at least it gives everyone an opportunity to ascertain what symptoms the patient actually has on their own, and what was just side-effects of the plethora of drugs. Because possibly, the patient needed only 2-3 drugs, rather than 7-8, and unless unnecessary drugs get eliminated, the patient will just continue using more than they need, and heighten the risk of 1) under/over dose, and 2) side-effects.

This is, a bit, like how I am feeling now. I'm at a point where it becomes difficult to tell the difference.

For a long time now I have been low on iron - iron deficiency anemia, it's called. Curiously enough, although I have been taking iron supplements (in addition to a varied diet which, for a while, included  even lamb liver - ehh!), I have struggled to bring the numbers up. Since 2017, I haven't been able to get even into the bottom of what's considered 'normal range' in New Zealand (20-200 ug/L) and instead have had blood tests hovering at around the 10 ug/L mark.

The side-effect of taking iron supplements is, unfortunately, constipation. Having been through a vaginal birth, constipation is not what I need at the moment - due to somewhat obvious (and lasting!) effects a vaginal birth can have on a woman. Dare I not say more, okay? Okay.

So, I've been taking iron supplements with kiwis - they act as a natural laxative and C-vitamin in them helps to absorb the iron. But recently (6+ months) I've started having abdominal pain - at first intermittently, but now at a point where we are starting to wonder, have I developed ulcers? Acidic foods are not nice to eat any more, and having an empty stomach is not nice, either.

So the question becomes, if that is correct and I do, indeed, have stomach ulcers - have I developed them due to taking iron supplements with kiwis (on an empty stomach)? Or may the ulcers be one of the reasons I have low iron?

Or maybe abdominal pain is caused by something else entirely?

To try to track down the reason I have low iron, my GP has asked me to start taking blood clotting medicines for 3 months. You see, I also have heavy periods, and one of the theories is, I am simply 'flushing' iron out too quickly each month to be able to replenish iron stores through diet. So for 3 months, I have been asked to take blood clotting medicines and to stop taking iron supplements for the moment. If at the end of 3 months the blood tests reveal that my iron stores have started increasing, then that will give us an answer. If not, then we'll look into other options.

But now the problem is, my ocular migraines have become worse. Side-effect of blood clotting medicine (tranexamic acid) is, unfortunately, heightened risk of seizures, migraines and headaches. I get migraines anyway at the moment, so I don't know if the frequency is due to blood clotting medicine, or something else. Same with abdominal pain - it may be the side effect of the medicine, or may be something I have anyway. Hard to tell.

For the moment though, to counteract the migraines I am taking a bit more migraine medication. And pain killers.

And if you then try to google the interactions these drugs have, then it REALLY becomes a bit of a too-hard-basket, because... how does the acid affect the uptake of hormonal supplements? Do their dosages need to be changed based on the dosages of other things I am taking? There isn't enough research data to narrow it down. One of the hormonal supplements I am using (progesterone) is 'off-label' use anyway - it is normally part of a hormone replacement therapy for middle-aged women. For me it's part of a seizure medication based on a promising clinical trial that was done a couple of years ago. It seems to work well (yess!) and that's the good thing, but because it is rarely used in a way that I am using it, then there is very little clinical research to show what it does, how it does it and what affects it. Or how it affects other things I may be doing.

I'm at a point where it feels like I am looking at a spiderweb spun by a spider who was caffeinated (don't you love that NASA actually does experiments like that?) and thinking, wtf. I don't even know which way to approach this thing any more.

Abolish the Daylight Savings

If New Zealand held a referendum on whether to keep - or abolish - Daylight Savings then I would definitely vote to abolish it.

I do not need this twice-a-year backwards and forwards hippity-hopping in my life.

The older I get, the less I am liking it; to a point where I now think that people who support Daylight Savings are obviously not working parents of young children. Or if they are, maybe they have more forgiving working hours, but the bloody murder that happens in my house twice a year is just... grrrgh!

I dropped my daughter off at daycare and said to the teacher, "She's about 2 hours short of sleep, so I fully expect the afternoon to go pear-shaped." The teacher replied, "I think most people in this room are feeling it at the moment."

Yeah, no shit Sherlock.

Who will it hurt? It's all about balance

On the whole, I have been happy with New Zealand's reaction to the recent mass shooting in Christchurch. The country has moved to ban semi-automatic weapons. Many media outlets recognise the importance of not naming the shooter, not showing his face - not offering him fame. Several organisations that are to do with weapons and hunting (most importantly Fish & Game, but also gun retailers etc) have made public statements in support of banning semi-automatic weapons.

However, it does not mean that there were not voices of dissent. Just yesterday I listened to a man make a public statement to the Parliament select committee, where he compared the banning of assault weapons to the systematic disarmament of Jewish people just before the Holocaust.

I listened to him talk and thought to myself, right. You are comparing a total disarmament of one racial/cultural group (ie, discrimination) to banning of military-style assault weapons. Man, you have some serious gaps in your logic here.

Fortunately, voices that have supported the law changes have been louder - as they should be. These voices emphasise that New Zealand has an active hunting community with a variety of rifles available to them, and that military-style semi-automatic weapons are not required for hunting. (I laughed yesterday when a man made a public statement saying, in essence, that if you struggle to hit a deer in 10 shots, then maybe you should hire a professional to do the job for you.)

Today I listened to the discussion around the compulsory buy-back of such weapons: it will become a requirement for all people owning such weapons to hand them in, and get some financial compensation for it (the exact numbers are still worked on). After a certain time, being in possession of these weapons will become a crime.

A man was complaining to the media today that such a scheme is unfair: he, personally, had done nothing wrong, so why does he need to hand in his gun? He didn't shoot up a mosque. To which, automatically, came out voices in support of the buy-back: people who say that it's important to recognise that people who were attacked had done nothing wrong either, yet they paid with their lives, their healths, their family members' lives. Keeping such weapons in New Zealand puts all of us at greater risk. It allows people who have such nefarious ideas as the mosque shooter had (and, you bet, there are more people like that not just in New Zealand, but everywhere) to have access to weapons which are, specifically, meant to kill humans.

And that's the part, I think, which is so important to ask: who will it hurt?

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It's like a couple of weeks ago when some New Zealand parliament members were up to, really, quite silly antics. It was another Select Committee meeting and Labour members were late. Meeting was meant to start at 8 am, but by 8:10 only 5-out-of-7 Labour members were there. National members decided to walk out of the room in protest and stood just outside the door when the attendees were counted, thereby making sure that the meeting was cancelled because there wasn't enough quorum inside the meeting room

(For the next two days, it felt like they spent most of their energy on political piss-fighting over this incident: National members were saying that Labour is lazy because they can't get out of bed in time; Labour were saying that National is childish because they can't understand that a Labour member was ill and they were spending the morning looking for a replacement.)

But the real question to ask here was, who was hurt by this political game-playing?

The submitters - members of the public who were meant to speak at that meeting - were hurt. About 15 people had travelled to Wellington to make their submissions to this committee. Some were there to talk about child poverty, others about mental health. Because the meeting got cancelled at just after 8:10 am, then these people who were already in Wellington, some after having travelled from afar, were told to go home.

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Regulations, for the most part, get put in place where it's important to recognise the collective wellbeing over a personal liberty. I am not allowed to own a tank and drive it down a street - it would put other humans at risk of being injured, and would damage the roads which we all, collectively, pay for. Yet I am allowed to own a car.

I am not allowed a semi-automatic weapon, but I am allowed a hunting rifle.

It's a balance.

Same goes for freedom of speech. Some very vocal freedom-of-speech 'absolutists' have spoken up recently in New Zealand, saying that it's wrong to forbid hate speech - it would lead to curtailing of the freedom of speech in its entirety.

To that I say: there's a difference between freedom of speech, and the freedom of providing a platform for hate speech.

I would probably be allowed to say, in private to my friends, that I hate Jews. (I don't, actually, but let's take it as an example.) It's my freedom to say it and I won't be jailed for it. But it does not mean that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or whatever should bear the responsibility of allowing me to broadcast it publicly.

'Hate speech' is a very narrow sub-type of communication. Hate speech is, specifically, targeting someone based on their religion, race or sexual orientation, and is calling for violence or prejudice against those people. We already have fundamental humans rights in place which recognise that a person should not be discriminated against based on their religion, race or sexual orientation; and so putting in place protections to guard against that is not, actually, going over the top. It's a responsible attitude.

We already have societal norms in place for not allowing child pornography, because we recognise the collective responsibility for it. We don't allow couples to take photos of themselves having sex and then put up large posters with the photos next to a highway - regulations kick in for doing it in public. Sex, itself, is not criminalised - but there are limitations around how publicly it can be practiced, or broadcast; and who it can be practiced with.

When I drive my car on a highway, I am not allowed to go faster than 100 km/h. Putting in place a limit to my speed does not take away my right of driving a car.