Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At the car wash, yeah

A video posted by arthur_amerinz (@arthur_amerinz) on

This is a first all around: It’s the first time I’ve posted a video to Instagram, so it’s also the first time I’ve tried sharing one on this blog. It’s a simple subject: I needed to wash the car today, and this was a few seconds of that fun.

The reason I had to wash the car in the first place—as opposed to just normal car maintenance or whatever—is that I’m having a guy do some work around the house—tidying the gardens and washing the house (about which, more in a couple days), and I neglected to move my care, and so, it was covered with dust and such from the work. Oops. I knew better, too.

Still, my car was due for a wash—the last one was before Christmas—so it was needed, anyway. And when he comes tomorrow to finish the work, I’ll park my car on the street. Prudence, and all that.
Of course, part of the reason I’m sharing this at all is that if this works, I can share more short videos in the future. If not—well, I suppose one can always watch it on Instagram.

At the very least, my car is clear.

Footnote: The title, as some will know, is from the song “Car Wash” by Rose Royce, and the theme of the 1976 film of the same name. See also this:

Monday, January 16, 2017

I’m willing to share

I’m aware that many of my friends in the USA are determined to avoid the hoopla on January 20 USA time when Don’s regime begins. Not everyone will be taking part in protests, and need something constructive to do. Toward that end, I’m willing to share my birthday celebration.

Because of timezones, January 21 here—my birthday—is January 20 in the USA. That day I’ll be focused entirely being the birthday boy, and far too busy to take any notice of what happens in Washington, DC. So, it occurred to me, why not share this as something for others to focus on?

Obviously, I’m not seriously suggesting that everyone actually celebrate my birthday, however, everyone can still play along. Think of it as an “Experience a Bit of Arthur’s World Day”. Here are some suggestions.

Drink New Zealand wine. Any excuse is a good one for drinking New Zealand wine. Although, since the actual swearing in part will be at 6am NZ time, it may be a bit early for me, there’s no reason others can’t enjoy it—especially since it may help one get through the day. New Zealand is particularly known for its sauvignon blanc and its pinot noir, but I also quite like New Zealand pinot gris (known as pinot grigio in other countries; although there is a difference between the two, and NZ pinot gris is mostly similar to pinot grigio), which is becoming popular and known overseas, too.

Read a New Zealand author. There are so many to choose from—far too many for me to list, but others have done so. Goodreads has a list of “Books By New Zealand Authors” along with user ratings of the books, which may be useful. Or not. Wikipedia has a plain list of New Zealand authors, which is probably not that useful. To find out more about any particular author, the New Zealand Book Council offers what it describes as “the most comprehensive collection of information about New Zealand writers on the Internet”, in searchable (and surprisingly frank) listings about New Zealand writers.

Something to watch. Okay, maybe reading New Zealand authors after having some New Zealand wine might be a bit difficult, so how about some New Zealand movies? NZ Onscreen has snippets about the “Top 10 NZ Feature Films”—in their opinion, and, no, neither the Lord of the Rings nor Hobbit movies are on the list. The last three on this list are relatively recent, and Once Were Warriors is a brutal and honest film about life among urban Māori in the early 1990s. People still talk about—and debate—the film. But Whale Rider and Boy, which also cover the modern Māori experience, may be more, um, accessible. I’d also add What We Do in the Shadows, a horror/comedy from the guys in Flight of the Conchords. It was directed by Taika Waititi, who directed Boy, and Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords.

Similarly, IMDb has a listing of “The 20 Greatest New Zealand Films of all Time”, though not all are actually New Zealand films—they were made by New Zealanders or in New Zealand. Wikipedia has a long list of New Zealand films which also is made up of movies “produced or filmed in New Zealand”, so it includes the Rings and Hobbit movies, among others.

Maybe just listen. Okay, okay, after a few more glasses of a nice New Zealand wine, even a movie may be too challenging, so how about some NZ pop songs to listen to? The Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) has produced a list of what they say are the “Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time”. We actually own them on CDs of the artists, and also through CDs put out by APRA called Nature’s Best. Interested in more recent music? How about the “Official NZ Music Charts” listing of the Top 20 NZ singles. Let’s make it easy: You can even listen to the official chart on Spotify.

Those are just a few things anyone can do to play along on my birthday, and also avoid the events in Washington, DC. It’s a win/win, in other words. What can I say? I’m a giver.

Have fun!

Footnote: I really shouldn’t need to say this, but, this is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek post. I’m taking advantage of the convergence of my birthday and the hoopla happening at the same time in Washington, DC, which people really are looking to avoid, in order to promote some of the things I love most about New Zealand. And, who knows? Depending on how the next couple years go, some Americans may find the stuff in this post a sort of preparation for a move to New Zealand…

2Political Podcast 121 is available

We’re back!!
Episode 121 of the 2Political Podcast
is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Helpful neighbours

The photo with this post probably looks familiar. Over the years, I’ve shared many like it on this blog or through social media. But, I didn’t take this photo, and I found it by accident. Yes, there’s a story.

Yesterday I was checking Facebook, as one does, and among my notifications was one about a post to the Facebook Group for our local community. Nothing unusual in that, though I usually get the notifications about a day after the post was made, so I don’t see them in a timely manner.

So I went to check out the post to the group to see what the replies were, and then I scrolled down the page, as I usually do, to see what else had been posted since the last time I’d checked the group. A few scrolls down and I saw the photo. “That looks like Bella,” I thought to myself, and I remembered several of my photos of her that look virtually identical, most of which haven’t been shared.

Then I read the post.

The person who posted it asked, “Does anyone know this cat?”, and then added she’d been visiting for a few days, and was worried that she had no home and was staying out all night. I sent a private message to the person who posted it after a little “Facebook stalking” confirmed what I suspected, that she was a neighbour. I went over and collected Bella, brought her home and fed her, and she went out again—I assume back to their house.

This isn’t unusual behaviour for Bella, and she often fixates on one area to sleep for a few days or so before moving on. At other times she’d been in the common area out front, in front of a different neighbour’s house, or somewhere on our section, among other places. It’s a little unusual for her to stay away most of the day, as she has the past couple days, but certainly not unheard of.

I’m glad our neighbour cared enough about animals to ask if anyone in the area knew who Bella belonged to, and wanted to make sure she was looked after. The fact that she took to Facebook is a sign of the times, as is the fact that I saw it there. In fact, the only thing that’s unusual is that had I not gone to the group to check out an unrelated post, I may never have seen it.

What I haven’t mentioned is that until yesterday I’d never met the neighbours. They’ve lived there for some time, and I’ve caught glimpses of them, but never really even seen them. That meant there was never an opportunity to say hello and introduce myself, and these days no one goes out of their way to introduce themselves to their neighbours, anyway—and they haven’t for a very long time. So, even this aspect—that we’d never met the neighbours—isn’t in any way unusual.

But putting all that modernity aside, the important thing here is that people are as kind and decent as they’ve always been, and they still want to look out for what are clearly other people’s pets and to make sure they’re well. Those are good things. Had we known each other, it wouldn't have unfolded the way it did, so the modern norm of not knowing one’s neighbours was a problem. But another modern thing—use of Facebook—came through.

So, I’m glad that our neighbours are kind and caring, and even that Facebook gave me a reason to introduce myself. Sometimes, our modern systems can fix other problems changing times have created. This was one of those times.

Meanwhile, Bella probably went back over there today.

The very first photo of Bella that I shared on this blog back in 2010 was taken on our deck. Another photo I posted in 2012 was in a similar position to the neighbour’s photo, and one from last year, while very different, as a similar pose. Apparently, this is standard for taking photos of her.

Friday, January 13, 2017

President Obama Awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Biden

In a surprise move, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden. It was a well-deserved honour, and I wholeheartedly approve. Joe is thoroughly decent fellow, and, it’s pretty clear, has had an outstanding working partnership with President Obama.

I met Joe Biden once, decades ago, as I wrote about back in 2008. Even then I saw how decent he was—even though at that time we were in different parties.

Over the years, I grew to admire Joe as a US Senator. He was tenacious in fighting the good fight, never giving up.

As Vice President, Joe Biden has been great. Able to speak more freely than President Obama could, he sometimes cleared the are and swept away the bullshit that tends to pile up in Washington, DC.

So, I think he deserved this honour, more than any other vice president of my lifetime. I’m glad he was honoured in this way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

President Obama’s Farewell Address to the American People

Adapted from the description:

President Obama delivered his farewell address to the American people, where he thanked his supporters, celebrated the ways we have changed this country for the better these past eight years, and offered his vision on where we all go from here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

John Kerry apologises to LGBT people

Today US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology for the State Department’s years of open discrimination and persecution of LGBT people:
Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.

On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.
Kerry is referring to what has been called the “Lavender Scare” that was particularly evident in the 1950s and 1960s during which LGBT people were purged from the US Government. Much of this was done during the “Red Scare” purges, but it persisted longer.

This is merely the latest move in support of LGBT Americans by the Obama Administration, and the State Department specifically. It’s a welcome thing in itself, and a nice gesture as the Obama Administration prepares to leave office.

Today, too, Gallup released the results of a poll in which Americans assess progress under President Obama on a number of issues. On the “Situation for gays and lesbians”, 68% felt we made progress, 11% felt we stood still, and 16% felt we lost ground. Calling this “a Clear Bright Spot”, they commented:
Americans saw more progress on the situation for LGBT Americans than any other issue. Sixty-eight percent believe the situation for gays and lesbians improved under Obama, compared with 16% who say it lost ground. This likely reflects the shift toward majority approval of same-sex marriage during Obama's terms in office and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. [Link in the original]
I think Gallup’s assessment is correct, and a great many studies and polls now back up the assertion that acceptance in general for LGBT Americans has been growing, and also for marriage equality specifically.

My gut feeling—and it’s only that, because I know of no research to back this up—is that the 11% who felt things had “stood still” are probably on the Leftward side of Left, and the 16% who felt things went backwards are among the hardcore anti-LGBT people on the Right. I say this because overall, the average percentage of hardcore anti-LGBT people is a minority even among the rightwing, so 16% sounds like a reasonable guess for those who think that the USA should be anti-LGBT—to them, the USA has “lost ground” and “gone backward”.

Similarly, I think the reason that 11% say progress “stood still” is because of their ideology. In my view, it’s indisputable by any reasonable and rational measure that, overall, LGBT Americans have made progress. However, I can clearly see that there’s obviously still much work to be done, more progress to be made. The difference is that my own ideology doesn’t blind me to actual progress, while—in my personal experience—those on the Leftward side of Left take an “all or nothing” approach, so, since 110% of the necessary progress hasn’t been made, therefore, the USA has merely stood still. I quite obviously think that’s silly.

Secretary Kerry’s apology is probably the last positive thing for LGBT people we’ll see from the White House or federal departments for at least four years, given the open hostility to LGBT people by many of Don’s incoming gang, and virtually the entire Republican caucus controlling the US Congress. Next year, and every year for at least four, if Gallup polls on the same question, they’ll probably find a growing reversal of the “Made Progress” and “Lost Ground” percentages until 2020, when they will have completely reversed. So far, there’s been no absolutely reason for LGBT people to be optimistic about the next two, four, or more, years.

For now, though, this was a good and right thing to do.

For some background: Kerry apologizes for past LGBT discrimination at State DepartmentPolitico

Update: Gallup reported recently that "In US, More Adults Identifying as LGBT", which found that 10 million American adults identify as LGBT (4.1%), that LGBT millennials are up from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016, and that LGBT identification is higher among women.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Fake news and the biggest media problems of 2016

In the video above, Vox correctly points out that fake news is nothing new, and it even goes on to explain why it was able to become so big in 2016. However, I think it downplays the effects of fake news, even though doing so was in order to make a larger point. So, I think that the gist of what they’re saying is important, but could have been better.

It’s certainly true that fake news is not new, and it certainly wasn’t the sole factor in Hillary Clinton’s loss, but it was an important factor. This is because most people—Right and Left—didn’t (and still don’t) bother to check the veracity of facts in something they share if they agree with it’s point. However, when you look at the chart that Vox shares in the video, it’s clear that Don’s fans were much more willing to share anti-Hillary Clinton fake news than Clinton supporters were willing to share fake news about Don. That led to a LOT of negative noise about Hillary that was based on nothing but lies. I think Vox glossed over that part too much.

Nevertheless, their talk about what was wrong with the US newsmedia, particularly its obsession with its false equivalency fetish, was good. The US newsmedia was absolutely useless in the 2016 US election, and so far they haven’t improved very much.

Maybe the US newsmedia is waiting for the Orange Menace to actually be in the White House before taking him on, maybe they never will. But there’s plenty out there to tell them what they got wrong, and what they need to improve. This video is just one example of that.