10 days in the hole

New Zealand’s national Coronavirus Level 4 Alert… lockdown… enters Day 11 today. So far, NZ COVID-19 cases are still doubling every few days, and we will hit 1,000 today. But only one death so far and about a dozen in the hospital. Fingers crossed.

The other day we took pictures of ourselves on the deck enjoying Prosecco and nibbles in the golden afternoon light that seem entirely insensitive in the face of so many images of bodies in New York and Milan and everywhere. So instead, here’s a more restrained glimpse of how we live now: frozen pizza which will be enjoyed in front of the TV.

But that Prosecco evening is real… not only are we not sick, in fact there are a lot of nice aspects to this surreal interval. It’s been glorious weather, and the lack of cars on the road only enhances our own quality of life. The neighborhood seems more alive than ever, since people are here, walking around in family-group bubbles, instead of driving around doing stuff. I’m working from home, which is fine. We’ve been getting out for fresh air walks and plenty of other exercise (although they’ve just officially banned swimming which is sad for me). We haven’t experienced problems at the grocery store. And so on.

Of course there are disruptions and new uncertainties in our lives… Lee’s brand-new part-time job is mostly on hold, and might not exist for long, which would be a shame. We miss the activities we can’t do, and that will get worse as time goes on. In the short term, the financial impacts for us are manageable, but we know even less about what our retirement options will look like.

But overall, it’s a time for serious gratitude that we find ourselves in what seems like one of the right-est places in this wrong-est of times.

Bare Necessities

So far NZ is faring remarkably well in the pandemic. Confirmed cases are rising rapidly, but no fatalities yet. It helps to have good border security (which comes from being an island at the far bottom corner of the world) and a social compact that seems to keep people working basically together.

We are finishing our first day of full lockdown. So far so good. The pool is closed and I’m working from home, but otherwise no significant changes in my normal weekday routine. The lack of cars outside is eerie and glorious. We went for a walk to the grocery store, which was calm and surprisingly well stocked. We found every item on our list. Later I went for a bike ride down by the beach.

The conditions are civilised… for example, the government is encouraging us to get out and exercise (with 2-metre social distancing). And all “essential services” including mail delivery, supermarkets, and trash pickup are still on. Buses and trains are still running, for free, so you can get to the grocery store.

And speaking of essential services, I got a nice email from the liquor store saying that online order and delivery of spirits has been declared an essential service.

Now I know I can weather the storm.

Kia Kaha!

Stay Strong!

Today New Zealand’s most awesome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told us we’re heading to Coronavirus Alert Level 4, which looks and sounds a lot like house arrest. We have 48 hours to get our shit together, and then … stay indoors for four weeks at least.

I listened to the announcement live and find myself genuinely wanting to obey and to help. Whatever combination of what she said and how she said it made me believe, which I reckon is all any politician can hope for. And I know at least one specific phrase that resonated with me… “we listened to the science”. Ok, boss, lead on.

Most of the handful of people who will read this post are already experiencing something like the quarantine we’re about to go into, some easier and some harder. Yesterday sort of felt like a snow day… mostly novel, therefore fun, with just a touch of anxiety. But that’s gone because the virus is officially here and spreading. People in my neighborhood will die sooner than expected. So now we gird: we tuck our emotional chins and raise our epidemiological fists, we tally up supplies and prepare for shortages, we confront the losses of gym and pub and library, we start Googling Winston Churchill quotes. And in the few hours remaining before all the shops close, we nip out for a bottle of gin just to be sure.

Wherever you are and whatever happens … Kia Kaha!

Takin a Roadie

Yesterday’s adventures in house hunting took us to the northern suburbs. You can get a bit more for your money up there.

For whatever reason, Google Maps always highlights a relatively small number of landmarks even when you’re zoomed pretty far out. And somehow in Glenfield, the landmark of choice is a roadhouse bar called The Postman’s Leg.

Agonizing over housing is thirsty work so we stopped in for a pint and to see if we could figure out why Google loves this place so much.

Well, it was a fun bar, had a nice cheeseburger and listened to the Recliner Rockers, who were the perfect band for the setting. Even at their somewhat advancing ages, they put on an energetic show. Here, the guitarist is standing on the bass and playing the guitar over his head. Because why not??

It’s Taurite With Me

We saw this show yesterday , part of the Auckland Fringe Festival, and it was amazing! (I think in Te Reo Māori it would be pronounced TAOH-ri-teh which ruins the “awright” pun in the post title. But just go with it, okay?)

I admit to some trepidation about going to a Māori modern dance program… but again… amazing.

Hard to describe, but they somehow combined the haka (the challenging dance you see before an All Blacks game) and some pretty high concept dance and some martial arts stuff and some singing and chanting and probably a bunch of Māori mythology references I missed.

Better late than never

Today I started classes at Unitec toward my Postgraduate Diploma in Computing, with an emphasis in cybersecurity. The PGDip is a really cool degree here, like a light, non-thesis Masters.

In the first session I was one of only two European persons… most are Indian with a few Chinese thrown in. I texted that class makeup to one of my (Indian) employees, who responded “and I bet both white guys are managers.” Ouch… but possibly true. #rememberyourprivilege

Poirot and Less

Last weekend we went to see David Suchet, the inimitable Hercule Poirot, in his one-man show Poirot and More. In the first half, we were treated to a bunch of witty anecdotes following the friendly prompts of an interviewer, but honestly it was a bit underwhelming. His life before becoming an actor was comfortable enough, and he made a decent career right from the start, and then found a role that millions of people loved…. including me.

In the second half, he gave us a sort of acting masterclass for laymen… notes about how he prepares, how he looks at and listens to a script, that sort of thing. He knocked out a bunch of speeches and that was pretty good, but I did doze a bit I’m afraid.

Maybe my evening mirrored my biggest criticism of the evening… i was pretty comfortable when I walked in, and nothing really happened to change that. Makes for a less interesting blog.

So, I went out looking to see what other people thought and found a great review. This writer achieves a much richer emotional experience than I did from pretty similar source material (except our seats were really comfy). So, enjoy the ride with her, it’s more interesting!

Why it’s hard

This message from a recent Apple update gives me comfort… everybody makes mistakes, or maybe even makes choices to release the product anyway and fix it later. Even the best software shops in the world occasionally leave their arrhythmic Icelander users out in the proverbial cold.

I’m going to go in to work today and beat up on my team because the little asterisk that’s supposed to mean “mandatory” doesn’t appear on a form in an app and the customer found that big before we did. But I’ll show them this picture as a reminder that they’re doing about as well as Apple, and on a much smaller budget.

Paint Night

For Valentines Day Lee found us a fun paint night downtown. Chickadees perched a branch that was incongruously covered in both snow and ripe cherries might not have been the most obvious path to a masterpiece, but we had fun. It was amazing how “draw an oval and then another one” turned into some nice birds on Lee’s canvas and ended up looking like ovals on mine.

Waitangi Day 2020

Waitangi Day

Chuffed! NZ has its own Google Doodle celebrating Waitangi Day today, yay! The Prime Minister would have made this announcement herself, but she was busy cooking breakfast for the people gathered at the Treaty Grounds for the annual celebration. Because she’s awesome like that.

jacinda

More From Sydney

What a difference a day makes… look at that sky. Some rain came through, cooled things off and cleared the air.

This cool statue guards my hotel.

The Opera House at night.

Their lunar festival lanterns are way bigger than Auckland’s.

Operatic Sydney Busker

This woman had a great set of pipes and a good sound system, so you faintly heard the music a block away. I couldn’t tell if she was a truly good singer or not, but she was certainly good at tugging on the heartstrings!

Action Man

That, my fellow Americans, and my formerly European friends in the still for the moment United Kingdom, is Action Man.

Action Man was G.I. Joe in other markets and has quite a history. How he ended up wearing this rather unconventional collection of accessories (outside of the highly sought after Action For Men Rainbow NightClub play set) is unknown.

We met him on the way in to tour an open house that we were already leery about… would a large complex of townhouses we can afford be a bit too noisy and full of kids for us? Yes, said Action Man, it will. It most certainly will.

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