Living on Tulsa Time

New Zealand exports a small but steady crop of collegiate athletes. So it’s not a huge surprise to see a commemorative license plate from the University of Tulsa, but still was worth a double take.

I haven’t actually been to Tulsa, but it strikes me as somewhere that a shiny black pickup would fit right in. And so again not a huge surprise to see that license plate on this Ford Ranger, which is one of the largest pickup trucks (known as ‘utes’ here) you can easily buy.

As the truck scowls imposingly at passers-by, across the street from Pizza Hut, I’m reminded just how pervasive the American influence is.

The Colours of Christmas

If you get a New Zealand Christmas card or postcard or calendar or placemats or really anything, it will have a pohutukawa on it like this one. That’s the colour of the flowers. The sky and the water will have those particular hues of blue and green.

If I hadn’t seen it for myself I would have said it was cheap printing, or over saturated for effect, or something. But no, this is what it looks like.

And I’m good with that.

This is the dawning of a new era

Today we wake up to the new COVID Protection Framework, which replaces the Alert Levels that have governed our lives these last 20 months.

In the new system, there’s traffic light levels. We start out in Red. Nearly all businesses can reopen (with masks and other restrictions), but staff and patrons all have to be vaccinated and show proof. When we move to Yellow, some of the limits are removed, and if we ever get to Green, life will be essentially like it was.

Vaccinations in Aotearoa New Zealand started a couple months late and were rolled out slowly compared to other OECD countries, but we’re now hitting 90% or more for adults and can expect the same thing for kids when they become eligible in January. Bam! Score one (more) for the Government.

We’re seeing 100+ new COVID cases per day in Auckland, although hospitalizations and deaths are really low. Apparently the vaccine works! We still can’t leave the metro area for another couple of weeks, while the recently vaccinated build antibodies and the outlying areas continue their vax drives. But it looks like the Christmas break… NZ pretty much shuts down and goes to the beach for a few weeks… will proceed. Big events like music festivals are still being postponed or canceled but otherwise it’s game on.

All of this is a fantastic result for those of us who believe in vaccination. Sadly for them, the un-vaxed will be (as of today) a new underclass, excluded from lots of societal benefits and actively discriminated against. They’ll be huddled out behind buildings, standing 2 metres away from the smokers I guess.

Happy Thanksgiving

We continued our NZ tradition of sharing Thanksgiving with a few expats. New friends Brian and Emily joined less new friends Neil and Dan on Saturday for a traditional menu dinner. It was nice to be in our own home surrounded by our own pictures and stuff this year.

It’s actually easier to cook the meal here because we’re all nostalgic for the basics… so no need to research the latest twist on dressing or cranberry relish.

The turkey came out looking beautiful but was sadly a little tough. There was plenty of gravy to make it all work.

Much to be thankful for even as we worry about whether the new omicron variant will derail the impending arrival of a new normal.

Ooh, you must work out a lot

One of the things we had shipped across the world was my Concept2 rowing machine. Part of me cringed at the expense, since it’s relatively big and heavy. But I’ve priced them here and they’re crazy expensive if you can even get one.

So now it lives in “my” room, which houses my office, the clarinet area, and now a workout area. But I don’t want to sweat all over the carpet so I got a hunk of garage carpeting (Google New Zealand carpeted garage… it’s a thing) to put underneath. It’s sitting there folded up because we had the carpets shampooed yesterday.

And so a cat perch is born. When she first got up there we both had some fun with her riding the sliding seat, but that was tiring and she just sort of passed out.

Picture This

One of the main reasons for shipping all our stuff from the US was to get our pictures back. Nothing of any particular monetary value, but lots of memories.

This grouping over the couch took a lot of measuring and re-measuring and finally came out pretty much as planned. It was good to have help during the layout phase…

The Morning After the Night Before, or The Leaning Tower of Pizzas

People in Auckland are ready for summer and have had enough of lockdown. A few are protesting, but many more are just sort of going about their business. Friday night at the beach clearly had household bubbles mixing more closely than the public health authorities would want. And a fair few pizzas were enjoyed, obviously.

But on Saturday morning as I headed into the water everything was tidied up waiting for collection. And by the time I got out it was all gone, ready for another day.

Public works

Our little corner of the world seems to be receiving lots of infrastructure attention from the powers that be. It’s all to the good as far as we’re concerned. After all, it takes a lot of walking trails and improved storm drains and laser level playing fields to sustain the high price of housing around here!

I’m a gull watcher

These red-billed gulls are super common around Auckland. They’re smaller and sleeker than the seagull archetype herring gulls (which we also have).

The red-billed gulls always seem like grumpy old men to me. They stand around and squawk. They’ll steal food off your picnic table, but somehow manage to make you feel guilty about it.

Walk This Way

On yesterday morning’s walk, I took advantage of low tide and a dry week to clamber down off the perfectly good footpath and cross on the silty foreshore. I got this nice shot of the old navigation marker or whatever that thing is from a new vantage point, yay!

Quite a lot of the bay is like this… naturally shallow, and silted in even more thanks to 100+ years of logging, farming, and building.

But silty mud is tricky… you’re walking along on slippery but solid ground and then “shloop!” you’re in up to the top of your shoes. Ah, the sacrifices we make for our art.

Too much work

We have a neighbor up the hill who manages to cram a lot of gardening into a very small space. We’ve chatted with her before and she’s even given us some plants.

A few weeks ago we spied artichokes growing in her little plot. One thing led to another and we now have one growing in our own yard. It’s first fruit is already the size of an apricot.

At the time she told us she just grew the plants for the foliage… eating them was way too much trouble. And in fact we’ve never seen an artichoke here. It’s just not a kiwi thing I guess.

But then! She came over with these three beauties and some random herbs and gave them to us. They really are a lot of work to eat, especially as these were smaller than US supermarket ones. But they had wonderful sweetness and made a fabulous dinner.

Maybe soon we’ll have some from our own plant!

Dinner is the new Kafka

As Auckland slowly — too slowly — emerges from its Delta variant lockdown, we’re now allowed to hold limited social gatherings. One household can mix with one other, and everyone is supposed to stay outdoors. With something over 90% of the population groups we normally socialize with being fully vaccinated, the risks seem manageable to us.

Last evening we headed over to a friend’s house for dinner, a thing we haven’t done in months. It was nice!

During the meal we learned that her 21 year old son who joined us over the roast salmon and quinoa salad is not only unvaccinated but has become deeply influenced by anti-rational teachings about vaccines and treatments and, well, almost everything.

I seldom get into ideological tussles with people whose beliefs I disagree with. I don’t think I have the power to change your mind about your gods or your death metal band or your candidate or your kooky diet fad. And for the most part that attitude gets me through social situations with a minimum of fuss. Your gods don’t have power over me, and if they help you live your life, well and good.

But last night I sort of lost it and lit into this young man. He showed me some of his canon of YouTube videos and web sites. He spoke of meta-analysis, Uttar Pradesh, and renowned cardiologists now scaling the ramparts of good sense in service of anti-vax and conspiratorial causes. I tried to speak about science and risk and the sheer lunacy of assuming that a few leaders are bent on hiding so much from so many.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the knowledge base, training or experience to even be talking about these topics. He obviously doesn’t understand what he’s saying in any logically consistent way… his worldview on all this amounts to here’s something I heard online and here’s something else I heard. Counter-arguments are dismissed with pseudo-rhetorical flourishes (I asked whether he believed his website or some other more reputable one and he said ‘that’s just an appeal to authority’) or a studied profession of ignorance (‘I don’t know about that but let me repeat what I just said’).

This non-dialogue went on until I was just unable to continue. No minds were changed as far as I could tell. I felt like the shocked and helpless protagonist in a Kafka story, transported to somewhere that just doesn’t make sense. But maybe that’s what it’s like dealing with any addict or cult member. I’m not in a position to give him a hug and $20 and an invitation to re-enter my life after he’s cleaned up, but that’s what I wanted to do.

We got through dinner and he retreated to his room and his Internet pipeline of mind sludge. And maybe, probably, it will all be ok. Even when COVID becomes endemic in our little city, which will happen soon, most people won’t die or be hospitalized because of it. I can only hope he’s not in the unlucky cohort so he has time to see other ways of thinking about the world. And I can hope that the psychic infection he has contracted is less contagious than COVID-19.

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