In which she asks the government to be as civic-minded as a regional gang #feedthekids
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
In response to Metiria Turei's blog post on the Feed the Kids bill, I've emailed the following to our prime minister:

Tēnā koe,

There's no more obvious moral position that children deserve to be fed. It's so obvious that nothing more can be said about it.

It's almost as obvious that when children are well-fed, it's not only good for their future — better health, better socialisation, and better education — but also, by extension, for the future of New Zealand: lower healthcare costs, less crime, a more skilled workforce and stronger economy.

At the moment, many children aren't getting the food they need. We can argue about who ought to be feeding them, but pointing a finger won't feed the children. We can argue about why they're not being fed, but trying to follow the complex chains of cause and effect back to their origins will open a can of worms that will make better food for birds and fish than children. And we can argue about exactly how a bill should be phrased and targeted and implemented to be most efficient, but the most efficient bill in the world is no use until it's passed into law.

Children are hungry right now, and to solve that we need to do one thing: feed them. Right now.

The Tribal Huks gang in the Waikato have recognised this and stepped up to feed hungry schoolchildren in their region, to an outpouring of public support. Can National, the government, and New Zealand, show ourselves any less ready to give our children the food they need and deserve?

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill.

Nāku noa, nā
[wallet name, city]

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In which she goes to kindy
books, read
zeborahnz
I've got a lovely two-week holiday so today, instead of leaving for work after my regular Sunday sleep-over with friends, I went with them when they took their three-year-old to his first (half-)day of kindergarten. It was the first time they'd left him alone with strangers so they were a little twitchy though also looking forward to having a bit of time without a preschooler around to catch up on things that preschoolers like to help with, like climbing ladders and painting and varnishing things.

In due course, we also went to pick him up again. He was looking at a picture book and asked me to read it, and about three seconds into it another boy appeared and handed me another book to read, and that's how I ended up reading "Maui's Fish" and "Princess Lulu and the Sleep Stealer" to four kindy kids.

(And then it being a gorgeous day we went to the beach and played frisbee and excavated a water channel while building a castle wall beside it and didn't get sunburned because they made me put sunscreen on even though I hate how greasy it is. I'm glad I'm not staying the night tonight because that's going to be one tired kid.)

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In which she proposes a cure for the world's ills
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
Last week New Zealand's centre-right party won the election as thoroughly as you can or need to in order to govern unimpeded for the next three years, and the left-leaning among us are doing the usual post-mortem.

Do we blame the non-voters? The misinformed voters? The greedy voters? The unappealing centre-left party? The corrupt centre-right party? The naive internet party who thought that people would change their votes when corruption was alleged?

No, I think we need to accept the fact that 48% of voters honestly believe that the centre-right's economic policies are standing us in good stead as a country. Partly they believe this because said party has lied to them about how we're in fact doing. But mostly they believe it because it makes sense. It fits the Story, the story that's wound its way about the globe and is shaping society and economics worldwide by convincing us to fear and distrust our fellow human beings and vote for the government that will protect us from them.

I call the Story "Bludgers vs Bootstraps". It's a story of the lazy beneficiary who's bludging off the state. You know they're a lazy bludger because they're a beneficiary. If they weren't lazy, they'd pull themselves up by their bootstraps, get a job, and become a productive member of society. But they don't have a job so they're not productive so they're a bad person -- or at the very least they've made bad choices and now they need to take responsibility for that. (At worst, they're actively milking the benefit for all it's worth, or even defrauding it.) And if they won't do it themselves, then they need to have their benefit taken away from them in order to motivate them to go and do the thing with the bootstraps.

Like all victim-blaming, this story is tremendously comforting. Because if every poor person made a Bad Choice, then all you need to do to avoid poverty is to make all the Right Choices.

And because people need the Story to allay their fears, the harder you work to point out a case that doesn't fit the narrative, the harder they'll work to identify the Bad Choice that proves it does fit it. (To see this happen, I refer to every newspaper comment section ever.) It's still worth telling these counter-narratives, I think, as innoculation if nothing else, but it's not sufficient.

What we really need is a New Story, and this is what it is:

People are inherently good.

People want a job that's meaningful: a job that doesn't just support themselves, doesn't just support their families, but actually improves the world in some other way too. People will settle for a meaningless job if they have to, but they won't be happy about it, because people want to be useful to their fellow human beings.

And whether luck grants them a job or not, people help their fellow humans in a thousand other ways. They look after children. They edit Wikipedia. They garden, making the environment more beautiful and sharing vegetables and fruit with neighbours and colleagues. They volunteer time in churches and clubs and charities. They write cheques and donate old clothes. They smile at people in the street. They pick up a wallet and hand it in. They give spare change to someone asking for 'busfare'. They yarnbomb construction fences and set up bookcrossing zones. They see a house on fire and go in to rescue the inhabitants and then they carry on to their dayjob.

Running into a burning building isn't a smart thing to do, but it's the human thing to do. Because people are just this incredibly hardworking, generous, caring species.

And when we all believe this story, we won't have to fear poverty because we'll know that people will support us. Just the way we support other people. Because this is what people do.

And we'll want to spread this story, and there are two ways of doing that:
  • Telling the story: Tell your friends and neighbours and colleagues and busdrivers and checkout operators about one of those many times that someone did something nice for you. Obviously you want to try and have this bear some relevance to your conversation, but you know what I mean.
  • Creating the story: Be that person doing something nice for your friend or neighbour or colleague or busdriver or checkout operator, so that they have a story to tell too.
I'm not going to promise that spreading this story will get the centre-left party straight back into power. Actually, I think its real success will be judged by how it changes the policies of the centre-right party. This will take time, just as the old story took time to spread in the first place. But it will spread, because it's true and because it's awesome -- and because each act of spreading it makes someone's life better, and that's what we all want to be a part of.

[Links are welcome, as are stories of you or others doing nice things for someone else.]

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In which she has been neglecting LiveJournal
Stressed, stress and confusion
zeborahnz
I just by accident went to my LJ homepage and saw my most recent post was from ages ago. Apparently when I changed all my passwords around Heartbleed time I forgot that Dreamwidth requires my password in order to crosspost. Whoops!

So if you follow me on LJ you may (or may well not) want to catch up with my posts on Dreamwidth. Despite it being ages ago there's only been about ten since; to wit, in reverse chronological order:

In which she watches the second episode (Doctor Who 08.02)
In which she practices her spongebath skills
Fanfic: Really Slowly. In the Right Order. (part 12/12)
In which another Doctor
Fanfic: Really Slowly. In the Right Order. (part 5/12) [NB links to all other parts on Archive of Our Own]
In which she learns a new theory of the elements
In which she baits the phone scammers
In which she produces a unified theory of yellow
In which she submits her hatred of Riccarton Road
In which Easter is all about autumn

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In which she has a timely idea
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
A friend and I were discussing things a week ago and this concept popped into my head of a time capsule website, where you could read something written by someone a {time period} ago and write something of your own for a stranger a {time period} in the future.

I like this idea, and I could make the technical side of this idea happen; what I'm wondering is whether enough other people like this idea that it'd be worth me spending the time on it. So this post is that question.

How it'd work
For the first year after launch, it'd be seeded with diary material that's in the public domain, because otherwise it'd be boring. So you'd arrive on this page and it'd say "100 years ago today, someone wrote: {random diary entry}".

Then below this would be a box asking you to write about something that you think will be forgotten in a year's time. (Or some other prompt, or a choice of prompts.)

You'd type stuff in the box.

There would be metadata, with explanations why each is necessary. Definitely:
  • a timestamp, autogenerated. (Needed so it can be retrieved at the appropriate point in the future.)
  • language, to allow for multilingual capability
and I think demographic metadata (for purposes of "Am I getting sufficiently diverse submissions or do I need to reach out to other audiences?" and potentially for research/historical value, see below on human ethics discussion):
  • a city- or country-level location, guesstimated by computer but correctable. (Plus because it might be cool to give future-people the entry closest to their location.)
  • gender? age? ethnicity? sexuality? religion? I don't know, what would be useful/appropriate/intrusive? Anyway they'd all default to unspecified, and have a dropdown menu with options including a "write-in" option that'd pop up a box (whose contents would be added to the drop-down menu for future visitors)
And then before you hit the 'submit' button there'd be a permissions section (here's my attempt at being a good human ethicist), telling people that:
  • linky link to privacy policy, which will be:
    • I'll keep their submission as private as I can but NSA and warrants exist
    • the text only (no demographic metadata) will be displayed to someone in one year's time and potentially at other intervals thereafter (eg ten years, a hundred years (I can dream big))
    • I may publish aggregated demographic data but it won't link in any way to the entries
  • in the event that I can no longer maintain the website they can choose whether I will:
    • delete all their data
    • include their entry, but not the demographic metadata, in a bundle licensed CC-Zero and posted to figshare for the benefit of researchers and other interested parties
    • include their entry *with* the demographic metadata in said bundle
In a year's time, visitors would start seeing these user-submitted entries.

Important enhancement: email list/RSS feed/twitter that sends out a random entry each day and prompts people to make a submission.



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In which she does a Great Fair Trade Easter Egg Hunt
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
I've switched to Fair Trade chocolate, because it tastes of freedom (and especially dark chocolate, because I can snack on dairy milk until the whole block's demolished whereas with dark a couple of squares are enough, so my money and teeth last longer).

So I've been looking around for Fair Trade chocolate Easter eggs and wow that's not so easy. The options I've found are:


  • Cadbury's 65g Fair Trade Dairy Milk Easter Egg. Note that Cadbury make a big deal about how all their Dairy Milk chocolate is Fair Trade. It's really important to note that Dairy Milk refers to one of their products. It doesn't mean all of their milk chocolate products (like Black Forest, Caramello, etc) are Fair Trade. In fact you can tell they're not because they don't proudly sport the Fair Trade logo. Webpages like this, I can't even tell where the spin stops and the doublespeak begins. In short, if you can't see the Fair Trade logo with your own eyes, it's not Fair Trade, it's Cadbury hoping they've misled you with a sequence of carefully selected and phrased facts.

  • Plamil's 85g organic Easter egg. I'm a little concerned at the idea of dairy-free milk chocolate, but if you like milk chocolate and can't tolerate dairy this is probably awesome. If you don't live in Auckland the Cruelty Free Shop appears to ship.



I'm not so certain about:

  • Moo Free Bunny Bar, because this is described as "using a combination of natural, organic and fair trade ingredients" which has ambiguous scoping (is it combining organic-and-fair-trade ingredients, or is it combining organic ingredients and fair trade ingredients?) and doesn't sport a Fair Trade logo.



Another alternative seems to be to hop on a plane to Melbourne and buy from:


So the other alternative is to buy some chocolate moulds and some:

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, the kind that has the Fair Trade logo on it

  • Whittaker's Creamy Milk or Dark Ghana chocolate, see also re Fair Trade logo

  • Green and Blacks any flavour, look how they all have the Fair Trade logo!



I've resorted to this method (using Whittaker's Dark Ghana and these silicone moulds. (I know many people hate silicone but it is fantastic at being non-stick which is really important for this purpose.) It's much more time consuming than visiting the store, and the resulting hollow eggs are kind of fragile and messy-looking, while the solid chicks are really solid. But otoh chocolate is a lot cheaper by the block than in Easter Egg form, so I guess there's some savings there.

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In which Twitter moves her cheese
Stressed, stress and confusion
zeborahnz
So I'm back in Christchurch and it's 1:30am and the cat is making it hard to type she's so busy marking me with her scent and I just want to say "I'm home!" on Twitter and also follow someone back before the notification disappears in the depths of my inbox. But

a) Tweetdeck is acting up, and
b) twitter.com is telling me to download apps. I have an app, it's not working, therefore I want to login on the website but there's no login button and it's 1:30am and I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!

...Oh, apparently logging in on the website counts as "other devices". I. Just.

Whatever, Twitter. Whatever.

Handy tip: at least if you present as a harmless white female and it's midnight and the line at customs is somewhat long, if you declare some technically declarable but really super harmless product like dried ginger, they then wave you right past the x-ray machines that would require you to take your laptop out again from the bag whose zip is a nuisance to close when you have to put it back in.

(Though I've actually now mostly got the hang of the precise angle at which to hold the zip, the bag, myself, my tongue, etc in order to make it work.)

And so to bed.

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In which she conferences hard
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
Today started (after a certain amount of groaning and dragging myself out of bed) with a vendor breakfast. I avoid vendor things labelled as "hors d'oeuvres" because they're generally at the time of day when you're exhausted and starving and they want you to stand around attempting to subsist on food that would barely satisfy a sparrow and alcohol that would inebriate an ox. But a seated three-course breakfast seemed worth tolerating some vendor speeches for, even if it was at seven thirty in the morning. Luckily my cold was much alleviated overnight plus I planned ahead and took my own tissues.

Course one was muesli, yoghurt and fruit; course two was a breakfast steak, bacon, poached egg, tomato, mushrooms, and smashed potato; course three was various breads. Courses one and two were actually on the table the whole time, along with tea, coffee and juice; the above order is based on the menu which we all, more or less, obediently followed. Smashed potato, for the curious, appears to be what happens when the cook is too lazy to either mash the potato properly for hash browns or cut it properly for fries. I sound like I judge, but it does create a fun random mix of soft and crispy.

There followed eight hours' worth of sessions and mingling. I caught up with an old colleague who now works in Dubai, various other old colleagues, a lot of vendors at their stalls (they like someone to tell about their products; I like the free USB sticks. Also some of the products even if mostly we still can't afford them - actually it's often most useful to talk to the vendors whose products we already subscribe to because they can tell us the goss as I can nag them about those bugs we keep reporting), and a few strangers who have migrated to a system we're going to migrate to. After the last session there were drinkies and sparrow hors d'oeuvres, but it was bearable because there was also icecream (provided by a vendor, I think) and a magic show.

Then I came back to my hotel to crash for a couple of hours before dinner and realised it was already seven twenty. So that was a day.

In new and unexciting random maladies, my socks are perhaps too tight for twelve hours of conferencing because I now have an achy ankle. Also using my salbutamol inhaler because my lungs like the air conditioning (plus virus) as little as the rest of my respiratory system, yay.

--Okay, the "30 free minutes per 24 hours" doesn't seem to have a set rollover time, it wants to be at least 24 hours since you last used it.

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In which, Reader, she bought them
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
Okay, so this thing with the sore throat and stuffy nose which is totally the air conditioner and not a cold? It might be a cold too. In that I spent all of today's conference raiding their tissues and feeling faintly scatter-brained. However this was all stuff we really need to know at work so I stayed on infecting people for the bulk of the day and just bailed at the start of the wrap-up session.

I wasn't so sick that on the way home I couldn't stop off to do a bit of vital tourist shopping including these loves of my life:

Blue sandals, purple soles

On the rest of my way home I came across an incredible number of police at a couple of intersections, like a dozen per intersection, a pair of whom at each intersection were directing traffic. Possibly some traffic lights were broken, though most of them looked fine? It was a mystery and most of the police were just standing around on the corners in hi-vis vests. Anyway, while I was trying to a) work out what on earth they were doing there but b) not attract attention because law-abiding citizen foreigner or not, that many police in one spot is slightly intimidating especially when one of them gets real mad at a car not paying attention and starts shouting at it -- so anyway, this other car pulls over halfway across the intersection in what seems a really weird way to be behaving when there are all these scary police massed in one location, and then a taxi cab pulled over behind it, and then I remembered that Australia has this weird traffic rule for turning right.

(US folk should here substitute "turning left" for "turning right". It's the turn that goes across the oncoming traffic.)

In the rule I'm familiar with, if you want to turn right and there's only one lane, you pull as far into the intersection and to the right as you can go without getting sideswiped by the oncoming traffic. It's possible that doing this isn't entirely legal, but short of a right-turn arrow it's often the only way to turn right, because as the lights change anyone who's already in the intersection has to complete the turn to get out of it, whereas anyone who follows the rules and waits behind the lines has to just stay there.

In Australia, apparently what you do is you pull as far into the intersection as you can go, except you pull to the left. This seems really counterintuitive to me. At the same time I can see that pulling to the right could cause problems with trams which run in the centre of the road. Is this the reason for it? Or is it to allow the traffic going straight to "pass on the right"? It looks really weird but it seems to work in that everyone other than me knew what was going on and all the traffic present seemed to get where it wanted to get to.

(ETA: explanations in Dreamwidth comments.)

After all this excitement I spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening dozing. With the air conditioner off because air conditioning is still evil and it's a lot cooler today anyway: there was cloud and wind and even spots of something trying to be rain. Currently attempting to eat something despite a complete lack of appetite, and hoping I'm better for tomorrow's conference because I don't have my favourite aloe tissues here.

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In which she is still in Melbourne and uncreative in the ways of titles
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
So I succumbed to the lure of the opals; I ended up preferring the white because if I wanted shiny-irridescent blue jewelery I'd get paua. (Paua doesn't do the thing with the red, but a proper black opal with red is not really in my discretionary budget.)

Then I got on a train out to meet [personal profile] deird1. The countryside in this area feels much like Canterbury (in fact there's a town?/station called Canterbury, but that's a complete coincidence and of course I don't mean that one, nor the original in England, I mean Canterbury New Zealand as in home) except with vastly more eucalyptus / gum trees. We drove up the hill and it turns out that when there are lots of gum trees all together, being all forest-like and such, they grow straight instead of gnarly. It's a little strange and very pretty because gum trees have the most gorgeous bark with those patchy colours. --And then we had lunch, and then we wandered through all the crafty stores in the areas (there's a toy store with puppets and Sylvanians! I'd forgotten about the Sylvanians! also a lace store and kitchenware store and soaps-and-oils store and a place with those trees crafted out of wire and gems, and this great place with wooden chests and globes and magnifying glasses and rugs and all, you half expect to come across the wardrobe to Narnia). And we compared notes on childhood lollies and generally had a great time.

In due course I took the train back home again, which went well for the first few stops. Then there was apparently a power outage at some station so we were hanging around Ringwood station while they tried to arrange buses instead.

(Have I mentioned there's a bit of a heat wave going on here at the moment? The hotel has this electronic noticeboard that insists that the high is 32 degrees and the low 21 degrees -- however I've just noticed that it also insists that the date is Thursday 30th January. I remember Thursday. It was quite warm, but it's grown significantly warmer since then.)

Buses not being immediately forthcoming, after a while I decided to wander around Ringwood, to wit: walk ten minutes to the shopping mall which had air conditioning and a McDonalds, who sell this fantastic salt delivery mechanism they call 'fries'. Having been drinking substantial amounts of water and possessing a general awareness of cell biochemistry, this seemed like a good idea. I also got some grapes (I was right, fruit's cheaper in supermarkets that aren't in a train station in the Melbourne CBD) and drank more water.

I got back to the train station in time to squeeze onto a replacement bus. It was very much standing room only and hot enough that I had the sweat literally running down the backs of my legs. This isn't quite the first time I've had that, but it was probably the most dramatic and it's a really weird feeling, like someone's turned the tap and just opened up your pores.

So eventually we got back to a train station that had trains that a) could take us back into town and b) had air conditioning. Got back into town and my swipe card wouldn't let me out the turnstile. I don't know what the problem was (did it get confused at the 3-hour journey? did I fundamentally misunderstand the fare structure and overdraw the card? was it a random malfunction? no-one will ever know) because the nice Metro man just swiped me out with his card.

Upon which I came back to the hotel via a shop window which has these awesome shoes in it. You guys, I normally have real trouble shoe shopping. Currently I quite desperately need more sandals and I love that at the moment there are lots of sandals in nice colours (like, there are sandals in colours!) and lots of sandals with low heels and in fact these two sets overlap a reasonable amount. Yet until now, all summer, I've been seeing pairs that have slightly too high of a price:motivation ratio. They look okay, they're just not convincing. But this pair, love at first sight. Just as soon as I walk past this shop when it's open, if they feel as nice on my feet as they look in the window they will be mine.

Back at the hotel I took a shower in my clothes which I've never done before but it was fantastic, I should do it more often when it's 40-something degrees out, and then I got into dry clothes and crashed on my bed.

When I woke up I felt cooler because air conditioning and it was late, so I put on my jacket and wandered out for dinner. Hahaha, what was I thinking? I so didn't need my jacket. But I got some fantastic kimchi soup in this restaurant playing a fantastic sequence of Korean pop and "Do you want to build a snowman?" and more Korean pop and "Unbreak my heart". I don't know who programmed that mix tape but they're probably going to be recognised as a genius by generations to come.

After depositing my jacket back in the hotel, I went to wander the South Bank (thanks [personal profile] deird1 for the tip!) Currently it's full of stalls with South-East Asian foods and plants and toys and fans and knick-knacks; and a concert going on and wow that woman can't hold a note to save her life but major props that she's managing to dance in this weather. On this leisurely wander of less than an hour I drank a third pint of water for the day (not counting soup or multiple glasses of water at meals): I'm staving off dehydration pretty well if I do say so myself, but my inner ear appears to be a little bewildered by the weather all the same.

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