zeborah: Zebra with stripes falling off (stress and confusion)
On Wednesday lunchroom conversation at work turned to "no-one knows people in their neighbourhood anymore" and I opined that this might be more a factor of people moving a lot: whereas I've lived in my house for 12 years and, despite being pretty antisocial I'm now getting to know a good number of the neighbours.

(On reflection, other factors are probably that "the people who you meet when you're walking down the street" don't get met if instead of walking down the street you walk only to your car and then drive down the street; and that more and more both/all adults in a family have to work during the day so there's less opportunity for interaction.)

These are the people in my neighbourhood )


Wednesday afternoon, after the long-aforementioned lunchroom discussion, I come home and the boy who appears to be the Deaf girl's younger brother greets me with "This is from your mailbox." Holding up a bag with a notebook and pen in it that I keep in my mailbox for the noting of messages in case of emergency. I said, "...Yes, yes it is," and put it back and went into my house.

Ten minutes later I'm grabbing a zucchini and some silverbeet from the garden when K comes over to give me a lovely gift set of nice sauces. My guess is that it came from someone's well-intentioned contribution to a food parcel, because she immediately asked if she could borrow some money. I happened to have the $20 she paid me back last time so gave her that.

Ten minutes later I'm chopping up vegetables for my dinner when the Deaf girl knocks on my door and shows me her broken scooter. I poke ineffectually at it for a while with various tools, then decide it really needs the nuts taken off which I can't do. So I'm halfway to next door to see if they have what it takes when I hear the distinctive sound of power tools. Immediately changing direction I find someone with an entire car-yard in his driveway. Once I've explained the situation he immediately agrees to fix it: "Anything for the neighbourhood kids."

Which I feel is a lovely end to the day.

But then as I'm cooking my dinner the Deaf girl comes back to ask my name. It takes her three goes before I understand but then we spend some time fingerspelling and then I confirm with paper just to be sure. (I'll call her H.) She takes this opportunity to wander through my entire house touching everything at which point I'm... what is going on here. I explain I'm eating and show her to the door.

Halfway through dinner she's back. I explain again that I'm eating. At some point this turns into a tour of the garden (it's now after dark). I start wondering if I've given her the impression that I'm going to give her something to eat, so grab a bunch of grapes off the vine for her and send her on her way.

Today I go to several neighbours both on this street and the street behind us to ask if anyone's seen my missing cat. (The majority of them ask "The black and white one?" Sadly no, but I know the one they mean.) [ETA: the cat came back the next morning, in 'recovering from mystery illness mode'.] When I'm back, K comes over to ask if she can borrow more money; I say I don't have any cash. (This is not strictly true to the extent that I do in fact have cash, but I also have limits. Poorly defined limits, but limits.)

As she goes, H comes and wants to hang out. Or something. I try to explain I can't and she seems to go away. For about five minutes. At some point I go and hide in one the spare bedroom to attempt to ignore the knocking on the door; it doesn't help much. I'd have gone to the library except it was closed for Anzac Day. I did take the opportunity to teach myself some NZSL online; unfortunately what I taught myself was "I'm busy doing stuff, sorry, go home."

On the bright side she does clearly understand when I sign this to her! Yay communication! She goes away and I breathe a sigh of relief. On the downside, she comes back again, and again, and again. (She knocked on the door again while I was writing the above paragraph.) I get the impression of a) some degree of intellectual disability, hard to be sure given my lack of NZSL but OMG boundaries, plus b) a bunch of loneliness such that being able to talk with someone who knows like six words including "go home" is really exciting.

I should go talk to her family and say actually I'd love to practice my pathetic NZSL with her, but, like, once a week max at a predetermined time. Or at least just on the footpath. It's just, I've already talked to more humans in the last 24 hours than I ideally prefer, and could happily go another month without any more interaction with any of my neighbours at all.

zeborah: zebra in profile, its mane stylised as a piano keyboard (music)
So I was attempting to filk "Let It Snow" in order to be more appropriate for local Christmas weather conditions, and I accidentally made it inappropriate for almost any possible purpose.

With apologies to Cahn and Styne and to Browning: sorry not sorry....

Porphyria's Lover's Christmas

Oh, the weather outside's disgusting
But your eyes are just so trusting
And since you love me again,
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!

It doesn't show signs of ceasing
And my joy is fast increasing.
I can't let this pure moment wane -
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!

Now I've thought of a thing to do.
I'm strangling you with your own hair.
Your lips match your eyes' clear blue.
All the night long you'll be there.

Oh, the gale has got quite violent.
It's weird though that God's so silent.
I'm quite sure you felt no pain.
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!
zeborah: zebra in profile, its mane stylised as a piano keyboard (music)
So, in 1944 Frank Loesser wrote a song for him and his wife Lyn Garland to sing at parties. It proved popular, he sold it to MGM for the movie Neptune's Daughter, and it got even more popular[1]. 70-odd years later it's embedded in the American consciousness as a traditional Christmas carol, and so far and wide people are outraged when an Ohio radio station pulls it from the air as a gesture of respect to #MeToo[2].

Discourse seems to be roughly divided between
  • a) "PC gone mad!" [no citation needed; you'll find this expressed in every possible newspaper/blog/YouTube comments section] which deserves little respect;

  • b) "This song is pretty date-rapey"[3], which deserves some consideration; and

  • c) "Actually no she's really into it"[4] which accordingly considers it but respectfully disagrees.

So here's my take: That third argument is a pretty compelling analysis of how the song was written, performed, and appreciated in 1944. Granted Frank introduced himself as the "evil of two Loessers" when they sang it, and the score has the female part as "Mouse" and the male part as "Wolf"[1], because technically social mores of the time frowned on a gentleman pressuring a lady in the way he does in this song.

But when Frank and Lyn sing it[5], even without video you can hear her smiling on lines like "Maybe just a half a drink more". In the film choreography[6] Eve is totally flirting with Jose: there are little smiles and coy glances throughout, and when she puts a hat on and he takes it straight off, there's no shock or fear or irritation or struggle, she just moves to the next thing with no attempt to evade him doing exactly the same again. (I'm a bit more concerned about the gender-swapped version that follows for comedic effect; that comedy gets in the way of figuring out how Jack really feels about Betty's advances.)

In 1944 a woman couldn't say yes and still be respected in the morning. If she wanted sex, she had to play the "no, no, no" game so that "at least I'm gonna say that I tried". In those performances, Mouse and Wolf are playing the game, and the audience is thoroughly in on it. (We may not get to see a kiss but there's got to be a reason Wolf goes from "your lips look delicious" to "your lips are delicious" and Mouse then requests the use of his comb!) Only the Hayes Office seems to have missed the joke since somehow they thought this song was more appropriate than "Slow Boat To China"[7] despite the two songs clearly coming to the same implicit conclusion.

But 2018 is a different time. I know, this is ordinarily a speciously ahistorical argument, so let me clarify. I'm not saying we have a better understanding of rape, or more respect for a woman who isn't consenting. That's rubbish. Valuable as the solidarity has been, #MeToo hasn't yet changed our broader culture much outside of a lot of headlines sold and a few token efforts at taking a song or two off the air: men are still having sentences reduced or commuted, or simply not getting convicted at all, for the sake of their precious reputations.

No, the key difference is that it's now more or less widely understood that if a woman wants sex, she can say so -- yet we still struggle with the idea that if a woman says she doesn't want sex, she actually means it. A song that was in 1944 a great example of how a woman could get sex without destroying her reputation (or even alarming the Hayes Office) is in 2018 setting a terrible example to men that "I really can't stay" is just a "hold out" to be got over.

So I don't think it should be taken off the air because it illustrates a 1944 date rape. I think it should be taken off the air because it perpetuates the 2018 myth that "mixed signals" is a real thing.

An alternative to a complete ban
It's interesting how when you read/listen to the lyrics over and over, you discover they've changed over time[2]. Some of these changes are pretty minor (the original "lend me your comb" becomes "lend me your coat", which is a hilarious bit of expurgation especially since it now doesn't rhyme with "got to get home"). One is pretty major: the version the radio quotes is missing out a whole verse or so -- perhaps for length, or perhaps because that section used to conclude with, "Maybe just a cigarette more".

If cigarettes can be edited out of the song with no apparent controversy, why not edit respect into it with a "Baby, I'm fine with that"[8]?

Of course Lydia now reserves the right to either go home (and meet Josiah tomorrow night at the Cheesecake Factory, a line that single-handedly makes this version of the song superior to all possible others), or saying "Oh my god, you're actually listening to me? That's so hot, do me now." So the only tweak I'd make to these lyrics is for Lydia to return after all to the final "Ah, but it's cold outside!"
zeborah: Zebra and lion hugging (cat)
(because cats have four feet. You see. Ahem.)

A Battle of Legendary Grease

I have fried bacon and the beast has awoken.
One narrow gold eye has slitted open
At the scent of fried bacon wafting through the air.
Steam curls in tendrils from my three rashers of bacon,
Drawing the beast, nose twitching, from her chair,
To pad, all a-saunter, back stretching on her way
To survey my plate and the bacon thereon.
I slice into strips my plateful of bacon,
And the beast lifts one gentle, tentative paw:
One gesture describing her nonchalant interest
In one of those strips of bacon for herself.
I spear that strip, and eat, and it is good.
And in that moment the beast turns upon me
Her wide, hurt eyes, and gestures once more.
My fork returns to the bacon, and folds it,
Pink meat and golden fat in glistening stripes.
The beast reaches for it; is evaded; and sits
In grim contemplation of this untoward state.
Observing the bacon twice more travel past her,
And smelling its savoury, illicit lure,
The beast hunches lower, ears back-folded.
Her tail swings quietly side-to-side, as her eyes
Follow the fork. Four metal claws
Deftly rake the bacon up to my mouth,
And four beastly claws dart beneath them.
Faster than lightning the beast lashes out,
Dashing a strip from platter to floor.
My precious grease splattering on the floor!
My fork clatters. The beast jumps down.
Nimbly she lands outside my grasp.
In her jaw she seizes the bacon,
Tastes the salt, the oil, seared flesh —
Yet, in her rapture, still the beast sees
My second grab for her, and fiercely defends
Her prize of dust-encrusted bacon.
She will have her strip of bacon!
Battle is joined hand to claw.
Unholy yowls rend the night.
The beast too voices her displeasure
As I rip the bacon from her slathering maw,
Battered and torn. The meat looks no better.
I throw it out. The beast licks her paw.
Turning her back, she stares at the wall
While I — I finish my cold bacon in cold silence.
There are, as they say, no winners in war.
zeborah: Aerial view of two zebras casting sharp black zebra-shaped shadows on the sand (travel)
The challenge, by @mhoye: OK Twitter. It's late but let's see if we can make this interesting: What is the least plausible story about yourself that's true?

My response: "In my first hour in Ulaan Baatar I chased a pickpocket into an alley to demand my wallet back. In Mongolian."

To contextualise:

I am a language geek. So when I was at the end of my second year contract teaching English in Korea, and decided to see a few more East Asian countries before returning home, and picked Mongolia as one of them, of course I decided to learn some Mongolian before I went. It has vowel harmony, how cool is that! (Pro-tip: vowel harmony is way more cool in theory than practice.) Luckily my plane to Mongolia had some engineering trouble and was delayed almost two days (putting my Korean visa status in jeopardy, but come to think of it that's a whole nother implausible story) so I had extra time to study up my Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook while I waited.

So, I arrive in Ulaan Baatar, I'm delivered to the apartment I'm renting for three weeks in a gritty Soviet-era apartment block, I leave my bags and go out to exchange one of my traveller's cheques and do some grocery shopping.

I achieve both these things. I'm waiting at a traffic light on the walk back home when a local girl taps me on the shoulder and communicates (I forget whether in Mongolian, English, or gesture) that that man over there has just stolen my wallet from my bag. She also convinces me by the same means that we should chase him.

Being confrontation-averse, I naturally go along with this plan.

Our chase ends up with the man ducking into an alley. I pursue. The local girl quite sensibly does not. The alley is a dead-end and the man is therefore forced to turn and face me. It is at this point that I realise that I'm in the position of a cat that has cornered a doberman and now has to decide what to do with it.

But there's a girl back on the safety of the street rooting for me and I'm too embarrassed to disappoint her. So I make like a cat and puff myself up with all the confidence I can muster.

I also attempt to muster some vocabulary. I believe (based on distant memory and my still-treasured Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook) that what I came up with was along the lines of "Minii möng!" (my money) although it may have been closer to "Minii möng???" (It may possibly even have been "Minii ... <perplexed gesture>" but given that I'd just been to the bank I probably remembered the word for money.)

He looked perplexed back. Who, him? he said in the universal language of facial expressions. He was completely innocent! Why, he just ran into this dead-end alley for fun! I attempted, with my aforementioned tremendous eloquence, to press my point, but ultimately he was very convincing. That is to say, ultimately I was convinced that trying to get my money back off him was a really stupid idea.

So I went back out to where the girl was waiting and shamelessly lied to her that something like "Ter yavan" (he goes away) or possibly, if I was really onto the past tense, "Ter yavav".

Then we got to chatting. Her name was Purje, she was 16 and studying English at school. She knew more vocabulary than me, but I was less shy so we mixed languages about equally. She taught me how to wear my bag in front of me (which meant I only got pickpocketed once more during my visit), and for the next week we met every day to visit museums and a local hill and her family's ger. So really it all worked out pretty well for all concerned.

And there you have number 2 on my list of Top Three Most Dangerous Situations Zeborah Used Her Highly Fluent Mongolian In.
zeborah: Helen Clark telling an MP: Diddums. (diddums)
I first gave blood last December, having realised that being on holiday meant it was actually practical to schedule. All went well except afterwards they kept making me sit down again because apparently I looked extremely pale. It doesn't take much to make me look extremely pale, on account of how I am in fact naturally extremely pale, so I didn't really think much of this. On the other hand I did feel a little bit dizzy, and also they were bringing me chocolate biscuits on a plate and I never say no to chocolate biscuits, so I humoured them.

Being on holiday again, I scheduled in another visit, and this time as a preemptive measure I decided I would visit Drexels on the way. I don't know if Drexels is an international chain or just a Christchurch thing, but it's a breakfast restaurant, of the kind that serves eggs and bacon and pancakes, and when you order exactly the amount of decadence you think you'll be able to eat they say, "Certainly, I'll just bring you some toast while you wait," and it comes with creamed butter and jam.

I did get to walk it off a little on the way to the Blood Service (they've cunningly located themselves in the middle of an area several buses skim the edge of) but was still feeling quite replete when I arrived. I was also feeling quite confident, because I was well over my latest cold, my latest mosquito bite allergy had died down, and I'd checked they don't care if you had the flu vaccine five minutes ago.

Then they pricked my finger and put a drop of blood in their dinky machine and said, "Yeah, nah. Go away for six months and get your iron levels up."

They also asked if I'd been feeling tired recently, and I said no, because I hadn't. Had I. Right.

And on the way home I stopped by an op shop and bought some books, and read and dozed on the couch in the sun for a few hours, and when I woke up I thought: Oh, maybe they meant tired, like "desperate for a holiday"-tired. Or like "close to tears complaining to a friend that I've never felt so exhausted"-tired. Or like how last holidays, just coincidentally after last donating blood, "sleeping for 10-12 hours a day for a good week or two"-tired.

Maybe that wasn't just catching up on sleep deprivation after all (though it certainly was partly that).

So I guess I'm going to be eating more red meat for a while.
zeborah: zebra-striped biscuits (cooking)
My mother used to make us scrambled eggs on toast, which is an act of love and determination to quickly feed five hungry kids while also trying to keep a house in a semblance of order and also the kids from killing each other and/or themselves.

When my father cooked for us, it was with that perfectionism that comes from only having to cook when you really want to, and not having responsibility for the rest of the house or childcare at the same time. He made the perfect omelette.

The perfect omelette requires separating whites and yolks. Beat the whites forever and an age until they form stiff peaks. Carefully fold in the rest of the ingredients. Get the frying pan to the perfect temperature, and cook slowly. You can't be in a hurry to finish, or the bottom will burn while the middle's still raw. The top will stubbornly stay raw anyway, so you can either quarter the omelette and carefully flip each quarter in the pan, or you can put the whole pan under the grill in the oven at a low temperature and cook the top slowly. This latter method feels obscurely like cheating but it does get much tidier results. Finally you serve it with another wodge of butter melting on the top -- and then if you're making them for more than two not-very-hungry people, you go back and do it all again.

Dad's omelettes were thick and fluffy and delicious.

When I was in France and went to visit my penpal in her village near Avignon, I'd just arrived from the train station and she asked if I wanted an omelette. I was daunted by so generous an offer of so much labour, but she seemed keen, so I accepted, and she made... I still don't have a word for it that satisfies me. She beat the eggs whole, yolk and whites together, then added the ingredients: no thick white peaks. No fluffiness. To my mind it was scrambled eggs without actually scrambling them (which you do with a fork, in a saucepan with butter, to get large grains of egg while avoiding the bottom burning. I never said scrambled eggs were an unskilled act).

It was still delicious, of course. I ate it gratefully and put the episode down to cultural differences. Clearly this was the one thing the French did not know how to cook. (Well, that and hokey pokey.)

I still can't imagine asking someone to cook me an omelette unless there were exigent circumstances, like I was on my deathbed and it was my dying wish. For someone to offer to make me one -- now that I'm adult I have to imagine this in the third person, because romance and me does not compute, but I imagine it as a declaration of love, and a scene of perfect domestic felicity.


Today's omelette was not the perfect omelette, because I was impatient in the prep work. For one thing I managed to get some yolk in the white, though miraculously it still whipped up fairly well. Also I forgot to actually fry up the ingredients beforehand, and also to stir the yolk in with the other ingredients. Little things like that.

But my cooking was perfect. I heated the frying pan to hot-hot, and sizzled some butter around, and poured the proto-omelette in, and turned off the heat, and did some washing up and some grating of cheese. I have a solid cast-iron pan, which holds the heat nicely. When I could lift the edges away from the side and see the bottom was a nice golden brown, I put the frying pan under the grill at 125C. I was taking a guess at this, but it seemed to work. When the top was just about to start darkening, I took it out to spread cheese over, then put it back in while I used the yolks which should have been in the omelette to make custard.

(Custard is also an act of patience because you have to mix the cornflour-yolk paste into the milk slowly in order to avoid lumps (for best results, mix the milk little by little into the paste), and then you have to stir forever, and then you have to let it cool for an age, and then chances are it's still too runny because the recipe should have more cornflour or less milk.)

When the omelette was ready - this is the part I'm proudest of - I lifted/slid it out of the pan whole onto my plate.

One day I'll be patient enough to do the prep work right, and also to replicate this cooking methodology, and I truly will have the perfect omelette.
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
I don't know how many of these methods I'll keep up in the long-term, but I thought I'd list them in case they're of use or interest to anyone else.

Essentially I found myself in a mood to ask myself, just how much plastic is passing into the environment via my purchasing habits? Even though I send a lot of it to recycling, that's its own use of energy. Mostly I was looking at my grocery shopping:

  • I already take my own reusable bags (or reuse old plastic bags) at the checkout, and for fruit as well. I do like to get the occasional new plastic bag for use as bin-liners; I'm going to try emptying their contents directly into the red bin for a while, instead of tying the bags off and putting them in all together. But I haven't found myself throwing much into the red bin since making this resolution so no data on how that goes.

  • A 2L plastic bottle of milk every 7-10 days. And you can't even reuse milk bottles to store water against emergencies; hygiene aside, the plastic breaks down over time. Speaking of emergencies, though, I'd been considering getting a bag of milk powder for my supplies. So I thought I'd try it in every-day use. So far it's worked well in baking, yoghurt-making, hot chocolate, and morning cereal, ie all my normal uses except drinking straight from the fridge, which will wait until summer for testing. It takes a few moments extra in the morning to mix it (my preferred method: boil the jug, dissolve the powder in a bit of boiling water, then add cold to desired strength) but it's become part of my routine over the last couple of weeks so I think I will keep this one up. Bonuses: here at least it's significantly cheaper than fresh milk; no running out at inconvenient moments; and conversely no finding that it's gone sour before I've finished it.

  • A plastic bag around my bread each week. I've revived my bread-making to avoid this; to be honest it's the one I'm least likely to keep up. OTOH I have discovered that if I bake the bread and let the oven cool somewhat but not completely, it's a great place to incubate yoghurt overnight. And the bread is so tasty - it's just the time it takes. We'll see. I may just keep going through phases on it.

  • A plastic bag of muesli every week or so. I'm experimenting with pick-n-mix (taking my own bags) but pick-n-mix rolled oats alone cost about the same as (budget) prepackaged muesli. :-( Does anyone know why rolled oats and muesli come in plastic, when flour and sugar come in paper??

  • A couple of plastic packages of shaved ham every few weeks. (The recycling status of which I was never sure about, so red-binned them!) Careful attention revealed that cheap ham at the deli is cheaper than cheap ham prepackaged. Moreover today I was brave and found out that if you take your own container along they'll use that instead of a fresh plastic bag. (At least the guy I struck today did, and even set the scales to discount the weight of the container though I wouldn't have minded that little bit.) So I just need to keep organised.

Beyond plastic - I've also taken to washing dishes in a tub, and using the water on the garden. (Someone at church has set up her laundry pipes to use water from that on the garden; I think I'd just flood the house.)

And recently I came across SolarAid, a charity whose selling point is that you can 'offset your carbon' from flights you make by funding solar-powered lights for personal use (eg kids doing homework) in developing countries to replace kerosene, which besides emitting copious carbon dioxide is expensive, not that bright, and seriously unhealthy. It seems win-win-win so I looked for a catch but couldn't find any.

Anyway this came at a time shortly after a) I'd made some international flights and b) I'd received a tax rebate from last year's charitable donations so next thing you know I'd apparently donated enough to get sent an example solar light in the mail. It just arrived today, and it's cute and lightweight and works out of the packaging, and I'm weighing up whether it goes in my emergency kit or to City Mission here because goodness knows it's not just kids in the developing world who can't do homework due to lack of money for power.:-(
zeborah: Four zebras and their reflections in the water they're drinking from (reflective)
Sure, it looks happy enough as it bobs towards you, beak open in a smile and eyes a-twinkle as if to say, "Isn't this fun?"

But then it turns — not of its own volition, but caught in the same eddies that govern the suds and drowned midges. Slowly it turns, and its beak still seems to smile, but its eyes look at you sideways now, almost pleadingly. It keeps bobbing as it turns; it keeps staring ahead with dead, dead eyes — and then you see it. A single tear: a tear you never saw fall, but there it quivers on the edge of that unmoving beak as the currents of the bathtub remorsely spin your rubber ducky away from you.

You may turn it back to face you; you may see it smile again. But you'll always remember. You'll always remember.
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
(Context: my roof appears to have sprung a leak, probably many months ago, but the vaguaries of roof-spaces and gravity have made the problem visible just recently. I'm awaiting a builder but today the carpet could no longer be ignored.)

1. Carpet that has shown itself capable of growing mould is probably also capable of growing other fungi, such as mushrooms.

I am told on good authority (ie one of my siblings) that fluorescent mushrooms growing in one's house is a Very Bad Thing. Fortunately, the mushrooms growing in my carpet were not fluorescent. If they had been fluorescent I might have noticed them earlier, because at this time of year I leave the house when it's still dark and get home after it's darkened again so only see things by daylight during the weekends. Thus, this morning I discovered mushrooms growing in my carpet that, while not fluorescent, did not look very edible either.

2. A screwdriver (to pry up the first carpet nail) and thereafter some sturdy pliers (to grip and pull) are a pretty decent way to rip up dry carpet.

There is no decent way to rip up rotten carpet. You still probably can't beat pliers but at a certain point of rotten they're just tearing it apart a few chunks or threads at a time.

3. Sufficiently thin carpet and underlay is indistinguishable from thin carpet.

When I bought the house, the inspection report commented on the thin carpet and lack of underlay. I've been meaning for years to get new carpet and underlay and revel in luxury but first I had to get earthquake repairs finished, and then I've been hunting for some decent carpet in a colour other than grey or beige (that's a rant for another day), and now fixing the roof and whatever wood has rotted in the process is probably going to take priority. But anyway.

Joke's on the house inspector, because when I started ripping up the rotten carpet it turned out there was too underlay, just for some reason it was cut an inch away from the walls.

4. Damp wool carpet smells bad. Rotten wool carpet smells worse. Fungi-ridden carpet smells even worse[1]. But if you want to smell the worst thing of all, that comes when you start ripping it all up.

Yes, I wore a face mask. It was still foul. I think the rotten underlay was even worse than the rotten carpet.

5. The best way to cut through carpet is with a craft knife.

I tried scissors but they didn't seem keen on it and I wasn't keen on dulling my good fabric scissors. But Dad suggested a knife and that cut through both the carpet and the underlay like soft butter.

Bonus discovery: a previous owner appears to have laid the kitchen lino on top of the old kitchen lino. I can only see the edge of the latter, but it appears to be peak 1970s. (Like my carpet, in fact. I actually quite like my carpet, apart from it being threadbare and also now missing a large chunk due to rot and mushrooms. It was good Axminster carpet; not this but very similar to this. --Oh hey, maybe if I can't find any coloured carpet in New Zealand I could simply import some carpet at great expense from the UK, because this one is pretty close to what I'd really like.)

Conclusion: Please let it not rain significantly before I can get the builder to come and figure out what's going on up there. <weep>

[1] Linguistic sidebar: Is it universal with adjectives to have the absolute ('bad'), the comparative ('worse'), and the superlative ('worst')? I'm wondering because lots of languages have three degrees of distance (Spanish: aquí, allí, allá; Māori: tēnei, tēnā, tērā; even English used to have here, there, yonder) but then there's occasional glorious exceptions like Malagasy which has seven. So now I'm imagining a language with multiple degrees of comparison, kind of like: bad > worse > worser > worst > worstest. Ripping up rotten underlay is the worstest.
zeborah: Zebra in grass smelling a daisy (gardening)
It may not be quite worth quitting my day job just yet, but so far so somewhat successful!

Late last year I ate a supermarket rockmelon and, on a whim, planted some of the seeds from it. (I do this from time to time with various supermarket foods. The roots from spring onions are very prolific. Mandarin and persimmon seeds both turn into small trees, but it may be some more years before I find out whether or not they'll ever fruit.)

To my delight, the seeds sprouted. I gave a couple to a sibling (who planted them in an enclosed patch which was promptly intruded upon and the seedlings nommed by an anonymous animal) and planted a couple out in my own garden. One got smothered by weeds I think. The other started putting out little yellow flowers, similar to other cucurbit flowers but smaller and a little paler.

And then I noticed a baby melon. Now I am familiar with the ways of cucurbits (particularly tricksy pumpkins) and fully expected this to almost immediately be reabsorbed by the plant. But instead it grew. And grew. And...

Well, look, it was March by now so it didn't grow a lot. It was just surprising that it grew at all. I figured I'd leave it on the wee vine for as long as I could and then see what could be salvaged.

Cyclone Cook struck (much attenuated in Christchurch, but still very wet) and when I went out to inspect the garden I discovered the melon was scratched - I suspect an animal, exacerbated by rain. There wasn't much sign of leaves left to help it grow so I called this as good as it was going to get and brought it inside.

Small rockmelon

And cut it open and - it was nearly ripe!

Small rockmelon halves

Obviously there wasn't nearly as much flesh was you'd expect from a rockmelon, but it proved perfectly edible. I scooped it out like I would a kiwifruit or tamarillo - there was about as much of it as one of those too. :-)

Small rockmelon shells

Next season I'll plant some of the seeds I reserved from the supermarket rockmelon earlier in the season and see if I can grow a full-size melon - or two. :-)
zeborah: Zebra with stripes falling off (stress and confusion)
By default it's not possible to delete your LiveJournal account without accepting the new objectionable terms of service. However I saw a tip to try NoScript and this was indeed successful for me.

I did, after some thought, decide to leave my comments on other journals/communities.

My feedback to them:
The latest update to the Terms of Service is even more deeply worrying than other worrying changes. In particular 9.2.8 as worded states that we may not break Russian laws - not simply that we may not break Russian laws in using LiveJournal, but we may not break Russian rules full stop. If this is not intended, fix the wording.

The fact that only the Russian version is legally binding is also of concern. In some respects I recognise this is fair, in that UK/US-owned sites only have their English-language TOS legally binding. But given that LiveJournal began as English-speaking, this feels like pulling the rug out from under long-time users.
zeborah: Four zebras and their reflections in the water they're drinking from (reflective)
Of course I'm not a polsci expert so this may be old news or it may be bunk or it may be both. But my theory goes:

Every possible political/economic system has its strengths and its weaknesses, its virtues and vices. They're each good for some things, terrible for others. This includes capitalism, and communism, and totalitarianism. (I don't say that they each have equal proportions of bad and good.)

So a pure capitalist society can't be perfect. No more a pure communist society, no more any society that's purely one system because humans are too complicated for any one solution to cover all the problems.

If you try to solve all the problems with one system, things start to fall apart (kind of like now). At some point people look for a new system. When things fall apart enough, people actually try to implement it, and it does really well at solving the problems with the first system. So they idealise it: this is progress, this system is our future.

The problem is that part of the reason it works so well is that the old system is still solving a lot of problems too.

Capitalism is fantastic! Competition! Efficiency! Choice! Opportunity! But those things only work to any extent for as long as we retain the old-fashioned safety nets of social responsibility. When we pursue capitalism as if it can solve every problem, cracks appear and people fall through them.

Whatever the solution after capitalism, I bet it will be eventually be the same. But if it was possible to find that sweet spot in the transition period and -- not stop there. A two-solution system is hardly perfect either. But if we could, instead of racing forward past that transtion point into a new one-solution system, hover there and reach sideways to add a third, and fourth, and fifth solution into the system, getting a happy medium of systems without getting all competitive about the ideologies....

(Except maybe totalitarianism. Certainly a very little totalitarianism goes a very very long way.)
zeborah: It's not that hard. A dalmatian could do it. (Criminal Minds)
I'm irritated at the whole "innocent man goes to prison and it's unjust but let's not actually examine the systemic issues with prison" trope, but I think I'm going to enjoy [Here be spoilers and speculation] )
zeborah: Zebra in grass smelling a daisy (gardening)
This is about to make it sound like I'm a gardener. I'm not a gardener, I just suffer from an abundance of space so I put things in the ground and water them maybe once if they're lucky, and some of them die and some of them sit there resentfully and some of them make me free food and some of them make me free food and then make more of themselves. I call this "Darwinian gardening".

Silverbeet: I hope you like silverbeet because you're going to be seeing a lot of me around.

Asparagus: Eat me!

Spring onions: o/~ You cut me down, I spring up again, you're never gonna get me down o/~

Button mushroom: Surprise, I'm a mushroom!

Poppies: We resemble that scene in the Wizard of Oz.

Strawberries: Hi I made you a strawberries.

Silverbeet: What colour do you like do you like green or yellow or red or pink or orange or pale green or more red or-- No, can't do silver, how about orange or green or dark green or--

Pumpkin: I have huge flowers.

Bok choy: Slugs enjoy me.

Lettuce: Earwigs are my friends.

Poppies: Here have more seeds than you could ever use in muffins in a year.

Strawberries: More strawberries?

Celery: I will take two years to grow and taste terrible but it's the thought that counts, right?

Silverbeet: Or yellow-green or red-orange or orange-pink or green-red or--

Pumpkin: So many flowers.

Raspberries: Ugh, here are 14 raspberries I suppose.

Plums: Are you ready for plums? WHOOMPH!

Strawberries: Hi again it's me, strawberries.

Zucchinis: Would you like a zucchini? Haha it's a marrow now. Enjoy your four marrows while I grow more marrows.

Mandarin tree: You grew me from a seed from a supermarket mandarin, what did you expect, flowers?

Lemon tree: All my flowers fell off.

Strawberries: Look here are more strawberries.

Silverbeet: I'm going to spend three months slowly going to seed now.

Pumpkin: All the flowers.

Grapes: Btw I decided to make grapes two months early this year, you probably didn't notice them hidden under the leaves. Oh look the birds ate them all, what're you gonna do.

Yellow zucchinis: Would you like a tiny yellow zucchini or shall I just shrivel up, yeah I think I'll do that.

Pumpkin: I guess I can make one pumpkin. Also more flowers!

Mystery cucurbit: Spherical cucumber, spherical pumpkin, who knows? The important thing is that I'm really big!

Peaches: Hey the peaches are ripe now, also turning mouldy, why didn't you pick them in the three seconds they were perfect?

Lettuce: I'm going to look like a dandelion as I go to seed.

Bok choy: I'm going to emit a secret call to aphids worldwide to come and swarm my seed pods.

Silverbeet: I've made a million seeds and every single one of them will be a new silverbeet, I think you'll enjoy their colours.

Strawberries: Continuing to grow strawberries.
zeborah: On the shoulders of giants: zebra on a giraffe (science)
This was broken in half and abandoned on the footpath, keys scattered, and I was curious. So I took it home and finished pulling (/unscrewing) it apart.

Keyboard deconstructed

The keys clip in so are easy to pull out. Behind each one is a plastic doodacky that compresses for smooth typing, but presses down on the circuit sheets. There are three of these: the outer two have lines and junctions, the middle one keeps them apart but has holes in so when the key comes down, it presses the junction on top against the junction below. A circuit is thereby completed with the circuit board in the top-right corner. This consists of four capacitors, three LEDs (for num lock, shift lock, and scroll lock), and on the other side lots of etched circuitry, an area where the USB cord connection's been ripped away, and a black splodge which covers the microchip which makes it work.
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
I originally made this stool in woodwork class about 26 years ago. I got the fabric from Mum, and I remember her pointing out ruefully that I used the wrong side of it. I disagreed: whatever the manufacturer had intended, I much preferred it this way out.

26 years later the fabric has faded and worn and frayed. And then it got in the way of my cat dealing with an upset stomach and I tried cleaning it, but well. So before I went to shop for new fabric I asked Mum if, by any chance, she still had any of that fabric.

My family is a family of hoarders. I really shouldn't have doubted.

So I unscrewed the base, pried out the staples holding the old fabric on, and on my next visit to my parents used Dad's staplegun to affix the new fabric. (I even managed to ward off Dad's attempts to Help. It wasn't that hard.) Then just put the screws back in.

Not that hard, but stunning results:
Stool upholstered in blue/green/yellow maybe-damask-like pattern or something, I don't really know fabrics
Pictured is the stool with its new fabric, and on the left the faded old fabric for comparison (its corner turned over to show the "correct" side). That should do me for another quarter century, and there's still plenty of fabric left over for when that time comes.
zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
White lilies are blooming and peaches are ripening. Road cones sprout their own flowers.

This is a few days late because I've been debating whether to write it or not because on the one hand, it's been five years; and on the other hand, it's been five years.

Quick refresher:

  • "September": 4:35am Sunday 4th September 2010: 7.1 - you'll note I don't even count from here

  • "Boxing Day": morning of Boxing Day 2010

  • "February": 12:51pm Tuesday 22nd February 2011: 6.3; killed 185 people

  • "June": two big ones an hour apart in June 2011, both 6s I think

  • 23rd December 2011

  • "Valentine's Day": 14 February 2016: 5.7

And 14000 others in between. (Animated map; may hang for a while before the big events, just wait for it.) These above are just the ones with their own names, the ones people still share stories about: Where were you when?

(Rolling out of bed. Watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Holding onto the desk legs at work. In a temporary workplace, and then in a colleague's car as she drove me home. Shopping near my motel while my house was being repaired. Clinging to my kitchen/lounge doorway shouting "Not again, no, no, no!")

There's another Doctor Who episode, the Fires of Pompeii, where the Doctor and Donna visit Pompeii pre-eruption. And we see an earthquake hit and the inhabitants with a quick but practised air grab their breakables to prevent them toppling off shelves. The more earthquakes I go through the more I think... yeah I see what they're trying to show us (earthquakes as normal daily life) but they're showing it wrong. I mean, the only way I'm going to save a breakable in an earthquake is if it's already in my hands (eg my laptop) and even then odds are 50:50 I'd dump it on the way to shelter and worry about it afterwards. (Literally I don't know: I consistently have brief discontinuities in my memory between being aware it's a big one and being aware I've taken shelter. Not like gaps, more like blinking. But in that moment, there's no reasoning.) So if earthquakes in Pompeii happen that often, at similar magnitudes, then:

  • all the breakables would be broken by now, because earthquakes will strike when no-one's around to catch them

  • remaining precious breakables would be stored on the ground, or in a secure cabinet, or glued or otherwise fastened down

  • SOP would be: quake -> duck into shelter -> quake dies down -> check everyone's okay -> "Tertia, sweep up that amphora, and send Marcus to the forum to buy a new one, and tell him to tie it down properly this time." -> check everyone's okay again

  • for a smaller quake nothing will fall over, you don't worry about shelter, and after a brief pause to make sure it's not ramping up to something bigger you finish your sentence.

This is what adrenaline does to me:

  • 30 seconds of terror

  • an hour of shaking

  • some hours of being fine except I do wish I didn't have to hear the helicopters flying overhead

  • evening, and exhaustion hits

  • next morning I'm fine, and then on the bus to work I see a billboard advertising gym membership ('Get your heart rate up!') and want to burst into tears and spend the rest of the day just waiting to go home

  • some days of swaying back and forth between fine and an aching despair and a desperate fury at our government who assure us the country is right behind us, while simultaneously cutting our mental health funding again

  • life resumes (rage at the government may continue)

  • occasional random moments of sudden: An earthquake could strike now. Deep breaths.

Status of the recovery as it affects me:

  • My third claim got "not covered" and "pre-existing" right down the list. When signing off on this I wrote in that such-and-such was not pre-existing but if they weren't going to cover it then fine, see if I cared. I also forgot to show them the cracks in the slop with which they filled the cracks in the foundations on claims #1/#2. I don't feel that remembering would have much advantaged me.

  • There has been no progress since last anniversary towards completion of the finishing work on the gas fire surround.

  • My books therefore remain almost all still in boxes.

  • The next door property continues wilderness.

  • One of my bus routes is still-again detouring. Most routes have some temporary detour at any given time; this is a semi-permanent / semi-regular detour. Separately, it's also got a detour which is going to become permanent.

  • The CBD is making really good progress. Art gallery has reopened; new business buildings, new shops, lots of street art. In Sydenham, the convenience store operating out of a shipping container now has an actual building. (This was disconcerting.)

  • My workplace is still to finalise its insurance claim.

  • My church is raising funds for a new building(s); in the meantime visiting with another congregation/denomination nearby.

  • In a fire drill, I grab my bag and then head for the door: no trust that I'll be allowed back in afterwards. I no longer have to take my bag everywhere with me otherwise though. But I still leave my laptop under shelter when I go to bed, and I keep my cellphone charged.

Five years is a strangely long, strangely short time.
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)

Ghost Night by Dani Atkinson

Urban fantasy where the fantasy is, in the author's words, 'commonplace enough to make the weather report'. I have to say, the warding precautions are so complex I honestly think the authorities have a point saying '...Actually just don't even try.' Though I also see the point that people will be desperate enough. So, probably there should be licensed practitioners or something.

It Brought Us All Together, by Marissa Lingen

(A reread as I perform browser-tab maintenance.) This is about grief and reminds me a lot about the earthquakes even though it's nothing to do with that.

So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer

Food blog + bird flu pandemic = all of the earthquake feels that got missed out by the previous story.

Yuanyuan’s Bubbles by Liu Cixin

The utility of beauty: blowing soap bubbles as climate change-induced drought threatens a city.

Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker

This was sweetly sad (reminding me of the recent Dutch documentary about a care-bot prototype being alpha-tested) and then I reached the last line and the only thing that stopped me bawling my eyes out was that I was visiting family and I didn't feel like explaining.

zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)
I thought I had more than this but in the rush of December either I didn't read as much as I thought or I lost my other review(s). Anyway I have at least:

First Draft of the Revolution, by Emily Short (commissioned, designed and coded by Liza Daly and completed by Inkle)

An interactive epistolary novel set in a pre-revolutionary magical France. A must-read just for the form; but the story is satisfying, and there are all sorts of delightful tendrils of creepiness that linger in the mind afterwards.


zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)

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