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: Helen Clark telling an MP: Diddums. (diddums)
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]
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
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.]
zeborah: Zebra looking at its rainbow reflection (rainbow)
One of our straight white male MPs is going to go on the talkshow Ellen. He did give a great speech, but, um, what about the LGBT MPs and ex-MPs who also gave great speeches? And who did most of the work on the bill? Like, say, the Māori lesbian MP who submitted the bill in the first place?

So here are some speeches from the night by MPs who aren't straight white guys.

Firstly, the kōrero in which Te Ururoa Flavell (straight Māori guy) talks about about Tutanekei's hoa takatāpui Tiki, and gives more context to the history of Pākehā redefining marriage to exclude Māori customary marriage.

(Procedural notes: a lot of MPs on the evening chose to share their speaking time with someone else, and Te Ururoa was the recipient of one such five minute slot from John Banks which is why he's acknowledging "Hone Banks". He gets cut short at the end for going over his time limit which is a tremendous shame given how informative his kōrero was, but the rule seemed fairly equally enforced against Pākehā MPs doing the same. And applause is normally I gather not allowed but that rule went out the window completely for the whole evening.)

More awesome kōrero on the evening included:

Louisa Wall (Māori lesbian; submitted the bill; first name pronounced lou-issa)

Kevin Hague (gay white guy)

Tau Henare (straight Māori guy; responding to straight Māori guy Winston Peters' vile speech which I won't link to because Winston is *that* MP, you know the one, who just always.)

Mojo Mathers ((Deaf) straight white woman; bringing tears to my eyes every time I watch it)
zeborah: Zebra looking at its rainbow reflection (rainbow)
New Zealand just passed the third and final reading of our marriage equality bill 77-44.

(I was listening by radio after, having failing to get reception for Parliament TV and failing to get sufficient bandwidth for the internet livestream, I put out a plaintive tweet asking about livestreaming audio and someone pointed me to 882AM. Oh yeah, that dusty old machine.)

After the Speaker's announcement of the result and before the tumultuous applause, a waiata was sung and harmonised upon.

This is itself probably needs explaining. Waiata are traditionally sung (among other occasions) in support of a speech. As a non-Māori New Zealander I've most often witnessed/participated when this has happened during a traditional welcoming ceremony or opening ceremony; but also after some keynotes at New Zealand library conferences; or in support of family/friends at graduation. So for this to happen was very appropriate.

But the particular waiata chosen is what really needs translation. It was Pokarekare Ana which is a song extremely widely known in New Zealand, you may well even have heard it overseas, so it might just seem a bit twee if you don't know anything about it. And it's about a famous heterosexual love story, so if you know a little bit about it you might think that in this context, um, what?

But the reason this song was perfect for the occasion was because earlier in the evening, speaking in support of the bill, Te Ururoa Flavell referred to another part of this story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai - to the part where after Tutanekai married Hinemoa, his hoa takatāpui Tiki grieved for losing him. Te Ururoa pointed out that people complaining about this bill seeking to "redefine marriage" need to be aware that, in New Zealand, marriage was redefined way back in the 19th century by colonialism.

A lot of people, throughout the evening, pointed out that there's still a lot of work to do for justice and equality. But this was a great step, in so many ways.

[For reference, words I had to redact from this post given I'm attempting to translate here: Pākehā; kōrero; pōwhiri; marae; tautoko; Aotearoa; ahakoa he iti he pounamu.]
zeborah: Zebra looking at its rainbow reflection (rainbow)
(Please to link this around, unless you see someone else saying it better, in which case link that.)

A week or so ago someone somewhere (I forget; possibly it was in the context of the Planned Parenthood defunding threat; should I remember or be reminded I'll edit a link back in) pointed out wisely that, though politicians are inclined to devalue an individual vote in favour of their knowledge about majority votes, businessfolk are inclined to value each and every customer. Governing tends (even in proportional representation environments) to be pretty much win/lose; business tends to be "How much do I win?"

And perhaps more to the point, businessfolk own the politicians anyway.

So while writing letters to politicians remains a good thing to do, if you've lost faith in that as a solution, try writing letters to businesses instead. In particular, find out which businesses have been funding the politicians who support these evil laws.

An internet blackout may have stopped SOPA. (Or maybe it was the fact that big businesses signed onto the internet blackout.) But what stopped the Research Works Act was scholars worldwide putting pressure onto the company that had paid for that bill. (Never heard of the Research Works Act? And yet it got stopped without recourse to an internet blackout.)

In the case of the present evilness in Wisconsin, it appears that Scott Walker is heavily funded by ultra-conservative Koch Industries PAC. The Wikipedia article on Koch Industries summarises a bunch of other pro-'free market' political activism on their part, and helpfully links to the Industry Areas section of the Koch website. This page might also be titled "A list of things to boycott". Alas, Koch is friggin' big, and a large number of them are business-oriented rather than consumer-oriented. (I leave identifying the businesses they deal with in order to put pressure on them as an exercise for someone else.) But whether or not you live in the United States, you may want to email or snailmail and tell them that you'll be boycotting:

Honestly? I suspect in this particular case it will have little effect. Koch Industries is big and diverse and privately owned by a couple of very rich white male ideologues. But it's worth a try, because at worst you're giving them fewer dollars they can use to buy politicians.

And in any cases, there are other battles where this tactic can work. Put pressure on the companies who fund the politicians. Put pressure on the companies who do business with the funders. Put pressure on the companies who accept their advertising dollars and on the companies who share advertising space with them.

This is not how democracy and capitalism were meant to work, but right now it's how they do work. So work it.
zeborah: Zebra holding a pen, its stripes forming the word "Write" (writing)
Dictated a few hundred words of a new story tonight. So far so sucky. But if it works enough to finish I can always revise.

I've also been playing Taipan by voice command. We used to play Taipan as kids on the Apple IIe; I remember reading Tom Sawyer while pressing F-F-F-F-F-F-F to keep shooting hostile vessels. 20+ years later I've got an Apple IIe emulator on my MacBook, and have taught Dragon Dictate the necessary commands so I don't hurt my hand. Instead I scritch my cat, saying, "Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight."

On weddings and royalty: I like having a Queen. I say this as someone with extremely liberal views. I feel that, given that a democratic government's job is to appeal to populism in order to retain power, it's really important to have an extra layer of government independent of all that who could, if necessary, provide a veto.

Nevertheless (and despite my deep respect for the Queen) I don't really care about our royal family more than I do about any other random family, nor about their wedding.

On the gripping hand, I have an amused total lack of sympathy for USans complaining that this totally irrelevant-to-them wedding is taking over their social network conversations. Whatever, folks, we have to put up with your election talk for months, you can cope with a day or so of wedding. (Text fails at tone. Please read benign irony, not snark.)

--Ditto for other citizens of the Commonwealth. I put up with rugby talk; no doubt everyone has talk that they put up with. Now we just add a wedding to the list, what's the fuss?
zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
The Mayor wants you to know that Christchurch is back in business. Sorry, I meant to mention that a while ago. He says please to come and spend all your tourist dollars here. Not in so many words, but that's what he means. It's quite safe (we just had a 4.5, which spooked Boots, but Twitter's #eqnz feed has a distinct "ho hum" feel to it, and the last noticeable one before that was eight days ago) and all tourist amenities are intact.

(Though the tourist buses have now I believe been convinced to keep out of Dallington. People need to use their Portaloos in private, y'know.)

Funny story about the Mayor. Last Thursday, the newspaper was reporting in ill-disguised glee that he was off on a secret mission to a secret location in East Asia, and was asking for anyone who'd seen him to nark on him. And then on Saturday it was forced to report, in ill-disguised disappointment, that it turned out that his mission had secured a really awesome airline deal and the secrecy had been necessary for proprietary airline reasons. As you read the article you could actually hear the reporter's chagrin.

Less amusing is our new Hobbit Law. Well, I suppose it could be amusing from a distance. Google it if you like, but I don't promise you'll understand and I'm not in a mood to talk about it. Le sigh.

Anyway, so I foolishly said somewhere I was going to do IWriSloMo this month. I think that would be going better if I could bear the thought of writing. I'm in rather a funk at the moment, as per my most recent post, and the earthquake, and a year of nonsense at work. I'm very tired. It's the sort of tired that verges on a sort of mild situational depression. It's milder than funks I've coped with before, it's just that writing worked as an escape those times, and now I'm out of practice and creaky and slow and all my stories are sucky and pointless.

...I should stop playing Solitaire on my iPod. As a way of passing ten minutes when I'm otherwise okay it's fine, but as a way of attempting to escape a funk it actually just digs me deeper. Also it drains the battery.

Oh well. I'll go make myself write anyway. Given the likelihood that my judgement is impaired at the moment, I do really want to be writing again, so I need to drag myself back into the habit. And if the funk's mild enough then being productive will (partnered with destressing) help get me out of it. So.

<glares at stubborn story>
zeborah: Helen Clark telling an MP: Diddums. (diddums)
Local body elections are arguably less important than national government elections, but they're a hell of a lot more fun. Here in Christchurch we get mail containing our voting papers, instructions, and candidate information, and you get to read everything, tick your favourite boxes, and post it back.

The fun comes in because many of the candidates hold views on the world which are somewhat orthogonal to reality. My normal method of voting goes: scan the 14 manifestos; eliminate those who couldn't be bothered to spell-check or include a photo; eliminate the weirdos (weird quotes are in bold so you can scan for those if you get bored); choose between the remaining 3 candidates.

Spoiler alert: commentary on Christchurch local body candidates )

So that narrows it down to two.

But wait, there's more!

Spoilers for councillors )
(Boots entertains herself by knocking down my pen and chasing it back and forth across the room.)

Retrieving my pen I continue )

(Boots sits on my voting paper and cleans her toenails.)

Retrieving my voting papers I continue )
(Boots is getting decidedly skittish, but fortunately that's it for the next few years.)
zeborah: Fezzes are cool.  Amy and River blow it up. (cool)
A law got passed that lets the minister in charge of earthquake recovery amend other laws if it's in order to aid earthquake recovery. (This is sparking woe and lamentation and wilful ignorance of the fact that he's not allowed to change civil rights or electoral laws, and the fact that every law he changes will revert back to normal on April 2012. So yeah, maybe he could become a terrible dictator in the meantime and wreak havoc and we wouldn't be allowed to prosecute him for it, but on the other hand from May 2012 we would be able to shun him for the rest of his political would-be career, so it'd be a pretty idiotic move on his part. Also, seriously, New Zealand politicians just aren't that competent.)

Anyway, so I was reading through some of the oh-so-threatening amendations that have been made since then, and came across the Canterbury Earthquake (Civil Defence Emergency Management Act) Order 2010 which says:

An authorised person may exercise all or any powers stated in section 89 of the CDEM Act in respect of any aircraft, hovercraft, ship or ferry or other vessel, train, or vehicle impeding civil defence emergency management in a specified district [but only if etc]

and I found myself suddenly distracted from this menace to democracy by the urgent question:

Where are all these hovercraft?
zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
Work today was quiet, part twiddling thumbs, part tidying up details, part bonding and settling in.

There was the thing with noticing that one of our shear walls has a crack running the length of it. A crack which you can see on both sides of the wall. This made us a little nervous but when FM came along to check it they promised it was safe.

Not so one of our photocopiers, though, which received a yellow sticker. (The others got green stickers. I think the whole city is being triaged, piece by piece.)

I spent most of the morning sort of informally liaising between various departments. (In Central Library there's a whiteboard up to sign in and out of the building.) When I came back to my own branch I started by cleaning the ceiling plaster dust off my desk.

Some of my colleagues thought they felt slight tremors at lunch, but I missed them. Half an hour later I said, "I felt that one." (It turned out to be smaller than several I've missed, but near and shallow.)

I learned I'm not the only person avoiding my bed: a colleague's grandson is convinced the earthquakes are being caused by his bedroom in her house (fortunately he was staying there that night, rather than in his normal bedroom in his mother's house). I already knew I wasn't the only person sleeping in clothes (though I've finally stopped now) and pretty much everyone is keeping a flashlight and cellphone close to hand. Also, no-one laughed when I mentioned I keep my shoes upside down to prevent glass falling inside. Instead I got told of a colleague's friend whose thermometer broke inside one shoe, and she carefully brushed and vacuumed out all the glass but when she wore it her foot gradually got more and more sore, and at the end of the day she realised she'd burnt her whole foot on whatever liquid had been inside the thermometer.

At afternoon tea I shifted in my chair, accidentally making it creak, and my colleague next to me jumped. As we gathered to say our goodbyes and go home, another colleague leaned wearily against the lockers, making them clatter, and a fourth colleague jumped.

The roads are crowded and the buses running late.

Staring out the window as we drove through the suburbs, I mused. Thinking about that link that was talking about how one has to reconcile one's ordinary belief that the world isn't out to kill you with those moments when it did kind of give it a go. It's like these two things exist in your head at the same time, in some quantam superposition thing, and it hurts your brain. And over time I've been resolving that back to the single state of "The world doesn't want to kill me" (albeit with the caveat "but how about I get my emergency kit ready just in case"). This avoids brain-hurtiness, and it gets my anxiety levels down.

And the thing that enrages me about 9/11 is the huge effort Certain Interests put in to resolve the quantam superposition in the opposite direction. To convince people that the (Islamic) world is out to get them. And doing this doesn't make the world any safer. All it does is keep people anxious. And (even if the various reasons the Certain Interests have for doing this were pure as the snow, which they're really not), keeping people anxious after a traumatic incident is itself evil. It is so many kinds of nasty I just cannot express.
zeborah: Zebra looking at its rainbow reflection (rainbow)
Every time someone talks about how terrible Margaret Thatcher was I feel a little bit sad because I kind of like her. But it never really occurred to me until very recently to work out why I kind of like her.

It's not that she (maybe) wrote Yes Minister fanfic (spoiler: it's not actually very good) because I only discovered that a year or so ago and I kind of liked her well before then.

It's not that I'm a fan of her policies or of anything she did because honestly I wouldn't have the slightest clue about any of this stuff. In fact from what I glean I suspect I'd be a complete anti-fan, which is part of what makes me a little bit sad.

It might be a little bit because she was the first female UK prime minister and that was pretty awesome.

But, after much thought, I think it's mostly because of a cartoon which I think was published in the local Press when I was... hmm, it was probably her 1987 re-election so I'd have been going on 10. It depicted Thatcher dressed in the stereotypical dominatrix leathers, cracking a whip over the bleeding backs of a crowd begging "More!"

And that image has kinda stuck with me. And I've always kind of liked her for it.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Stressed)
I already knew that the USan health system was crazy and ridiculously expensive. (There are USans who come to New Zealand for surgery because even with the airfares it's cheaper plus you get to visit New Zealand which, as previously reported in this LiveJournal, is the coolest country in the world.) But then I was reading this article and it starts talking about how, compared to other systems, the Mayo Clinic is cost-efficient because:

"[...] decades ago Mayo recognized that the first thing it needed to do was eliminate the financial barriers. It pooled all the money the doctors and the hospital system received and began paying everyone a salary, so that the doctors' goal in patient care couldn’t be increasing their income."

And I'm going <boggle> with extra bold font! And moreover, WHUT?

Do you mean that doctors elsewhere in the US don't receive a salary? That they instead receive a portion of each of their patients' fees? Seriously?

(For a private practice, sure, because that's what a private practice is. But I mean in hospitals and larger practices and stuff.)

Isn't that like paying judges according to the fines they levy?

It's been a while since I boggled this much. I don't get it. I must be misinterpreting something. Because if that's the system... Seriously. How could you trust your doctor's recommendations? Who could ever think that was a good idea?


zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
(*) Some details of this LJ post may be heavily fictionalised.

First of all you have to understand that New Zealand is one of those countries where we get our health insurance from the government (boo hiss) instead of from our employers (all hail!) This dangerous state of affairs, in which we rely on a bunch of people who we could vote out of power every three years rather than on a bunch of people who could make us redundant for all sorts of reasons, plays heavily into the following story.

So a month ago I got possibly-swine-flu, and then I got better, and then on Tuesday night I came down with something else, and then yesterday afternoon I was having all sorts of trouble breathing which my regular asthma medication wasn't really helping. I was starting to think that if it was still this way the next day, or if it got worse, I should seek medical attention. And then I was chatting on irc with [livejournal.com profile] painoarvokas who said something like "...Or you get medical attention *now*," and I thought "...Huh. I have noticed before in myself the tendency to fail at higher reasoning powers when suffering from oxygen deprivation. Maybe I should indeed borrow those of a more lucid friend."

Now, in New Zealand, the Death Panel, euphemistically known as "the health system", is administered by various branches. There's the "emergency department" if you're keeling over, and it's free. If you can't get there yourself you can call for an "ambulance", which is like a bookmobile except with medicine instead of books; they'll later bill you for $50, or about 5kg of cheap beef mince, but you get a while to pay and also I'm pretty sure if you actually need the money for mince instead then they cut you a deal. If you're not keeling over then you can see your "general practitioner" during office hours, or after-hours you can go to an "after-hours clinic". All the people working at these places are bound by the Hypocritical Oath (or something like that - I'm not a doctor, what would I know?) which they have to follow in order to decide who will live and who will die.

I couldn't get myself anywhere by myself but it didn't quite feel like a 111 thing, so I called my family instead. Dad prescribed decongestants and Mum brought me back to their place so I wouldn't be alone. The decongestants didn't help and after dinner I was feeling bad enough that I got Mum to drive me to the after-hours place. Due to my flu-like symptoms I had to wear a mask and use antiseptic hand goop, and I have to say that masks don't actually make it any easier to breathe!

So I went to the Death Panel reception desk where they asked my name and address. This is so they can dig up my records from last time I was here to help them make their fatal decision. Then they got me to stand waiting for a nurse. I divined that this was a test and that if I proved unable to stand for long enough then they'd just euthanise me (or possibly save my life - it's hard to tell the difference as both procedures involve a gas mask). In any case I didn't have sufficient oxygen in my brain to seriously consider disobeying and when I didn't collapse a Death Panel nurse came along and asked about my symptoms. Then I got to sit down and wait for another Death Panel nurse.

(At this point I brought out my laptop as it's my experience that things always happen much faster if I have my laptop open. A bus that would otherwise take 15 minutes to arrive is guaranteed to pull up immediately, for example. This time I wasn't thinking well enough to be interested in any of my stories, but while I was looking for mindless computer games the second Death Panel nurse came along anyway.)

So we went to their flu bay. She determined that I had no fever and that my blood oxygen levels were normal (could have fooled my brain!) but my peak flow was low. Then I got to go to another place to wait for a Death Panel doctor. I got out my laptop again and discovered that in fact I'd uninstalled all my mindless computer games in an attempt to actually do some writing. Mental note: must remedy this! Fortunately the laptop ploy did the trick and the Death Panel doctor arrived pretty promptly. She listened to my lungs and decided it was in fact asthma. Also she made the official decision that I should live, yay!

(She spent a bit of time asking if I'd had prednisone before, and I said yes, and she said "20 mg?" and I said "... Er, if that's the normal dosage then I guess that's what I've had before, I dunno." And she said, "Okay, I can tell you're not thinking clearly at the moment," and I wanted to say that it wasn't so much that I wasn't thinking clearly as that I really had no idea, but I wasn't thinking clearly enough to be able to explain this, so I decided to just go with the flow.)

At this point there was a little confusion because she couldn't find the spacer for giving me my salbutamol, so she had to consult with the rest of the Death Panel on that. And when they found it I kept breathing in when I pushed the inhaler down, like I do at home, instead of pushing it down and then breathing normally, like I was supposed to, and that gave me a fit of the giggles. But after six doses of salbutamol I was high as a kite and then the Death Panel sent me out with a prescription for prednisone and antibiotics in case of infection.

Oh, first I presented my credit card at the desk and they deducted NZ$72 from it. (This is about the price of 7kg of cheap cheddar cheese so you can see why poorer people would go to emergency even if it's not an emergency and they have to wait for hours. Because mm, cheese!) Then I went to the pharmacy and got my prednisone and antibiotics for $7 (or about the price of 5 cheap loaves of sliced bread at today's inflated prices).

Then I went home and took my medicine and went to bed. I was still shorter of breath than usual and also it took me about an hour to relax enough from the high-as-a-kite effects that I could sleep. But while I slept, nanites emerged from the prednisone and went to work building me new bionic lungs! Seriously, it was quite disconcerting when I woke up a few hours later and discovered that my lungs were just breathing all by themselves. But then I reconcerted myself, because if the Death Panel has seen fit to give me bionic lungs, what can I do about it? That's just how oppressive my government is!
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
"Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

I know which box I want to tick in order to (hopefully) get the result I want. But oh my goodness that question has even more things wrong with it than I'd gathered from being vaguely aware of the news coverage about how wrong it is. It's like some terrible hybrid of presupposition-tricksiness (see also "Have you stopped beating your wife?) and layers-of-negation-tricksiness (see also Proposition 8).

To refine my earlier-today modification of a colleague's question on Twitter today: "Should confusing and biased referendum questions as part of a just democratic society be legal in New Zealand?"

Fortunately the stupid thing isn't binding on the Government. If it were I don't see how it'd be possible for the Government to figure out what the heck the results meant.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Diddums)
In more-or-less breaking news, twelve people in New Zealand have agreed that stabbing someone 216 times counts as murder, not manslaughter. (Note for those unfamiliar with the case: the text in that article is ambiguous on the subject, but there's in fact no evidence whatsoever that the victim ever attacked the murderer with those scissors.)

So after doing a little cheer (because it was just nauseating to see that guy in national news justifying his actions by claiming that his victim was "controlling" and a "bitch" and a "slut" and that Google proved she had a personality disorder etc) -- and then doing a big cheer -- I started pondering that old adage.

Innocent until proven guilty.

This is a good adage with good reasons for it. If you start out assuming guilt, the defendant won't get a fair trial, and that's not good; not to mention the potential social stigma.

But and however. This works just fine for 'victimless' crimes; but it fails horribly when the crime is against a victim. Because in that case, to assume that the defendant is innocent requires assuming that the alleged victim is lying, deluded, or somehow otherwise to blame for the alleged crime.

In other words, assuming that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty frequently entails assuming that the victim is guilty until proven innocent. Victim-blaming isn't just a side-effect of our justice system; it's what the system is *built* on.

This is broken. If we hold the principle that we may not believe without proof that the defendant's alleged actions justify a jailterm, then to believe without proof that the victim's alleged actions justify having a banjo stuffed down his throat is nothing but hypocrisy. A truly fair system should assume that the victim, just as much as the defendant, is innocent.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Stressed)
My new Pyrex glassware says that it must be used in a preheated oven only.

My new Marinex glassware says that it must not be used in a preheated oven under any circumstances.

a) How on earth am I going to remember which is which, and
b) WHY?

[In shinier news, the New Zealand government has agreed to delay the implementation of guilt-upon-accusation in the new Copyright Amendment Act. "[T]he Creative Freedom Foundation's high-volume "blackout" campaign [...] will now go down in history as the first viral internet campaign to stop - or at least delay - a law." This is rocksome on many levels.]
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Normally I have DF plonked but he replied to something Irina said and I wanted to know how obnoxious he was going to be. It wasn't too obnoxious except that he said:
The bizarre way in which systems of taxation intertwine with voluntary arrangements among human beings.

Which is the sort of thing that makes me want to say, "But taxation is a voluntary arrangment among human beings too!"

But then someone would say that the state enforces taxation on pain of death. You what? was my response when I first heard this concept, but apparently it breaks down like this: you don't pay your taxes, therefore the state imposes penalties, which you ignore, so it confiscates your property and/or comes to arrest you, therefore you defend yourself and your property with a gun, therefore the state shoots you in defense of its officers. Personally I think that the step where you defend yourself with a gun is not strictly under the control of the state, but I've never yet managed to make this clear to someone holding this point of view.

Next time someone tries to convince me of taxation-or-death, however, I think I'll complain that the state has everyone enslaved. After all, if I choose not to work, then I won't get money (even this great socialist country of New Zealand will stop a person's benefits if they don't make some kind of show of looking for work) and if I don't get money then I can't eat and I'll starve to death. The state is forcing me against my will to do work on pain of death! Oh noes!

I probably won't say this, actually, because it's as stupid an argument as taxation-or-death. Maybe I should instead counter by nodding wisely and saying that New Zealand forbids littering on pain of death: you litter, and a police officer asks you to pick it up, and you draw a gun, and the police calls the SWAT team in, who, when you refuse to put your gun away, shoot you in self-defence.

I mean, seriously, guys, there is a piece of logic here that is missing.

The point is that society has to organise itself somehow, and our society has organised itself (by the combined choices of its constituents over the years - it's almost like market forces, really) such that people who can work generally work and pay some percentage of their money for a) the support of people who can't work, including b) themselves when they were children and when they will be elderly, as well as for c) large-scale projects which are more likely to be organised by the state than by unrestrained market forces.

It doesn't work perfectly, of course, because it's got humans in it. But it does work, which is why it's still here.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
In breaking news, the Prime Minister's husband has had a delivery of fruit salad.

...I love my country.

(OTOH it's really not looking hopeful for a surprise left-wing victory.)

ETA: We're just starting to listen to the head of the Maori party when the studio cuts away to show us the first corporate taxis of the evening. Alas, a false alarm: it's only some guests leaving a party leader's house, not the leader himself leaving to go and claim victory somewhere.

ETA bis: The Labour Party are serving sausage rolls and mini quiches. Still not king.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I was so busy reading about the US elections that I nearly forgot it was Election Day here. Fortunately the rates bill came this afternoon, reminding me of the existence of governance in New Zealand. So I wandered down the road until I found a sign pointing to a school where I could vote, and upon arriving there, I voted.

On my way back, I righted the sign, which had been blown over in the meantime. Then I went to the library to return some books and borrow some new ones, and then I righted the sign again and came home.

I have my rates set up to get paid by direct debit so that's all done too.


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

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