The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Monday, January 31, 2005

chicken chicks?

Further to Maxine's post at Three Point Turn on the lack of female political bloggers in the NZ clique, and my own consternation on the same point many months ago, here's a wee bit of analysis.

From my blogroll of the nz politics types (by no means exhaustive) we have:
Women 3 (all left)
Men 35 (21 left, 11 right, 3 centre)
Team blogs with women 4 (2 left, 1 right, 1 centre)
Team blogs with no women 3 (2 left, 1 right)
Total number blogs 45

So as a percentage there are only 15.6% (to 1 dp) have a female perspective. This does seem startlingly low. Particularly, imho, the lack of women on the right until Maxine started blogging quite recently. Of course I am ignoring the "professional" bloggers, i.e. journos and politicians who have blogs as I just don't read them, with the exception of Hard News.

But the real question here is why?

Some people (men) have postulated that women aren't interested in politics, (tell that to the PM, incoming Speaker, etc). I think this is a pretty old fashioned view of the divide between public and private that really shouldn't have escaped the 1950s.

Others seem to think women aren't as into the rough and tumble of blog debate. And yet there are frequently women commenting on DPF's blogs who don't have blogs (or at least don't have political ones). Why are they commenters but not bloggers?

I'm stumped, but if the nz blogosphere is to have a future as an important place for political debate then we need to get a bit more diverse, and not just in terms of gender either.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

benefit envy

Brash's Orewa II speech seemed to be an attempt to tap into the vein of benefit envy that runs deep in many Kiwi hearts. We have this insanely inaccurate picture of life on the dole, or the DPB, or a sickness benefit - it seems like a land of milk and honey where lazing around all day is the norm, you can afford Sky, and you laugh maniacally at all those mugs who work for a living.

For the record I've never been on a benefit and touch wood I will never have to rely on one in the future. But I did spend three years living like a cat due to illness. I never considered a benefit seriously - I had family support that was more than I would have got on the benefit (and even so was still difficult to live off) and I knew that trying to get, and keep, a sickness benefit with ME would only make me more stressed and thus more unwell and less likely to ever recover.

Living on a benefit is not an easy feat - it is definitely not fun. The amount of dosh you have to get by on is meagre, especially since the 1991 benefit cuts. Anyone who has seen In A Land of Plenty will tell you that one of the most shocking parts of the doco is when it covers how the amount of food costs needed for each person was calculated - nutritionists were asked to prepare three food budgets, one luxurious, one standard, one the absolute bare minimum. One of the nutritionists is interviewed in the film and pointed out that they told the bean counters that you could not live on the bare minimum for long and maintain good health. But that bare minimum figure was then slashed by a further 10% (from memory) to get the food portion of the 1991 dole. These cuts have never been reversed in real terms.

And yet so many New Zealanders are envious - they have an incorrect picture of life without work. As someone who couldn't work for three years my mental health suffered considerably. I felt worthless without something to do - although I taught myself to cook when I was well enough, I still felt like a complete bludger, even though I was not actually on a benefit. That feeling of uselessness haunts me still - every time I get tired or experience that peculiar ME muscle pain I fear that I will have to go back to lying around all day doing nothing.

Most people actually want to work. They get a sense of self-worth from being employed and from what they achieve through work. I tried everything to keep working, and I know of others with ME or similar illnesses who have gone through the same experience - you just want so much to be more than a lump of human flesh occupying space.

A colleague who used to work for a benefit advocacy group told me a story this week of a man she had helped. She visited him at home and was shocked by the bareness of the place. The man told her that he used to bash beneficiaries too - he had been consumed with anger at people who were on benefits. But now that he was in that situation, due to no fault of his own, he could see the other side of the coin. He had had to sell many of his possessions to get by and was now very very depressed which was of course only making it harder to get back to work.

And most people on benefits would rather not be - think about it, how would you like to get by on less than $200 a week, not for a week or two, but for months or even years on end? How would you manage? Who would you turn to when all your mates thought you were a bludger because they didn't understand your illness? How would you make the decision between whether to sell the fridge or the washing machine? What would you feel when you had to buy everything from new on hire purchase, because you didn't have enough of an income to purchase things in one off payments, meaning no second-hand bargains for you?

These questions bear consideration by even the healthiest and most highly employed of us - because at any moment you or I could be amongst their number. We could get sick, we could get fired, we could end up with a child on our hands who required constant care. I thought I was immune and I wasn't. Neither are you.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

that time of year part III - Jan progress report

In the interests of accountability, and because I have a resolution to totally tick off, here is my Jan progress report on my New Year's resolutions.

1. Get a new job in the area I want to work in - well this is now done. Got the job I really really wanted, which is a huge relief and quite exciting. Will start mid March (my goal was to start by end of March). Have commenced roller skate shopping but they are proving elusive (any at all, not just the ones with sparkly wheels). Any advice on the location of said roller skates (I spit on roller blades, a terrible corruption of the perfect original) much appreciated.

2. Exercise more - going quite well. Tennis is generally happening either once or twice a week. Have been a little slack about other forms of exercise lately due to extreme busy-ness. However now need to stay exact same shape for the next two weeks, so that should provide some impetus. Managed to walk very easily up a large hill (Bond St) on Wednesday, however that may have been partly due to the adrenalin from good job interview.

3. Think positive - one key measure is underway and have plans for a second. The first one should enable me to identify more possibilities for furthering this resolution as well.

4. Resist over-committing - this is commencing a pace. One helpful hint - put yourself in a position where you cannot actually speak on a conference call without difficulty. This way you will minimise your well-meant but doomed volunteering ;-)

5. Get at least one stamp in my shiny unused passport - no progress yet but hopefully in three weeks time i will be flying through the air right now to far off shores. Not sure where the far off shores are. And don't think of robbing us as we are getting a cat-sitter.

6. Finish the kitchen - have done absolutely nothing. Not a bean. No regrets though (refer resolution 3)

7. Get up to date with my Alliance projects - doing pretty dismally on this one too, although I did finish one large project. Have scheduled some time to finish the other really big one too and should knock off a small one this weekend. Phew.

All in all not too bad, given how incredibly busy I have been in January. Let's see what Feb will achieve...

Monday, January 24, 2005

perfect spam

recreated below for your viewing pleasure:

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complete with lovely pictures and logos which i have not recreated here because i am still in lazy blogger mode.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

varsity vs tech

(Further to the debate over on DPF's blog about whether or not Unitec should be granted university status.)

I used to be quite snobbish about universities and polytechs - firmly of the view that the former was superior to the latter and that only stupid people went to tech. Of course I spent far too long at uni myself and the people I encountered there seemed to share this view.

But once I had actually got out in the real world and met actual people I realised that techs are absolutely vital, just very different from universities. The role they fill is to train people in more vocational ways, in specific skills, some of which are hands on and practical and some of which are more esoteric. In a way the divide could be characterised as think (uni) vs do (tech). Not that people who come out of techs are mindless drones, of course, but they have practical skills that they can come straight out and use in the career they have chosen, whereas university graduates basically always need to be trained up. Even the few vocational university courses, law and medicine, require further training before you can practice or have built in a practical component in recognition of this.

I think that difference should be cherished and protected, not allowed to be eroded by the commercialisation of education that has been underway in our country for a long time now.

The terms "university" and "polytechnic" do need protection - not just from the state institutions using them inappropriately, but also from PTEs who can be quite mercenary about these things. If the names can just be attached to any organisation then how long will it be before you can basically buy a NZ "university" degree?

Monday, January 17, 2005

being lazy

Look I'm really busy right now - real life is tugging at my trouser leg and demanding attention and who am I to look it in its big puppy dog eyes and say no?

So whilst I look like I'm being very blog lazy in fact I am.

This state of affairs is likely to continue until mid March. I will be posting, but I'm not going to be frequent about it.

I suggest in the meantime that my three readers peruse the blogs on my link list, or indeed my reasonably voluminous archives.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

nz police - mia

Whig's post about our boys and girls in blue has reminded me of quite a disturbing thing that happened to someone dear to me earlier this week.

Basically this guy is nearly pension age and was doing a spot of voluntary work, helping Tag Off, which is an organisation that paints over graffiti and sometimes the volunteers are helped by young offenders on community service. On this occasion Mr D was on his own though, painting something over at about 8pm at night. It was still light, so he thought, hey no problem.

But then some kid (or "young punk" in the parlance of Mr D's generation) came up and dissed ma' man (in the parlance of said younger person) for taking down his mate's tag. Mr D responded by saying that they hadn't asked permission to paint the wall, so he was painting it over and proceeded to return to his painting (no doubt totally unlike the scene in The Karate Kid).

Then a few minutes later Mr D was interrupted again, by someone yelling out hey. He turned around, as you do, and was snapped by this young dude on his cellphone, who then turned tail. Mr D gave chase. But thinking you are still 21 doesn't cut much ice when you are actually in your 60s and he soon fell behind and gave up.

It's a strangely, vaguely, intimidating thing to have happen - it's just someone taking your picture, but it's also someone saying "i know who you are and you're on my list".

Contact with the police about this has been nonsensical. Mr D has been told that they will send a car around if he can tell them where the teens are. Of course he can't. Basically they're not interested. In a way, what could the cops do really? But you'd think they might offer a bit more reassurance.

But there's more.

Tag Off has had a long association with the local community constable, so I asked if Mr D had got in touch with him. No point, apparently, he's been taken off community constable duty for six months. Guess what he's doing instead? No prizes, it's too easy.

Until I was at university I'd never really been in trouble with the cops. Sure I'd been to a couple of those big "out of control" teen parties on the Shore (funny how they weren't out of control until the cops arrived) but that was about it. Most of my interaction with the police since has been in a civil disobedience situation, and I've met the good (a few) and the bad.

I know that the police have a job to do in terms of upholding fair and just laws and I respect that - I have a problem with that job when I feel that they are effectively using their power to protect an unfair system, or just because they like to, or to make me conform with their moral code.

In my mind community constables should be The Absolute Last Officers taken off and put on other duties. Community constables keep the communication lines open, they solve problems at lower levels, they keep in touch with what is happening. For that community to be left without this person, this valuable link, for six months is just shameful.

The Whig is right - we don't need more police, we just need them deployed in the real places where actual crime is happening or starting, not peering out at the world through a speed camera.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

bringing them home

I've been musing a bit on the victims of the tsunami and how many of the foreigners are being taken home for burial and the like.

I have to say if it were me I would have absolutely no problem whatsoever with being cremated on the spot and my ashes sent home, or even just buried wherever, especially in that kind of public health crisis. I would like my identity to be verified, if practicable, and I would like my grave marked, if possible, but that's it.

This may seem a bit harsh on the family, but really do they need to see my dead body, especially if it is damaged or decomposing? I have had a lot of friends and family die so far, for someone my age, and I have never seen a dead body (except on telly) and I didn't need to see their bodies to believe they were gone, or deal to with their death.

After all, aren't our bodies just shells after our death? Couldn't we put those resources to better use helping the living in the aftermath of a crisis like this?

Monday, January 10, 2005


The Man In The Comfy Chair is listening to the Tsunami Benefit Cricket Match, with a World 11 playing an Asian 11.

Surely the World 11 didn't have to set such a high target as 345 runs? Wouldn't it be nice for the Asian 11 to win this?


kerr switches sides?

Heard Roger Kerr on Nat Rad this morning and nearly drove clear off the road.

He seemed to be saying that he thought workers should be paid what they were worth. While I'm sure our ideas of what workers are worth differs he specifically said if employers want workers to do something extra then they will have to pay them extra. What happened to all the moaning about time and a half and a day in lieu on public holidays??

Who has stolen Roger Kerr and replaced him with a taller Ross Wilson? I can only assume someone gave him happy pills for Xmas and he is still taking them.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Clarion Tour - over and out

Yesterday was the last day of the inaugural Young Labour Clarion Tour and you can now read the whole story on their website, complete with pictures and Quicktime video (although my connection is too slow so I haven't seen any of those yet, damn dialup).

It's in reverse order, so if you haven't been following along, boys and girls, you might want to click on the Day One link on the right hand side bar.

Legend has it that there are some additional pics on a digital camera that is somewhere in my house. Unfortunately (and annoyingly) said camera cannot be found, but rest assured once it is reunited with its owner pics will be up and about, if they are any good.

Although I'm not now, and never have been, a member of Young Labour (or indeed Labour in general) I do think this has been a fantastic idea, and well executed. It's great to see political types get out and do something real, in fact ten days of real, all over the country. I hope that it continues in the future - the regions get ignored by the cities too often and the most exciting thing about this, for me, was the commitment to go to small towns and to drive rather than fly - the only way to really touch the people who live in those areas.

And of course the interaction with the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders would only do those YLers some good - the focus of people they encountered on building a country that cares for people and the environment has shone through clearly.

Let's hope those on the Tour can share some of those views around with the rest of their Party :-)

the secret life of Whiggy

The Whig has responded to my post that mentioned my view that he blogs too much of his personal life.

I don't really mean that as absolutely as it sounds - I meant that I would find that level of disclosure, in a situation where people know who I am and many readers know me personally, incredibly uncomfortable. I just couldn't do it. Part of me admires his bravery, but another part, by far the bigger, worries he is leaving himself incredibly vulnerable. Whig blogs that he is happy with that, and there the matter rests - it's his blog he can do what he wants.

But I do have a very unhappy memory from when I hurt someone badly because I thought that only people currently in my life would read my internet jottings. This was in a previous web incarnation, and the person read into my words things that were never meant - they stuffed all the baggage between us into the gaps until the meaning was quite different from what was intended. This reaction was entirely predictable and understandable, albeit a bit extreme. Ultimately quite a bit of pain was created because I was careless and didn't really think beyond the audience that existed in my head.

Be careful out there fellow bloggers - anyone could be reading...


There are some very strange ads on Solid Gold FM in Auckland these days.

I don't listen to 93.4 often, but recently I have almost always heard these strange little messages asking me what my opinion is on various justice issues, in particular around prisoner compensation.

But to voice this opinion I have to call an 0900 number. (See my previous rantings on the spurious value of 0900 polls for why I won't be doing that.)

And which organisation is conducting this poll?

The Sensible Sentencing Trust.

If the Sensible Sentencing Trust wants to fundraise then they should be open and transparent about it. Doing it through a phone-in poll of absolutely no value except as a form of revenue is disingenous.

(Humph - I think 2005 may be My Year Of Grumpiness)

blog boundaries

I was musing last night about the different boundaries people set themselves on their blogs, in the nz political blogosphere.

Some people never mention personal stuff but stick strictly to the political, occasionally explaining their absences but that's about it. Uber left blogger No Right Turn in particular comes to mind.

At the other end of the spectrum some give rather too much personal information, given that they are totally open about their identity. It's totally their choice, but sometimes I worry that their posts will come back to bite them in the arse. I do tend to worry too much, of course.

My boundary is that I'll refer to stuff in my life, historical or current, but I'm not really into a high level of revelation about my relationships with partner, friends, family or workmates. I tend to prefer to be cryptic if I really need to get something out (not entirely sure whether I am cryptic enough, but I try).

I tend to feel that the personal stuff is not really that interesting to others, except in a prurient sense. Posting about it is more for my benefit, to put it out there on the page and thus at arm's length. Which is why being cryptic does the business for me.

This boundary is likely to be tested in the next few months, but I am in good heart that I can safely maintain it and also retain all my limbs intact.

tennis in tel aviv

I had lunch yesterday with a guy who spent several years living in Israel as a teen and young adult.

We didn't talk about the Occupation, or anything like that, although I know he's ethnically Jewish and sympathetic to the Palestinians.

We talked about tennis.

I guess I was surprised when I shouldn't have been. I was surprised that it was possible, in Israel, to have similar experiences to a teen in Aotearoa NZ, despite everything.

Perhaps when I've travelled more I'll make less stupid assumptions about what life is like in other places.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


DPF has something and it is catching - I too am now ill and off work for a day that I probably can't afford to take off. Curses!

Monday, January 03, 2005

that time of year part II - my resolutions

Ok this is the one with the actual resolutions for 2005, after a bit of reflection.

It mostly boils down to Stop Doing Things That Are Bad For Me/Start Doing Things That Are Good For Me.

1. Get a new job in the area I want to work in - to start by end March. One job application already submitted, plus one other job offer to currently consider.
Reward: some sparkly roller skates

2. Exercise more - two major efforts a week, plus a bike ride a day whenever fine. Tennis once a week is currently going well, and swimming will be added in once a) my ears heal and b) I get some togs that fit.
Reward: looking and feeling better and being able to walk up hills!

3. Think positive - a daily effort, to be aided by some specific activities that I am going to be vague about.
Reward: being easier to live with and happier

4. Resist over-committing - at work and in politics. Just because I am going to have actual free time again from March doesn't mean I have to use it all up (repeat often).
Reward: more leisure time, specifically for mini-breaks in June and September (post-election).

5. Get at least one stamp in my shiny unused passport - should happen in mid Feb, fingers crossed.
Reward: A strange object from each place to bring home for The House.

6. Finish the kitchen - by the end of the year need to: get ugly tiles removed, get walls plastered, get benchtop and taps installed, put in new not-ugly tiles, rip up lino. paint walls and ceiling, polish floors, consider new handles, do something about the damn table and chairs, put microwave box thing back up, get new light fittings. Considering we started* the kitchen just after we moved in, and have been here nearly two years, I think 2005 must be The Year of the Kitchen. Or it would be if it wasn't Election Year.
Reward: Nice artwork for the kitchen.

* started = stripped the incredibly hideous bamboo wallpaper and took all the bits off the walls

7. Get up to date with my Alliance projects - time to clear the decks, so that I can actually carry out 4.
Reward: Being able to volunteer for new projects in the future.

Righto, seven seems like a nice, lucky number. But I'm sure I'll think of something else.

Update: Here's the Technorati list of bloggers' new year's resolutions.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

that time of year part I - last year's resolutions

Need to review last year's resolutions, conveniently immortalised on h2g2 before I forgot my sign in details. I recreate them here:

- to learn meditation
- to pay more attention to
1. marathecat
2. kay my sister
3. ang my good friend
- to beat the itch-scratch cycle
- to paint my nails more often
- to get fitter and walk up some volcanos

Meditation was a non-event. I signed up for the free Sri Chinmoy classes, then discovered they were a scary cult so wimped out at the last minute. Would still like to learn though.

In the paying more attention stakes, marathecat has done ok. Kay not so well - I'm beginning to think it will take some sprog production on my part to break down those ancient barriers. Will try again this arvo though. Ang bloody decamped to Ireland in about March (or was it April?) making it a little difficult. I've sent her lots of postcards though. Got an email from her the other day for my efforts - she's in North Africa now, with a mysterious Irishman called, stereotypically, Declan. I imagine that he has one blue eye, one green, and a gammy leg. She has yet to confirm or deny.

Itch-scratch cycle - largely successful. Took me absolutely months and months and months though. My advice to anyone considering developing some eczema - don't.

Painting my nails happened a fair bit. Certainly enough that I feel that resolution gets the completed tick. I think I now qualify for my girly girl card.

To get fitter - well isn't this just my perennial resolution. I think I walked up two volcanoes. That's one every six months. Oops. I am definitely fitter than this time last year. But then I was starting from a very low base. (Living like a cat who doesn't chase birds for three years will do that to you.)

So I guess I'd better come up with some resolutions for 2005...