Monday, November 30, 2009

Race based politics zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I was trying to decide if I had anything insightful to say about  Hone Harawira, or whether the numb skull deserves my blog space, but then I heard that another hui has ended without an outcome and I fell asleep.

Could this get any more boring?  What a poor lesson in leadership and management for our "future" (which I will forever consider myself a part of, regardless of my age, thank you very much).  Can someone please respond to my suspicion that hui end when the food finishes and reconvene when the supermarket has enough stock again?  Because the impression that's left is that hui have nothing to do with reaching conclusions and agreements in a timely manner.  And everything to do with an opportunity to get together for a chat and a feed.

We all know that as long as hate-based race-based politics is allowed to continue in NZ, no censure will befall Hone.  As much as we would like it to, and as much as we know it morally should.  So stop pissing around with the hui, get off the benefit that allows you the freedom to take weeks off to attend hui and pay for all the food, and do something useful for a change.  If you're going to insist on politics based purely on tribal lines, you might feel more at home in Africa.   It's surprisingly easy to come up with policies that are intelligent and not divisive.  It's takes much more effort to call people mofos and to play the victim card.  Perhaps a hui is needed to talk this through.  I'll get the potatoes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Accept PDTs and move on

Only twice in the past have I found myself in public places with a child who is on the verge of meltdown. Three children later, I have come to know what it takes to avert most PDTs (Public Displays of Tantrum). So I confess it's hard for me to watch other parents struggle without rushing up to them and giving them a sympathetic hug (I'm not into PDAs either).

But some parents seem to deserve it. Having had to up to the proverbial with Sanctimummies, it was bad karmic pleasure to witness a well-known Sanctimummy offspring collapse into a violent, toy-flinging heap at - of all places - The Warehouse this morning (the jury is still out as to why the Sanctimummy was at The Warehouse).

Back around the turn of the Millennium, a young, beautiful woman lived in the banana groves with her husband and her three unassisted-birthed, unschooled, natural-fiber clothed babes. She claimed to have healed herself of pancreatic cancer, and, when her family weren't roaming the plantation, eating fresh bananas straight off the palms, her family ate their raw, organic vegan meals at a low, Japanese-style table.

She generally enjoys her role as a mother. And her children are not bad children, but the label "laid back" doesn't apply to them either. They are boisterous, loud, and very curious; in short, they are normal. One day, one of the kids, used to getting his way all the time, didn't know how to respond to rejection and started screaming. Not wanting to miss the fun, the other kids joined in the group scream. As she frantically tried to quiet the tumult, she noticed the searing glares of the other shoppers, oblivious to the irony that it was a judgemental look that she had many times inflicted on others. One man nearby muttered loud enough for all to hear: "If I had five minutes with those kids they would behave themselves."

She was humiliated. She felt like the worst parent ever. How could this happen when she stays away from artificial fibres, only conceives according to a basal moon chart, doesn't vaccinate, reads all relevant books, sends her children to the Steiner school, and only eats organic vegan foods?  With horror, she wondered if her children were, in fact, autistic, having consumed processed food at a birthday party last month.

I cornered her at her car after she ran out in deep shame, and, after providing appropriate soothing noises about children testing us and the science behind autism, I tried to explain to her the following basics of child behaviour:

1. It is Not Your Fault

2. It is just A New Developmental Phase

3. How You React Matters:

  • ignore the show;
  • avoid Public Humiliation;
  • if you can’t avoid, distract; and
  • coat yourself in Teflon

She wasn't buying any of it.  There is clearly a belief that there exist some parents whose children don't throw temper tantrums. Their children are always polite and kind to animals and happily eat all their raw vegetables on their plate. They always sleep through the night and their cloth nappies never stink. In fact, they don't wear nappies, and instinctively knew how to use the toilet from birth. These are the people that make the rest of us insecure. Even thought they may think it is their great parenting that caused this child to be so angelic, I can assure you that it has very little to do with them. It's the luck of the draw.

I sometimes wonder if these are the people who write books on parenting.  These people are the weirdo parents, not the parents whose kids melt down in public. Their kids (assuming they exist) are aberrations, not yours. Just forget that they exist. They probably don't.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kamusta Maligayang pagdating sa Telstramalinaw

Or something.  Apparently that's Filipino for "Welcome to TelstraClear", but I concede a free internet translation thingy may not be accurate.

I'm bemused (for those who think that means "happy", it actually means bewildered and confused) at the article in today's Kapiti Observer on the rumours of TelstraClear's call centre in Kapiti potentially closing down and upping sticks to Manila, or some country without a minimum wage and many willing workers, anyway.

What is bemusing me with this article isn't that there is concern about potential job losses, or the impact on Kapiti's economy (although I did laugh at that one), or the loss of New Zealanders answering phone calls from New Zealanders.  What is bemusing me is that there is actually a TelstraClear call centre.  In New Zealand.

I had no idea.  Whenever I have tried to ring TelstraClear, I am faced with a suicidal voice "recognition" system, where the only phrase that gets you connected to an operator is "FARK OFF BEFORE I KILL MYSELF" (I give you permission to use this phrase without fear of copyright), and then the person who answers comes with one of the following names: Jamal, Karim, Abdul, Mohammad, Satish, Ravi, Kamahl, Shoshanna, Malik..... and has an accent that is very hard to decipher.  And from the advice provided, their location is questionable, but is presumably not New Zealand.

The fact that they are possibly overseas, though, doesn't bother me if the quality of advice provided is adequate.  In TelstraClear's case, it never is.

What does this call centre do, exactly?  Clearly, from the comments by the call centre workers in the Kapiti Observer, it is possible at some point in the TelstraClear chain to be connected to these people who apparently care enough about their jobs to "improve customer service and maintain its competitiveness".  And here I was thinking that the majority of Kapiti TelstraClear customers are only so because calls to Wellington are free with TelstraClear and are toll calls with Telecom.  If there's a secret voice recognition code for this good customer service, I want to know it.

And, as for the quote in the article (verbatim follows):
I always thought TelstraClear were good and cared about their staff but in reality now it comes down to it they don't.  We are just a figure and they're just after profit.
Quite.  And so they should be.  TelstraClear is a business, not a welfare agency (or, clearly, interested in improving literacy).  Yes, it's an awful feeling to have just taken out a mortgage only to now find yourself redundant.  But that's just the way things are.  As the person paying the phone bill, I want to know that the company is doing what it can to ensure its costs to me are minimised.  If this means the company has to move part of its business to a country with a cheaper and more efficient call centre operation, then so be it.

I wait with baited breath to see if the Filipinos can offer a superior customer service.  They won't have to try too hard.  Or perhaps I should start learning my Filipino swear words.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to stop global warming

I'm bored with climate change now. I resent that I should feel guilty whenever the sun shines. When the weather is lovely, I want to enjoy it, dammit.

Not that I ever paid much attention to the global warmingists.

The usual free-range communists and fair trade hippies continue to berate us for having fun, and that methane is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and that farmed animals are doing more damage to the climate than all the world's transport, power stations, and sunken lightbulbs put together.  What's more, demand for beef means forests are being destroyed, and pressure is being put on our water supplies.  Oh my god.  We are doomed.

Plainly, then, the solution is to kill anything with more than one stomach. Maybe I should shoot my sheep?  No, happily what the free-range warmists are actually saying is that you can keep your petrol-run SUV and your walk-in beer fridge, but you must stop eating meat.

In fact, you have to stop eating all animal products. No more milk. No more cheese. No more jellybeans. You must become ...........shudder ...........vegan.

Now of course if you don’t like the taste of meat, then it’s perfectly reasonable to be vegetarian. It’s why people who don’t like non-Maori join the Maori Party.  At least vegetarians don't shun animal  products.   However, I can think of nothing I’d like less than being vegan.

Of course there are certain weeds I like very much. Broccoli, asparagus, basil, rocket and leeks in particular. But the idea of eating only a broccoli, without even so much as a blue cheese sauce or parmesan topping, fills me with dread.

There are wider implications, too. Let us imagine that the world decided today to abandon its appetite for joints of beef, and for meat-infused Mars bars. What effect would this have on the countryside?

What would you find in the fields that were once filled with grazing cows and truffle pigs?

Hardcore free-range vegan warmists like to imagine that the land would be returned to the indigenous species, that you could go for a walk without a farmer shooting a rabbit, and that you’d see all manner of pretty flowers and ferns and lots of once-extinct creatures. Moa, for instance.

In fact if animal farmers were driven away, the land would be divided up in two ways. Some would be given over to the growing of potatoes, and the rest would be bought by rock stars.

Plainly, the best thing we can do if we want to save the world, preserve the countryside and continue eating meat, is to work out a way in which animals produce less methane.

Scientists in Germany are working on a pill, but apparently this has a number of side effects. These are not itemised, but I can only assume that if you trap the gas inside the cow one of the drawbacks is that it might explode.  And scientists in NZ (AgResearch?) are trialling grasses that produce less methane inside a cow

But these ideas, while intelligent, are in fact unnecessary. Cows need a new foodstuff: something that is rich in iron, calcium and natural goodness.

Vegans.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Inane utterings about toothbrushes

At the moment, I am in a short-attention-span frame of mind. So it was a mistake trying to buy a toothbrush. Has the toothbrush industry been taken over by a Marketing 101 class doing a spoof exercise?

Take the Access, for example. It promises not only a rubber handle with superior grip, but also claims it "reaches behind back teeth". In order to....????? Clean tonsils? Then there is Colgate's micro-sonic power brush, which promises outstanding sonic cleansing because it "combines high-speed sonic vibrations with multi-angled bristles". My brain equates "sonic" with "boom", which seems disappointingly unlikely in this case since the brush is powered by a single AA battery. Reach has the "dualeffect" brush, with "massaging fingers". Not in my mouth, thanks. Johnson & Johnson offers a brush with an "antibacterial microbe handle" – surely a great relief for all those avid toothbrushers who worry about microbes on their toothbrush handles.

After carefully reading each packet, I decided to select my toothbrush using the same criteria - no, criterion - I used when I selected my car. Colour.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Food brutality

I've been very absent for the past three weeks. Not that I haven't been thinking about blogging. It just took a backseat to some personal upheavals, and I found, much to my surprise, that I get blogger's block when I'm feeling happy. And when I'm feeling anxious. And there haven't been any other emotions happening.

But today, I witnessed an outrage that finally put the blogger block to rest. In what feels like a past life, I travelled the world, and witnessed much public kindness and much public brutality. So much so that I feel pretty hardened now. But, there are two images that continue to haunt me. I like to think that it is merely coincidental that both were witnessed in New Zealand in the last 5 years.

My sons and I were standing in line at a bakery, behind a young mother who ordered a lovely, fat, pink finger bun for her toddler, its lush coat of icing spangled prettily with hundreds and thousands. The child reached up expectantly. My own cavities hummed with excitement.

It was then that the act of violence occurred. Ignoring the child's outstretched hand, the mother grabbed a napkin and vigorously scrubbed the icing off the bun. The poor child looked on bravely while I looked on horrified. He accepted the ruined treat humbly, and, I thought as I glanced down at my boys, with surprising grace. He was clearly used to this.

I still don't get it. Isn't the icing the whole point of a finger bun?

That mother would get on well with the group of parents I used to sometimes, despite my best efforts, bump into when I was walking my nannying charges through Central Park in New York City. These mothers banded together to oppose ice-cream trucks. One mother admitted:
I feel kind of bad. I want my three-year-old, Katherine, to have the full childhood experience and all. But it's really predatory for ice-cream vendors to be right inside the playground.
Is that really easier than just saying "no"? One mum insisted to her son that the ice-cream van was a "music truck". Perhaps sent as a public service for people with an uncontrollable craving for Greensleeves? She complained:
As a new mother, everyone advises you on toilet training, but the ice-cream truck, nobody ever mentions that.
In their ideal world, parents would discard the ice cream, and present their children with the stick.

I thought of these mothers when I witness the other brutal, haunting event that occurred when I was pregnant with my first child. Now, when reading this, bear in mind that I am not a clucky person, even when pregnant, even after having three children. When I meet other people's children, they generally have to work pretty hard to earn my friendship, let alone any smidgen of respect. The same ruthless approach tends to apply to parents. And I have no qualms admitting that, while I am undeniably supportive, I do judge other parents (to myself), and take smug pleasure when my judgements prove correct (which is often).

At a crowded food court at the policy-wonk end of Lambton Quay one busy lunch hour, a very large woman, with her very large husband and very large child (I guess he would have been around 4 years old), ambled into the food court and found a seat. Nothing significant in that, and I was so engrossed in selecting my sushi that I barely registered their presence, other than hearing the kid scream.

To this day, I do not know what made me look, but I glanced across and noticed the woman trying to breastfeed her child. Being pregnant with my first child, and still quite career-focused, I shuddered at this prospect and wondered if I would be this woman in 4 years time. The kid refused a feed, so, with evidence of much practice, the woman reached across to the next table, picked up the sugar bowl, dipped her nipple in it, and then offered a feed to her son again. Naturally, now that the item on offer was now sugar-coated, he accepted with less restraint this time.

One of the side effects of the personal upheaval of the last three weeks is that I seem to suffer from amnesia. I'm not sure why I share that last story with you, other than to suggest you never use sugar bowls in cafes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When inanimate objects attack

Rage against inanimate objects is on the increase. Do not bother telling me to buy a Mac because I cannot afford it, but I do know that between my PC and me, one of us has to go. In short, my computer is suffering from a bipolar condition where it can be perfectly normal in the morning and completely “shutdown” in the afternoon. Sometimes.

I have tried to be compassionate but in a fit of angst (unfortunately for the computer, compounded by a marriage break up), I Googled "inanimate object rage" and discovered over 250,000 entries. I am not alone. Global bloggers unite in inanimate object fury.

"Inanimate Objects Hate Me!" shrieks wittandwisdom.com. "This past weekend, while attempting to mow the lawn, I had what I’ve patented as a Witteurysm, which is when one blows a part of his brain out of his earhole due to the actions of an inanimate object."

There was a story in the paper recently about a Japanese man who got so angry at the new apartment block next door overshadowing his house that he got a gun and shot the building 12 times. That will teach the building to block his sun.

In New York, it is common to see people attacking taxis with umbrellas and fists because the taxi did not stop. In Singapore, I witnessed elevator rage, with someone becoming so furious at the lift, which stopped at every floor, he began thumping the wall (obviously, as this was Singapore, he was arrested).

The loss of self-control is overwhelming as we scream at these uncaring objects that glare back with vacant expressions and no remorse for the pain they cause.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Krapiti Coast Hypoocrasy

It must be obvious now that I do not enjoy living in Krapiti.  Yes, I have made many wonderful friends here who I hope to remain friends with for many years to come, even when I shortly move back to Wellington.  Yes, the climate has provided us with a wonderful garden and memorable trips to the local beach.  Yes, there is a sense of close, caring community spirit here that you really notice in times of need that I don't believe is so evident in the bigger cities like Wellington.

But, there are many many many negatives with Krapiti.  The road, the random wasting of ratepayers' money on proposed aquatic centres, the politics of personal agendas.  And, now, I find myself having a sanctimonious rant on poo.

Every walk I have had with my children over the last few months has been noticeable in the lack of dog poo ruining our shoes and pram wheels.  The council effectively addressed that issue (but the fact that it was necessary to impose a bylaw with fines, rather than persuasion, does rankle with me).  But brickbats to the council for being hypocritical on its poo stance.  While the dog poo may have reduced noticeably, and the numbers of people carrying highly useful plastic bags has increased, a remarkable amount of horse manure remains on footpaths, on the side of the road, and all over the  beaches.  To the point where it is just preferable to not go for a walk or go to the beach at all, just to avoid the massive quantities of horse poo.  For a while, I was collecting it in large sacks for the garden, but that novelty soon wore off when all I wanted to do was walk from kindy to the beach and not have to scrape shoes and pram wheel ever few metres.

So, although I said I detest bylaws and fines for something that should be a point of personal pride and respect for the area we all live in, I rang the council to ask if there were any rules on the dropping of horse poo in public places, like there is for dog poo.

The response:
Horse poo isn't as bad as dog poo because horses are vegetarian so their poo composts down without risk to human health.
True.  But does that mean vegetarian humans are allowed to defecate on public property?  Does that mean I should be encouraging my children to play in poo?  Tell me, Oh Irritating Call Centre Dufus, would you let your child play in horse poo?  I realise that horse poo may not be toxic or harmful to humans, and is in fact very good for the garden, but it is still a waste product and it is aesthetically unattractive for a suburban district, unappealing to step in, and revolting to witness children playing in it.

Having said all this, one of the greatest floors I have seen was in a house in Waipukurau where they made their conservatory floor out of cow poo (the difference between this floor and the Krapiti situation, of course, is that the floor was hard and looked clean and tidy).

The council keeps trumpeting its green horn about how attractive life is on the Krapiti Coast.  Horse manure coated roads, footpaths, cycleways and beaches is a green step too far for me.   I am a poo prude.  It is not an attractive look, and leads me to conclude that there are a significant number of residents in  Krapiti who might like their open spaces, but are arrogant and inconsiderate in how their behaviour might impact on others.