marsden_online: (loved)
It is ANZAC day here in New Zealand, the annual public "holiday" to commemorate and honor those who died fighting in "our" name in military service. In practice this means primarily World Wars I and II with in recent years the occasional nod creeping in to Vietnam or more recent actions in the Middle East.

There are links I have shared on FB over the past few years that this year I am going to round up here before putting down more of my thoughts


Cliffs of Gallipoli [Sabaton]
"There is no enemy, there is no victory
Only boys who lost their lives in the sand
Young men were sacrificed their name are carved in stone and kept alive
And forever we will honour the memory of them""

19 things you need to know about ANZAC Day (that we should not be proud of)

The Pencilsword remembers the Maori Land Wars - arguably more important to NZs history and identity but often forgotten

The Making of Gallipoli into a Marketable Memory

I was only 19 [Redgum]
"And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And night time's just a jungle dark and a barking M.16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me - I was only nineteen"

"Lest we forget" means different things to different people. For some it is about the family who went to war whether by choice or otherwise and didn't come back. For some it is about the need to be prepared to go to war "for the right reasons" (these reasons vary).

For me it means
a. Being aware that
-- wars past and present are not times of glory and righteousness as presented by the media and spin doctors, but of horror and death

-- that the amounts spent on military adventurism by western economies would go a long way to giving the oft-struggling citizens of those countries(arguably the losers and casualties of a form of civil /economic/ warfare which has taken place of the intervening decades) a decent standard of living. Food, healthcare, accommodation, the freedom to be productive rather than just trying to survive.

b. Saying #notinmyname when my government continues to choose to hire out our military "defence forces" especially in a time when modern military conflict often seems to mean
-- a technologically superior force operating on behalf of interests who are posed no significant threat by the other side
-- sowing death with machines which doe not need to have human compassion or judgement drilled out of them, dissociation of their operators enabled by a safe distance
-- inflicting civilian casualties and recording them as "enemy combatants" for simply being present

c. That the best way to not become involved in a war against a nation with a "morally bankrupt" government is for people to stand up, be critical and questioning, and prevent their government from becoming that sort of institution.

Every. Day.

War (What is it good for?) [Edwin Starr]
marsden_online: (write)
People often comment on how I apparently get so much done despite my depression issues (low energy and extended sleeping hours). Despite the clickbait title, this article which came through my feedreader the other day actually describes it pretty well, although I've never really considered it this formally.

How To Stay Amazingly Productive On Low Energy Days
There are two types of days in the life of every ittybiz owner. You have your “good days”, where you stay productive, get a lot of cool shit done and it seems like everything is going great. You can’t be stopped. You’re on fire with how much you’re doing, and how easy it feels.

Then there are your “bad days”, when you just can’t even. Your energy is low, you can’t seem to think straight, and no matter how many items were on your to-do list, they all seem to still be there – undone – when the day is over.
Your life and your business start to get a lot better when you shift from thinking about “good” and “bad” days and instead see them as two separate parts of a cycle.

There’s the “flow” part of the cycle, when your energy is high, your brain is working at its best, and you can easily do things that require creativity or focus. You could call this a high energy day.

Then there’s the “ebb” part of the cycle, when your energy drops, your brain checks out, and it seems hard to do anything. You could call this a low energy day.

There’s nothing wrong with this cycle. Ebb isn’t “bad”. It’s just ebb. You can’t be high-energy all the time just like you can’t be awake all the time. Ebb times are where your brain and body recharge so that flow can come later.
You have to start choosing to do flow activities when you’re in a place of flow, and ebb activities when you’re in a place of ebb.

Ebbs only feel like a problem when you’re trying to do things that belong in the flow category.

You can get an amazing amount done in the ebb times, if you simply choose ebb-appropriate activities instead.

(You’ll also get back into your flow state sooner, what without all that energy spent trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.)

But first, you have to know the difference between the two.

There are some decent tips on how to make the best of the different times at the link.

Many many of the things I do are, for me, ebb or ebbish activities. They don't necessarily take a lot of brainpower or much energy to keep ticking over step-by-step. Which is good given that as we know I am constitutionally unable to remain inactive for any significant period of time outside of unconsciousness.

Actually I deliberately try to break even larger things down to many smaller ebbish steps if possible, because my full on flow periods are few and far between, although this is itself a flowish task and I have to remember to slow myself down and actually do the break-up (and make a list) rather than charging on ahead trying to complete the full task until I hit the crash.

I do have to keep a physical/digital to-do list, actually I have several in various forms, because at ebb times it can be really hard to think or remember what I might be doing next.

One of the signs that I am actually "getting better" is finding myself with flow energy more frequently. However "overdoing it" and relapses for day to weeks on end are still not uncommon.

I am also aware that the amount of energy I have in an ebb period is still more than many people have in a flow period. When people comment on the amount I get done I feel guilty that I have somehow misrepresented my condition as being worse than it is, particularly since I know many people who fare far worse. It would be easy to fall into the trap of feeling that this makes me an impostor with nothing to complain about, rather than accepting that being less-unwell is still, unwell.
marsden_online: (write)
Toward the end of last week the EQC payout for the drain replacement arrived in my mailbox. Because it was a holiday weekend (Easter) banking it was less immediate than I would have liked, but after an uncomfortable couple of days sitting on a substantially large cheque I got it deposited. Now my internet banking shows two balances, one slightly unreal total and one much smaller "available".

Once the cheque clears I will be zipping most of that money off into a less "touchable" location while I work on plans for the next round of overdue household maintenance. Meanwhile my half-asleep brain suggested to me last night that this is actually quite an apt analogy for how I often find myself feeling about life. That is I am told that I have built up all this credit of various sorts (social), but I can't actually seem to access it in the ways I want it to have immediate value to me.

Objectively I realise this is because at some level I still have internalised the idea that if you do enough of the "right things" for people, you will get back the "right things" (you want) in return.

This segues into feelings about a post which has been shared through my Facebook feed a few times in the past week. The post itself is a screen capture of a tumblr post, I've tracked down the original but the author's Tumblr is very NSFW and comes with a blanket trigger warning so I'm going to quote the whole post here as well. (Not least to have a permacopy, but also because screen-caps are not non-sighted-user friendly.)
What I mean when I say “toxic monogamy culture”
- the normalization of jealousy as an indicator of love
- the idea that a sufficiently intense love is enough to overcome any practical incompatibilities
- the idea that you should meet your partner’s every need, and if you don’t, you’re either inadequate or they’re too needy
- the idea that a sufficiently intense love should cause you to cease to be attracted to anyone else
- the idea that commitment is synonymous with exclusivity
- the idea that marriage and children are the only valid teleological justifications for being committed to a relationship
- the idea that your insecurities are always your partner’s responsibility to tip-toe around and never your responsibility to work on
- the idea that your value to a partner is directly proportional to the amount of time and energy they spend on you, and it is in zero-sum competition with everything else they value in life
- the idea that being of value to a partner should always make up a large chunk of how you value yourself

Now we know that I emotionally even when not philosophically bought into some of these quite strongly during my younger years. It's probable that some of them still lurk below the surface waiting to strike when (if) the opportunity arises, as I have come to a better rational understanding secondhand through observation and "book learning" rather than through actual personal experience.

Actually reading through the list properly for the first time though it was the last one that struck me hard. Being of value to others does make up an overwhelmingly large part of how I value and define myself. I mean once you get past survival, once you get past living comfortably, what else is there?

For lack of a specific partner I have channeled my energy and devotion into an array of causes and people / non-romantic interactions/relationships over the years, but all the time craving that singular connection in return.

Not I should probably say as a singular recipient of all my attention, I care for others far too easily for that, but more as an anchor or a touchstone or a companion to share the journey with such that when it feels I am lost and storm-tossed on the seas of life, throwing cargo overboard for nowt but the space filling up with water I can reach to one side and be certain that someone is close there to me, and the world will well again.

That might seem like a terrible load to ask, it might seem as if I am expecting someone to "meet [my] every need", but in truth it's a fairly narrow subset of my needs, just potentially intense. I am lucky, oh I know how lucky I am, to have many committed friends now whom provide support in various ways, some who have gone out of their way to provide more than I ever asked and more importantly work on opening me up so I could accept and lean on that support for a while.

But even the most determined of my friends has not made a connection that feels like we are actually sharing each others lives to any great degree. It is more that our lives touch from time to time, like the courses of ships travelling the same way for a little while but not bound for the same port. That their course may change without notice or that they could pass beyond reach at any moment due to a swell or a storm.

What else is there? Some people do fixate on a measure or measures representing material worth, striving to make the numbers ever greater. I don't know that they are actually valuing themselves. Some people spend their lives chasing the thrill of new experiences, I don't know how they value themselves. Some people seem to feel that just existing is value enough, they are welcome to that but at a fundamental level I don't understand how knowing that adding value is how the society they enjoy living in came to exist, they feel no responsibility to maintain it or drive to add more.

How does one have value to oneself? One is. Value only comes into existence when one interacts.

Perhaps I am off on the wrong track. Perhaps first I should be looking closer at another word I used without really thinking above. Perhaps value follows from how we define ourselves, but how even do we do that?

It's a post for another day now, but I do very strongly define the person I want to be because there is another person I know I am capable of being or even am by default, and that I have made the decision is not the person I value myself as.

Far too many people are perhaps still too busy just trying to survive to really think about valuing themselves. It take less energy to believe what others say about your value, to let others decide your value :( Another link I have already shared today: Addicts or not, workers don’t deserve public shaming.
marsden_online: (elf)
If I am honest I have been procrastinating starting this post. But I have also been rolling bits of it around and around in my head.

To start go and read the comic No 'I' in Sex from Toby Morris's PencilSword, if you haven't seen it already. The rest of this post will wait :)
continued )
marsden_online: (write)
Today I added my body to a Women's March here in Christchurch, a sister and supporting event to one focused on Washington, DC. Because,
- as their manifesto says, Women's Rights are Human Rights and I support that. Both in the specific and in the general sense that improving women's rights will by extension improve the lot of (at least) every other marginalised group containing women
- and I feel it is important for progress that men are seen to be supporting that, because sadly many men are still more likely to listen only to other men
- but also on another level because I feel it's also important for the well-being of men that women are seen and treated as equal.

Here I just want to pull together a few threads from around the internet on why I think there is still a long way to go in western, particularly New Zealand society.

1. From an early age boys have been told to "don't be a girl", teased for being "girly" or put down for "hitting like a girl" in response to failure, asking for help, or expressing any "negative" emotion except anger. As well as indoctrinating the idea that women are somehow less than men in both boys and girls from an early age this negative approach to dealing with emotions also contributes to New Zealand having one of the highest rates of youth suicide (especially among young men) in the developed world.

Things are getting better on this front (I believe) but there are generations of us still alive who need to challenge those ideas within ourselves and strive to do and teach better.

2. If a little boy pulls a little girl's hair "it means he likes you". Not only is the reverse not held to be true, this normalises attack (physical or emotional) as a form of showing affection. Follow the chain and you get coercion seen as a valid form of obtaining affection in the form of sex, women criticised for not responding positively to catcalls or unwanted advances, and "he only hits me because he cares".

Again, NZ has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world.

3. There's this thing about queer/gay being used as a slur. Why is it that being romantically/sexually attracted to men is percieved as a bad thing by other men?. I'm theorising here, but coming back to my first point could it be that being attracted to men is something women do, so it is another accusation of girliness? Or could it be, as beautifully laid out here that a lot of men are afraid that a man attracted to them will subject them to the same form of unwanted attention they know they give the "objects" (women) of their affection (or even passing interest)?

I believe that in our hearts we men (most of us anyway) know that this behaviour is wrong because we become uneasy at the idea of it being turned on us. Knowing that it is our responsibility to try and
- firstly face up to the discomfort and accept when we are called out on it, then try and do better.
- secondly publicly represent and model for that better behaviour
- the hardest of all (and I fail at this often myself; pick your battles): call our friends and family out on it and support others - whatever their gender, orientation or colour - when they call others out on it in our presence.

If men can step up and do this instead of passively supporting the status quo, then fairness for women (and intermediate/null genders) will come a lot faster than if they have to keep wading through us every step of the way.

With all that off my chest, here is the gallery from todays march.

Victoria Square to Cathedral Square
The leading banner
marsden_online: (BlueDragon)
"Earthquake brain" is a term coined to describe certain mental symptoms of stress which rear their ugly heads in many people as and after the earth moves. They can range from irritability and trouble focussing to emotional breakdowns. Here in Canterbury the earth has been very active for the past month or so; compounded by this period coinciding with the 5th anniversary of the February 2011 quake and a deliberate neglect of the regions' post-disaster mental-health needs by central government.

I don't suffer directly from earthquake brain (fortunate) but have nevertheless noticed my mental health take a sharp downtick as I worry for the state of my (less-fortunate) friends; which is always top-of-mind after I feel a jolt or a wobble come through.

There are other factors to my mood drop - there always are certain circumstances in Feb/Mar and this year there is a new one.

So I've been feeling run-down, worn out, unenthusiastic about and not focused on work, procrastinating way too much and overwhelmed by my to-do list outside work, and helpless in the face of it all. To get some stuff done and close some loops I took (tried to take) a mental health day last week in conjunction with my monthly psych appointment but that didn't go well overall.
marsden_online: (write)
Many years ago someone defined me as "an information junkie". There is a particular type of information that draws me in more than any other though and that is details of other peoples lived experiences. This is the drive that sees me abandoning an evening into the small hours reading the comments on a post like [potential trigger warnings on all these]
- Scalzi's classics on being poor (the first I remember)
- more recently a metafilter thread on emotional labour
- a reddit thread about moments which led people to change the way they think
- a strong article on why women smile at men who harass them [short version: it's a proven survival tactic for continuing to maintain some control in a dangerous situation]

Articles on what it is like to be struggling with poverty or mental health or generaaly being someone other than a middle-aged comfortably well off white male make up a significant amount of the links I share through my FB feed, which I am well aware is mostly read by other people much like me.

Why do I feel this is so important? In short, "There but for the grace of ghod, go I". In a word awareness, but lets dig onto it a little deeper.

Fairness )
Compassion and courtesy )
Preparedness )
Understanding )
marsden_online: (write)
After all I am one of the lucky ones; not only did I not lose anyone directly in the quakes I even benefited materially from the "repairs" to my home*. My life and work were mostly unaffected and since have continued on a generally upwards trajectory.

*( Like many the assessment was questionable, the workmanship left something to be desired in places and the scope was "tightened" several times between assessment and implementation meaning some things which probably should have been done rather than others were not. But my claim was acted on (un)fairly quickly and my home was still in better condition when they finished than before the quakes.)

If I only paid attention to my own situation or that of people like myself that might leave me content. But my social circles contain many who were not so fortunate. Their homes, lives, families, studies, health ... have been massively disrupted and I do not choose to disregard their experiences and those I read of from further afield. For so many people the past five years have been one battle after another; not all quake related but certainly quake-exacerbated, and so much of it seems to have been unnecessary.

In some ways the February 14th aftershock this year was beneficial. Some people might have been in danger of believing the platitudes which will have been spouted today about how well we are all doing; how well the rebuild is progressing. Instead as PTSD kicked in and "old" responses rose sharply to the surface there was an up-swell of awareness that no, everything is not all right; yes, we still need help.

In the last five years we have seen proof (if there had been any doubt) that the insurance industry is more interested in holding on to its money than in meeting it's contracted obligations. We've seen the one locally owned insurance company which was by nature overexposed to the risk "bailed out" by the government then promptly chopped up; the "good" bit sold off to one of the same overseas re/insurance companies which fights determinedly to not return the money they have taken from other insurees in premiums over the years (IAG) and the "bad" bit put into limbo (Southern Response, which can only progress so far without the goverment actually stumping up some money to cover the work that needs doing).

We have seen that we have a government who are more interested in bottom lines and doing deals with those same insurance companies than in standing up for the rights of the people they purport to represent. More interested in a magical accounting "surplus" than in the wellbeing not only of Christchurch but of the entire country. Only interested frankly, to all intents and purposes to improve the lot of "people like them" no matter the cost to anyone else. Quick to promise financial relief but very slow to spend any money which would not already have been spent.

We have learnt that our EQC disaster recovery fund had already been plundered by the government (through simply directing it to put the money into government-issued bonds), and there is no indication this government has any plan to rebuild it against future need.

We have seen control of "Christchurch's Recovery" taken away from Christchurch from the word "help". Hijacked by people who are more interested in vanity projects (which they then turn around and demand the people of Christchurch make ourselves responsible for paying for) than in the places people live. More interested in cutting costs and corners than in the human cost or actual repair. More interested in being "in charge" than in delivering what a broken city needs.

Today, the 22nd, is a day for reflecting on what we have lost in and around Christchurch. Not just people and buildings but well-being, dignity and agency. So much of which has not been taken by the quakes themselves but by the deliberate actions and inactions of those who claimed the people of Christchurch would be "looked after".

For those outside Christchurch it might be worth thinking about, "if a major disaster struck where you are, what would you lose?"

Emma summed up neatly why in her earthquake anniversary post so I am going to borrow her words to finish. "Because this isn’t about the past, five years on. Things are still happening."
marsden_online: (write)
Backgrounder: I engaged in the comments on this article about student debt at Stuff. Unfortunately comments closed partway through quite a long entry so I'm putting those thoughts here.

Preceding conversation
Matt N texas
Will Matthews, please explain to me why your or any persons student loan is any different, to my business loans ?...I have taken out loans for equipment, equal to or exceeding an "average student debt"...I have assumed all the risk and reward that comes with starting and running a one is proposing to "wipe my loans"......why do you think that a person who borrows to fund higher education, with the intention of earning a higher income, should be subsidized by the taxpayer, as apposed to a business operator, who is also using borrowings to access a higher income ?.........thank you in advance for advocating that I receive the same treatment as a student (sic)

Absolutely, the difference is in that taking out a business loan you are (presumably) in a position to immediately begin repaying down that debt and have done the numbers to indicate that the equipment will increase your immediate earning capacity immediately.

In taking out a student loan you are probably looking at at least 3 years before it has any effect on you earnings (in fact as laid out in the article you are looking at a very restricted income and probably taking on higher priority debt in the interim as well) before you can begin repayment, and that is /if/ you can find a position in a field where your degree adds a significant premium to your earnings. It is a massive gamble on an unpredictable future job market, but for many of the students I know (including many who already have previously "sought after" qualifications) the hope and a prayer is simply a better option than continuing to be stuck on the unemployment "benefit" (even with existing qualifications) in the current hostile job market.

Additionally as I someone has noted in a more recent comment you would have been able to depreciate the value of that equipment on your books, thus offsetting some of your taxable income. Not possible with education, although perhaps is business owners could do that they would be more encouraged to invest in helping their employees gain relevant qualifications.

Matt N texas
Not really can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success..or an "immediate " return as you seem to income can be as unpredictable as any addition equipment can offen require ongoing costs,repairs etc...purchasing an existing business does mean an instant income stream, as apposed to starting a business from scratch, however business loans have to be paid back starting with the first month after inception regardless of cash generated.
As for depreciation...some depreciation is as low as 2.5% per year. For 30-40 years...hardly a boon to a budding business, and if you're luckily enough to have made a profit, tax will be contrast students have a great system, they can borrow without having to repay until they start achieving an income...and then it is painlessly repaid via a paycheck deduction to the IRD...simple.
Now the last part of your comments, are impractical, as a general rule businesses are not really required to educate a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will investment is effectively is preferable to have the employee fund and achieve their own education, and if those qualifications are what I need or desire to operate my business, then I shall offer a salary or wages as negotiated.
It is plain to see you have not operated or owned a business

Marsden comment unposted

Once upon a time businesses were required to educate their employees, else they would have had no skilled staff at all.

This unwillingness to invest in training your own staff which has become endemic; probably dating back to the first days of public education when employers first decided that since the government was going to pay for training their potential employees it was a cost they no longer had to care about. And since the government has stopped paying all, rather than step back up to address the need themselves they now claim exactly as you do that it is up to the employee to shoulder the cost of the training; knowing that they will be able to use the threat of giving the job to someone who will work for less (read "is more desperate") to "negotiate" the wage or salary lower than the skills are fairly worth to the business.

This expectation that the government will pay for training; this determination to only employ people who are already educated - and often who are already experienced - is the reason despite our high unemployment rate and a glut of educated un-and-under-employed so many businesses are are crying out for skilled staff (as often mentioned in this publication and others). By requiring the prospective employees to take the gamble on what qualification might get them a well-enough-paying position after a year or more of study you guarantee that either
- there will be a glut of graduates with the skills you need (good for you because it forces the amount you have to pay for those skills down - but at the same time you constantly risk your employees leaving for a better paying position and having to pay the cost of replacing them)
- OR a shortage either because the public education is not actually providing the specific skills you are looking for or because few decide acquiring those skills are worth the risk of not having a job at the end of it, in which case your business suffers through having to pay highly for those skills or simply finding them unobtainable.

> .as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will investment is effectively lost.

Not really - you get the benefit of that employee's increasing skill level throughout the period where they are both working for you and gaining their qualification; you get to leverage those skills directly into the specifics your business without the need for any sort of settling in or induction period; even if they do move on you hopefully have the opportunity to have them find a similarly skilled replacement from the cohort they have gone through the qualification with (and who will be able to tap them socially for institutional knowledge about your business again cutting down the amount of time spent coming up to speed).

As returns on investment go up-skilling your employees is almost always going to pay off. Even though as you said at the beginning of your comment:

> it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success

Snark didn't make it into the final draft about what it says about his experience running a business with the attitude that he can't trust his employees not to leave. Snark didn't even reach the draft about the "painlessness" of losing 12% of your paycheck each month especially if your degree is not earning you a 12% premium on wages.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
- It "wasn't a problem in your day" aka "the youth of today" argument

- it wasn't happening /despite/ your obliviousness

- you have any right to disregard/diminish/dismiss other peoples lived experiences because they don't match your narrative

- you are in any way excused from trying to pull your weight in addressing the issue now that you /are/ aware of it.

Ref: Fix up, young men & subsequent comments thread
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Several months ago this thread on Unpaid Emotional Labour came to my attention via Facebook. It is a very long and emotionally fraught conversation in which many people shared their own personal stories and which at that time took me about 5 hours to work my way through, before I left it open in a permatab to re-read and post about at a later date.

If 5 hours sounds a bit much, just recently a condensed version (pdf)

This thread was especially useful to me in adding language and concepts around emotional labour to my toolkit, and shining a light on
- how much of it I actually do in my life and whewre; which is sadly apparently more than is generally expected of men in our society and yet still much less than is expected of women.
- how ways in which I have gone looking for support in the past may have amounted to causing unwanted emotional labour for my friends, for which I am sorry.

A lot of the stories/bits of quotes resonated in other ways too, and my intention in saving the thread for later is still to go through and pull some of those quotes fully out of that context and into mine, to unravel some of those emotional chords. That is however not this post.
marsden_online: (write)
Posting here first ...

Some people also seem to think that
- because something can be called a "basic" service; i.e. ubiquitous, fundamental, necessary but probably with a low skill requirement / barrier to entry
- that this adjective also means it is a service which should be paid poorly; in the same way as one might pay little for a "basic" foodstuff or "basic" clothing.

Whereas if people had the freedom/resources to choose not to do this often also boring, strenuous, unpleasant or downright hazardous work because it is the only option/better of a very bad bunch available, these very "basic" jobs are ones which would command a significantly higher price.

Related, this link I have had sitting in my folder for some time:
The Most Basic Freedom Is Freedom to Quit (via The Chief Happiness Officer)
Freedom to quit distinguishes employment from slavery

The same principle also applies in the workplace. If you can’t quit your job because you are owned by or legally bound to your employer, or because economic necessity prevents you from quitting, then your employer can brutalize and exploit you and get away with it. If you can walk away, then your employer must treat you well if he or she wants to retain your services. The legal and economic capacity to quit is the force that tends to equalize the relationship between employer and employee. There is no mystery here.

(emphasis mine)
marsden_online: (write)
Stuff today had an article on some of the down-and-out here in Christchurch. Christchurch sex workers: Life on Manchester St"
An early commenter asked "I wonder though, what would it take to help them off the street?"

Now I have no direct experience helping people up from that low, but I have read a lot of their stories over the past few years and there are some strong common threads, and as the comments overall haven't deteriorated too much but felt confident enough to post a reply to that. Pending moderation but I don;t see any reason it shouldn't make it through.
What does it take?

- *Security* so they don't have to spend all their energy on accounting for the next meal or substitute high.
- *Time* for their minds and bodies to recover from constantly living in "survival mode" and start to live for a future.
- *Patience* as they learn to trust again; break the habits/reflexes and modes of thinking that living day-to-day instills; and gain the confidence in themselves and their support network to move forward.
- *Opportunity* to catch up on the things they missed as children - not only academically but also in exploring and developing interests and talents - and explore the paths open to them.
- *Acceptance and respect* that they have their own individual life stories; that they will probably carry scars and exhibit behaviours for the rest of thier lives from the traumas they have experienced; that the first path or paths they initially choose to explore not be the ones they ultimately settle on or stick to; and that this does not make them /in any way/ lesser people than anyone else.
- *Confidence* (or faith if you prefer) that they are worth the investment in all of the above.
- As any individual or organisation can only do so much (and they do), and so often have to focus on a few worst cases, it will take *raising our voices* as a caring society to *demand* of our representatives to whom we have delegated responsibility of our social welfare that they /direct the resources/ to not only pick up those who have already fallen through the cracks but to /close those cracks/ (many of which are well known).

I wish I had more resources to bring to bear.


Mar. 9th, 2015 09:19 pm
marsden_online: (write)
This past Saturday I attended the local portion of an ongoing series of protest marches against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). While the current NZ government has done many things I consider #notinmyname this is the one that should it go ahead, as I fear it will for I have no faith the the major Opposition party will not equally roll over for it, is the one I feel that will do the most lasting damage to New Zealand. This is because it impacts not only on our economy and international trade but directly on our sovereignty and right to make our own laws as a country.

Now it is the way of properly negotiated international treaties that one or more signatories generally accepts some limits on what they as a sovereign state may do, by way of passing laws and such, in exchange for some perceived benefit. There are two things about the TPPA which I consider to be particularly dangerous; far outweighing any possible benefits.

The first is the near-total secrecy under which it is no only being negotiated but will apparently be brought before our "house of representatives" - with even those worthies (and I use the term loosely) except for a few privileged members of the ruling party being forbidden knowledge of the terms of the treaty. Let me spell that out a bit more - our representatives, whom we rely on to protect our interests, our democracy, will be being told (if this current government retains a majority) to accept this treaty with no opportunity to actually debate its worth to the country, no idea of what we may be giving away or getting in return, and no opportunity to bring it to us, the people and ask what we would have them do.

This turn of events would make an absolute mockery of what it is supposed to mean to live in a democracy. It is the first and most blatant attack on our sovereignty represented by the TPPA.

The second danger is the proliferation of clauses (leaked) enabling international corporations - not even Governments, corporations with no mandate to represent anything but their profit margin - to challenge laws passed by our government in international courts. Now for countries like Australia and NZ that might simply tie up public money which would be much better spent elsewhere, but smaller nations could be forced into "toeing the line" of their/our new corporate masters by the simple likelihood of bankruptcy if faced by these sort of proceedings*.

I don't personally have a great issue with NZ officially becoming a "client state", be it of America as we are currently or some international conglomerate. But that is a decision that should absolutely be discussed and reached publicly, not reached behind closed doors and presented as a coup accompli.

* For an example of this sort of thing already happening see Philip Morris Vs Uruguay and vs Australia, which reportedly (linked article) already has caused our NZ government to about-face on plain packaging for cigarettes. The closest I can find within NZ is this 2013 release from the Ministry of Health which contains the money quote
“To manage this, Cabinet has decided that the Government will wait and see what happens with Australia’s legal cases, making it a possibility that if necessary, enactment of New Zealand legislation and/or regulations could be delayed pending those outcomes.

“The Ministry of Health will now begin developing the detailed policy which will include the size and content of health warnings. I intend to introduce the legislation to Parliament before the end of this year.

The legislation was in fact introduced and judging from this late 2014 release is due for it's second reading. Promising quote
“A key finding from the committee came from their visit to Australia as part of an exchange programme. The data highlighted that daily smoking rates amongst those aged 14 and older have declined from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013, the lowest rate recorded to date. This is very impressive evidence received since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia.”

I do support this governments passage of this legislation, both the bill itself and the due process it appears to have followed.

My photos from the march
Attacks basic freedoms
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Normally the news that a company like energy efficiency and insulation business Right House has gone into liquidation would pass through my radar with just a moment to pause in sadness for those whom have just lost their livelihoods. However this time there is an indirect personal connection - it was a telemarketing call from Right House house and the following obligation-free quote which made me decide that then was the time to start the ball rolling on actually getting grid connected solar installed here.

The first step of course was googling up solar installers in NZ and sending off for more quotes. when it came down to it though two I already had bookmarked gave the best results. A shout out here to CPS Solar (Canterbury based) who provided a lot of useful information and food-for-thought in our conversation. Definitely consider them.

My choice though has gone to Solar City despite the fact they they were the tardiest in replying to my enquiry. I'd like to write a bit about why.

First off is their innovative Solar Care offering. For $0 or $1000 down they will install panels on your house and sell you the electricity generated for a fixed monthly cost for the next 20 years. (You then use or sell excess power into the grid.) This effectively locks in the cost to you of that much power for the next 20 years, and the contract is set so that the cost-per-unit is probably lower than you are being charged now.

Personally I think projects like this are what the major generators should be doing, to conserve hydro and fossil-fuel (ugh) generation for night time and winter use. But of course they don't make money by providing people with cheap power :-/

I was almost sold on this, it works out very well for both the homeowner (who gets rapid access to solar without massive expenditure or worries about insurance, monitoring etc of the panels) and for the company who get regular cashflow (instead of constantly having to chase new installations) and to depreciate the value of the solar panels on their books :). Had I investment properties I would be having Solar Care systems installed ASAP. Any of my home-owning/paying-off friends I strongly recommend taking a look.

However the desire and years of expecting to outright own the installation asserted itself and I was unable to bring myself to deviate that far from the plan. What actually sold me on a fixed install from Solar City installation was not the price but the opportunity to become involved with / contribute to a new initiative they are setting up with the University of Otago to (quoting the flyer)
Conduct a comprehensive study into household and commercial solar energy use, to better inform and guide the nation towards a 100% renewable energy future.

(As a bonus, "Customers will have the opportunity to beta test new technologies in the energy efficiency and solar space." Eh-heh-heh ...)

This will involve a period of monitoring before the installation which is fine because for me "starting the ball rolling" on a project like this means I have a 12-18 month horizon in view for actually affording and completing it. This is something I make clear of my requests for quotes but find a lot of companies have difficulty with - and their pressure (and oft-times effectively bribes) to commit sooner is something which I find distinctly off-putting.

Companies, I am (charitably) sure that you are genuinely interested in making sure your customers get good value for money but if you want my custom please do me the courtesy of understanding that I know and understand my own values, finances and finance options and that I am not undertaking such a large project on the spur of the moment. If I am not the typical customer in this, well that is simply a sad observation on today's society.

Another issue where I have struggled to reach common ground with all the companies I have talked to is my desire to install more generation capacity than is "economically efficient" for me. (The generators don't pay a terrific amount for home-solar production fed into the grid and these tariffs have only been dropping.) The concept that I might have broader, non-economic goals like future-proofing the amount of generation on my roof (nominally economic), or happily working towards overall lower power prices for everyone else by feeding cheap power into the grid and setting an example for wider home generation is completely foreign.

(I've had to temporarily throw in the towel on that one, but the system I am getting is eminently extensible at a later date by the addition of more panels and micro-inverters.)

Speaking of finance options this entire post / mini-rant was actually triggered by a quote from the Right House article.
But the business had not had the demand for their services, from home insulation to energy advice, that it had hoped for, Fisk said.
"I think that has been influenced by whether people are getting offer subsidies to insulate their houses," Fisk said.
The company failure may seem "counter-intuitive" when there is a housing boom especially in Christchurch and Auckland, he said.
Asked if the government cuts to home insulation subsidies in 2013 had affected Right House, Fisk said he believed it had "some effect".

Now this is a Stuff article so don't assume that quote from the liquidator (probably not yet familiar with the company finances) is entirely in context. It's obviously being played a bit by the reporter and as such I believe it reflects a wider feeling that the only reason people might be interested in getting into solar (and more broadly other technologies) is the money. That's a meme I'd really like to squish out of society's group consciousness because there are so many wider possibilities once you broaden your view from what is purely best for the individual.

[tangent]For example Christchurch (City Council) is currently looking at painful rates rises and having to privatise some of it's utility assets to afford the costs of the earthquake rebuild foisted on us by the national government. But we could build a new asset as a (somewhat seasonal) electricity generator right alongside the rebuild to offset some of that cost if only by generating some of the power required. I think most households and businesses would be happy to have some council-owned panels on their roof in exchange for the promise of lower rates increases (or the offset in lower electricity costs).[/tangent]

It is true that for the majority of homeowners (unlike well-privileged, mortgage-free, no-dependants self) the availability of subsidies will probably have a significant impact on the affordability calculations. (And part of the genius of Solar Care is how it simplifies that calculation.) It is good business for eg. an installer to point out the available options which may make what they are selling more affordable.

[aside]If you have a mortgage with Kiwibank also check out their Sustainable Energy Loan (link not guaranteed to be current).[/aside]

But I don't believe it is broadly good that our consumerist, buy now (worry about paying later) culture tries to rush people into accelerating financial plans that should be taken time over and focuses on the monetary payback value of long-term purchases to the detriment of other values. And just like if your business relies on the government topping up your employees wages because you don't pay them enough to live; if your business relies on pressuring people into making financial decisions for cashflow perhaps you should take a hard look at how sustainable it / its growth path really is. When I look at who I give significant amounts of my actually-earned money to, you better believe I'm taking that into account. Often it is through [your business'] salespeople that I have the most direct experience of that.

[aside]No I'm not a fan of commission sales, why do you ask?[/aside]

Disclaimer: this has not been any sort of solicited promotion and I have no connection (yet) to any of the mentioned companies except as outlined above. (Haven't even signed and returned the quote.) :p
marsden_online: (write)
So this weekend the periodically re-occuring discussion on behaviour and consent at KAOS parties fired up again. And it feels like there is a new vibe to it this time, a more positive one than I have experienced in my going-on-20 years of seeing it repeated.

This post collects a lot of my thoughts and opinions on the subject into one place. Because FB discussions are hard to reference later and verbal discussions even more so, and heck some of these are just jotted down in my notes for my contribution to an somewhat improvised speaking at the 48-Hour party just been.

Rules and Disclaimers

1. Mild trigger and hot-button warnings for conversation around sexual assault, non/consent and KAOS party behaviour.
2. I've tried to keep this as gender neutral as possible - I know we're socially conditioned to automatically cast thse events in a M-on-F light but F-on-M, F-on-F and M-on-M events are equally problematic, and often more difficult to speak up about.
3. Comments on this post to be directed at the Dreamwidth version please. Anon comments will be screened automatically.
Update: conversation seems to have started at the Livejournal post anyway, so comment there.
4. These are my opinions; opinions do not exist in a vacumn. I'm happy to engage further in conversation/debate; I'm happy for people to share their experiences if they feel like doing so; I will not tolerate personal attacks, criticism of peoples actions/reactions in an event or well-intended advice in response.
5. At points in this post I've straight out borrowed from a few other people who have already said the things I would like to say, often better, with permission for the big chunks. I haven't attributed these because I want people to be able to choose if or how they enter the conversation. If you recognise someone's voice or comment from elsewhere please respect that. If you see your words in here, thank you.

A matter of scale )
Surfacing the experiences )
Framing the problem )
Partial solutions )
Missing stairs )
Calling people out )
Your responsibilities when you bring a friend to KAOS )
Modelling consent )
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life
via FB: an in depth look at the life of an 11 year old girl and her family in New York - how they got there, what the future might bring. Very long, 5 parts of mostly heartache and the occasional faint glimmer of hope.
Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.

One could be grateful that this is on the far side of the world, clearly someone else's problem. Could say that America does not have even the (increasingly holey) social security net that New Zealand boasts. Share it on Facebook as if to say "how bad the world is, how well we have it" and move along.

The NZ media does occasionally deign to pick up on these same issues in New Zealand - it was the topic du jour for a little while in 2010-11 but it seems unlikely little has changed.
- Entire families living in a relative's garage or multiple families crammed together in one home while they wait for state housing to become available. (2010)
- People's needs for accommodation deliberately not even recorded by Housing New Zealand leaving them with no option but to camp in the worst of private accommodation with no tenants rights (Both 2011 - I think WINZ has taking over determining accommodation eligibility but I have little confidence that anything has changed in practice).
- Garage life for two years (2013)

And I don't need a link for anyone reading this to know what the accommodation situation in Christchurch has been like for the past few years. "Temporary" must be starting to look like "childhood" for many.

The numbers may be debatable - perhaps things have improved in NZ since the first of these articles was written. But in the modern, caring, wealthy society which we supposedly aspire to be one person - especially one child - without even the option of a basic, clean, place to live in should be one too many.

And I am certain that the scope of the problem is still actually far wider than I can glimpse from my comfortable middle-class life. I sense a fear in me, that if I actually go looking I will be overwhelmed at the scale and feel unable to make any real difference - thus I "bide my time" and passively watch for opportunities to help within my means and not detrimental to my own (middle class) goals. Would I open my home to strangers? I've seriously considered it post-quake but decided against for mental health's sake (mine and my flatmate's (even if he agreed to the idea)).

Still we are losing bright children (truth be most if not all children are bright); now more than ever we as a society are throwing away their futures through our own inaction when we have the capacity to do better. A week ago I shared on FB an article about Variety looking for sponsors to help families pay back-to-school costs.
A charity is crying out for donors as poverty-stricken parents seek sponsorship for the back-to-school costs of their children.

More than 170 applications have been made for Kiwi Kid sponsorship so far this year, including 21 from Christchurch, and Variety - The Children's Charity needs more sponsors.

There were already 705 children - 116 from Christchurch - receiving financial support nationwide in its first year, much like that offered to children in Third World countries through World Vision.
At the time I said
This presses *many* of my buttons - children, local poverty, education...
I'm fighting a 3-way battle between reflexively signing up; knowing that I'm supposed to be keeping a tighter reign on my spending this year (and so far have been failing miserably); and feeling I could probably find someone in need that I could give the full $35+ per month to directly.
and at the time inertia won. Now I'm making a commitment to reassess my budget for the year, do some research and commit something regular on top of the irregular amounts I give the phone collectors and occasional worthy givealittle/pledgeme/etc call that comes across my radar - whether through Variety or some other avenue (I wonder if Adopt a Christchurch Family is still actually going).

This topic also conveniently leads into my next post - thoughts on the just-announced Labour party policy of an extra $60/week entitlement for families with newborns possibly following up to the age of 3 years.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
I have been rereading Wait but Why's post on How to Beat Procrastination in procrasipreparation for writing what is now the next post and something jumped out at me which didn't before.
It’s not that procrastinators don’t like the concept of doing. They look at the bricks on their calendar and they think, “Great, this will be fun.” And that’s because when they picture the moment in the future when they sit down and knock out a work session, they picture things without the presence of the Instant Gratification Monkey. Procrastinators’ visions of future scenarios never seem to include the monkey.

Another way I have seen this described Read more... )
marsden_online: (write)
So before going to bed in the wee small hours I read this article which had been linked on FB. Basically it points out that the world only sees what you put out there, and how you go about putting it out there. If it doesn't like that maybe you need to find/build something else about yourself to "sell", or find/learn another way of selling.

The article sort of touches on both ends without mentioning the middle. To start with it talks about the importance of "closing" whatever transaction you are trying to make with the world (ie making the sale). Then it jumps to the beginning
- figuring out what you make/do that gives the world (specifically members of [insert gender/s you are attracted to here]) that gives them any reason to want you, that they can't get a better deal on elsewhere (this doesn't have to be material)
- and how you show the world that you can and will do that (emphasis, show don't tell)

What it misses (perhaps a weakness, perhaps deliberate) is any advice on how to make the "close". There is quite a lot of this out there but (as we're talking about transactions) I have mostly seen it in advice for salespeople / small businesses / freelancers. It involves "The Ask" - once you've shown what your product/service has to offer the majority of the time you still have to look the potential client in the eye and ask "so, can we do business?" The parallel to asking out someone you're interested in should be obvious.

I really really suck at The Ask. Perhaps it's something I missed out on growing up, perhaps I just gave up "practising" too soon (see next article, below). There is another question I ask constantly though: "Is there anything I can do for you?" Or to myself: "Is there anything I can do for this person?"

Answering yes to the second is behind many of the things I do for people "spontaneously". In terms of the article this is one way I show the world what I am capable of. Acting on answers to the first is another. And it's perhaps obtuse and a poor strategy, but when it comes down to attractive women I often hope for the answer to translate into something that leads to relationship status change. It may sound like unfairly putting "The Ask" back on them, but it's also seeking a sign of permission to make The Ask myself.

The "world as a transaction based system" premise of the article is something I disagree with. Here "I reject your reality and substitute my own". You can exist that way but I believe that a life worth living is a function of give and receive, not give and take. Most people are happiest when they are making something, and in my world that certainly includes making people happy.

As a follow up Cracked recommended "How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined The Modern World. This one is a rant about how training montages in films have given a generation unreasonable expectations of how long it takes to get really good at something.

I mention it here because there is a relationship back to the advice I've seen in almost every article about starting out as a freelancer/contractor ever - things always take longer than you think they will. You can only ever get better at allowing for that. Aslo don;t get sucked into the myth that "you have to finish what you start, but I'd better leave that for another day.

For their contributions to this post Marsden would like to acknowledge the small gods of [ profile] lenfant_de_jeu, Mountain Dew/sugar/caffiene, sleep deprivation and too much dancing.
marsden_online: (Default)
Mostly X-posted after-the-fact from FB

This neatly lays out my concerns with the conflating of "Living" and "Minimum" wages.
Back in the 1930s, as described in Brian Easton's book Wages of the Poor, legislation required the court to set the basic wage in terms of the needs of a man, his wife at home and three children.

This was soon seen as a very inefficient way to provide an adequate income as it over-compensated single workers and under-compensated those with large families.
The living wage campaign has focused public attention on the need for low wage rates to be increased. But the Living Wage of $18.40 an hour was determined for a family with two children and two adults, one working full time, one part-time. This signals a return to the thinking of the 1930s. It would be better to focus on a realistic minimum individual hourly rate and ensure that Working for Families provides adequate extra income support when there are children.

The first purpose of a job is to provide for the worker and their dependants. This makes it reasonable for those who have no dependants (young, single etc) to occupy jobs which pay less*. It also suggests a moral responsibility on the part of an employer to pay at least a sufficient amount for at least the basic needs of a single person with no dependants.

* This is not in any way an advocation for a "youth rate".
(It also suggests those in poor health should have access to jobs which pay more, which in a caring society is not a paradox, and in modern society is (theoretically) substituted by social welfare.)

If as an employer you are not doing this then you are artificially lowering your labour costs and your business is not in fact technically economic or sustainable in the long term. (In the short.medium term or in a low-skill job in a "flexible" labour market it is a perfectly rational thing to do :( ).

With this in mind I would be in favour of having the basic social welfare (or preferably universal basic income) for an unemployed person set at that basic level (supplemented individually based on regional, family and medical factors) and the minimum wage set at some percentage above that, all inflation indexed as a matter of course. It then remains the responsibility of the employer to pay/recompense staff they wish to keep appropriate to their needs as well as their experience/expertise and the responsibility of the worker who wants a stable job (not everyone does) to seek out an employer who wishes to retain them.

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