marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-10-19 09:15 pm

Photos: Gothic Vampire party

Annual Friday the 13th party

Bit of a low turnout, but a good night.
marsden_online: (write)
2017-10-17 10:54 am

Someone like me: The other side of #metoo; #Ihave

Topic warning: sexual harassment

Context: Yesterday a #metoo campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault started to spread on social media.
If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me, too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

content behind the cut )
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
2017-10-16 10:30 pm

Sunnier days (dear diary update)

The life updates I've posted so far this year have all been pretty shit. As is often the case when I've had enough positive energy I've been too busy trying to get things done to take or make the time to update here about day-to-day stuff. Facebook really has claimed that space in my life; although even there it is mostly a stream of articles and links about what I have read today online that I consider important, and jottings from gaming sessions.

There are still many things I could be attending to instead of posting, but someone worth writing about has come into my life and her presence and support is helping me get back on track. Yes, I have fallen into a relationship with a lovely lady of about my own age, based in Wellington but that's not an insurmountable issue in this age of electronic long-distance communication and affordable plane travel. We have just spent the better part of a fortnight in the same city (a trip arranged pre-relationship around other circumstances) and I was surprised at the feeling of loss as she walked out to the plane home; I am very cautious about letting myself feel too deeply too fast for anyone but apparently she managed to sneak something past my guard ;)

Positive impacts on my life and ability to do stuff include
- talking on the phone in the evenings winding down my brain for sleep
- wake-up calls and encouragement to get out of bed in the morning
- the "companionship" segment in my life filled in enough that life rolls a little more like a wheel and a little less like a triangle
- various topics and triggers of angst not having anything to get a grip on any more
- an overall improved feeling of wellbeing

Some of these will also be due to the season and increased daylight hours; and of course I'm not miraculously un-depressed. My sleep quality is still pretty rubbishy and quantity required still high. Anxiety about my performance at work has actually jumped even as I have found more reason to be there and work better.

But. Enough mental cycles have freed up that I am looking towards and thinking about the future with an energy that I have not had for a long time.

Happy days.

In other news
- my Monday gaming group has wrapped up for the moment; work and other commitments taking some of us away from the table.
- my Sunday game continues to progress although again real life means making some adjustments there.
- I've managed to slightly dent the reading pile.
- Friday just past was the 13th and I hosted another Gothic Vampire party (last year the opportunity was missed). There were fewer people than I had expected; but most seemed to be having a good time
- LBTC Gytha continues to be herself
- One of the Hall rabbits (domestics "released" into the grounds by someone at New Years) crossed the road and got itself picked up and taken to the vet by a neighbour; so we now know they are not microchipped and may be one step closer to rehoming them.
- We might just about be on top of the spring growth at the Hall this year; working bees have managed to be almost-monthly although it is still rare that anyone other than the Rovers and myself show up.
- I have had some issues with the number of requests for Hall time we've been getting from people who seem to think we're open 24/7 at the drop of an email.
- I've kind of given up on managing it myself and started paying someone to deal with some of the gardening and such.
marsden_online: (write)
2017-10-14 09:57 pm

To my representative Mr Peters on the matter of the next government

Emailed to Mr Peters and CCed to the other elected members of the NZ First party after the 2017 election
Dear Mr Peters,

I fear it has taken me too long to find the time to write to you. Nevertheless as in modern times democracy is considered to be a one man, one vote system and right now in New Zealand you are that man and you have that vote so I am writing to you as my representative under the circumstances to express my preference in the matter of the forming the next government.

I urge you please to not go with National. We have had 9 years of men and women who to all appearances view the business of government as one of rulership not representation. This attitude is boldly reflected in their insistence that having the largest minority of a vote somehow entitles them to continue to "govern". As you yourself have stated this is not how things (are supposed to) work under a proportionally representative system such as MMP, and it saddens me that our national psyche and in particular our media continue to maintain an abusive relationship with the idea of "winner takes all" in our political system.

While my ideal would to be to see a fully functioning coalition of NZ First / Labour / Greens working together to re-establish and repair the social safety net New Zealand could once rightly claim to be proud of, I also believe that my second option of a minority Government, Labour simply supported by your party and the Greens from the cross-benches on supply and confidence issues would in the long term be better for the maturity of our political system and our whole country's understanding of politics. Let every piece of legislation be debated thoroughly and stand/fall on it's merits rather than because it's proponents happen to be able to whip an unassailable majority into line.

Please step up to demonstrate government by consensus instead of by fiat and tribal opposition to the policies of others; please do not give more fuel to those who loudly proclaim the idea that one party must dominate over the idea of visible representation for those who most dearly need it and can least afford it.

But please also bring decisions and debates out into the open. Put an end to negotiations and horse-trading behind closed doors, the outcome to be revealed as a fait accompli (or rammed through as such under urgency) when the final vote happens. I would not have mentioned this except for the disquiet raised by recent reports that this decision which will set the fate of our country for at least the next three years is being made behind closed doors by people we quite possibly did not elect to be our representatives in this matter. You and your fellow NZ First MPs are those we have elected and while I certainly expect you to seek counsel from others; I also believe the credibility of the next government of NZ hinges on the those who are ultimately making the decision being visible and accountable; with the sort of transparency you yourself have so often argued for in our politics.

But to come back to my main point: I would much rather have a mostly deadlocked government which made slow progress or at least made things no worse than another 3 years of those who have proven to be very good at further disenfranchising the least well off in this country to their own benefit. I have seen the effect of National's policies among my own friends Mr Peters, and I do not believe that even you can convince them to manifestly reverse or even halt the harm they are doing. That sort of change withing the party will require will require some time out on the, and you may correctly surmise from my above comments that I strongly dislike the continued use of this term post FPP, "opposition" benches and the same sort of generational change within their ranks as Labour has seen.

We are now seeing the possibility for the first time in my life of a "prime minister" younger than I, and I would also love for this to become a reality. Youth are our future.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am also taking the liberty of of publishing it openly in my journal which can be found at

Due regards etc etc,

[Contact information redacted]
marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-10-11 07:23 pm
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marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-10-11 07:11 pm
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marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-10-11 06:50 pm
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marsden_online: (Kea)
2017-10-10 07:04 pm
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Solar panel math for September(ish)

Produced 230 units
Exported 96 units (@ 8c/unit)
Used 134 units (saving 30.11c/unit)

Total reduction in power bill = $48.03
marsden_online: (write)
2017-09-29 11:01 am

Atypical voters

After the election results came out I saw a lot of grief being expressed on Facebook, one particular form being people lashing out at any supposed right-aligned voters on their friends list and asking them to leave (there was a similar outpouring in 2014). More than one person has commented to me that they are uncomfortable seeing this level of vitriol expressed by their normally caring friends. I accept people's right to express their upset in this fashion but also doubt that there will be any lasting effect; for the simple reason that probably no-one in those friends lists did actually vote National.

There are a whole heap of fallacies tied up in the emotion these posts, often from people who IMO would normally know better. But the root of it is assuming that people like us are representative. We're not.

NZ's lauded "two degrees of separation" notwithstanding, practically all my NZ voting friends who are likely to be reading this, and all their voting friends, and all theirs are a drop in the bucket or NZ voters. We are not the people crammed at the bottom of Inequality Tower.

We mostly have some things in common which are luxuries to the larger portion of the population; for example the
- time
- skills and
- access to multiple sources

... to keep ourselves informed. And we do
- take an interest in politics
- seek out a variety of views even if we don't always agree with them
- can trace the cause and effect from policy to outcome
- we can critically examine the statements made during the campaign (and other times)
- typically have decided who we are going to vote for well before reaching the polling booth

For a sadly more realistic perspective on the level to which the median voter is informed, take this message from Emma who has been involved at the chalk face of a number of elections and was observing at a polling station this year.

Something I recall reading in previous years about the circumstances and psychology of the majority of voters - which or course I can't find now because google results are clogged with news about the election just been so I will have to paraphrase:
- politics isn't something thought about often; their immediate lives are choked with higher priorities (work, family, survival)
- the effect of government policy on their lives- especially negative effects - is often so removed from the policy or the implementation of the policy (especially over time) as to not be attributed
- outside "tribal" affiliations often have not decided who to vote for for before reaching the voting booth
- are going to look at the list of names/parties and remember only what they have heard/seen in the mainstream media and from their friends (who may be no better informed)
- in the end are probably going to go with what feels like the "safest" option

And this is why campaigns of fear, attack ads and misinformation like National ran this election, backed up by bold statements about how well things are going, work. If you are just getting by or you are maybe struggling a little but still have hope: change feels risky.
While according to all social indicators the state of country has been run down by the current government over the past three terms it is clear that the majority of people are not yet at the stage of voting for risk for the other likely reason - out of desperation.

(Ironically it probably speaks to the success of the last Labour government that the majority of New Zealanders who voted felt comfortable enough in their lives to take a chance on change.)

This is not helped IMO by the narrative that continues to prevail that someones circumstances are somehow a reflection of their own efforts and worth as a "productive member of society". This narrative greatly aids the government of the day (whichever side it comes from) in disclaiming responsibility for those not doing well (while of course claiming credit for the circumstances of those who are doing well), and is why elections in NZ have so often been the sitting governments to lose rather than the oppositions to win; another hangover from the continued insistence on framing things in an old FPP two-party style manner rather than a coalition based MMP style manner :(
marsden_online: (write)
2017-09-27 11:53 am

Post 2017 election post (1 of ?)

I experienced less disappointment on elections night / the next morning than last time; probably because National does not have the straight up majority of last election.

The post election commentary as rounded up by Bryce Edwards at the Herald is split with those firmly on the right lauding National's having the largest single share of the vote as a win and moral majority while more numerically educated voices point out that under MMP being the largest major party means diddly squat (especially when your raw number of votes fell); under MMP it is the coalition which represents the largest number of NZers. The fact that we've had a couple of instances of one party effectively managing to govern alone does not change that.
There is a strong narrative at the moment that National has received an extraordinary result. But has it really? The vote for centre right parties has actually declined significantly at this election. At the 2014 election, the aggregate vote for National, Act and the Conservatives was over 52 per cent. This year, the final result for those parties is projected to be little more than 45 per cent. What's more the National Party has now lost allies - United Future and the Maori Party are gone from Parliament, and Act's party vote has halved. Basically, National has cannibalised the vote of other rightwing parties. In devouring its coalition partners, National might now look stronger, but in reality, fewer voters are actually supporting parties of the right.

But it is the illusion that National has won significantly more vote than the political left that particularly needs addressing.

Not included in the roundup but on my radar this from Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory
"A side note: The repeated line of questioning about whether there’s a rule, convention, or expectation around the largest party forming the government demonstrate how we’ve really failed to grasp the core function of MMP: delivering a balanced one which is the most appealing to the broadest number of people, not an all-powerful one based on arbitrary geographical lines.

[I continue to be frustrated by the NZ love affair with a two-party, us or them, "rulership" concept of government]

Surprised by the obliteration of the Māori party but I guess that is the kererū coming home to roost after two? terms of being in coalition with National against the expressed will of their constituency; now that Labour is looking like an effective alternative again.

This makes things interesting because National doesn't have the option of getting support from one minor party or another on a case by case basis. It's basically all or nothing with NZ First ... rendering ACT also irrelevant so maybe we can look forward to them being gone altogether next time.

Riffing off a friend "Democracy: one man, one vote. Today that man is Winston Peters". He does not seem likely to announce his decision until the outcome of the special votes (which includes all those who enrolled while voting early) making about 15% of the total vote - easily enough to move things one way or another by a seat or two. While my personal preference at the present time would be a functional MMP coalition of Labour / NZ First / Greens I think my second preference would be his smartest play: he supports either National, Labour/Greens or Labour with additional outside government support from the Greens form a minority government and rides them for support on every piece of legislation.

That's more how MMP is supposed to work in my opinion; it shouldn't matter which party puts up legislation it should stand on it's own merits against all parties rather than being successful or not at the whim of the "governing" party or parties.

Unfortunately I don't see Winston being happy without a seat at the cabinet table.

Either way I'm not seeing an awful lot of progressive legislation managing to be passed or a significant culture change in the public service over the next few years :( So the rest of us who are comfortable are just going to have to keep stepping up and looking out for our friends - and strangers - who continue to be ground down.

Particular electorates I was interested in (preliminary results)

# Christchurch Central
Finally dropped National's Nicky Wagner who mostly seems to have MIA for the past term for the Labour candidate; but there is only 0.1% between Labour and National in the party vote

# Epsom
ACT remained in existence thanks to National party voters faithfully using their electorate vote to get David Seymour the electorate seat; however the loyal pooch has already been kicked to the curb for having no actual use in the next terms government.

Sadly it is too soon to say ACT is finished; we will probably have to wait another 3 years to find out. Still I wouldn't be surprised to see a by-election in Epsom sooner than that.

# Ilam
Gerry Brownlee of course won convincingly :( But Raj Manji (Independent) did manage to get over half as many votes as Brownlee, and the Labour candidate managed nearly that many. Combined a total of exactly as many as Gerry (I put the numbers through the calculator several times) so there is actually hope that a well targeted campaign might get him out next time.

# Ōhāriu
Labour took the electorate on the night but only barely ... 679 votes is easily small enough to change on the specials. National easily got the bulk of the party vote. I hear that happened in a number of electorates.

I am not a fan of the Labour candidate who got in there; Greg O'Conner has a well documented history of being "tough on crime" and pro the police having carte blanche to use force and little to no accountability for their actions. I do not buy his line that he was only saying what he had to as the spokesman of the police union; as there is no indication that he was actually trying to challenge the negative culture and corruption within the NZ police force.

# Wigram
My own electorate; Megan Woods won by a far more comfortable margin than last time (I switched my electorate vote to Labour because of the earlier result) but the party vote only had 0.4% in it and went to National :(
marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-09-20 09:59 pm
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marsden_online: (Kea)
2017-09-13 12:43 am
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Solar panel math for August(ish)

Produced 183 units
Exported 56 units (@ 8c/unit)
Used 127 units (saving 30.11c/unit)

Total reduction in power bill = $42.72
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
2017-08-28 07:03 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
2017-08-15 12:19 am
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Pay day thoughts

Last pay day I posted this to my Facebook
By some coincidence the amount I have earned this week (after tax) is within $5 of the bill I have to pay pretty much as soon as that money lands in my account.

It quickly occurred to me that this might be read as a bit "tone deaf" or "or the nose" by many of my less-well-off friends and an explanatory comment was in order.
I realise this situation or worse is the weekly reality for a great many people, without the buffer I have to meet other expenses over the coming week. It does me no harm to think more carefully about their experience and my spending for a bit.

It is important to me to examine and remember this experience and this feeling for better empathy with those around me; hopefully this privileged self-indulgence doesn't come over too badly.

snip )
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
2017-08-06 10:08 pm

Things about my involvement with the Hall

Whenever I get overwhelmed by life people suggest I should cut my ties to Antonio Hall. I'm not sure why this is the first thing that comes to mind for them, over say gaming or work both of which often come with similar proportions of frustration to reward.

I am well aware that at some point the decision is going to be taken out of my hands. The Hall will be sold or the owners will decide to develop the site themselves or some other condition will arise which puts and end to the work we are doing there. (Here actually,as I type this between groups of photographers on a beautiful warm autumny day in the middle of winter.) At that time I will grieve then move on to some other project. But for now it does fulfill several important needs in my life.

Enforced down/quiet/me time
Away from the computer and stream of internet where I can let my brain just settle, or read, or write, or prep for games. With advance warning I have my laptop and phone charged, one for writing (one of those things I mean to do more of) and the other for reading through the backlog of email newsletters a few at a time (and still being reachable and checking FB every 30 minutes or so for that sense of connection). This is good for me on multiple levels.

Meeting new and interesting people and building something together
- I enjoy witnessing the amazement at and enjoyment of the Hall. Even for those who simply come through once on a tour (number beyond count now) I know I have played a small part in bringing some amount of wonder into their lives, and that's a good feeling.
- Breaking out of my social limits and meeting new people was one of the reasons I got myself involved in organising more than just a few visits for my friends in the first place, and it still stands. Some of these people have gone on to become valued friends in their own rights.
- Another good feeling is at the end of a working bee day (or other fix-up session) when we look and see what a difference has been made. Nowhere else in my life do I get this feeling of actual physical achievement as part of a team. Work - independent projects. Gaming success (RPG but also team board/card games) are great, but they lack the sense of having made a (short but) lasting impact on the real world. Which brings us to ...

The opportunity to make a real difference
Much as I enjoy the activity, "work" rarely presents me with the opportunity to really make things better for people. Many of my "good deeds" are very much stop-gap measures backed by the belief that things can and will get (or be made) better for people in the medium/long term. House projects will have benefits for people after me, but that's a very long term payoff which I will probably not see in person.

The people whom we enable to come to the Hall - many of them take away something lasting. More than just memories and amazing photos but /experiences/ ... often experience and progress towards an assessment or goal of theirs. And just maybe a little more inspiration to step up somewhere and make some other part of the world better.

And if not me, then who? (Not entirely a rhetorical question, perfectly willing to share responsibility :) )
It's hard to explain how important that fundamental idea of making a positive difference is in my approach to the world. I can usually only make very small differences now-and-again, but here and now with the Hall it is possible to make a whole lot of them. The benefits as I see them almost always outweigh the cost to me. (It's just that the bill sometimes comes due unexpectedly).
marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-08-05 11:54 pm
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marsden_online: (camera2)
2017-08-05 10:53 pm
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marsden_online: (Kea)
2017-08-04 10:04 pm
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Solar panel math for July(ish)

Produced 114 units
Exported 25 units (@ 8c/unit)
Used 89 units (saving 30.11c/unit)

Total reduction in power bill = $28.80