Sunday, February 25, 2007

I rule the blog

This post has spent a long time gestating, lurking in the darkness and slowly growing. It is finally ready to come out. So here you are Jenni - the guidelines I use for this blog:

Titles: My ideal title is a quirky, ambiguous misquote that relates to the post in more than one tangential way and creates a new snowclone. I often misquote songs but, because I have an abnormal inability to remember music, I can't actually remember what the song sounds like when I pick the title.

Language: Proudly New Zealand English. I think one of the great things about the internet is exposing people to other cultures and this is my culture. In this post I did a nifty definition thing for my readers but I've never bothered again.

Sensitivity: Nothing I really wouldn't want people to know about me in an job interview. Nothing that I wouldn't tell my colleagues if they asked. Nothing that my work would be too uncomfortable about. Exactly what I don't talk about here changes over time. You can email me about that stuff at ruthlessly at gmail dot com and I'll answer at my discretion.

Content: Whatever takes my fancy, particularly whimsical thoughts and events, also obsessions of the moment and things that I think ought to be out there for others to read. I enjoy expressing my own quirky sense of humour. It's my blog and it is all about me.

Audience: Aimed at friends and potential friends, random strangers welcome. I've discovered that the blogosphere is a great way to meet people who I have something in common with and explore that something.

Quality: This is something I've struggled with and I've settled on first draft. I'm a perfectionist and it bugs me when I find I've posted stuff with bad punctuation, spelling and typos but I try to remember if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly. If an error bugs you let me know and I'll probably fix it.

Frequency: Varies with the demands of my life, 5 times a week is a very approximate aim and anything from once a week to once a day is fine.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

An even number of heads

One of my new friends has just found out she is expecting twins. She is paper pregnant (adopting). I am really happy for her and also kind of scared. Thinking about trying to explain why I came up with this:

Twins are hard. Harder than 2 x 1. As babies it is more like logarithmically more difficult. Or to explain another way - babies need you 110% of the time, you can only be there for anyone (however small and needy) 80% of the time and the other 30% is unmet need. This 30% unmet need is why babies cry so much. You can only be there for each twin 45% of the time which leaves 65% unmet need each. Living with two people who are completely dependent on you who have 65% unmet need each can be a very draining experience.

I found 1 + 1 = 4 for the first few weeks, 1 + 1 = 2 at about 18 months, 1 + 1 < 2 at about 3.

It is harder for women who set themselves high expectations, like things to go the way they planned and are used to being in control. I'm that kind of woman. It was very hard for me.

Twins are wonderful.

I don't regret having twins.

It is also the hardest thing I've ever done.

Huey, Dewey and ...

I've just finished re-reading Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (which is was originally published as two books, Shards of Honor and Barrayar). Some of my gentle readers will appreciate knowing that it is great action sci-fi, some that it is an interesting, romantic love story and some that in the afterword she writes "Shards of Honor and Barrayar between them contain most of what I presently have to say about being a mother".

This snippet tickled my fancy:
He looked grandfatherly--though only if one's grandfather was a research professor. His face was held together with an intensity of intellect that seemed to give the term "military intelligence" real clout.
To appreciate why you have to understand that my father, H & K's grandfather, is a research professor. Although he is not my mental image of a professor which has always been my Uncle Donald, who looks like Professor Branestawm, and is similarly endearingly absent minded.

This is the second post on my Wikifamily, the first is here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It takes two

I haven't been posting much lately. The hiatus has been because the two big things going on in my life for the last few weeks both needed care and confidentiality. Fortunately they are both over the difficult bit.

We have given our new nanny two weeks notice. In her first six weeks she has had nearly ten days off. I've never had to go through the process of dismissing someone before and it is really hard to do. Hard to balance her needs, H & K's and ours. Hard to be as fair and reasonable as possible. Hard to keep perspective. Hard to trust we will find someone better.

When I talk to people who are pregnant my standard advice is "The first few weeks with a new baby are impossible. No one copes, some of them just fake it better. If you make it through in two pieces you've succeeded."

Marriage is much easier than parenthood. It isn't impossible but sometimes it takes work. This has been one of those times. A time of "You said ..." "No, I said ...". A time when I have to put aside who is right and focus on the end game. Fortunately it's obvious it is worth it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pachyderm philanthropy

Looking at this year's Breast Cancer Research T-shirts in the local Glasson's I decided that if I was designing one it would have flying elephants on it. So here they are:

(When I drew this I though this year's theme was 'One Kiss', since then I've discovered it is 'Kiss Off').

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What spangles our banner

This post expands and explains my Waitangi Day post.

The Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is the founding document of our nation. It was signed at Waitangi on 6 February 1840 by a representative of the British Crown and a gathering of Maori Chiefs. Over the next several months 500 further signatures were added by representatives of most tribal groups. It granted the Queen governorship over New Zealand, granted Maori continued chieftainship and ownership of their lands and treasures (taonga), specified Maori would only sell land to the Crown, and grants Maori the same rights as other British subjects. For its time, I think, it was quite a reasonable agreement.

The treaty, unsurprisingly, was not the end of the story. Some tribes, also quite reasonably, refused to sign the treaty and some were never given the opportunity. The two versions of the treaty, one in English and one in Maori, differed, putting the exact meaning in doubt. The treaty was not ratified and did not have legal recognition until 1975. Many of the Maori signatories had no experience of what the British meant by land ownership or governorship and the British did not understand what retaining chieftainship meant to Maori. The treaty was not honoured. Land and taonga were taken without consent.

In 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was set up to investigate and make recommendations to the government to resolve claims of breaches to the treaty. It has been key to the resolution of some significant breaches of the treaty.

Very sadly breaches of the treaty are still occurring. In 2004 the Foreshore and Seabed Act was passed making the Crown owners of that land without Maori ever having sold it or being compensated in any way. I was among many who took part in the hikoi to protest.

An explanation of the flags.

Union Jack - I began the series with this flag partly because I think it is the first flag that would have been flown in NZ (by James Cook in 1769), partly out of mischievousness and partly as the Treaty of Waitangi was between the British Crown and Maori, and to start and end with very strong, deliberately controversial images for Waitangi Day.

Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand - The first true New Zealand flag adopted by the United Tribes of New Zealand at a meeting of Maori chiefs in 1834.

New Zealand Flag - The deeply familiar symbol of our country in use since1869. Lots of Kiwis, including me, would like to change but can't agree what to.

New Zealand Red Ensign - Before doing the flag post I could have told you that it is a nautical flag and that it is associated in my mind with Waitangi Day, if pressed I'd have guessed that association was naval. Now I know better, the red ensign is flown during Maori events (including at Waitangi on Waitangi Day) because there is a traditional Maori preference for a red flag.

Green Spiral Flag - The Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser had a passionate love for New Zealand and adopted it as his second home. He is remembered here for a fabulous toilet and this flag he designed in 1983 which is loved by greenies and ignored by everyone else. I have deliberately chosen a picture of this flag which is slightly rumpled and real, trying to embody a sense of flag as a cherished object not just a symbol.

Stylised Silver Fern Flag - This has become one of the front runners in the bid to change the New Zealand flag. It is inspired by the white fern on black symbol of the All Blacks - if Kiwis can't agree on anything else at least they can agree on the rugby. However black is a controversial colour for a flag, the design has a corporate logo feel and it acknowledges without including Maori symbols. This flag was designed by Cameron Sanders in about 2004.

Flag of Tino Rangatiratanga - This is the unofficial Maori flag and the flag of the Maori Sovereignty Movement (Tino Rangatiratanga). One of the key differences between the treaty in English and Maori was the words used for what was ceded to the Crown and what was kept. In Maori what was ceded was kawanatanga (governorship) and what was kept was tino rangatiratanga (absolute chieftainship, usually referred to as sovereignty). What exactly Maori sovereignty would entail is unclear and this uncertainty leads to fear and resistance from most pakeha New Zealanders. I've chosen a moving image of this flag to show the active nature of a movement seeking change, to evoke the protestors flags in the wind at Waitangi, and to make it seem not just a observation but a statement.

For more information check out Wikipedia from which you can find out more about nearly all of this. There are also a number of other sites covering the treaty online including this NZ government one and this Tino Rangatiratanga one.

Am I getting warmer?

Q: How do you spot a climate scientist?
A: The bike helmet.

This is an observation from a presentation I went to on the key IPCC findings on climate change. IPCC(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group 1, which covers the physical science of climate change, has just reported back. For a quick over view I recommend this press release, for more check out the IPCC site.

One quote from the presentation:

"We are already commited to dangerous levels of warming. We don't want to go much beyond dangerous." Ralph Chapman, Director Environment Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

True colours?

Today/yesterday was Waitangi Day. After too much chocolate I am unable to sleep so I give you this musing (for background try Wikipedia on New Zealand Flag [and this later post]):

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Of great uncles

I have been reading The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman. I like all his books, mostly he writes very readable detective stories that feature the Navajo Tribal Police. I enjoy the glimpse into other cultures that his Native American protagonists bring.

In The First Eagle Tony Hillerman writes: "Hosteen Nakai was Chee's maternal granduncle, which gave him special status in Navajo tradition." Which led me to thinking about my only maternal great uncle: Francis Skinner. My uncle Francis died in 1941, long before I was born. He is famous in a small way as a friend, protege and lover of Wittgenstein. You can read about him in Wikipedia here and although it mentions "the dismay of Skinner's family" it doesn't tell you that the thing that really caused them lasting grief is that Wittgenstein did not tell them Francis was dying until it was too late to visit him.

Jim Chee's granduncle Nakai is steeped in Navajo tradition, my great uncle Francis's life did not fit with tradition. Chee spent a lot of time with Nakai, Francis was distant even from his sisters. Chee visits his granduncle on his deathbed, none of my family visited Francis. Chee and his family are fiction, my family is real. Both of these men are treasured.

The rest of my WikiFamily (people with articles about them in Wikipedia I am vaguely related to) are:

Donald Lynden-Bell - British astronomer
John Brown - American abolitionist
John Reed - American bolshevik

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The god solution

I am agnostic. I have some strong beliefs about what kinds of God or gods don't exist. I think a kind of undetectable god could exist although it is unlikely.

D is an atheist. He thinks it is obvious there is no such thing as god and how can any rational person even consider such a bizarre concept seriously? As a rational agnostic, and the daughter of two scientists who are thinking, liberal Christians, I find this amusing.

We both believe that one of the worst things our daughters could do is become fundamentalist Christians. This means that as rebellious teenagers they are likely to try their damnedest to. I fear that if we use D's natural approach and just tell them all religion is stupid they are guaranteed to become fundies. My current, possibly misguided, approach is to take them to church twice a year because I think it is an important part of my culture.

So, advice please, if the puzzle is how to avoid spawning fundamentalists, what is the solution?

The title of this is inspired by The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins which I have read a couple of reviews of and had recommended by a friend. I have no intention of actually reading it though, because Richard Dawkins always comes across to me as an obnoxious, patronising git. I miss Stephen J Gould.

Thanks JK for inspiring the email which led to this post.