Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Twas Christmas Night ...

Well , actually Christmas Day; and then Boxing Day.

Christmas time is always special for our family.

Although we see each other often - usually at family dinners on a Sunday evening - Christmas is that and more.

More because it usually spreads over much of the day, and often into Boxing Day as well. This year we were joined by Gareth's sister & brother-in-law Ian, visiting from Perth. But we were missing Sarah & Craig, who spent the day with Craig's family in Auckland. They joined us on Boxing Day, along with Kirsten, Adrian & the kids, and Freda, and an 'orphaned' friend from work (not really orphaned - just on his own because his wife was visiting her mother in California).

It has, of course, the usual gift-giving element, which adds a special element to the day. And a Xmas Tree, and sundry decorations, lights, crackers, glorious food and drink.

The weather is often 'moderate' in the Hutt Valley at Christmas, but this year we 'cooked' in 31 degrees Celsius - very unusual! Boxing Day was a little different as a Southerly change dropped temperatures and cloud hid the sun, but that didn't stop the barbecue!

There are, of course, a range of photos.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Tis the season ...

Christmas is the time of year when people do 'silly' things - well, some of us do!

Gareth had a DJ session at The Southern Cross Hotel recently. So Desiree & I decided to go along, and meet Charlotte, Bethan & Ian for a drink.


What we hadn't counted on was that the outside tables had giant Jenga sets. So of course we had a couple of games.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Media happy to be manipulated

There was an interesting instance of the way in which the media and politicos operate to meet their respective purposes yesterday.

The Dominion Post ran a full page story profiling Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone, and her views on the state of education in New Zealand.

After a lengthy traverse of various issues (Finland or Singapore?) and re-treading of well-worn paths of some of the shambolic handling of sensitive issues (close Christchurch schools, anyone?), we get to the final paragraphs.

"But just as things start getting comfortable, you note Ms Longstone is also the past master of the casually provocative statement."

You can almost hear the journalist (one Philip Matthews) salivating at the prospect of the print equivalent of TV's 'sound-bite' - a juicy headline!

"This one might get New Zealand's teachers incensed all over again: 'There's no doubt that there is world-class practice in schools but it's not widespread,' she says.

'The best practice is not common practice.'"

End of article.

End of story.

And there you have the mutual back-scratching.

Matthews has his headline. And the chance to "get New Zealand's teachers incensed all over again". Which of course, will increase the readership of his article. And generate more column inches, and more Dominion Post readers. And so meet the needs of his paymasters, who expect him to generate eyeballs looking at Stuff pages, so they can sell those viewers to advertisers. Which, after all, is how Fairfax media makes it's money.

Longstone has her claim in the public domain, and the justification for future policies declaimed. Without challenge. Repeat the claim often enough, without justifying or supporting it, and the public will begin to see it as true, whether it is or not. Keep it simple and the stupid will believe it.

And the mutual back-scratching? Longstone doesn't have to justify her claim, because the journalist isn't interested in the substance, only the headline-making "provocative statement". So there is no effort to ask Longstone anything like: "And what's the evidence for this claim? How did you arrive at this view?" And Longstone doesn't therefore have to defend her stance. Just roll-on with her ideological agenda.

Longstone's next step, of course, is to get her Minister, Parata, to follow the same path, and use the same claim to justify government policy.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let me tell you the story of a ...

... girl named Jayne.

Seems she was born 21 years ago TODAY. (I remember it like it was YESTERDAY!)

But looks what's happened to her since:

Oh well, at least the Family Tree doesn't give away her age!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ice patterns

In the depths of winter, even in our moderate climes, a hard frost can settle and produce dazzling patterns. As happened this morning, on our cars in the drive:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Artefacts from the past

I was recently sent a series of scanned images by a cousin of items from our family's past. And that has prompted another round of investigation and planning.

My sister Barbara has a flute which belonged to our grandfather Francis Humphrys. It was presented to him by the congregation of St Peters Church in Caversham in 1904.

The church, in Hillside Road, was the family's 'local', and Francis (& his siblings) sang in the choir. Most of them attended a church re-union in 1948, at which the photo below was taken.

But the most interesting to me was this copy of a photo apparently of Eliza Jane Madill.

What I find fascinating about this is that I am a 3rd great grandson of Eliza Jane MADILL! She was born in or about 1787, and married Joseph William Mulligan of Ballyhaise, Co Cavan. That means we have in the early 21st century, a photo of a woman born in the late 18th century! And the photo was probably acquired by a cousin visiting Ireland in the early 20th century. I find that amazing!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Consumer Affairs - who cares?

Actually a lot of people. But perhaps, a more pertinent question is: Who DOESN'T care? And the answer to that is, clearly, the current tory government.

New Zealand has a Ministry of Consumer Affairs. According to it's website, "Our main role is to create an environment that promotes good and accurate information flows between suppliers and consumers so that consumers can transact with confidence."

So it deals with consumer protection and the setting of the ground-rules by which businesses interact with consumers.

In the current government's first term, the Minister was from National's support party, the ACT sideshow. Now the ACT Party draws its name from the initials of the 'Association of Consumers and Taxpayers', so appointing as Minister, ACT MP Heather Roy seemed a sensible ploy. After all, her party stands for the interests of consumers, doesn't it?

After ACT began to implode, John Boscawen, also from ACT, took up the reins in mid August 2010.

By mid June 2011, National had taken control of the Ministry, appointing Simon Power to head it. But, when, later in the year, he stepped aside from the political life he was replaced by Chris Tremain.

A further re-shuffle was necessitated by the resignation of Ministerial warrants by Nick Smith, which has meant the the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is now headed by Simon Bridges.

Bridges is a Minister Outside Cabinet. So if we assume Key has a core group who comprise a 'kitchen cabinet' or inner circle, that puts Consumer Affairs at 3 removes from real power and influence.

Add to that, the fact that there have been 5 different ministers within the last 20 months, and that 2 of them were from the government's 'support party' (read: stooges), and it is clear that this government's attitude is one of lip-service to the interests and protection of the rights of consumers.

The Ministerial writ has been used as a sop for flunkies, as a disposable bauble for a support party, as a reward for good behaviour, and as a training ground for up-and-coming junior MPs.

So, yes, we can say the National Government looks after the interests of Consumers. Yeah right!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Heart of the matter (5)

The last time I reported progress, I confidently claimed everything was "Done & dusted, … Bar the bruising." Too soon, apparently, and it's been an eventful few days since that last update!

The 2 Stents had been inserted successfully. By Sunday I was ready to make a gentle beginning to some exercise, so Desiree & I headed to Petone Beach for a stroll along the foreshore, followed by coffee at the Jetty Cafe. So far so good.

Unfortunately, I managed less than 200 metres before I had to call a stop. My right calf was in considerable pain, and I doubted I could make any further distance. So we called a halt, and Desiree went to get the car to collect me. We did go and have coffee and we talked about what to do next.

I dithered, of course, and tried to avoid (or at least delay) the inevitable, but by Sunday morning my calf was in pain even while I wasn't doing anything, action was required. A visit to the after hours centre resulted in a referral to the vascular team at Wellington Hospital. That meant a trip into town, an examination by the Registrar, and arrangements for a scan of the leg.

Turns out the Specialist also works at Southern Cross Hospital, and they could deal with me post haste. That meant I was to go in for an ultra-sound scan the next day (Tuesday). It transpired that what had happened was that a small device used to close the artery at the point through which entry was made to insert the stents, had come loose.

This small device (a collagen-based thing) is about half the size of a pea, but, after traveling into the artery in my leg, was big enough to block major branches of the artery in my lower right leg.

So another round of surgery was scheduled for that afternoon to have the blockage removed. The upshot is that I woke up to a sizable wound on my calf, and the prospect of a couple of days in hospital.

My movement was restricted to hobbling about on crutches, BUT - the first good news in a few days! - I was released in time to be at home to watch the Breakers win the first of their ANBL Finals. I spent the next few days popping pills, hobbling about, and keeping my leg elevated.

A followup visit to the vascular specialist told me that he's happy with the outcome of his work!  The wounds are healing nicely and there haven't been any further complications.  The problem at the moment is pain relief and mobility.  I am having to keep doped up on Voltaren and Panadol, and am still struggling about on crutches, although at the good times, I'm down to a single crutch.

The specialist's advice was that I could drive and return to work 'when I felt able to'.  At this stage that is likely to be a few days, given the extent to which I struggle to get started after periods of sitting or lying, and the need to keep my leg elevated when not walking.  This last one will be difficult to accommodate in our office!

Touch wood, recovery and rehab is plain sailing from here on!

The Ghoul's Gallery

The leg in question, swathed in a 'compression sock' to help reduce the swelling

Rehab on the couch

The scar and bruising

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Whatever happened to the Church of The Left?

Anthony Hubbard makes a striking claim in his Sunday Start-Times column on 8 April 2012. He says that "It's the God of the far Right that causes the trouble, and it is striking that Christian politics is so often of the Right."

That's a sentiment with which I find it difficult to disagree.

But it does raise an interesting question: Has it always been thus, at least in New Zealand?

And the answer has to be: No, it hasn't. And in fact one could argue that this phenomenon is only a relatively recent one.

You see New Zealand has quite a history of what in the nineteenth century was called 'muscular Christianity'. And if it didn't always have what could be called a liberal or left-leaning viewpoint, it was at least concerened with social action and social justice or progress.

To illustrate. Some of the earliest 'social welfare' legislation passed by the Liberal Government of the 1890s, was inspired by the preaching and social evangelism of Rev Rutherford Waddell, a Presbyterian Minister in Dunedin. He spoke out, famously, about the evils of 'sweated labour' - of the exploitation of workers, in other words.

Many of the middle-class Temperance campaigners from the same era were members of the Women's CHRISTIAN Temperance Movement, who sought to curb the sale of alcohol because of it's pernicious effects on the lives of women and children, especially in the working classes.

This same late-nineteenth century period also saw the rise in New Zealand of the Salvation Army with it's social action programmes.

These campaigners, and others like them weren't just outsiders, agitating for change. Their views were often echoed by, or inspired, the emerging 'party political' activist class which developed in the early twentieth century.

The Methodist Church's own website says"
"Some working-class Methodists sought to pursue the lessons of their faith through political action. The Methodist enthusiasm for egalitarianism, and for protecting the needy, found a voice in left-wing politics. Methodist missionary Colin Scrimgeour, known as Uncle Scrim, hosted ‘The friendly road’, a popular but controversial religious radio programme in the 1930s. In it he criticised the government and urged support for the Labour Party on humanitarian grounds."

There was a strong Christian presence in some of the union movement, and a number of prominent early Labour politicans had an explicit background in Christian organisations or affiliations. Michael Joseph Savage, Harry Holland, Peter Fraser, Walter Nash, and Arnold Nordmeyer all had clear ties to various churches. A number of Labour politicians were Conscientious Objectors during World War One.

Norman Kirk and then David Lange were later politicians whose political views were deeply informed by their religious upbringing and background.

So what's happened? The overwhelming impression presented by the Christian churches of the late twentieth- and early twent-first centuries is of, on the one hand, a focus on individual salvation, and, on the other, a wish to impose a narrow set of beliefs as the underpinning of social policy. Missing are the champions of social justice, a wish to reduce or reverse social inequality, and undo the perniciousness of modern social alienation and anomie.

It's hard to avoid noting the parallel with the decline or reduction in influence of the traditional 'British' segment of our society and the gradual 'Americanisation' of our society and especially economy. The replacement of the traditional mainstream Churches (Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbytarian) with the newer, pentecostal-orentated churches like Arise and Destiny with their mimicry of US 'tele-vangelists' and contrived audience hysteria.

You wonder if Christ is spinning on his Cross.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Heart of the Matter (4)

Well, that's that, then! Done & dusted, as it were. Bar the bruising.

Thursday I was scheduled for my Angioplasty "procedure" (apparently not an "operation"). In other words I was to be 'blown up' in order to open a blocked artery near my heart. Sounds straight-forward doesn't it. And in theory it is.

Only there can be difficulties or complications. And maybe I'm related to that fellow Murphy, because my angioplasty wasn't straight-forward.

This is a 'before' picture:

You can see the 'wire' which was inserted. They start with one about the width of a human hair! The one arrowed in the picture has a loop at the end. It is in an artery but there is no blood or width, because it's blocked of course.

The first difficulty the surgeon had was that the blockage was resistant - he had difficulty getting the wire to penetrate it, perhaps because it had been there a while and had solidified. So that called for a variety of wire thicknesses and endpoints.
But this next picture shows that the blockage has been penetrated but not yet enlarged, hence you can see the artery, but it is still very narrow.

But then, having managed to penetrate it, he then had difficulty getting the balloon inflated. They had to use several different balloons, of differing size, and because of the resistant character of the blockage, use considerable pressure to get them inflated.

But they did! This picture is the 'after' view, with the arrow pointing at the location of the 'blockage', although at that point it is probably more correct to refer to it as the location of the Stent.

But as you can see, there is ample blood flow, and it is moving through a much wider channel than the wire in the previous image.

But the outcome is that the procedure was successful. My blood is now coursing naturally and as it should be. I am left with a small pucnture wound in the groin and one wrist which will heal quickly. And that should mean a return to a more normal life.

Once the bruising and stiffness has gone down.

PS: If you're wondering how I know details of what happened during the procedure, I was conscious, albeit sedated. And I coped Ok I find surprising, given that I'm a coward, and have always disliked hospitals and things 'medical'!

Desiree spent most of the afternoon at the Hospital, and Jayne came along to keep her company, and then in the early evening Sarah, Charlotte & Craig dropped in to see how I was. It felt like a railway station!

But Jayne & Desiree decided that we needed a photographic record of my stay in hospital. So:

Wired up to keep track of my heart-rate and blood pressure

The tourniquet applied to the wrist. The redness is dye pumped into the artery to help identify progress

The monitor keeping track of my vital signs

The nursing staff had a little difficulty finding a pulse in my foot, and resorted to ultra-sound

Desiree was solicitous

Dinner was a little problematic, as I was not to use my right-hand, to protect the arterial wound in the wrist

Jayne made the most of the comfortable chair

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Portrait Of The Blogger As A Young Man

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

But if you look again, you'll see another nicens little boy named Bryan

And then he grew up, and went to PlayCentre, where they had parties and he had friends like Rosie

Sometimes he dressed up, preferably so he could shoot Injuns.

He went to school to learn useful things like how to brush his hair, adding up, the names of all the oceans, wear the thick jerseys his mother knitted, and have his photo taken.

While all this was going on, the rest of the family was growing up too, and got married and had nicens babies of their own.

And some even thought he looked like Will Robinson, but he didn't.
And then he grew up even more.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thanks for Integrity

Cabinet Minister Nick Smith resigned this week. His 'crime'? Two minor errors of judgement.

I must confess I'm pleased at the outcome. Not because I don't think Smith is competent, or that I oppose the Government's policies (I do), but because it is one of our few 'constitutional' checks in operation.

New Zealand is somewhat unusual in the absence of many formal constitutional checks and balances designed to constrain the power of the government. In that sense we are closer to the Westminster model than to the American model of government structure and operation.

We had a Constitution Act as far back as 1852, and there is currently in force another Act passed in 1986.

However, since about 1890, there has been a steady accretion of power to the Executive - in practical terms to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Simultaneously there has been a dimunition of checks and balances on the power.

The consequence, in my view, is that Cabinet has become too powerful. In evidence I would cite the Emergency Powers taken by governments during the Great Depression and then World War 2. These latter were then used to crushing effect in what became known as the Waterfront Dispute of 1951 a clear of the Government seeking to crush the life out of a workers' organisation.

And then again, the Governments lead by Muldoon about 1980 and that suborned by Roger Douglas in the latter half of the 1980s, exercised their power in the face of concerted and vociferous opposition to their policies. The National government of the 1990s continued the approach, doggedly implementing a right-wing, laissez-faire agenda.

So, John Key's insistence on what he calls "high standards from my ministers" is one of the relatively small number of checks and balances on ministerial power.

We rely on the three-year term of government to 'keep governments honest'. Now we add to the mix the MMP system, which interestingly has left the current on a knife-edge; indeed they could not have afforded to have Smith actually resign from Parliament and risk the vagaries of a by-election.

So the expectation that Cabinet Ministers will not only be 'squeaky-clean' but will be SEEN to be 'squeaky-clean' and free from any taint of corruption and subject to the glare of public scrutiny is to be applauded.

It is unfortunate for Smith, and perhaps unlucky, if one views his mistakes as minor. But he is in a sense an example to his colleagues. And with that I am in agreement.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Heart of the Matter (3)

Well, the decision is made. No cause to dwell on it.

Angioplasty it is!

In case you're not sure how this works:

April 5 is 'S-Day'.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


The family gathered on Sunday for our regular weekly dinner.

We were having burritos. And that meant we brought out the sombrero:

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Heart of the Matter (2)

Well, that was helpful!

I had an appointment with the specialist the other day. He had taken some time to confer with colleagues over my 'condition' because, in his words, it is fairly unusual.

So the appointment was an opportunity for him to layout clearly the options I face, along with the risks and benefits. What he was cautious about doing was to make a specific recommendation beyond: You need to do something.

Seems my reading of the options was accurate: stents or bypass.

He has said it is up to me to decide, although when pushed, he said he would recommend angioplasty, but would be quite happy if I opted for the bypass surgery.

So there it is: I now have a couple of other factors to include in the calculation (risk levels, recovery period) along with simple, uncomplicated fear.

Hmmm - what's that Eddie Izzard routine about cake?

Oh well, I'll think on't for a couple of days, talk to a few people, before I commit to one or the other.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

So, it's like this: I have Angina. A brief test on a treadmill for a cardiologist was enough to get him worried, and scare me.

So I was summoned to hospital for an angiogram.

Now I'm a coward from way back, so having to be subjected to medical procedures is un-nerving for me. And to make matters worse, I had to hang about after being admitted until the specialist was ready for me; it did wonders for my nerves!

Anyway, the procedure was, for those not sure, the insertion of a tube into an artery, in my case, in the groin. Into the tube was put a purple dye, the progress of which around my circulatory system was monitored by the specialist and the technicians. It was all over in less than an hour, and I was sent back to my little room.

Once there I was 'trussed'. You see, I had a hole in an artery, and the staff were understandably cautious about me bleeding - a caution I was only too happy to go along with. Although it did mean a small degree of discomfort. But that only lasted a couple of hours, during which I was fed and watered. As the nurse was satisfied that the risk of me bleeding had passed I was allowed to go home about 7:30pm.

If you look at the two images above, you'll see what the problem is. The upper image is the left-side of my heart; the lower is the right-side. In the lower image you should be able to make out a network of dark lines which are the arteries in the heart (they stand out because of the dye inserted). The problem is that the same network is not present in the upper image, apparently because the arteries are blocked, and so the dye didn't flow through them. It seems that this has developed ove a period of time, during which the 'healthy' side has developed to compensate for the blocked side, and in the words of the specialist, the situation is "quite stable".

So what was the outcome of all this? If you can read the discharge notes above, Well Done! What it amounts to is that I am likely to have to have either a stent (or possibly stents) inserted or by-pass surgery. It's not yet decided, but the specialist has seen enough to know what the options are and is taking a week to decide which is the better of the two.