Monthly Archives: February 2007

do all the good you can

Buy Do All The Good You Can at AllPosters.comBack at work today – and yet the sun shone perfectly. All around me in downtown Wellington people were stuck indoors, in suits, in lifts, in a rut…and meanwhile another beautiful day comes and goes and nothing beneficial seems to happen.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, my mate Trevor is making plans to go off to the Congo and Burundi, travelling with the United Nations division of ‘Children and Armed Conflict’ to visit kids in refugee camps, to try to bring something beneficial to their lives. These kids are former child soldiers, orphans, refugees – the whole drama.

Makes you think about getting things into some sort of proportion.

our story begins…

Buy Home is Where Your Story Begins at AllPosters.comIt’s seven pm – 19:00 hours. I’m in bed, writing, with a bottle of chilled summer ale close at hand. A moment, while I have a sip – ahhh.

I’m not in bed this early because I’m unwell, rather it’s finally time to relax and unwind a little. Today we finally finished shifting from our old house to our new home. We’ve still got plenty of sorting out to do – decluttering (my apologies to the parents and friends of St Francis de Sales – your gala is going to be filled with our unwanted stuff). And thank you to friends and family who have helped with elbow grease and fortifications to get us here, tools borrowed from Mate, and Kirsty’s grandad, and the 10,000 banana boxes from Thorndon New World. And so, now, I’m sitting in bed wearing my best fedora, having a beer, and writing – it doesn’t get better than this.

We’re very excited and happy to be in our own home; granted, some of it is partly shared with the nice people from KiwiBank – according to our solicitor, “a bank for old ladies and tree huggers”. And they – the old ladies and tree huggers – thought that apparently they could include us too. The shift has taken its toll of the three main players – Zofia, Marica and I – we’re all aching and finding bruises, cuts and scratches in places we didn’t know we had places. We have learned more about our strengths and how we work, together and apart; and what we’re like when we’re tired, stressed, hungry, thirsty – in short, when we’re ‘over this’. We kept on working until we couldn’t do it any more – and then we did more.

I guess in years to come we’ll talk at family meals about the time we moved and how this or that happened and what happened next. We will have forgotten the aches and pains, and instead remember the joys and strengths we gained. Like everyone before us, and many yet to come, we’ve waited a long time to get new home. We’ve fought and struggled to first get the money, and then make the move. But we’re there now. Thankfully there. And this is part of the start of our story, as our story begins…

There’s got to be more to life than fighting for fish heads!

Buy Seagull Flying Above the Clouds at AllPosters.comHave you ever enjoyed a book, a movie, and the sound track to the movie – only to find you’re perhaps the only person in the world who did enjoy the any part of the package? No? For me, I loved Jonathan Livingston Seagull – the book, the movie, the sound track. Perhaps I didn’t read the deep and meaningful stuff into it and just enjoyed the story – you get that when you’re unsophisticated. Or maybe you think there isn’t more to life than fighting for fish heads.

But there is. There’s the latest The Bird and I – #43 – IATB at the Movies. It just gets better and better.

Perfect speed isn’t moving fast at all; perfect speed is being there.

drag and drop

Buy Life in a Wish Bowl at AllPosters.comWe moved most of the garden today – at least, those parts of the garden we intended taking with us. The biggest production number was moving the goldfish (and their pond). I wish the exercise had been more like the image, with a small bowl, and fish that moved themselves, but no…

It’s not that the task was too much, just time consuming as I emptied the water (keeping some aside to bring so the fish wouldn’t be shocked by the new water), pulled out the plants, put water in the tub that was the new ‘pond’, caught the fish and slid them into the ‘pond’, removed the fountain, filter and pump, and continued emptying the pond (using a bucket, and the a plant pot to scoop the last of the water out). Not exactly a goldfish bowl.

The ‘trick’ of doing this is to move quickly, so the plants and fish are out of their home for the minimum time, so that any shock is minimised. I, of course, am aching from the shifting over the past few days, and so blessed the removal of bricks from around the pond – when I first started I could lift and carry six. And then it became five…

I dug the pond out, and dragged it away to be washed – I didn’t want to get clay all through the van. When the outside of the pond was dry I loaded it in, and sped off to locate the pond in the new location. I wanted to get the new water in asap so the chlorine would have time to evaporate out, and so that the algae growing on the pond walls wouldn’t dry out excessively. I sprayed the water in so it was actived – aerated – excited – all helping to clear the chlorine and generally make the water more fish friendly.

Later in the day I brought the lily (still flowering) and the plants back in, and finally we added the goldfish – who seemed more than happy with the changes. The new location will allow for better cleaning (yay for all of us) and we’ll be able to see the pond on a daily basis. All I need to do now is move the bricks back around the pond and the job is done. ALL I have to do… I think I can lift a brick in each hand now and that’s my limit. I’ve dragged, and I’ve dropped.

home, sweat home

Phew! We finally mostly made it. Still got a few bits and bobs to move, but we’re 90% in our new home. Excitingly our living/dining room could be mistaken for a secondhand furniture salesroom, and there’s an entire world of new stuff that is our old stuff but that we forgot about. I took a van load of recycling and rubbish to the landfill centre and watched with joy as reams of paper – lawn clippings of research for my degree – vanished into the cave owned by the paper-only dragon.

Somewhere, a few days ago, I reached a conclusion that if I do go on to further study I’ll be storing more on digital, and less on paper – I’ve still got folder after folder to go through – the ultimate fate of which will probably be recycling with the paper-only dragon.

Meanwhile, further study is miles over the edge of the horizon. I’d rather spend time getting setting this house and garden in order. And besides, based on my previous experience, funding renovation and funding degrees is not that easy. Easy really appeals to me now; having spent a good few days sweating while lugging stuff around…

happy birthday to you…

image of Robert Mugabe from http://images.scotsman.com/This man has manage to take one of the richest and powerful countries in Africa – literally the jewel in Africa’s crown – back into the economic stone age. In just 27 years. And today is his birthday. Hoo-rah!

According to Jan Raath in Harare, reporting in The Times, February 21, 2007

Robert Mugabe celebrates his 83rd birthday today as his supporters prepare a cake-and-fizzy-drinks party in the central city of Gweru.

Africa’s oldest leader and the world’s oldest head of state and government is fit, active and alert, according to senior sources in his ruling Zanu (PF) party. But he is under pressure as never before.

The party has been deducting money from civil servants’ wages and bullying near-bankrupt businesses for donations to raise the 300 million Zimbabwean dollars (about £30,000 at real rather than official rates) to pay for the celebration on Friday. In attendance will be the 21st of February Movement, an organisation of children established with the sole purpose of gathering on this day each year to pay homage.

Together with hundreds of Mr Mugabe’s rich and powerful cronies, they are expected to hear a long address from the Most Consistent and Authentic Revolutionary Leader – his official title. The cost of the party would supply 300 Aids sufferers with antiretroviral drugs for a year in a country where only 50,000 people out of 500,000 infected have access to them.

“If they said, ‘Come and join us’, and sent a car here to fetch me, I would never go,” Abigail Zvikomo, who sells vegetables on the streets of Harare, said. “Even though I am starving, I would not go. I hate him.” The price of bread rose 136 percent yesterday. Four loaves would cost a farmworker 15,000 dollars, a month’s wages. On Friday the Government doubled the price of maize-meal, the national staple, to the point where it will take a farm-worker two months to pay for a 50kg (130lb) bag, enough for a family of six for a month.

With inflation at 1,600 per cent, the country is seething with discontent. The 450-odd junior doctors who run the hospitals are in their eighth week of a strike. So are about a quarter of the 100,000 teachers. The civil service is mooting similar action. And, while the President’s guests party on Friday, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions will review his failure to bring workers’ salaries into line with the cost of living and decide whether to strike.

“We send him regular reports on the situation,” said a provincial head of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Mr Mugabe’s secret police. “We tell him the truth, that the population is fed up with the economic situation and that it is building up to an explosion.”

On Sunday morning, when supporters of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change gathered in Harare for the launch of its campaign for presidential elections, due next year, they were met by armed riot police with teargas grenades and Israeli-manufactured water cannon, in defiance of a High Court order the day before that ordered police not to interfere with the rally.

Mr Mugabe has no intention of holding elections next year. He is whipping the central committee into shifting the date to 2010, thus extending his tenure.

Lovely. I’m old enough to remember Idi Amin – Uganda’s favorite despot, wanker, last king of Scotland etc. Remarkably similar. I bet Mugabe has millions stashed in Swiss accounts as well.

on the road again

View Willie Nelson's - On the Road Again product details at AmazonBack in the early 80s my sister, my nephew, and I did a road trip from Melbourne (Australia) across through the Grampions, to Adelaide, and then back along the coast road. It was in January, it was hot. HOT. HOT!!! I like it warm, even into hot, but this was completely into the world of pain. We, of course, chose this exact time to camp our way across Aussie. I was the driver, and I was responsible for the safe ferrying of my family in the seering Mad Max landscapes in an oven HQ Holden with no aircon.

I have memories of an almost hallucinatory experience, going to some reptile ‘exhibit’ in some codger’s backyard – watching a psychotic snake slither around and around an old corrugated iron tank that the codger had sunk in the ground. We also visited Naracoorte Caves (in South Australia). The guide was talking about the fossils of animals that had fallen in the cave over time including marsupials. ‘Can anyone tell me some marsupials?’, the guide asked. I was numb from the heat and dehydration, and being in the bat cave the only one I could think of was a Numbat. Luckily, a young co-explorer piped up with, ‘A magpie?’

Good on ya, cobber. Cheered us up no end, as did Willie Nelson who was also getting on the road again, frequently, courtesy of rural radio. I always associate that song with the endless nothing between nowhere towns. We didn’t know it then, but when we returned to NZ, Gillian and I were about to do many hours driving here. I was reminded of that today, driving the van back and forth as we shift into our new home. Sadly, the van I’ve rented has a munted sound system, so I can’t crank it up to the point of deafening; but today, in the heat of the noon day sun, I was transported, not only across town, but across time. I was back on the road again…

happy new year!

Buy Pig with Daffodils in Bushel at AllPosters.comIn keeping with the spirit of the year of – not only the pig, not only the fire pig, but the golden pig as well (once every 600 years) we’ve started moving into our new home. It feels as though we’ve got possessions strewn across the countryside as we’ve got a foot in each house at the moment. But we’re getting there. It’s been a long time coming and it feels very, very good to be undertaking this major change in our lives at this most auspicious time.

happy hour – at work?

image from http://positivesharing.comChief Happiness Officer Alexander Kjerulf has published a book entitled ‘Happy Hour is 9 to 5‘. Happy at work? Are you mad? I’m writing at home this morning, while my colleagues are working. I’m happy, make no mistakes. Kjerulf has helped make me happy, and you too – because you can buy his book in paper, as a pdf, or, it’s available for free, on his blog.

Kjerulf, a Dane, figures

…Scandinavians have an advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to happiness at work: Where most other nations are fairly new to the concept of happiness at work, we have a word for it. In Danish, my native language, the word is arbejdsglæde, and while that may look utterly indecipherable to the rest of the world, it’s a concept that is deeply ingrained in Scandinavian work culture and one that most Nordic businesses focus on to a large degree.

Consequently, Scandinavian workers are the happiest in the world. According to a study from 2005, 68% are happy or very happy with their current job, compared with 47% in the UK or even 35% in Belgium1. This is a major factor behind the success of Nordic companies like Nokia, IKEA, Oticon (the world’s largest producer of hearing aids), Carlsberg, Ericsson, Lego, and many others.

Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde literally translates into work-happiness. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced ah-bites-gleh-the. And you thought Fahrvergnügen was a mouthful!

Heh – rød grød med fløde would be my mouthful of choice… but I think there are some points that also contribute to the overall happiness of the Danish workplace. The pay is good. The social services are good – medical and dental etc care. The ‘we think it would be helpful for you to learn to use a computer, here’s one for you to have at home’. Generous leave allowances, including sick leave, domestic leave, holiday leave and well, leave leave it seems. Quality childcare available either free or at economical prices. And the list goes on and on; however, last, and absolutely not least, in Summer, go stand by the harbour in Copenhagen of Friday afternoons and have a beer with pretty much the rest of Copenhagen. All that works for me. Frankly, once the essentials are in place, spending some time finding ways of enjoying work is not a bad thing.

Initially, I thought Kjerulf’s writing would be along the line of how to make xmas day better – my observations of Danish workplaces not leading me to believe work there could be much improved. But it’s more than that. Using a jewellry example, it’s possible to have a bad stone in beautiful setting – and so it is more than possible to have a bad working relationship/atmosphere in what should be a wonderful environment. What Kjerulf offers in his book is tips, tools, and techniques that the average person can introduce to make their workplace a happier place to work in. I’ve had many jobs, and worked in a diverse range of workplace settings. My repeated experience, here and in other countries, has been one of continued amazement as to how much human resource is wasted through ignorance and bad attitude. Management does not know how to listen to, or mine out, the hidden strengths and experiences of their workers. They instead continually, universally, are happy to squander the best resources they’ll ever have as people walk out the door and take the accumulated knowledge and experience with them. When this happens as a nation, we call it a braindrain. It’s rarely – if ever – used to describe a more regional or localised, even company level drain, and yet it happens there every day. Kjerulf may offer a solution to the local braindrain.

tribal affiliations

View Two Tribes/Power of Love product details at AmazonSit down, children, let me tell you a story…

Way, way back in the past, near the dawn of the 1980s a BritBand called ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’ dropped a single eventually released on the ZTT aka ‘Zang Tumb Tuum’ and ‘Zang Tuum Tumb’ label. That would be Trevor Horn. Mr Art of Noise. What happened next was a feeding frenzy of creativity, the chips and splatters of which are still staining the water today.

Here’s a really quick summary – spot the synchronicity if you can.

The title of the single is ‘Two Tribes’. It’s based on a line from the film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior – Mel Gibson continues climbing up his career. A video was made by the creative duo Goodley and Creme, showing actors playing Ronald Reagan and the then Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko wrestling – fighting towards the ultimate destruction. There were clips from Richard Nixon and other world leaders, including Lord Beaverbrook, Yasser Arafat and John F. Kennedy. This was 1984 – Margaret Thatcher had swept back to power in the 1983 UK general election, floated on the surge of patriotic sentiment generated from having kneed the Argentinians in the Falklands – and this after the Pope (John Paul II) had visited both the UK and Argentina in 1982. My mate Robert was getting the NZ Airforce to send me recruitment brochures (as if). Apple was nailing the superbowl advertising campaign with the release of the Mac. It was like the wild west. Goodley was later to join Art of Noise; but not before he and Creme made (great) videos for artists such as The Police (Every Breath You Take and others), Duran Duran (Girls on Film), Herbie Hancock (Rockit), and Sting (If You Love Somebody Set Them Free). Strangely, The Police announced their reunion today – and I should’ve mentioned, Goodley and Creme also made the video for the Police’s original Synchronicity II.

Strangely – synchronicity you might say, also today a colleague send me a link that invited me to discover which of the eight tribes I was a member of. From the blurb:

8 Tribes calls an end to the myth of the “typical New Zealander” and gives us a new vocabulary to talk about New Zealand in the twenty first century. This snapshot of contemporary New Zealand explores our unspoken class system and the hidden social boundaries that separate us from each other. Read the book and answer the question “where do I fit in?”

The eight tribes have been named using a very obscure Auckland-centric model – North Shore tribe, Grey Lynn tribe, Papatoetoe tribe, Remuera tribe, and the Otara tribe. And then there’s the rest of the country, perhaps the world – who knows – the Raglan tribe, Cuba Street tribe, and the Balclutha tribe. Splendid. It seems to have all the rigor of a Cosmo questionnaire, but at least it’s not from the ‘boxers or briefs’ school of surveying. Authors Jill Caldwell (a market researcher and social trends analyst) and Christopher Brown (a marketing and communications advisor) have groomed up a fun survey which is at the very least fast to do. It also enables them to harvest your names and email addresses, which can only be a good thing, right?

Turns out I was affiliated with two tribes. The Grey Lynn Tribe – Intellectual –

The Grey Lynn tribe is made up of intellectuals who value ideas more than things. They are well-educated, highly principled, socially aware, culturally sophisticated people. They believe in collective social responsibility, and that individuals should make a difference by making the world a better place.

This growing tribe is increasingly influential within New Zealand. It might not control the big business decisions, but it is ascendant in government – both Parliament and the Public Service are Grey Lynn tribe-dominated institutions. In the private sector, Grey Lynn tribe members are often educators or work in the creative industries.

The Grey Lynn tribe is made up of relatively affluent people with high-paying knowledge-worker jobs. Affluence allows them to live in comfort and to access things they love – art, travel, a vibrant social life, well-made things. But it’s sometimes hard to reconcile your level of affluence with your principles – having so much when the world is a mess. The Grey Lynn tribe’s solution is to seek out authenticity and to craft a life that makes a difference.

And the Cuba Street Tribe – Avant-Garde

The Cuba Street tribe is the avant-garde tribe – the cutting edge of society where trends are made and people live highly creative, rebellious lives. Members of the Cuba Street tribe are the weird ones whose shocking undertakings appal the mainstream, but also fascinate them, and more than likely are the harbingers of the next big shift in what’s acceptable in society.

Cuba Street tribe members are the masters of the new. They’re the culture makers, and in today’s rapidly changing world, that gives this tribe an almost shaman-like aspect. Business, obsessed with “creativity” and “innovation”, loves the creative originality of the Cuba Street tribe. They know that the trends come out of the Cuba Street tribe, and so they’ve embraced it into their heart. These people from the weird side are earning big money as designers, IT techno-wizards and marketing geniuses.

The Cuba Street tribe shares some signature attitudes with the Raglan tribe – most notably in relation to its rejection of the mainstream and the status they draw from their experiences. However, the Cuba Street tribe is unique in the energy it brings to defining itself themselves, an urbanity and focus on the new, and a thirst for experimentation. There’s also the question of age. To get beyond 40 and remain a member of the Cuba Street tribe is a rare achievement. But that’s prime territory for the Raglan Tribe.

I’m flattered by how they describe me – Creative, refined, intellectual, collaborative – and yet in many ways you’re a rebel and an iconoclast. And to think I could be a member of the Cuba Street tribe, given my advanced years – maybe I could be one of the grandfather silverbacks of the Cuba Street guerrillas. 8 Tribes has a summary of the characteristics of the various tribes, or you can do the survey yourself. When they tell you such charming and valuable information it seems a privilege to share your name and email address.

I think the part I liked the most, as seeing as I’ll slurp down anything fragranced with sychronicity, was when I saw the title of the book – 8 Tribes – I was reminded of the song – I ended up be affiliated with two tribes, and then, there on the cover of the book, left hand column – direct from the 80s. Wow. Who knew?