Thursday, November 30, 2006

Towering over Nelson

My co-worker at Council Nan writes all the internal newsletters for staff. She started (perm employee) about a month before me, we've become good friends and Don and I will have Christmas tea (dinner) at her place in a few weeks.

She told me for years she'd been looking for this photo around the anniversary date, it was published some time ago to demonstrate to Nelsonians (Nelsonites??) the scale of the devastation on 9/11. She said people couldn't relate to the actual height of the buildings because they were surrounded by other tall buildings, it being NYC and all. So someone Photoshop-ped the twin towers superimposed over the Nelson "skyline." The two iconic Nelson buildings--the one in the bottom right corner is the clock tower, the building I work in, and the one at the far lower left is the Rutherford Hotel.

I thought it was a fascinating photo (clearly a poor newspaper quality scan) for her purposes, and also ours so you all have an idea of the scale of our town too.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Day trip to Picton and wine country

Yesterday (Saturday) was a beautiful day and so we planned to get out of town and take a day trip over to Picton, the little town where the ferry crossings land from Wellington (and depart too, I guess!). We took the Queen Charlotte Drive road to Picton, which is the road that you'd take to do this famous tramp. It is beautiful and scenic, driving you along the Queen Charlotte Sound in Marlborough Sound.
This photo is just along the road (as are all of them, really) and is of Mahau Sound.

This is the Ngakuta Bay, just a few kilometres down the road.

We think this is Little Ngakuta Bay, but not totally sure. It doesn't appear there is a road down to this little beach and house, but many locations in the Marlborough Sound don't have roads leading to them, you have to take a water taxi from Picton.

We are closing in on Picton here, and this is Shakespeare Bay, one bay before we get to Picton and see the ferry.

And here is the view as we drive around the bays and land in the Picton area, on Picton Harbour. The ferries cross between Wellington, on the North island, and Picton, on the South Island, several times per day. This ferry here left shortly after we parked in Picton to walk around, but another one had already landed!

And here is that one that landed, turning around and taking off back to Wellington. Of course in the meantime, we'd had lunch and went on a little hike along the sound. But they turnover fast, considering they have full amenities on board: restaurants, bars, bathrooms, etc. They aren't just car ferries like in WA state.

Finally, here is a picture of the end of our hike along the sound's beach. We went up above this to hike it out, and then came back along the rocky beach to the marina.

We left about 3pm and headed 25km down the road to Marlborough wine country and hit a few wineries and grabbed ourselves a few bottles of the good stuff. All along the way we ran into the same group of 21-year-old dudes on a "21-run"--even tho you can drink here when you are 18--hitting the wineries for free tastings dressed in nothing but overalls and straw hats (and I mean nothing but, those overalls left little to the imagination). They got kicked out of a few of the cellar doors, they told us when we saw them at our last stop. Can't imagine why!?!

Ugly politics

You can’t escape politics no matter where you move. That’s one of the reasons why we didn’t move from Colorado because of our feelings on the current U.S. political climate. Even so, it was nice to come to New Zealand and have a break for a few months.

The break is officially over. Last week the National Party leader Don Brash resigned. New Zealand has several political parties running on a parliamentary system, and we are currently governed by a Labour-party-led coalition elected in 2005. National is the ‘out’ party and their leader has been going through a number of scandals in recent months including an affair and election finance issues. Because we are a parliamentary system, I can’t compare this very well to US politics. But it is akin to if Tony Blair resigned as leader of his party (Labour I believe), or better yet as if Tony Blair’s chief rival in the competing party resigned (I don’t know who this is, but I’m sure s/he is famous in Britain). Don Brash unsuccessfully sought the Prime Minister position in the 2005 election and has been National’s 5th leader in some 9 years.

Two weeks ago Don Brash sought an injunction against JANE AND JOHN DOE—essentially anyone in the country—from publishing emails written to or from him. It was an unprecedented ruling and begged the questions, what is he hiding and from whom? As it turns out it was the contents of a book yet to be released and sold called The Hollow Men, based on 2 years of research and leaked emails from Brash’s office about the National Party during the 2005 election. The book has been printed and we’ve all seen the cover on the news, but the injunction forbid its release.

Then last Thursday out of the blue Brash just resigned. I guess it wasn’t really out of the blue as insiders were expecting it for some time, it was a scandal he just couldn’t survive. But of course it was just prior to the anticipated publish date of this book. Dr. Brash also said he would lift the injunction because he “had nothing to hide.” The book is expected to be released for sale on Monday.

So now articles have come out about the book’s contents, given to reporters in advance: the book apparently describes the National Party’s allegiance to poll data to do whatever they can to get elected, not to party policies, beliefs, or what the party stands for. Specifically Don Brash is accused of pandering to and making promises to the Exclusive Brethren, a far-right-wing religious zealot sect to whom Brash claims he’s never been allied. Guess he lied about that one, and the emails and photos seem to prove it. He’s also apparently lied about taking campaign money from this group—guess there were plenty of donations made to non-party trusts (like the US 527 orgs, or whatever the number is, who smear to their heart’s content) that ended up in National’s election spending wallet.

Now this morning, as the book’s contents trickle out, we learned that many of New Zealand’s wealthiest individuals had given bucket-loads to National through these separate trusts to get them elected in 2005, lobbying Brash personally and vigorously. In addition, the Talley family—Talleys is one of the biggest seafood companies in New Zealand, a very recognizable name—has been accused of offering Don Brash $1M for the 2005 election to be funneled outside the party to hire political operatives to ensure his election, operatives who would operate in secret. Apparently the Talleys were unhappy with the National Party’s chosen political gurus and this $1M was a near-bribe to toss money Dr. Brash’s way if he would hire the people the Talley family wanted so that he could just get himself elected (using polling data and manipulation).

Gosh, does it ever end?? (rhetorical question)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We give thanks....

Well Thanksgiving is finally here and I had no idea – it really sneaks up on you in a place where it isn’t celebrated. So while you all are filling up on turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, pumpkin pie, wine, and so on, we’ll be doing our part by having a week ending margarita (or two).

Since the whole idea behind this holiday is to give thanks, I feel it very fitting that we take this opportunity to thank all our friends and family for their support in our move. A few deserve special mention.

John & Star Kane: I’m really not sure how we would have made it without their support. There aren’t words to even describe all they have done and how helpful they have been. The extent of their generosity and unselfishness is amazing and we’re just hoping we’ll be able to make it up to them when they come to visit. From letting us use their car for six weeks to helping watch over the house (clear out recycling, cleaning of the gutters, etc.) – simply amazing considering their busy schedules. They went out of their way many times to help and asked for nothing in return. They have taught us a lot about what it means to be a friend. We are truly lucky.

Kylee: you’ve been a great help in keeping the yard tidy and the house clean. Thanks kid. Maybe some day you can come and visit and clean our house here.

Susan & Richard: We enjoy the care packages full of lint rollers, floss, and gum (nothing like getting mail that isn’t a bill). More importantly, we know you love Porter to death and you will never know how much you welcoming him to your home meant to us. It was such a difficult decision for us to make but we think it turned out best for all, especially for Porter whose well being was always our top priority. Porter can get all the attention he needs and we feel good knowing he’s in a great home where he is loved to death. We miss him terribly but listening to his meows and getting the pictures is great. As Angela expressed to you the other day while messaging, all of your help has meant more than we can share. I am not thankful, however, to have Richard’s reminders of the times he goes to Maria’s – dang I miss that Mexican food.

Mum (that’s what they are called here) & Dad: Thank you for taking on the unglamorous task of accepting all the forwarded mail, sifting the junk from the important, and sending us our remaining US mail. We also appreciate the attempts to pawn a few pieces of Angela’s clothing at the second hand shops—a new experience for us both. Your send off gift also helped us greatly our first few days. Muchas gracias.

We are very lucky to have this life and to be able to do what we are doing. Everything in New Zealand has worked out so well, we’ve made friends, gotten work, and managed to settle into a routine. Even Livvy has said she’s doing just fine (meow). We have absolutely no complaints about anything…life is good. It’s also great to have you reading and hanging in there with us! We hope to see all of you very soon, but until then, stay in touch with our blog (soon to be a web site) and Skype and email.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Getting a job and “fitting” in

Don’s boss Sarah said it best: if you get the interview, you’ve passed the qualifications test and now the interview is all about “fit.” Getting a job in a small town, and I would say even more specifically New Zealand, is less about qualifications as much as it is how you get on with co-workers and how you fit into the social fabric of an office.

There are so few people in Nelson qualified to do higher level jobs, that once you’ve made that cut, they call it being “short-listed,” you just need to see if the people are what you expect and if you can work well with potential co-workers. My boss Penny approached me several weeks ago about the opening in my office that I am currently filling. I asked her what she was looking for, cuz my history degree is a degree in history in every country; there ain’t no web design stuff in my education.

She was pretty candid with me that New Zealand educational institutions don’t really offer a degree in web design, per se. In fact, she knows the “fakers” who apply for jobs and say they are degreed and educated in web design work because it’s all blowing smoke, it isn’t offered. It’s more learning on the job. So, she said, we really want to see how candidates fit into the team and how well they would work with others. They’ll pay to train someone, it sounds like, as long as they meet those first-level criteria and have matching personalities.

The Nelson City Council even goes so far as to conduct personality tests on short-listed applicants. I kid you not, I’ve never heard this being done anywhere, but I suppose it must be. The NCC does one of those 4-quadrant personality tests and for other jobs, it tests decision making, and also basic computer skills. So when I go to apply for my job, I’ll find out, once again, that I’m an organized, aggressive, methodical, quiet-but-pensive, perfectionist introvert. Couldn’t I just save them the time?

It’s not just a key employer like the NCC. Don’s been approached by his 3-person office leader who is based out of Christchurch. The emphasis on those discussions is exactly the same: you have the basic skills, now how will you fit in an environment like ours.

I also interviewed for a part-time office manager job at an architecture firm. The principal didn’t want my CV in advance, so I brought it with me with some reference letters attached. He said he didn’t really want to look at any of that, with a glance at the first part of my resume it appears I was highly qualified (and I mean hardly a glance) and he just wanted to meet me—and the other 7 seven candidates—to know how we’d “get on.” Meaning, whether or not he liked us and the other people in the office would like us. I was there for 15 minutes, maybe. When I explained about providing reference letters so he wouldn’t have to call or email back to the States, he said “Oh I don’t call references, all I need is to meet you and I’ll know.”

But, it seems to be the way it’s done. I’m not sure if I feel comfortable taking a job meeting someone for that short of time. But kiwis must be!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Text Speak

This is ridiculous - the teachers reading this will probably cringe. From the Associated Press:

New Zealand students may 'text-speak' in exams - world news article


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Catamaran sail

Because I’ve been a long-term temp I was invited to my department’s Christmas party. Yes, we do call it a Christmas party here, there’s no PC stuff in New Zealand when it comes to that holiday.

It’s very odd to have a Christmas party this time of year. No, I don’t mean on November 15—because that is a bit early in the season for a party, no?—but I mean in SUMMER. The sun is shining all the way through to 9pm, we walk around in shorts and skirts, and the beach-goers are growing strong by the weekend.

Tinsel and Christmas trees are all over the shop windows and floors. Commercials are showing the festive spirit too. All while we slip, slop, slap and wrap … wrap up to head out on our road bikes or to sit on the sand and soak up the warm beach atmosphere.

Something’s really odd about this and who knows how much time it will take to NOT feel odd. Christmas without cold, snowy days?? Don and I aren’t in the Christmas spirit at all, how could we be, we are dying to sink our feet into that ocean water and head for a swim, something we could only do on a warm vacation before we moved to New Zealand.

So needless to say, I wasn’t too much into celebrating for the department Christmas party. Good news is we didn’t really celebrate the holiday anyway, we just ate and drank and talked while on a sturdy catamaran and sailed our little harbour. I’d love to show you the photos of the sailing club out for their weekly training race, or the sunlit hills and houses of Nelson, or the views of Abel Tasman taken from sitting in the front netting of the catamaran. But I forgot my camera. D’oh!! Good news is, they hire out for 2-hour rides most nights, so you can join us when you visit. No sea sickness!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Money and more money (or should it be “less” money)

Don and I have started over in New Zealand in all aspects, including money-wise. We have savings and retirement (and a house, arggghh), still in US dollars, but we decided to come to New Zealand basically with starter money from the sale of our furniture and cars and we planned to leave everything else alone and become self-sufficient with our NZ-based income and a monthly budget. This isn’t an easy thing to do in a country where everything seems very expensive and people’s incomes average NZ$40k per year or so. Doing the math: $40k is the equivalent of about $26k in US dollars per year. And then one stem of broccoli is NZ $3.50, one power gel goopy costs between NZ $4 and $5 and 8 small rolls of toilet paper costs NZ$6—for examples. Some items are definitely equivalent or cheaper, like apples which grown in this country as if they were ants. Needless to say, we eat a lot of apples.

Before we applied for residency we did a lot of research on the cost of living. Could we survive here with no/low incomes? We determined that if we both made minimum wage working any job--as long as we both were working--we should be able to pay for everything. That was our basis for deciding to make the leap, and a year later we jumped with our new mindset ready to put into action.

Don’s colleague (officially no longer his boss) Sarah is also American, she is from Superior if you remember. She is here with her husband and two kids. A couple months ago Sarah’s husband’s sister came here too, part of the family immigration package. She brought a husband and two kids as well. All 8 human beings share one house, Sarah’s house right now. Sarah is the only one in the house who is working, and she is really struggling financially. They rent their house, like we do. They had some savings from the sale of their Colorado home, but it seems as if it is pretty much depleted. Sarah’s sister-in-law also sold a house in Leadville, brought some money, and has nearly used it up. Sarah was venting to Don the other day about how to afford things, everything is expensive, kids’ things cost so much, no one is working, how to make ends meet, etc.

Don told her our minimum wage theory and how we based our financial decision on that. She was floored, “what a good idea, I didn’t think of that.” They just came over and that was it. No planning, little packing, just an idea to get away. A cool idea, but doesn’t work so well when implemented, I guess. Now they are really in trouble and may have to go for government aid, which is highly discouraged for new immigrants in their first 2 years. And that is just Sarah’s family; her sister-in-law and her own family are considering going back to the US, only after a few months.

Without kids, of course, everything is working okay for us right now. We had expenses with Olivia recently and we had to plan those out over a couple months because the vet isn’t much cheaper than the U.S. It’s really weird to go to the grocery store and put stuff back on the shelf because it’s not a high priority and that $5 could be better spent on a dinner. I don’t know if everything feels more expensive in New Zealand or if it really isn’t as expensive, but it is a bigger expense within a much, much smaller budget. I’m leaning toward the latter, but it has been a great experiment mid-life to pare down, buy only what is necessary, no luxuries, and really see what you can life off of.

If any of you watched the few episodes earlier this year of the FX show by Morgan Spurlock called “30 Days” I feel very much like the opening episode where Morgan and his fiancée lived for a whole month making minimum wage. They both worked, but their choices in every facet of life were severely limited due to their income levels and how much money they had. Now Don and I aren’t suffering that badly and we have money to fall back on if something should happen, but it has been a great case study for us to do this, to pretend we have no savings, to live off of our part-time salaries and make choices about what we need. Yes, it was also nice to not have to do that in Colorado and to have a lot more money and buy whatever we needed or wanted. However, that got old; it is, in fact, one of the reasons we came here. I mean, how much stuff could two people accumulate?? And we weren’t big spenders, we didn't spend a ton of money.

Anyway, I feel almost like I’m in my early 20s again and planning out every purchase and pinching pennies and feeling like a meal out with wine or beer is a great extravagance, and that kind of makes it seem all that more special. I know if something should happen, I don’t have to worry because we do have a fall-back position, but it’s been part of the great adventure to remember we’re starting life over.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Healthcare – Part 2 of 2, The Extras

What you pay for specialists:
The GP can refer you to a specialist at the public hospital, this is free but you can expect to wait for an appointment.
If your doctor refers you to a private specialist, an initial private consultation may cost from $120 - $250 depending on the specialist area.
Low wage earners with a community services card get a reduced fee.

What you pay for lab tests and x-rays:
Lab tests and xrays, CAT scans or similar imaging procedures ordered by the doctor: usually no charge
Check up laboratory tests requested by you: you pay the charge
If your doctor sends you to a private practice or hospital, you are expected to pay the full costs. Some screenings are partly paid by the government (breast screening for one) and you might pay a small fee.

What you pay for ambulance service:
Varies between free if the hospital orders it to around $60 average for a medical emergency

What you pay for dental services:
Children: a dental nurse provides free dental treatment at primary school. If the child needs a specialist, there is a government program to pay toward the cost of the treatment, but not all issues are covered and usually you’ll have to pay something.
Older Children: at secondary school dental care is provided by dentists. Same program as above applies.
Orthodontic treatment: you pay all costs
Adults: you pay all costs, even if a low-wage earner. Costs for a check up and cleaning vary between $50 and $150 depending on location and dentist. Sometimes you can get less expensive dental treatment through the public hospital.

What you pay for a physiotherapist / physical therapy:
You pay, charges vary but if your treatment is for a like-worker’s compensation claim, the government program may pay part of the charge.

What you pay for a chiropractor:
Visits range from $25 to $35, x-rays up to an additional $100

What you pay for a counselor or psychotherapist:
Costs range from $40 to $150 depending on the service. Social services or voluntary organisations provide this service too and can charge less than private practices. The government subsidizes sexual abuse counseling.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nelson mulls 'Manilow method' to deter loiterers

From The Nelson Mail, 7 November 2006 [shortened a bit]

Nelson police and the city council [my employer! remember] are thinking about using the "Manilow method" to disperse boy racers and boozing teenagers from the inner-city Buxton Square carpark.

The method - playing Barry Manilow and other easy-listening tunes through speakers in central city public spaces to discourage young people from loitering - is used in England and Australia, and could soon be in Whangarei and now Nelson.

The Buxton carpark borders several inner-city bars and has been the scene of plenty of fights and disorderly behaviour. A court judge once described it as a "gladiatorial arena". Senior Sergeant Tony Bernards said Nelson police were working with the council, inner-city residents and businesses to improve safety and the Manilow method was one tactic being considered.

Nelson man John Pinel and Fresh FM programme director Jo Ann Firestone tested the Manilow method in Buxton Square on a recent Saturday night. The pair drove into the carpark, Manilow blasting from the car stereo, and sought reaction from teenagers. Mr Pinel said "we turned a few heads but no one attacked the car or anything". He said the teenagers hated Manilow's music but had told him it wouldn't stop them coming to Buxton Square.

Mr Pinel criticised the council [still my employer, they aren't well liked--really the councillors though, not the staff], police and retailers for not wanting to look at why there were problems in Buxton Square. They appeared to want to hide the problem, he said. Safe City council community liaison adviser Ingrid Beach [she is notorious for not giving us updates on the web pages she is responsible for, they are really outdated!] said Mr Pinel's criticism was typical.
The council was doing more than just trying to get young people out of Buxton Square. It was also trying to get young school leavers into employment or training through its social wellbeing policy.

The council had received complaints about puddles of vomit and urine in Buxton Square, boy racers drinking out of car boots and doing dangerous hand-brake skids, rubbish, violence and vandalism. She said young girls were also going there to be "picked up". "We want to make it a safe place." Street ambassadors and Maori wardens were now patrolling the carpark during weekends, she said.

Sports Cafe manager Craig Bradford and Shark Club owner Steve Shepherd both said a stronger police presence would deter juvenile delinquents from hanging around the area. Mr Bradford suggested police set up a kiosk like the one in Christchurch's Cathedral Square and said the Manilow method wouldn't work because boy racers would just "pump up" their own stereos.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Here’s a quick synopsis of our weekend.

Saturday: we didn’t go to the market but rather hung around the house in the am – I finished my book (1776) while Angela did some work on her painting. Since the day started cloudy and cool, we wanted to wait a bit for it to warm up and for the clouds to burn off. We took our road bikes out for the first time and did a 17 mile ride out towards Richmond. Back home and we agreed upon fish and chip takeaway for dinner – good stuff. Our friends Ina and Stefan (yes, they are German) called around 6:30 and we planned on grabbing drinks at the Saltwater Café down on the waterfront. We relaxed, had a chat, watched a large shipping vessel arrive, and saw a young girl catch an eel while fishing (it appeared to be about 3 feet long). Turns out Ina and Stefan have just purchased a house – in Germany it is terribly difficult to own a house if you don’t have it handed down, so they are absolutely ecstatic. Turns out they don’t move in until February – they still have to save up some $ for the down payment.

Sunday: Again, we lounged around a bit in the morning after a late night (for us anyway). Had a Skype call with Angela’s mom about her recent trip to Italy then packed up the car and headed out. We decided to preview some of the back roads for cycling and then head over to Mt Arthur for a hike. A lot of the back roads here start off paved then, as we quickly discovered, turn to gravel. So we logged a lot of miles on dirt and gravel road. We did find many nice places to ride so we plan to try them out next weekend. Then we were on to Mt. Arthur and Kahuranghi National Park for a quick hike. Mt. Arthur is 1795 meters high (about 5400 feet) and takes about 4 hours of vertical hiking. I’ll save that for when I go with friends as Angela’s arthritic knees can’t handle that kind of climb. We did about an hour walk to Flora Hut through beech forest – it’s a really nice area and I’m sure the views would be much more fantastic without all the clouds. I've added a few pictures but they really can't capture the scene. It was very quiet with the exception of the various bird calls. I did see the shell of a Powelliphanta snail (very large carnivorous land snail - the shell was at least 3" in diameter). Very few people - we passed 9 on our hour long walk.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Guy Fawkes Night

I know, it has been weeks since I last posted something. I've been lazy and leaving it to Angela; well this is part 1 of 2 for my posts of the week

As you all know November 5th is Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night as some of you may know it) and, like Britain and South Africa, is celebrated in New Zealand through the use of firework displays and by burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire. For more information on Guy Fawkes Night check it out on Wikipedia ( Basically this is the annual holiday where people can purchase fireworks and set them off at all hours of the night (sweet as). Yes, just like the 4th of July in the US – technically however the Continental Congress voted to “dissolve the connection” with Britain on July 2nd, 1776 and the document we now know as the official Declaration of Independence is actually the rewrite of what was adopted on July 2nd. Anyway, I digress.

So fireworks currently go on sale 10 days prior to Guy Fawkes. Kiwis don’t spend time setting up separate firework stands; they just sell them in the grocery stores and the dairy’s (NZ name for convenience store). So with my milk and bread, I can also purchase a package full of rockets, cakes, fountains, cones, wheels, skyrockets, missiles, and even the dreaded sparklers that can be used for sheer and utter destruction ($100 buys you a suitcase size full). Example ad: 2 for $70 - Firestorm box, pack contains: Strategic Command, Night Rocket, Bunker Buster, Sonic Boom x 2, Radiation X, Boomer, Sky Light, Blaze, Galaxy 2.

Suffice to say the top news story since the day the fireworks went on sale is about the increase in # of fires started or the youths using them irresponsibly (i.e. shooting them at each other). In one case a firework bomb had been left at an elementary school and the bomb squad had to be called in to defuse it. The current debate is whether or not to ban firework sales completely and just have government sponsored firework shows (sounds great to me). Another option is to change the sale of fireworks to 7 days prior instead of 10 (who came up with this idiotic idea I don’t know but I’m sure that it will help tremendously – yes, the sarcasm is oozing from that last statement). The news continues to run the video of Christchurch youth shooting fireworks at passing cars and each other on the first night of the sale (nice, love those youth here).

Interesting side note on all this. Only a few minutes after Angela and I had researched what this Guy Fawkes Night was about did we watch the movie V for Vendetta (not bad). Turns out the main character is based on Guy Fawkes and he wears a Guy Fawkes mask all the time. Huh, go figure. In sum the movie is about this anarchist who looks to destroy the fascist government (I will say there are a lot of similarities between the government depicted in this movie and the current US administration – let’s hope November 7th is the first step in getting the country back on the right track. I think I’ll call it Patriot Day – I’m sure we probably already have one of these but what the heck).

I think I’ll start going by D...for Destruction.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Job saga and tidbits

**Just when I thought the job situation was over, finito, done with. I get a call and VM the other day from the folks at NMIT, they’ve changed the job description, it’s more e-marketing, blah blah, would you want to reapply or give me a call to discuss? I’m not sure what the deal is, but the pool of good people must be pretty slim here. I’ve never had an employer chase me down. Anyway, Don’s boss’ hubby came into the office after his second interview and was glum about the new job description and thinks he’s no longer qualified. BLAST! I was really hoping to snag him that job. For Don’s sake. Back to square one.

**Don’s starting to work full-time through the month of November. His big bosses in Christchurch want him to try out the job for a month. They want to fill a permanent, full-time role there so it’s Don’s month of auditions. However, it’s not just Don on the stage, they asked him to consider what he thought about the job, he needs to test it out, he needs to determine if it would be a good fit. Employers here are HUGE on fit. More on this in a separate blog. Suffice it to say, I will be doing bike rides and beach visits during the week all by my lonesome for the month. Good news, I get to do it twice b/c Don will want his fill on the weekend!

**My pseudo-boss Jungle taught me to play a game originating in New Zealand called Tantrix. Visit He apparently is in the midst of the world online championships and is heading for the top 4. So we go to lunch, he pulls out his tantrix pieces (it’s like dominoes in a way), and he teaches me to play over my first game (and some pad thai). My beginners luck kicks in and I beat him at his own game. Truth be told, he played nearly all my moves, so he beat himself. But still, it’s a good laugh to hold it over his head at the office.

**People say having pets is different than children. Once again, I say not. Yesterday I took Livvy to get her teeth cleaned. We’ve never had a cat before who required dental cleanings, but we adopted her at age 9 and she was already nearly toothless by that point. When she had her food allergy last month the vet told us she was in desperate need for dental work—which is done under anesthesia. Grrreaaat, how much will that cost?? We couldn’t afford it in October, so I scheduled her for November 1. So yesterday she went under the knife, so to speak. They had to pull two of her cute teeth, she has so few left that poor thing. The vet told us cats can live long lives without any teeth at all, but it’s still sad. She is prone to tooth decay it would seem due to her early upbringing. Now we need to add dental care to her annual exams. She is resting comfortably on pain medication and wet food for a week.