On net neutrality

I feel sickened by watching news coming out of America. Blow after blow, I am thinking, who on earth are those people!?!

That net neutrality rules were loosened today, I feel absolutely astounded by it. Free and equal access to Internet is an absolute tenant of the current technological revolution, kind of like everyone's right to vote was many years ago.

Yes, that's actually how I see it: net neutrality is on par with people's right to vote.

Less than a hundred years ago women did not have the right to vote in America. To have something like that now would seem insane to most of us, yet only a few generations ago there were lots of people advocating for the reasons why women should be banned from voting because to them, it made sense.

A little before that, the same applied to black people. They weren't allowed to vote and to participate in the civil process, although being human they were part of that same civil process. Civil, as in, human.

We don't let goats and horses vote, but we have come far enough to understand that black people have the right to vote, and women do, because such equality makes sense.

With net neutrality, it's the same thing. Giving up net neutrality means giving a telecom company the right to either slow down or even block the website of someone they disagree with. Company A can pay telecom money to make company B's website slower than theirs. Telecom can even pass these same restrictions on to the customer: want to see the whole internet? Pay more, or otherwise have the limited version where you don't have access to websites X, Y and Z.

No, I don't think telecom companies would put such restrictions in place straight away, but that's not the point.

The point is, by removing guarantees of net neutrality it becomes possible for such changes to happen gradually, bit by bit. In the process it erodes civil liberties, freedom of speech and such a variety of other, very important principles that to even contemplate the fact that America wanted it sickened me.

...but to now have seen them actually removing net neutrality rules, I look at my computer screen and go, WTF.

Seriously, America: WTF!?

Two nightmares

The first was a real nightmare - something I dreamed last night.

I dreamed that I had put The Girlie's sparkly dress in the washing machine without the protective case around it and, as a result, all sparkly bits got ripped off during the spin cycle. I was left with the horrific task of sewing them all back on by hand.

The second is a metaphorical nightmare: Skype, and its new layout.

I f#ckin' hate what Microsoft have done to Skype! Internet is full of people that have said the same thing already, but... I don't need another version of a Snapchat, thank you very much, and I definitely don't need an app that allows me to watch Youtube videos whilst I talk to someone. I need Skype for the things it was good for! Seeing clearly who's online, seeing a variety of saved phone numbers without having to hunt through various menus, using it to talk to people. Microsoft, this last version of Skype is horse's bollocks when it comes to talking to people.

We are doing well

On Thursday The Kid will finish his last day of school this year. Summer holidays await.

As we prepare for the end of school and go through appropriate procedures that go with it - sitdown with the teacher to discuss academic progress, thank you morning for parents, on Wednesday we will receive details of what classes the kids will go to next year and who their teachers will be (classes get "mixed up" every year and teachers teach different levels each year) - I reflect on the year gone past and think, how good this school is.

I have said so both to the principal and The Kid's main teacher. Later this week I intend on writing a letter to the school's board of trustees, to say just that: I think it's a great, great school environment.

We didn't arrive at this school in the best of circumstances. Traumatised and confused from the previous experience, I kept looking out for The Kid and half-expecting for some sort of sh#t to hit the fan, except: it never did. Instead, I found a school who was genuinely interested in engaging its students and teachers who were genuinely involved in the students' lives, and things just worked.

It's not a perfect environment. Problems do pop up, but here's the thing: things get dealt with. In The Kid's class alone there are several students with special requirements around their care, but the school just gets on with it and finds a way to make it happen. Instances of bullying crop up, but it gets dealt with. Relationships are fostered.

I am just grateful. Grateful. Grateful.

We are doing well. Even academically, The Kid is right where he needs to be, and happy.

36 random things about me

1. When faced with "What's your ethnicity?" questions in survey forms now, I write in "New Zealand European".

2. Having lived in Invercargill for one year I think it's one of the most livable cities I've ever been to.

3. I have never been able to perform a sit-up without having my feet weighed down first. Even in my top physical condition during late teens (when I was competing in national track and field trials and exercising 6 days a week), I could not do it. There is something about the layout of my abdominal muscles or how I'm conditioned to using them, but... I can't do it. I have to have my feet weighed down.

4. I spent my 20's with an uneasy premonition that I wouldn't live to 30. It changed soon after I had a child, at 26. Now, at 33, I intend on sticking around a while longer.

5. I don't use Facebook. Sometimes it makes life more awkward, but for the most part, I think it has saved me hours (upon hours, upon hours...) of time otherwise gone to waste.

6. Almost my entire wardrobe is from charity shops.

7. Same for furniture: aside from technological devices and some kitchen appliances, our house is filled with items either bought second-hand or built ourselves.

8. I can sew and even own a sewing machine. I think my sewing teacher from middle school would be very surprised to hear that.

9. I grew up in a bilingual family: I spoke Russian to my dad and Estonian to my mom. My dad didn't speak Estonian - they communicated in Russian between themselves.

10. Having said that, I can hardly speak Russian now, although having been fluent in it. I still understand everything that's being said, but not having spoken it for about 13 years the speaking ability is almost gone.

11. I think in English now. When writing in Estonian, I am "translating" sentences in my head from English to Estonian, oftentimes ending up with incorrect wording: Estonian words, but in an English word order.

12. My phone's ringtone is set to a Finnish folk song: Loituma's "Ievan polkka"

13. I have held such a variety of jobs in such a variety of locations that most of the time, when applying for anything, I choose about 4-5 to go on my resume and don't even mention the rest. These include: handling sled dogs in Alaska and Svalbard, office temp-ing in a law firm in Estonia, selling hiking gear, editing skydiving videos in New Zealand, dog sitting in Finland, managing websites, writing articles both freelance and as part of an editorial team in a daily newspaper, washing dishes, glacial guiding, sorting laundry, doing reception in a conference centre, planting watermelons, pruning grapes etc. I see myself as... capable, if need be.

14. I have never been drunk. I've tried alcohol, but I've never liked the taste.

15. I have never had a miscarriage, as far as I'm aware.

16. I have a low tolerance for sleep deprivation. I can comfortably sleep 8.5-9 hours each night. Anything under 7.5 and I get very grouchy, very quickly. I have voluntarily stayed up all night only once (plus involuntarily once when I was giving birth) and it was not pretty.

17. I am considering getting New Zealand citizenship (I am eligible for it), but first I need to figure out the legal framework around Estonian stance on double-citizenship because I wouldn't actually want to give up my Estonian citizenship, yet.

18. My family holds three different citizenships: I am Estonian, my husband and son are British, my daughter is a New Zealander. Going through international passport checks is bound to be awesome.

19. I hold two Bachelor's degrees (law & journalism), have half-finished a Master's programme with no intention of continuing it (journalism) and currently work towards National diploma in quantity surveying. In an ideal world I'd study architecture instead, but unfortunately architecture is not compatible with my life choices at the moment, so quantity surveying will get me close enough.

20. I have green eyes. None of my children do - theirs are blue.

21. I prefer British English when writing, but I don't mind other people using American or Australian instead.

22. I am familiar enough with most Kiwi colloquialisms.

23. I like blue cheese, mussels, mushrooms, pickled vegetables - all sorts of foods which as a child I found offensive-tasting.

24. I consider New Zealand a home. I feel I fit in.

25. Of my four grandparents, only one was originally Estonian - my maternal grandfather. The others came from: maternal grandmother from Russian Ural foothills, both paternal grandparents from Ukraine. (By the way: that maternal grandfather who, himself, was born in Estonia didn't end up having any family in Estonia. All of them fled prior to Soviet invasion and ended up as refugees in Australia, but my grandpa couldn't go - he'd been recruited into army at the time.)

26. I have nocturnal catamenial epilepsy.

27. I have only once seen another human die.

28. As a child I was very boisterous and frequently ended up in trouble. My grandfather said that I should've been born a boy instead, and I sort of agreed with him - it probably would've been seen as much more socially acceptable given my behaviour.

29. I am looking forward to living in one place long enough to form close, sustainable friendships. At the moment my closest friends are across the globe and we keep in touch via phones, e-mails and letters, and rarely see each other face-to-face.

30. I am currently working on writing a new chapter for my Alaskan book, due to be re-published around April next year.

31. I was pleased to take my husband's last name when I got married because it made me almost invisible on Google - there are thousands of people with the same name. Also, it meant I could stop having to spell it out to people whenever someone asked me my name.

32. I sleep with brushed cotton sheets on my bed all year round, including heat of the summer, because both me and my husband passionately dislike the feeling of polyester against skin. Even a lot of our wardrobe (I mean pieces that go against skin) are made of natural materials, where practical.

33. I don't own a smartphone. I don't intend to, either, for the next two years at least. My phone calls, sends text messages, has a clock, timer, alarm and does most things I need it for. Its battery last about a week. It'll do.

34. I like efficiency and dislike waste. I regularly get rid of items not being used often enough. Most of the cupboards in my house are minimalist and organised enough that if I died and someone had to go through my stuff, I wouldn't be embarrassed by any of it.

35. I dislike cut flowers. I don't mind other people having them in vases if they want to, but I don't want anyone gifting me any cut flowers - it seems both a waste of a plant (once cut, it'll die quickly) and waste of money (they're so expensive!).

36. I used to love Kalev's white chocolate with blueberries and friends regularly sent me bars of it abroad. Now that my tastes have changed I don't like them any more, and when I receive bars in mail I usually gift them to other people and try to slowly get the message out there that I'm no longer the biggest fan of the stuff. I don't even like it enough to want to eat it any more...

Holy-moly, the tree is up

As my daughter practices forward rolls on the beanbag, she attempts to call them "roly-poly"-s. Except, in her 3-year-old awesomeness, she is calling them "holy-moly"-s instead.

Also, after much public pressure (chiefly from the kids who were constantly getting asked by everyone, "Have you put up your christmas tree yet?"), we finally bought our first ever christmas tree.

The kids have spent the morning drawing pictures they then hang on the tree. It's pretty awesome.

And, yes, my daughter finds it no problem to have several changes of dress in a morning. As her mood changes, so does her clothing. And this whole "daughters learn how to dress from their mothers" theory that some people claim is accurate - accurate my a$$. I have not a single pink or ruffled item in my entire wardrobe, yet to her, that's all she ever wants to wear except if she's feeling like blue dress for a change.

She wants nailpolish (I don't even own any nailpolish), hair tied with colorful bands, shoes the less practical the better (to which I go, huh?) and... yeah. My daughter, basically :)

In a day

Today I have collected pinecones for The Girlie's preschool (they're doing some sort of craft with them), taken The Dog to the vet to check for itching, donated $10 to Wikipedia,  met with Venture Southland about high school events, fixed The Girlie's broken dress, pressure-washed curtains and in the evening, I'll attend an Invercargill writers' group christmas party. Ah, which reminds me: I have to go buy some food that I can take along to that party.

At some point my brain really is going to say, that's it, girl, I want to deal with stuff that has substance! Not this million-and-one little details that I come across every day instead.

But unfortunately, this is what parenting is like, basically: just keeping on fitting little details in-between other minute details and... yeah. Keeping life going.

That's why I have lists. I cannot go without lists any more.

Also, my head feels like it goes, puff!, most days.

3 and 6 offensiveness

When my kids are attempting to be really offensive - for example, they are pretending that there is a crab living in the laundry and they are trying to chase it away - they say, "Poo poo bum bum!"

To them, that's basically... the worst thing there is to say.

Long may it last.

A series of events about career-pathways

We are organising a series of events in Invercargill. The details are still in the making, so I'm not going to go into too much detail when describing it, but basically, next year we are going to run a series of public talks to Invercargill's high school students.

Every 2-3 weeks we are going to have an event where a couple of representatives of a certain profession will be interviewed on stage about their job, and then it'll be youngsters' turn to ask questions so they get to know more about the professions they are interested in. At the end maybe a polytech representative will come to briefly describe what the options are to study such a thing in Invercargill and... yeah, that's it, basically.

The first few topics we are going to pick ourselves. After that, we are going to start asking students what professions they want to hear about next.

Reason is, when trying to choose a profession (and the youngsters are typically having to start thinking of such decisions around age 16!), the available information can be so selective and marketing-based. Ie, people may say 'Oh, builders earn such good money!' in terms of annual income, but what they don't say is, builders routinely have 50-hour workweeks so part of that annual income is, quite simply, the amount of work they do. Or nurses, how depending on the speciality the first few stages towards registration can actually be very far from that speciality. Aluminium smelter boys work in shifts, so they're constantly shifting between days at work and then nights at work. Shearers are very rarely shearers into their 40's simply because of the physical challenges of the job. Veterinary medicine is almost as hard and expensive to train for as 'human' medicine, but incomes are nowhere near.

And then there's plus-sides, too, of course.

We want to start bringing high school students into contact with people already in those professions so when students choose, they can have somewhat more realistic understandings of what they're getting into and have to rely less on heavily marketed school promotion materials. It creates connections between companies already working in those industries and students interested in getting in those industries.

Also, if we get the events to rotate around the schools - one in this school, another in that school, until eventually the cycle comes back to the beginning - then we'll get students interacting with each other by having to visit each other's schools, with every x'th event in a public space such as the conference centre.

Ideally, we'll even have the students involved in the events themselves. For example, technology students may earn some of their school credits through setting up sounds systems for the events, others may do art credits through stage preparations, media students may run some of their marketing pathways by getting involved in the advertising of the series.

Who's involved? The council, probably, and Venture Southland. SIT. Schools. Students. Teachers. Volunteers. Me.

It'll be awesome.

Beach life

In line with New Zealand reality of sun intense-ness, our beach days start around 8 am. Before the burn of the midday ;).

Riverton, Southland this time.

When The Girlie stepped on a barnacle and cut her foot, it was daddy's-shoulders-to-the-rescue! for a while.

Then, once The Girlie was down again, she kept herself busy collecting dead crabs' body bits.

Decorating with seaweed

The last efforts against the rising tide

...and once tide was in, that's what was left. The one on the right, by the way, The Girlie asked we build/dig so she could bury her crabs there.

The wonderful front-toothless smile

And then the afternoon's pretty much like that. People spent, cartoons on :).

Which reminds me: every Friday evening we have a movie night. Pyjamas and popcorn! Sometimes it's David Attenborough's Planet Earth, sometimes old classics the likes of Mary Poppins. I'm voting for Sound of Music being next! Haven't seen it yet.

But the reason I'm writing about it: when it's movie night, the scene is very similar to how my kids looked after a day at the beach :)

And another, somewhat random comment.

Driving to the beach we either listen to Radio New Zealand or stuff off the iPod. And when it comes to iPod, it's either music or old interviews from Radio New Zealand. Kim Hill, preferrably!

Today we had two spectacularly different items back-to-back. First, the kids asked that we play Alison Krauss' 'Down the River to Pray'. I said to The Man, imagine someone seeing a snapshot of our family right at this moment. Kids singing along to a Christian folk hymn.

The Man laughed.

Then, when the song ended and we switched back to Radio New Zealand, it was a Kim Hill interview about women and porn. The interviewee Fiona Vera-Gray was talking about reasons women prefer lesbian porn if they are heterosexual themselves, and I started laughing, saying to The Man, imagine someone who saw us five minutes ago seeing a snapshot of us now!

The Man laughed.

And then we switched back to music: Brooklyn Gospel Singers singing 'Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho' which kids, also, know lyrics to. And then John Mayer with his 'Route 66'.

Funny :)

The Kid at the moment

The Kid is not a full reader yet. Rather, he recognises certain words by sight.

He knows all the letters of the alphabet and when trying to piece together a word he'll name letters one-by-one, but he can't yet read out a word he hasn't come across before. However, he does have about 30 words he has come across so frequently that he recognises them.

For example: when reading Zita the Zebra last night he was filling in all the pauses in my speech whenever he recognised a word we came across. I've highlighted these words all for you.

The way his New Zealand school approaches reading skills, this is the standard trajectory. Letters -> sight words -> reading words.


This is the last photo I got of his front tooth.

It had been so loose that it was sticking out, overhanging the bottom lip, until yesterday it came out (whilst he was eating an apple) fully.

So now he has that wonderful, front-toothless smile.

Such a delightful character! Unless he's tired, of course.

Worth listening to in NZ - even if only for a cultural value of extending one's worldview

It's... let's put it this way: it may be upsetting to a degree, but I think these two links are worth exploring:

Kim Hill interviewing Don Brash this morning. They titled the interview "Ragging on Te Reo"

Radio NZ's chief executive explains why RNZ is dedicated to the use of te reo

A little thing to smile or laugh about

I haven't got any photos to show you, sorry, but: I sewed a couple of new pillowcases for The Kid's classroom. (They look pretty good!)

The previous pillowcases had broken zips and were worn down, so I just volunteered to make new ones. An easy job, I thought.

Well, now the downside has emerged, the teacher told me with a laugh :). Because turns out, after the new colorful pillows landed on the sofa, some of The Kid's classmates started pointing out that the rest of the pillows looked very dirty and worn out in comparison :D.

And now the teacher has taken all the others home to wash and line-dry in the sun, hoping to make them look better, too.


Strawberries are ready, t-shirt weather

This spring has been spectacular. I mean, really, spectacular!

Looking at http://www.metservice.com/towns-cities/invercargill just now
We are living at the Southern-most tip of the mainland New Zealand - a place notorious for its weather. This spring, however, we are eating strawberries in November. A couple more weeks and tomatoes will be ready.

I did not know that, but I'm glad I learned it

I'm sorry, this is harsh but... please listen to David Marr - View from Australia (!) and tell me what he says within the first 5 minutes is not insane?!?


Jesus. Australia, seriously.


The bubble bonanza

What happens when someone pours detergent into the water of a public playground pool?

Bubbles. Lots of bubbles.

Also, visited a couple of other places: greenhouses of the central park. A fire service museum. A busy weekend, basically.

On architecture, and Invercargill being awesome

I've been thinking about architecture today - but not in a fancy oh-look-how-stylish-that-looks! kind of way (which I think architecture can get quite a lot of). Rather, I've been thinking about its functionality.

I study quantity surveying (with a touch of architectural drafting on the side), so over time I become good with numbers, project management and budgets. I also develop a skill of reading architectural paperwork with little trouble. Due to New Zealand being in somewhat of a housing crisis at the moment, it means I have fairly good prospects in terms of both employment and income in the future, especially if I do my craft well.

But personal benefits aside, I feel I have a role to play in the future of social housing and community development, and passion for it; which kind of brings me back from where I started this blog post - architecture.

I have two pet peeves when it comes to social housing - or building projects in general when they're funded by community-owned "public" money.

One is fancy design to the detriment of building's functionality.

The other is reducing construction cost to the detriment of building's functionality.

I'll give you two examples. First, in Invercargill recently a new office hub was built (for public money - it was a council investment) and they had an unusually angled roof which, during construction, started having leakage problems. It was one of those instances where I listened to the stories of the construction process and thought to myself, "Man, that's not efficient use of public money." I mean... I get the need to try to make the building look "nice". I do get that.

But not when that "niceness" then comes at a price of having to spend money on fixing gutters because something that looked doable on an architectural drawing did not, in fact, turn out doable on an actual building site, and then people spent hours, and hours, and hours fixing it.

Those hours cost.

Another example is social housing project recently completed in another New Zealand town where bedrooms had... one power outlet each and I thought to myself, "That's not reasonable." People don't use a single power plug in a bedroom each any more - more likely, they are going to need to use five. Six.

Not one.

Putting a single plug in a bedroom means almost guaranteeing that people are going to set up extension cords upon extension cords to plug in all their bedside lamps and tech devices and whatnot - and lowering their fire safety as a result. The council probably saved a little in the process of that construction but... it's not worth it. It's not the place to save money from.

And so, when yesterday I had a discussion with an Invercargill's gymnastics club who are hoping to put up a new purpose-built gym for their young gymnasts in, maybe, a decade from now (my kids are among them), I told them how I feel such a passion for being involved in such community projects. With the skills I am developing I feel I can have a very strong impact in keeping the projects, one, close to their intended budgets through good project management and, secondly, just making sure that public money goes a good distance because the better we built the public projects, the more money there is to go around for other public projects.

That, as a result, impacts on people's wellbeing.

And, man!, do I feel like I should just create a website called Invercargill Is Awesome! because the longer I am living here, the more I am (genuinely!) thinking that, man!, Invercargill really is awesome.

Just awesome.

A good, family-oriented, wellbeing-centred, park-rich, public-space-interested living environment.

Invercargill is awesome.

Here we go!

Today I am starting progesterone therapy. Looking forward to seeing what it does!

Edited to add: holy-f*ck-o-moly, the first two tablets and the subsequent three hours were... not good, let's put it this way. It was interesting.

I'll keep you posted.

She can bend if she wants to

A couple of months old, The Girlie used to have a habit of sucking her toes.

I thought the ability would eventually pass. And it may - but it hasn't yet.

The Girlie can still suck her toes at will. Yesterday, for example: I put her to bed because she was grizzly and tired, but she was convinced that she wasn't yet ready for sleep. Out of defiance she curled herself up in bed, stuck her toe in her mouth and started sucking on it, grumpily looking at me as if to say, "Hah, you may put me to bed, but you can't make me stop this!"

The girl sure has got... determination.

...and lots of other characteristics that go with determination.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Greenhouse at the moment

It's pretty cool to look at the greenhouse now...

...because six weeks ago it looked like this:


Kilmock Bush walk

Kilmock Bush is an awesome 2.3 km loop to be done with kids, dogs or just a late evening sunset walk - the choice is yours.

It's listed as number 15 on Invercargill's walking track map, icc.govt.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Parks-Short-Walks-2016.pdf, and I highly recommend it. Really.

I don't want to any more

I'm getting tired of doing health research. I really am.

Maybe it's temporary - to be honest, it probably is - but I am tired nevertheless. As much as it's cool to know things, and understand things, I'm getting to a point where, as a new thing pops up, I think, "Not again..."

Over ten years ago when I discovered I had autoimmune hypothyroidism, I had to learn about what thyroids do, and what happens as a result of their function. Then The Kid was born and I learned about children's development. With The Girlie, I had gestational diabetes and learned about insulin, ketones. At the same time my epilepsy was finally confirmed and I started to learn about that, too.

Now I'm at a point where I understand that all of this stuff... it's related. Just as a human body is a very complex system of interconnected hormones, changing one thing affects others.

Polycystic ovaries are connected to insulin resistance. Autoimmunity of hypothyroidism is, too. Depending on thyroid's work production of oestrogen and progesterone is affected - and as a result of those, epilepsy. (In my case, catamenial.) To keep down insulin resistance a ketogenic diet is suggested but as a result of that, cholesterol levels are high - except, cholesterol levels are also connected to hormones which are affected by carb consumption, and...

Basically, it's not possible to just look at one thing and not take into account what it does to others. The system is so complex and, in my case, likely genetic to a degree. As much as I applaud biodiversity and the process of evolution which results in our society being made up of such a diverse range of individuals, I also find it a pain in the hole that if I walk into an office of some health nurse, they look at my cholesterol levels and go, "Oh my god, don't drink full-fat milk! Eat margarine! Eat wholemeal bread!" But if that same food advice gets passed on to some dietician who specialises in diabetes management then they are going to say, "No, actually, healthy fats are good - they slow down glucose levels. Minimise pasta and bread. Drink full-fat milk, but supplement it with lots of vegetables!" A gynecologist may understand what my progesterone is up to and say that a certain birth control is advisable, but a neurologist also needs to understand how that birth control affects my seizures.

Basically, I'm in the middle of that... truckload of medical information, and as much as I appreciate knowing things, sometimes I'm at a point where I look at it and think, "No, I don't want to. I do no longer want to research how cholesterol levels are tied into insulin resistance and how that, in return, is linked into progesterone which can sometimes be turned into oestrogen and..."

Basically: I think you get the idea.


The realities of parenthood

It takes my daughter 2 minutes to glue together a craft project. It then takes me 10 minutes to clean glue off items in the vicinity of that craft project.


Another part of Invercargill's central Queens park I really love: the stumpery.

My daughter's got style:

Also, my daughter practices tying knots on my shoes. It's taking a really long time now to put on shoes!

Another day, my son got an award at school. Incidentally, it was the same day that another class were celebrating their "pyjama day". Made for some memorable photos! :)