Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!

On a lighter note than the last post...Happy Halloween! I have to admit, I miss the general revelry a bit more than I thought I would. Even though we didn't do anything more last year than carve jack-o'-lanterns and buy candy that no one came for because is was too cold, at least we got to see kids get excited about institutionalised make-believe. I like the fact that in America that kind of imaginative revelry is possible and even encouraged for one night of the year, even if my adult life doesn't always make the time for it.

Halloween isn't celebrated nearly as much here as it is in the States, but I get the feeling that it's starting to catch on. There are a few stores that have advertised costumes and candy, and there are a few stoops in the neighbourhood with carved pumpkins on them (not the big orange kind but the smaller peach-coloured kind you get for cooking). I've even seen a few clubs downtown advertising parties, but they're pretty few and far between. All in all there's a distinct lack of orange here. I did see a black cat today, so I'm actually taking that as a good sign.

There's another holiday later this week that may be overshadowing this new-fangled Halloween stuff. It's called Guy Fawkes Day and it's causing all kinds of fire-cracker fun. Basically, this Fawkes fellow tried to blow up King James I and the rest of the House of Parliament in Britain. The original plan was to light off 32 barrels of gunpowder stashed in the basement of the House of Lords on 5 November 1605. This came to be known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and was a planned act of violence by an angry group of Catholics against a Protestant government that didn't exactly have a good track record of treating Catholics with respect. Needless to say old Guy was caught on 5 November, tortured and summarily executed. Some argue that he was tipped off by a member of his group who feared for the lives of innocent civilians, but no one knows for sure. What we do know is that 5 November, or Guy Fawkes Day, is now either celebrated as the day a traitor was struck down or the anniversary of an attempt to do away with intolerant government. I suppose how you celebrate the day depends on your political persuasion. You can find out more about this interesting holiday at

So far I get the impression that the holiday, in it's modern form in New Zealand, is an excuse to buy fireworks legally and blow them up at all hours of the day and night. Officials keep warning that if the sparkler bombs and random acts of arson don't stop they'll ban the sale of fireworks to private citizens. We'll have to see what comes of it when the holiday passes, but from the crime stats in the daily news it's not looking good for the Kiwi pyros out there. The holiday used to be celebrated with bonfires (the holiday is also known as Bonfire Day) and the burning of Guy Fawkes in effigy. The effigy-burning isn't as common anymore, but playing with fire is still the way to do it up right here. We're planning on getting our fix of explosives at a professional fireworks show over the harbour this weekend. Should be sweet as!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

America: You are making us sad.

What is a blatantly political posting doing on this otherwise happy go lucky blog about a foolish twenty-something couple selling most of their stuff, packing up, and moving to New Zealand? It turns out that American politics are unavoidable even on the other side of the globe.

After the dozenth person asked Peter last week at work, "Hey, Peter, did you hear that the US just suspended habeas corpus?" you start to think that there might be something wrong.

Actually, we've been of the firm belief that something has been wrong for some time, however, things are clearly getting out of hand. The fact that the Bush administration now has the means and the motive (and one can assume the intent) to disappear U.S. citizens merely by having them declared "enemy combatants" is shocking and should never, ever happen in a country which professes to value liberty.

Let's not go on at length about this one here, but we're merely going to refer you to Keith Olbermann's eerily direct essay, ""Beginning of the end of America".

The second scary realisation came this weekend when we read about new provisions in the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" that erode the previously rigourous controls on the president's ability to use the US military against US citizens living in the US. As this article points out, there is a technical definition for this: martial law.

Now, whether you believe that Bush intends to abuse this power or not, is immaterial. Maybe he won't. But do you trust the next president, or the president after that not to?

Even legal powers can be abused. In this sad, scary blog a college grad student is harassed by the FBI. His crime? He pointed out that certain airline security measures could be circumvented by someone with the computer skills of the average 12 year old or an above average chimp. Never mind that Bruce Schneier pointed it out in 2003, or that Senator Charles Schumer did in 2005. Fiction? We wish we could say it were. From Mr. Soghoian's blog:

I didn't sleep at home last night. It's fair to say I was rather shaken up.

I came back today, to find the glass on the front door smashed.

Inside, is a rather ransacked home, a search warrant taped to my kitchen table, a total absence of computers - and various other important things. I have no idea what time they actually performed the search, but the warrant was approved at 2AM. I'm sincerely glad I wasn't in bed when they raided the house. That would have been even more scary.

All this, and the security theatre last time we visited the US, has us wondering about the collective health of our nation of birth. The kiwis that we meet here are pretty uniform in their opinions. Most seem to like America and Americans very much. However, they are equally of the opinion that our government was fraudulently elected and is now running roughshod over it's own citizens and the rest of the world.

If this is all a bad dream, how do we pinch ourselves awake?

Roni & Peter

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Blown away by Wellington

The other day at work, my british coworker stumbled in about 10 am, his usual arrival time. What was unusual was that he was looking even more dazed and confused than he generally does.

"Quite a wind out there."

"Yeah," I said, watching a plastic bag outside get scooped up and launched vertically 10 stories.

Almost at a mutter he continued, "I dropped my wife off today for a tennis match and I walked over to the office from there. I walked around the corner of a group of buildings and I must have caught the wind just right, but it took my glasses off."

"Wow! That is an impressive wind!" I said. "So, did they get scratched when they fell?"

"I don't know. The wind took them and flung them across four lanes of traffic. By the time I got over there, I couldn't find where they had gone."

I'm sure the story continued from there, but I think I had already begun to wonder what I'd look like with a glasses band or maybe one of those chains that little old ladies wear.

Not to sound like a whiner, but I counted the months of predominantly inclement weather we've had here in Wellington so far. May, June, July, August, September, and now October??? What the hell? I thought New Zealand is supposed to be warm and sunny?

To be fair, October has been reasonably warm. We've only had to run our electric heater a couple of times so far this month. I've asked people if it clears up much. "Aw, yeah, well October is really the beginning of the windy season, but heading into December summer is brilliant."


Meanwhile, up in Tauranga, our friend Tim is enjoying sailing and sunny weather. The lesson here? In the distance between Billings and Missoula, you can go from sunny skies and calm weather to gale force, antarctic wind.

So, where does that leave us? Extremely happy to be looking at heading further north. Roni just got offered a year-long position in the North Shore area of Auckland. My job has been a bit of a dissapointment, so I'm not really too sad at the prospect of having to find a new one.

They say, "Nothing beats Wellington on a good day." Problem is, there are shockingly few of those.