Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Thursday, April 30, 2009 could it work?

It's after 2am on a school night, and apparently there's a horn-honking insomniac convention just up the road.  It's marginally annoying, to use a completely inappropriate modifier. 

I should be trying to sleep, but the attempt will probably be futile.  Meanwhile, looking at this screen is making my eyes sore.  Maybe that will help in the long run. 

I've just been thinking about how generally useless I've been in keeping in touch with even the most important people in my life (minus the arguably lucky one or two who hear from me all the time).  I think the perpetuation of 'social networking', which is now making me think of smalltalking and greasing up to strangers in case it pays off for you in the future, has probably made it worse.  Not only has it brought me back in touch with old friends and acquaintances, it's introduced me to new people, who I will probably never even meet in real life.  These connections can all be wonderful, but they just add to the ever-increasing number of social obligations in one's life, and there can some real repercussions to what are essentially virtual social rules.  In the past couple of years, I've noticed friendship dynamics and social mandates changing as we all become more connected to each other, despite the fact that these connections can be via cables and wireless messages flying through the ether.  I constantly worry that I'm giving too much of myself away to too many people, but then I'm afraid that I will offend them if I deem them unworthy of my 'friendship'.  And as much as I want to indulge the selfish, self-preserving, privacy-treasuring parts of me, I still baulk at the idea of hitting 'delete', 'ignore', or 'block'.

There are so many facets of these new social phenomena that I want to address, but I should probably just start a "Miss e-Manners" column instead.

In the meantime, if you're reading this, there's a good chance that you may consider that I have been a less-than-ideal correspondent.  Even with (and perhaps because of) the hundreds of notifications and reminders I get, I may have missed your birthday, or let an email response fall by the wayside, or totally forgotten to do something that I said I would.  I send my deepest e-pologies.  I don't have any real excuses (just virtual ones, ha. ha. ha.).  Please don't hesitate to send me a nudge or reminder; I respond well to external motivation.

And now...I'm going to try to sleep again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remembrance on the radio

I'm not quite sure why I've started writing again when all I have to talk about is New Zealand-related stuff, but oh well.  Being patriotic's not necessarily a bad thing.

Anzac Day is coming up, and I'm registered for both the morning commemoration and the sausage sizzle in the afternoon.  It's probably the most expensive sausage sizzle I've ever been to, but oh well.  Both events are in collaboration with the Australians (wasn't really sure how to lump the Consul General's office with the Australian Chamber of Commerce, so I'll just call them 'them'), but hopefully it will still be fun anyway (I kid, I kid.  I get more schtick from New Zealanders for being an Aucklander than I do from Australians for being a Kiwi).  Not quite sure why I volunteered for another early morning, especially on a Saturday, but it's several hours after the dawn service they're doing in Beijing, so at least there's that.

Conveniently close to Anzac Day, Radio New Zealand National correspondent and fellow third generation Chinese New Zealander Jason Moon has done an interview with two of my relatives who served in the New Zealand military back in the late 1930s.  He spoke to my 94-year-old great-grand uncle Danny Lee, and my first cousin twice removed (my grandmother's first cousin), 76-year-old Ken Chan.  If you're interested in hearing about their experiences both as military conscriptees (is that a word?) and being Chinese in the times of the poll tax, or a little bit about Dan's older brother Willie Chan, who died flying Spitfires for the British Air Force, check out the Windows Media stream, or download the MP3.  Apparently my great-great-grandfather was well-schooled in martial arts, and would hand out regular ass-kickings to the local 'rascals' who gave him lip.  Nice one, GGGF.  It's also interesting to note that the war actually made it easier for Chinese refugees to enter New Zealand, as long as they already had relatives in the country.  Thanks, Japan*. 

Somewhat ironically, the cheap ingredients used in the trenches to make delicious Anzac biscuits are actually pretty expensive here.  Maybe I will have to make some kind of Azian biscuit instead. 

*This is only partially tongue-in-cheek.  My late maternal grandmother probably wouldn't have appreciated the sentiment, but it made it easier for her, and my father's family, to legally enter New Zealand.  It's funny how things work out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Throwback to 2005

For whatever reason, I have just read a few posts from just after I started this blog, including a 'you're not from around here, are you?' story, and one that included some maths questions that I never posted the answers to (I'll put them in the comments, I guess).

Anyway, I came across the following excerpt from a random, sleep-deprivation-induced posting (I can't believe I worked regular 16 hour days. The things you do to get out of New Zealand. Err...I's a great place!):

"Today was day 1 of a 6 part series of mind-numbingly-boring-no-outlet-for-skiving data entry. Blah. I am so taking my own music in on Monday so I don't have to listen to the Classic Hits No Repeat Work Day. Since when has Coolio's Gangster's Paradise been a classic hit? Although hearing my middle-aged female supervisor singing along was kind of hilarious. There was also a farewell morning tea (I'll jump on the goodbye bandwagon for some free cake), and office antics which involved a Saffa squashing himself into a wheelie bin which then fell over. Eventually he managed to jump out and scare his target so much that she screamed and spilled her coffee all over his farewell card. Comedy."
I think I remember which very temporary assignment this was, but I have absolutely no recollection of the cake, or the wheelie bin incident. Brains are weird.

I would like a title, but only if people continued to say my name right

So I got up ridiculously early this morning to attend this Prime Minister talky breakfast thing. All in all, it was pretty good. My part of the whole affair was to present people with their predominantly correctly-spelled name tags, even though I didn't warrant one myself. Mine was written on a piece of paper in black Sharpie, and put into a name tag sleeve. Extra classy (although I do love black Sharpies).

Before the talky part, I got to chat with a policewoman (is that even a correct term anymore? Female community security person?) who was on the PM's security staff, and she gave me the lowdown on how easy the Thailand situation was for them. It was also kind of nice to chat with a few Kiwis for a change. I kind of hope that there are a few more social (rather than networking) events by KEA (the NZ expat association) in the future.

Mr Key, or "JK"* (as he was introduced, complete with air quotes), came across as personable, knowledgeable, and optimistic. He even played down the incident where he told the Aussies to keep their hands off certain controversially Kiwi exports (but they could have Russell Crowe on a bad day). This is such an old joke that I found reading this article (even though it's written from an Australian point of view) quite embarrassing, so I'm glad he made it seem like it was blown out of proportion.

Generally, he handled the speech and Q&A session really well, so I don't actually have anything more to say about his part, except that he really wants to get everyone in New Zealand fibre-based internet, which can't be a bad thing. He just really wants it. Disappointingly, he neither drove a bus through New Zealand town, nor sang a song** about it.

The most notable part of the morning for me was the mortifying moment where the MC was thanking the delegates who came along with the PM. He announced the Honourable Patsy Wong, whose name is actually Hon. Pansy Wong. He didn't skip a beat, either, so it's possible he's never met the woman, or read her name. He also mispronounced the name of one of the organisers (who's also my friend's dad), but I suppose at least he got the PM's name right. He also did a notable amount of public sucking up ("I'm really proud to be a New Zealander at a time where our country would elect such a great man" [paraphrase!], etc.), so I bet he'd be an amazing personal assistant or PR rep, as long as he managed to memorise the correct pronunciation of his boss's name.

*This should really be reserved for the great John Kirwan, in my opinion, or, at a push, Jay Kay from Jamiroquai.
**YouTube is still blocked in China, so I can't tell quite how awful this video will be. I trust it's still the same song, though. It's a great day for dogs, not just here, but everywhere in the North Island.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Guard Pacific's triple star...

Tomorrow morning I'm getting up ridiculously early to help out at a business breakfast that the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Honourable John Key (or 'The Key' as certain notable people like to call him), is speaking at.  Why am I doing this?  Well, it was expensive to pay to go, and I get free breakfast this way.  If you are unlucky enough to not be in Shanghai tomorrow, you could always drop him a line on ye olde Facebook.  He's down with the kids these days.

So, on the eve of this auspicious occasion, I would like to present some choice cuts from the New Zealand national anthem, God Defend New Zealand.  It's pretty God-centric, but that should be unsurprising, given the title.  There's also nothing about Peter Jackson or JRR Tolkien.

From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our Free Land.

From dishonour and from shame
Guard our country's spotless name
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

Ona mano tangata
Kiri whero, kiri ma,
Iwi Maori Pakeha*,
Repeke katoa.
[Let all people,
Red skin, white skin
Mäori, Päkehä
Gather before you.]

Tona pai me toitü
Tika rawa, ponu pü;
Tona noho, tana tü;
Iwi no Ihowa.
Kaua mona whakama;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tü hei tauira;
[Let its good features endure,
Let righteousness and honesty prevail
Among the people of God
Let it never be ashamed,
But rather, let its name be known
Thereby becoming the model to emulate,
Aotearoa .]

Thanks to for the full lyrics, including English, Maori, and translated Maori versions.  I only ever knew a couple of verses of each (I knew there were five, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone sing all of them).  There's also an audio file of the NZSO playing the anthem, which is lovely, but too short.

Also of interest is the fact that the official alternative national anthem is God Save the Queen.  Yes, we are in the Commonwealth, but I didn't know we had an alternative theme tune.  Actually, it's not even really an alternative, because they have the same status.  We have two national anthems.  But only one nation.  Also, GDNZ used to be the national hymn.  I didn't even know that was a thing.

Finally, to help NZ achieve immortal fame, Rhys Darby (you may know him from his stand-up comedy, or from his work with Flight of the Conchords) and his wife have a production company called Awesomeness International.  I'd be upset that he stole my idea, except that he is indeed pretty awesome.

*Pakeha generally means whities.  Although apparently it can now refer to any non-Maori person?  Weird.