I’ve arrived!

Well, dear reader: here I am ensconced in Christchurch, New Zealand having safely made the move over the Ditch from Australia. It’s Day 4 here and I already feel quite at home in my new country. Everyone is very friendly and the weather isn’t that cold. I’m told though that mid-June I’ll be starting to shiver.

Quite a lot to do, like getting an NZ driver’s license, an Inland Revenue Department ID (aka tax file number) and so on. But of course I have been quick to check out the issues that seem to be occupying the Kiwi mind. There’s a big kerfuffle going on about water in the Canterbury region (which is where I’ll be living). Not sure what’s the issue just yet but rest assured I’ll be onto it and will let you know.

The day we arrived the papers were full of one deplorable incident and one pretty bizarre thing that happened in Wellington. First up, five idiot Norwegians shot and killed a kereru, which is a a protected species under the NZ Wildlife Act and the maximum penalty for shooting the birds is a $100,000 fine and up to six months’ imprisonment. Here’s what the kereru looks like:

It’s also known as the New Zealand native wood pigeon and mainly inhabits forested areas. So the dumb ass Norwegians were on a hunting trip to NZ and decided to film themselves killing kereru and other animals and birds, including a paradise duck. They posted the bloody footage on YouTube (ah, really dumb ass dudes) and boasted about their exploits.

Naturally, NZ authorities are pretty keen to arrest the Norwegians and charge them for offences under the Wildlife Act. I’m not yet familiar with NZ law so not sure whether there is an international treaty between NZ and Norway that would enable authorities here to force extradition or allow the Norwegian authorities to prosecute. But the dumb ass hunters will be charged should they ever set foot in New Zealand again. What is causing a kerfuffle here is that apparently the hunters were very well-informed before they came to NZ that shooting the kereru (and other species) is illegal.

The Maori people also kill the kereru following customary practices and for food (which NZ authorities are battling it seems) but this is quite different. This is a case of visitors to NZ, who were fully aware that their hunting actions were illegal but nevertheless went ahead and killed kereru, then blatantly boasted about it on YouTube. An outrage if you ask me.

Meanwhile, up on the North Island in Wellington, bizarre things seem to be happening. A teenager was allegedly attacked and bitten by three people in a “vampire attack” that took place at night. The poor dude’s blood was drunk and he passed out whilst the attack was occurring. He then spent days in hospital fighting off infection and fever (did you know that there are more germs in the human mouth than in a dog or cat’s?). One of the alleged attackers said: “Do I look like a vampire? I’m out during the day time”. Here’s his photo – you can make up your own mind.

May 9, 2010 at 4:32 am 4 comments

ThinkingShift break

This is it folks. I’m within days of leaving Australia via a few days stay in Sydney with a wonderful friend. Then winging it to New Zealand. The movers are coming today and might disconnect me. I’m not sure what sequence they follow when packing up a house and its stuff. I don’t know what internet access I’ll have whilst I’m in transit, so there might not be any posts for maybe 2 weeks. But then once I’m back online in New Zealand – I’ll be back!

Meanwhile, you can check out my new blog – The Daily Oxford - which chronicles my thoughts on leaving Australia for a new life in NZ. Plenty of my photos on that blog using the iPhone – I’m really liking that genre of photography.  And of course my photography blog, ChinchillaBluePhotography.

Can I take this opportunity to thank all my friends in Australia and those in New Zealand who have wished me well. And to you, dear reader, for continuing to read the ramblings and rantings that is ThinkingShift. Adieu.

April 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm 1 comment

Retiring? Meh!

So if you’re a regular ThinkingShift reader, you’d know I’m on the verge of leaving the Lucky Country and choofing off to New Zealand. Collective Aussies shake their heads (no Aussie can believe really that one would voluntarily leave Oz for New Zealand, a country that has 4.3 million people and probably 8.6 million sheep!). For my American readers, there’s a lot of friendly (and not so friendly rivalry) between NZ and Australia.

My father, who was a very proud New Zealander, who describe it this way:

  • Aussies have the larger country but it’s hot, dusty, bush fire prone and has annoying blow flies;
  • Australia was settled by convicts; NZ by free-settlers. He’d usually stop at this point in the comparison, assuming that I knew all the consequences of this observation. When I was young and he realised I had no idea what this might mean, he’d say well, that means that Aussies are embarrassed by their convict origins, have a chip on their shoulder and are a little vulgar. The unsaid part of this was that clearly he felt New Zealanders to be more “refined”;
  • New Zealand has the better scenery;
  • New Zealanders are just as good at sport (“Go the All Blacks” was his motto) it’s just that the Aussies crow about their achievements more.

Now, whether this is all true or not, I won’t get into. Suffice to say, this was the view I grew up with as my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts were all New Zealanders. And it leads me to wonder what sort of reception I’ll get in NZ – so far it’s been hugely welcoming. When we visited NZ to search for the right place to live, I got the impression that the people we spoke with were secretly pleased that Aussies were moving to NZ (because it’s usually the other way around). I’ll be living in a small village in rural NZ and I guess my Aussie accent will stand out.

I digress. The point of my post is to tell you that I am NOT retiring. Everyone has asked me “oh are you retiring?”. Obviously, I must look like a truly old goat about to totter off into senior citizenship. So I’ll take the opportunity on this blog to say noooooooo I’m not retiring. If I was in my 20s (which I’m not) the question would most likely be “oh are you having a career break?” or “are you going overseas to travel and maybe work?”. But I get “are you retiring?”. Sigh.

So what the heck will I be doing? I’ll be taking a “career break” and then I’ll see. I’m in no rush to get another job in an organisation. In fact, what I’d like to do now is provide some observations after working in organisations for years. None of this will be earth-shattering for those of you who work in soulless organisations.

  • organisations are artificial structures that throw together people who quite possibly would never wish to know each other and certainly would not want to mingle socially.
  • inspirational, visionary leadership is missing in contemporary organisations (at least the ones I’ve worked in). There’s a lot of talk about values or codes of conduct but the actions of management show that they really don’t give a toss. I use the word management because leadership is something entirely different. Most organisations are stuffed full of managers who focus on anything but helping employees to develop.  Managers try to beat the weaknesses out of employees by sending us off to courses or providing new objectives. They don’t always play to strengths or encourage hope within employees. By hope I mean inspiring someone to look at a problem or situation differently, helping to reframe goals and objectives, or promoting a positive mental attitude.
  • The baby boomers have a lot to answer for. Mostly boomers (and of course some Gen X) are those filling the roles of CEOs, COOs, CFOs and senior managers. They cling desperately to the command and control paradigm. There’s a lot of talk about collaboration, sharing, mentoring and so on but whilst the command and control mentality is predominant, organisations will remain soulless places.
  • Generation Y is not Generation Why?  In the last two years or so, Gen Y have been close co-workers and I’ve found them to be what boomers are not – they are collaborative, inquiring, respectful, prepared to challenge things and ask “why is it this way?”. One Gen Y colleague is responsible for triggering off my current obsession for fantasy fiction. I’ve been impressed with their professionalism and real concern over societal issues. They can see that management is acting in a way that is contrary to espoused values but they’ll be braver I think than boomers or Gen X – when it gets too much, they will leave the organisation and seek one that is more authentic. They will not stick it out in an organisation for 20 years out of loyalty (and be given a gold watch for retirement and totter off). They will simply leave.
  • And from a KM perspective: it remains hard for KM practitioners to carry out their work. In my consulting work, I’ve been lucky to work in organisations that do “get it” but we’re still in a situation that when the going gets tough (ie the GFC), budgets get screwed and KM people may come under the spotlight. I’ve seen some KM colleagues retrenched or seen a KM initiative be dispensed with because there aren’t the resources for KM work. Again, I’ve been lucky that this hasn’t happened to me but I can see that organisations have a way to travel before they truly understand the amazing benefits KM can deliver.

I’m sure this sounds like I’m very bitter and twisted but I’m not: I’m just giving you the cold, hard observations from a 20 or so year career. I now have a sense of freedom: never again to sit through a performance review opposite a boss you don’t really like or respect; never again to sit through endless meetings that seem to go nowhere; never again having to work in a “blame culture”; never again overhearing colleagues despairing over a lack of leadership. As Martin Luther King said: free, free, free at last.

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April 25, 2010 at 2:00 am 1 comment

The Daily Oxford

My new blog, The Daily Oxford, is now open for business. I’ll be using the Daily Oxford to chronicle my adventures as I “transition” from Australia to New Zealand and adjust to living in rural NZ.  I will be keeping to short posts (I know: gasp!) accompanied by plenty of photos. As I explore my new country and get to know New Zealanders, I’ll be letting you in on what I discover. As I learn about how to live on a farm, grow organic vegetables and work with horses and cows – so can you!

So I hope you’ll join me over at the Daily Oxford. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of laughs together. And no doubt, I’ll be suffering the odd tantrum or two as this city gal transforms into a country gal.

Don’t panic: I will still be blogging here at ThinkingShift.

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April 22, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Oh hai: Long Cat

And speaking of cats, as I was in my last post. I’ve identified before Long Cat (or Cattus Longious) as one of the major LOLCat types. And so for my LOLCats fans, I have discovered a blog post putting together photos of Long Cat in various poses and guises. I’ve shown you Long Cat before:

But to appreciate just how loooooooooong Long Cat is, you have to see him compared to buildings. You can clearly see he dwarfs major landmarks:

And Long Cat has clearly been an unheralded astronaut. Here you can see him fearlessly launching into space:

Long Cat was a part of that defining moment in WWII – raising the American flag on Iowa Jima:

Long Cat is often referred to as The Messiah:

Personally, I think there is no match for Long Cat in the LOLCatosphere. Watch Long Cat the Movie or watch him in action against killer cars (1.11 mark).

Image credits: Uncyclopedia

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April 21, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Cats in books

A lovely friend gave me a farewell gift. She couldn’t have picked anything better really.

Cats in Books: A Celebration of Cat Illustration through the Ages by Rodney Dale. It’s a thin book but chock full of the most splendid illustrations of felines. I immediately wondered if there was evidence of the origin of LOLCats. Was there an illustration from the tombs of ancient Egypt, for example, that would locate LOLCats further back in history than being a marginal illustration in a 14th Century Book of Hours (British Library MS Stowe 17)?

Didn’t find anything but interesting stuff I did find out was:

  • the first cat show was held at the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park in 1871 and from this point, cat breeding and showing became popular. The first American cat show was in 1895 and held in NYC’s Madison Square Garden.
  • over the last 100 years or so, cat illustrations started to appear in stories for children and adults. As the cat became more domesticated, books and illustrations showed kitty doing human things or accompanying humans on adventures (Dick Whittington, Puss in Boots, Orlando the Marmalade Cat, Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).
  • Old Foss was apparently a huge thing in the late-19th Century. Old Foss was the creation of Edward Lear, drawing master to Queen Victoria (does Queen Elizabeth have a “drawing master”?) and was one huge tabby. Lear wrote nonsensical verse and the Book of Nonsense (1846). He penned the Owl and the Pussycat, published in 1871.

  • the feline was revered in Ancient Egypt we know but it was also forbidden to export cats and so the domestic (Egyptian) cat or Felis Caffra did not make its appearance in Britain until the Medieval Period. After spreading from the Mediterranean, kitty cats lived mainly on ships chasing after rodents. In fact, ships had a special crew member – the ship’s cat.
  • Madame Henriette Ronner (1821-1902) was a famous artist in Amsterdam who spent her life supporting her invalid husband by painting portraits and animals. The kitties who posed for her were very comfortable – they reclined on cushions in glass cages.

  • a favourite nursery tale in the 19th Century was Dame Trot and her Comical Cat.

Here are some of illustrations from the book:

The first illustration is from Dick Whittington and shows Alderman Fitzwarren offering his servants the chance to send some possession on his merchant ship off to trade in the East. Dick selects his cat. The second illustration shows witches’ cats drawn by Reverend Miles Gale (1647-1721).

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April 19, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Green fields

The town officials of Camden, Maine and Greenwich, Connecticut USA are pretty smart if you ask me. They’ve thought about something that maybe you and I don’t give much thought to – the use of pesticides in public spaces, particularly parks where kids frolic and play. I remember growing up, I used to get bindi-eyes stuck in my feet. It was a rite of passage really. Bindi-eyes piercing your thongs and pricking your feet. Ouch. But then along came weed killer. Bindi-eyes are a weed and competes with grass so local councils and homeowners spray the little bastards with weed killer. Wouldn’t want bindis to spoil a lush green lawn now would we.

The use of weed killer and various pesticides can be harmful to humans, birds and animals. My grandmother used to knock off bindi-eyes with a very simple home remedy: 2 tablespoons of iron sulphate; 4.5 litres of water. That’s it. Mix it, shake it and spray it on the bindi-eyes. Even household vinegar can be used as an organic weed killer.

And it seems that town officials in Camden and Greenwich have woken up to the environmental hazards of spraying weed killers and pesticides. Here’s a photo of a public park in Camden:

A healthy lawn boasting gorgeous lush green grass. No chemicals, pesticides or weed killers used. Camden town officials have adopted a new policy, which you can read here in full.  Apparently, a group of concerned citizens (Citizens for a Green Camden) put the pressure on authorities to eliminate toxic pesticides and weed killers from public parks and fields. And here’s a section of the policy:

All pesticides are toxic to some degree and the widespread use of pesticides is both a major environmental problem and a public health issues. Federal regulations of pesticides is no guarantee of safety. Camden recognizes that the use of pesticides may have profound effects upon indigenous plants, surface water and ground water, as well as unintended effects upon people, birds and other animals in the vicinity of treated areas. Camden recognizes that all citizens, particularly children, have a right to protection from exposure to hazardous chemicals and pesticides”.

Of the thirty most commonly used lawn pesticides ,14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage and 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants. So it’s essential that local councils adopt a pesticide free policy.

I use this collection of simple, organic recipes when out and about in the garden to control insects and bugs. No nasty toxic stuff. There’s absolutely no need to use chemicals. You don’t want to end up like this poor dude. With no nasty sprays, you’ll find birds and butterflies happily returning to your garden.

Image credit: Irregular Times.

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April 18, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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