Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Meanwhile

Hello, Friends. 
 
I prepared this post to publish sometime around March 1 on what I've been up to and how Covid was looking in New Zealand and Nelson, but the situation change rapidly, as you might remember from your own areas, so I didn't see a good window to up the update. All in all, life is going to drag on as it has for a while longer.
 
Weather/Garden - Not a whole lot done, but some, which is OK for this time of the year. February is usually the hottest month, but Nelson had a cooler-than-usual summer; I felt lazy not going outside more often, but we went out two days in a row in late Feb and both suffered from mild heatstroke. Come April, though, it should cool down, and I'm working hard to try to get exited about the prospect.  

Weaving - I did finish the orange sample warp sometime in Feb, but the last two were woven badly, and I didn't get the Old Wallpaper look. I'll address it another time, but a big problem has been I can't see 60/2 cotton in the warp, and they broke left, right and center. Raw came and went, Changing Threads about to open. I'm disappointed I didn't finish something, anything, but am still keen on making something in that Old Wallpaper style eventually. 
 
Ben noticed the air compressor leaking, so for now the big loom is out of commission. I'm not going to get it repaired while Nelson's Omicron cases is still increasing. 600 new cases in little old Nelson/Marlborough today, though testing numbers have been unreliable and there are probably lots more. I still intend to weave Sunflower II as a scarf, and then three short cashmere warps on the Ashford in simple but friendly twill to make simple and friendly small scarves. Though the loom has sad in the middle of the living room for a month now, with said warps hanging from the back beam. These will happen.
 
Cooking - this was my primary mode of "making" until March; I didn't bake for a long time because neither of us have had any success in even the slightest weight loss, (usually easier in the summer,) but I'm more deliberate in flavoring and been able to make yummy meals. I'm rather proud I can make curry without prepacked spice mixes; that has to be my biggest Plague achievement. 
 
The last fortnight or so I baked a couple of cakes again, but with so little flour and sugar it's not as bad as some of the baking I did last year. On the other hand, pasta returned on our table. which of course we both love. If I don't watch out, Ben will have it several times a week.    

Mary Ann Moss' Sketchbookery and her Blog - More on this in another post, but this has been what kept me sane during March. Blind contour is still hard; blind not a problem, but contours in single line requires a lot of concentration, and I can't slow down. When I took life/figure drawing, my favorite was gesture drawing, and what I do now feels like a hybrid. But slow contours really make me see and notice, so worthwhile when I manage to do it right.
 
Practicing using watercolor has been great; not in the way you might think of traditional water color paintings, but as means to apply colors. I've colored in a whole lot of past gesture drawings, but I've run out, so good time for more contours when I resume getiing out and about.
These were quick gestures I did at Auckland Airport some years ago. My gesture drawings are usually done in 2, 3, or 5 seconds, because, you know, they are strangers going about their own business. I try to capture them in the moment. What's been fascinating is I can seldom remember what I drew, the lines seldom make sense, but by coloring in, I gradually see the pose, the shapes, garments, props. 

Plague in New Zealand - Ben resumed work at work on January 11, thus ending our 2021 "lockdown". That didn't last long, because on January 24, due to community spread of Omicron in Motueka, 20 minutes northwest of Nelson, whole of New Zealand went into Red on the Traffic Light system. After nine days in office, Ben was back to working from home.

In the two months since, the number of community cases, hospitalization, and deaths have skyrocketed in New Zealand and Nelson, while most rules were eased/removed, i.e. who needs to isolate for how long, border isolation requirement, etc. Today it was announced contact tracing, some vaccine mandates and vaccine passes will be scrapped. The traffic light signal will be modified o accommodate masking. Some observers put the timing to "Auckland having passed the peak." I don't know further details because I can't stand watching and listening to the players, but in most parts of the country, the peak is yet to come.
 
We had anti-vac/mandate protest activities around the country, but a particularly large and long occupation in front of the Parliament in Wellington, from memory for around three weeks. What surprised me was the media coverage focused on how to accommodate these anti-people because NZ is not divisive. Huh?? Some say they got what they wanted. 
 
The government has been ever so uninterested since the arrival of Omicron; shortly after it arrived, politicians on both sides went on a long summer holiday, so we heard only from medical experts, and local health boards. You might have seen data from Korea, China or New Zealand not having had high casualties earlier in the Plague hitting high numbers of late. I can't speak for other countries but in New Zealand, it's been a spectacular change in direction, though the same people are still in charge. 
 
For rule followers, it's been puzzling since early/mid-December. Suddenly grownups left the room and we were left to fend for ourselves. So we stay home. In more or less Level 4 style. With the increase in numbers in Nelson, (and for the very first time, a family we actually know in isolation,) we don't go anywhere except for absolutely necessary food and medical purposes. Around January we wondered if we were being too cautious, whether we should "get back to normal" like some folks were advocating, but I can't be bothered learning about how to live differently while "living with Covid", especially with a diabetic, when case numbers are so high. So we stay home. There are, according to the media, folks like us, particularly in the older generation. 
 
Luckily we can do this, financially but also re. our social obligation and personal preference. I can't get rid of the foreboding sooner or later we'll have to bite the bullet and go out even with plenty of virus floating around, but not now. Meanwhile there is a low-level depressive mood and my insomnia is out of control. With the latest changes to the rules, Ben is wondering if his work will require him back "at work"; you will hear me scream if that happens. Oh, I wish we had enough money so he can retire if that happens, but for now we're sticking to out own rules.

I hope you are doing well, or as well as can be expected, Friends. And be careful. Some say BA. 2 is 30-odd % more transmissible and as dire as Delta. We'll see. 
 

PS. I'm not ignoring the war in Ukraine, but that's even more changeable than Covid. In the last few days, I've begun to feel much less optimistic as regular people die. Every time I check the news, I feel like screaming, "Word is Cheap!!" 
 
In terms of donations, I've opted to give directly, and after failing to find a suitable Air BnB owner, Gail suggested we turn to Etsy, so I bought some baking (!!) recipes from Julia at Orchard of Dreams.
I added a wee message when I made the purchase, but imagine the surprise when I heard back!! I hope it also meant she received my tiny contribution.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Day 0 of Season 4, or Day 159 of Season 3, or Something More Appropriately Bonkers

This is a post I prepared but didn't publish on January 23. I'm posting this unedited today for  my own record. 
 
* * * * * 
 
We've been hearing of a cluster in Motueka, about 20 minutes northwest of Nelson, in our Nelson-Marlborough-(Tasman) Region, for about a week, and today it transpired they have Omicron. They attended a wedding in Auckland of over 100 presumably vax-passed grownups and endangered kiddies. The whole country moves to Code Red at midnight tonight; red allows gatherings of 100 vax-passed grownups and endangered kiddies. Motueka being in the same health board district as we, it tells us even with the fancy new testing machine that our hospital got recently, it'll take about a week for anyone here to know we've got Omicron. That's kind of slow, even if Ben and I are the kind of people who really don't get out much. 
 
Ben went back to work-work on January 11, which is when I stopped my Plague Diary. I don't know if I'm going to start another, but I'll sum up what's been happening in Aotearoa NZ or at our tiny part of it: 
 
The government, the Health Ministry, and even the opposition, went on a relaxing holiday about the first week of December and didn't come back until this past Monday, Christ Hipkins making a couple of exceptions. Meaningful Omicron numbers stopped; only "nnn since Patient 1,"  or "nnn positive at the border; assume most/all are Omicron." Only virus peeps, public health peeps and modelers opined in the press. And a bit of public announcement to get ready for Omicron; prearrange transport/grocery/medical supply procurement; how to quarantine at home; be prepared but don't binge buy. It was a summer of kids running around with no adult supervision, with a big bad bully hiding but not hiding.
 
Booster shots became available to those over 18, (12-17 only gets two jabs if I'm not mistaken,) late last year. 5-11 year old became eligible on January 17. So the statistics lists only numbers and not %, but I read somewhere last week that 50% of those eligible have had boosters; I also read that in the first week 10% of 5-11 got the first jab. On the other hand, we are so good, Ben read 101% of Asians in New Zealand had two doses. Statistics, LOL. (If you were to take a serious approach, these could reflect visitors and those stuck here as opposed to the last census count, in which I was not counted because I was in Japan.)
 
The first government announcement took place last Thursday. I can't stand to listen to their voices, but from what I read: Northland, stuck at Red this whole time, would go to Orange on Friday. There will be no Omicron lockdown, but rules may be fine-tuned. About the same time, the Speaker of the House, a member of this government, not opposition, said to stock up and be ready; this was well-received by the opposition. Speaker Trevor Mallard has always been a bit of muckraker, but I agree, with this "live with" model, we're on our own. Soon after we finished cleaning the kitchen and vowing to reduce extras, we started stocking up some dry stuff again, not because Omicron was here as much as we realized we're not going to be told much, at least not timely. 
 
In addition to/on top of the Traffic Light system, there will be 3 stages of Omicron rules. I haven't read up on them yet, but among other things it involves different length of isolation periods, and changes to definitions of words like "close contact". Not all points have been decided yet. Because why stick with the Level system when it worked OK.
 
Rapid Antigen/Lateral Flow is still not available for normal folks but is controlled by the government and distributed to businesses and pharmacies for specific purposes. Personally imported kits have been confiscated, because our government doesn't trust us to use it correctly, and doesn't want a bunch of false negative peeps running around. And our government has approved a single digit number of kits, a tiny fraction of what is available in Australia. And a Yale researcher says our government is trying to use them the wrong way around; with Omicron these kits work when the person has become symptomatic, while PCR is needed earlier on. The government is planning to use them the other way around. 
 
We've also been trying to get used to the KN95 masks we got, oh, a week or two before the August lockdown. They stink, and it's summer, and we hate them, but... Just yesterday we were thinking of getting more, (than the 10 last time,) and the prices had already doubled. 

We both got boosters last Tuesday, and I had a pretty bad day of vertigo on Friday, but it was gone came Saturday morning, as if I just it up to avoid going out in the garden. Good thing, also, we overdid on food shopping Tuesday night, we don't have to go for a few days, except we've not junk food.

I think I have to watch the announcement vid again in case there are changes to the rules. Jacinda went on about how things will change in three stages depending on the daily case numbers, because now it's all about case numbers and hospital loads, not prevention. Part of me has become so jaded I can't be bothered; every times she does the pretend-concerned voice, I want to a sharp at the telly, but I don't because I am bad at aiming. On the other hand, Ben and I are keen on not getting it and not spreading it to other humans in Nelson, so we pay attention to the latest, safest.
 
 
 
Credit where credit is due, though. Today's announcement was made before midday; August announcement was made at 4PM on a Tuesday and caused panic at supermarkets that evening, so before lunch time on Sunday was good. Also, Jacinda's wedding has been postponed, and her comment? "Such is life."  
 
This was last Sunday. After both of us put in over half a day in the garden on Saturday, we had a very quiet day in hot but settled weather. (It got too hot Ben had to come in soon after this, though.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

On Paper

Sunday night, when I was Skyping/Zooming/Line-ing with Mom, (what is the generic term for this The Jetsons' age telephony?) she casually commented, "So, you're not working." She meant I'm not weaving. It's been super hot these last few weeks and the orange warp is galling sitting in the middle of the living room, and I've been avoiding eye contact.
 
I was in the middle of showing Mom blind contours drawings. I've been doing something related to Sketchbookery almost every day, and have been "enjoying" it immensely. Let me explain why it's in quote marks.  
 
I genuinely enjoy Mary Ann's video tutorials. Her colors are uplifting. I like the looseness of her lines/shapes. I like the apparent ease with which she draws, and seemingly so lightheartedly. (Not sure if this is entirely true; after all she is a grade school teacher.) At night, before I go to sleep, I either gaze at images on Pinterest or Instagram, or read her blog. Mary Ann loves nature, cats, birds, flowers and trees, so there are lots of drawings of them, while I like man-made objects and indoor scenes; fear not, she's also traveled extensively so there''s plenty of old stone buildings and rented accommodations. I don't know if I've been stressed, (I don't think so,) or if it's for other reasons, but I can't help feeling her company is what I needed right now. She started blogging in 2007 so there are a fair few posts to go still. :-D 
 
What's not necessarily enjoyable has been the actual drawing; I'm struggling. I decided to go with things I like to see drawn, and would like to draw often just for fun. I chose small coffee cups. They can't be that difficult.
I did a bunch of blind contours and noticed the handles, and how they are attached to cups, are incomprehensible, especially handles not made of round ropes, not flat slabs. I'm not aiming for realistic/detailed 3D depictions in my final sketches, but without understanding how they are/work, I can't seem to get a handle on looser lines, never mind coloring them. So I drew more, looking at the paper more often, looking at the cups, but boy, the more I drew, the more I grew confused.     
I remembered Nephew #2, (now 21,) loved drawing, but he didn't know how, so Sister, who never drew, had to concoct examples for him to copy. (She occasionally rattled off animals she had to conjure most recently.) I manipulated photos and traced the outline, paying particular attention to the handles, of course, but this was less than satisfying; I didn't learn/see/discover anything, so I've taken more closeup shots to give it another go. 
Except today I didn't want to draw seriously, so I thought to draw and color some art supply, another subject I'd like to sketch often. I noticed, though, when I'm not doing blind or slow contours, I draw what I think I see, and not what I see. Case in point, the color samples attached to this set of watercolors; in real life, I can't see all of the squares on the row closer to me; it's cut off by the lip of the case. I was also gobsmacked how many lines were needed to depict all the edges that exist in this wee case. I'll investigate some more in future, but it's something I struggled with rounded cup handles. 
 
I tell you what, though, Mary Ann or no Mary Ann, I do enjoy looking at my drawings later, even the bad ones. I think it makes me better at visual problem solving. And if nothing else, I concentrate and do the best on the moment, and that's well-worth my time and energy. 
 
The online embroidery thingie I signed up for without knowing what it was turned out to be Stitch Club Stitch Camp led by Gwen Hedley on TextileArtist.org. I can't find a webpage that explains it, but this is her. She seems very nice, but I'm watching the vids, taking notes, and saving tutorial PDFs but not doing a project now; I want to concentrate on Sketchbookery, but more than that, the style/material she's using for the vids, and what others are sharing in the FB group, are the more-is-more-and-never-enough school, and not my thing. There is good emphasis on trusting-the-process, though, and one never knows when the knowledge will come in handy. 

Tonight is hot. Ben said we're not having dinner, not even a salad. I'm thinking, ice cream.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Reboot

As I mentioned in the last post, Ben went back to work-work on Tuesday, and I've been trying to get back to, or establish a new, non-Plague pattern of life. To dig myself out of Plague/housewife mode I had to physically extricate myself from the kitchen on Tue/Wed and I actually felt sad to leave. I hadn't realized housework gave me relief from having to think, (as in deliberate/project-thinking), and still be productive. I have a bunch of low-intensity and/or short-to-mid-term projects, including finishing projects:

Weaving: 
* Yet-Unnamed and related Summer & Winter piece/s: with a little over a month to finish weaving, submitting it/them in local exhibition/s is now low priority. But I'm definitely interested in recreating the Old Wallpaper look and make something with it. I had so few lifting ideas, so after a few weeks of doing nothing, I took off the second sample, 40EPI, in late December and washed. It's still too tight, so I resleyed at 32EPI, but math told me I can get 36EPI by threading 4-5-4-5-4-5 of 20/2 plus paired 60/2 in the 6-dent reed, so I haven't resumed sampling. Current plan is to sample a short length of 32EPI anyway, then resley and sample 36EPI. Also I think the next sample warp may be in duller colors to enhance the feel of old wallpapers. 
 
As well, I shall finish weaving Sunflower II really soon, be it as a scarf or more samples, just to get back in the swing of lightheartedness. The orange warp is interesting, depending on my mood, but intense and not relaxing or "nice" at the moment.  
 
* Revisit the Purple warp and finally decide whether to weave on, or abandon. 
 
* Review and rethink the Syrie project by going back to the interim summary blog post I was working on in February 2020 just before the Plague. No need to pick up where I dropped off, or to the origin of the idea, necessarily, to continue.
 
On Paper: I would like one or two low-keyed projects going at all times, be they on my own or otherwise. I miss them; I like the simple happiness I feel when I "succeed", which is different from succeeding in weaving; the process is less technical and more organic/intuitive than how I approach weaving, and I'm easier to please on paper.

* Letter Journals: I'm back with low-pressure friends with whom I've had successful swaps. I sometimes remember working on specific processes/pages/spreads out of the blue, and I get to relieve the gratification of good problem-solving.  
* I'm picking up where I left off with the Sketchbook Project.
* I signed up for Mary Ann Moss's Sketchbookery tutorial; it's something I thought about many times, and finally went for it. My goal for this is to bring back lightheartedness, but it's also another way of thinking/not-thinking visual problem solving. It's also reassuring some of her instructions are familiar from figure/life drawing days, and I can jump right into it, e.g. blind contours. I had no problem not looking, or automatically switching to negative spaces. A curious problem is, the longer I drew, the more I cheated, i.e. peeking while blind-contours. These are modified blind contours of Mom's handle-less Shigaraki teapot. 
Also re-familiarizing myself with my watercolor and guache supply; she makes us go right into using them. I did some of this on the kitchen table, but after putting them away, I couldn't stop, and kept going on the stash room carpet. 
 
Other:
 
* I signed up for some kind of a short-term embroidery online thingie, details for which I'm not searching. I think it starts next week, and I want to go into it without prejudice. 
 
* Garden. It's like weight loss, but marginally/momentarily better. 
 
* Reading. My 2022 resolution is not to stop reading a book just because another book looks shinier, although it's OK to abandon if it's not worth my energy, or to pick up a cookbook and read alongside current. So far so good, the current book is 7/10 interesting.

These are items higher on the list. I also have unfinished sewing, dye, and possibly one knitting, projects which I will finish "soon". Finishing several woven pieces and reworking my online shop is another. And if ever I find needlepoint yarns, or something similar I can substitute, with a wide variety in the same hues, in person, I would most definitely start a few projects. I miss needlepoint so much. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Plague Diary Season 3 Week 21

Day 14+7+86+34, January 5. 17 Delta community cases on the North Island, none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. 23 cases at the border, but genomic sequencing is not finished. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed. Anyone over 18 years old who received the second jab at least four months ago can receive their booster from today at walk-in centers, or phone in to book, or book online after January 17; that's the day we become eligible, but also 5-11-year-old become eligible for jabs, so expect something of a jab jam. And I still haven't read anything about ventilation, though a few weeks ago I read mention of filtration, once. And home testing is still some distance away. 
EDIT: Thanks to UK Twittering health folks, the next morning I found this.
 
Today started hot but quickly turned cooler, which was a blessing because I've been loosing the plot, even though today's workload was a third of the last five days. Every year, I get excited about a clean kitchen, imagine cooking this and that, and hope to reboot a healthy lifestyle. But this year, I'm just grumpy... We have so much stuff. Still, tomorrow, Ben and I will finish the saga. 
 
Ben also started working on his next project, repainting the picnic table I painted in 2009, not with the same color but close, because I bought the wrong one. The first coast is on white primer so it's looking light, but we hope after the second it'll look more saturated. 
And this is what Ben did yesterday; he found plenty of the yellow primer from when we had the house painted last century, so he gave two coats on the sides of the stairs to our patio/front door. There is quite a bit of retaining wall to the right so we don't know if we're going that far, (it would make our place incredibly yellow,) but sometime soonish we'll get the top coat to go over the primed bits. These steps are dark, so it's also practical.   
Day 14+7+86+35, January 6. 19 Delta community cases on the North Island, none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island; all 23 Nelson cases have recovered, even though short of links to North Island cases, the origin was never reported. 43 cases at the border; Omicron genomic sequencing to come, although these days they expect most/all are that. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed. Since boosters became generally available yesterday, there have been increase in people getting first and second shots, also. What. Eva.
 
Today started with lovely rain. We had our first cooked late brunch (and attempted sugar overload) of 2022: Ben's almond and wheat flour pancakes, bacon, seared bananas, and seared extremely local plums, on a plate made by local artisan, with extremely locally roasted coffee. I washed the dishes afterwards, but we were so tired we didn't even talk much. It was easy deciding to postpone going to the store for a container and an extension cord needed in the kitchen. We didn't even think to watch a film, listen to an audiobook, or even read. I paced the house looking at all the unfinished business at one point. 
 
I did manage to iron, because today was supposed to be the one cool day before the return of the heatwave, although looking at the forecast now, maybe not. Ben cleaned up an old, old paella pan we use all the time, especially for salmon; it had a couple of decades of accumulated caked-on built-up black stuff, but he took it all off and we can see the original paella pan and it's in a great shape.
 
Three more days of Ben's holiday left; he's going back to work at work on Monday after 145 days, except for the few hours on Friday in December. Weird.
Day 14+7+86+36, January 7. 35 Delta community cases on the North Island, none on the South Island. 24 cases at the border; there is no mention of genomic sequencing or Omicron any more. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed. Following Christmas Day and New Year's Day, there is to be no update tomorrow, either. Our traffic light system was based on two jab requirement; now that boosters are available and Omicron has arrived, the government is yet to announce any rules or policy adjustments. In fact, we've seen very little of public officials, not that I've been looking for them. 

Today, we finished the kitchen. I did most of it, but Ben helped wiping down the high bits. Ben, though, since New Year's Eve day, finished two and a half big jobs and two and a half little jobs. This is probably the most productive we've been in years. 

Because Ben loves to have coffee or lunch outside, we brought the purple picnic table just outside the kitchen. Now he can have coffee either here, or just outside the front door. I wished we thought of this last summer, when we planned to do these projects in the first place, because Ben would have been able to work from out here. 
It's a little strange for us not to have the table set parallel/perpendicular to another straight line, but this way, we can sit next to each other and look out towards the water. It wasn't this industrial-looking when we bought the house 25 years minus three weeks ago, but there is water there. And when the grapes and apples are gone, we'll have a clearer view. It looks like rain may be coming back. 
 
Ben'd been spending a lot of time in his office looking at his computer while waiting for the paint or oil to dry. A lot. I nearly said something, but he was doing what I asked, so I held back. It turned out he was working some of the time, enough hours so he has Monday off, too. Yippy!! 
Day 14+7+86+37, January 8. No updates today, but two cases found in Wellington from a music festival in Tauranga. We ran errands, tied loose ends of the tasks we finished, and went food shopping. It's hard not to overdo veg and fruits this time of year.
Day 14+7+86+38, January 9. 85 Delta community cases in the last two days on the North Island, none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. 64 cases at the border; no coverage of Omicron. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed. 
 
Slow day where I washed/cut/manipulated so much veg we need another fridge, and Ben went around touching up projects he finished this summer. The outer leaves of the red cabbage are too tough to eat raw, (we used the inner leaves for coleslaw,) but don't they make you think of Beatrix Potter paintings?
I'm also happy to report purple cauliflowers retain a lot of blue pigments after parboil, (more saturated purple than in the pic,) unlike the cute beans and carrots I grew some years ago which turned all pale. 
Day 14+7+86+39, January 10. 27 Delta community cases on the North Island, including Wellington,  none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. 33 cases at the border; no specific coverage of Omicron. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed.
 
A few Queenstown attractions are locations of interest. The big shot Auckland Anti-Vax guy preached in Christchurch. Our government is sounding more and more like other governments, being fine with Covid/Omicron in the community. I've been reading scary articles about the effect of Covid, especially Omicron, on diabetics, and also the increase in (identifying?) childhood diabetes. 

My diabetic husband goes back to work-work tomorrow in this brave new world. I couldn't imagine being a parent.  

Today was another-tying-up-loose-ends day for me; Ben smoked salmon; if you knew him in the 80s, you'd know how funny that last bit sounds.
Day 14+7+86+40, January 11. 14 Delta community cases on the North Island, including Wellington, (linked to a north Auckland festival,) none in Nelson, but two in Canterbury to be included in tomorrow's numbers. 9 cases at the border; no info on Omicron. 78% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed. 
 
After 146 days at home, Ben went back to work-work this morning, ending our third "lockdown", and so Season 3 of Plague Diary. 
 
The government has not clarified how many Omicron cases have been found at the border for some time, but expect most/all positive cases to be that. Government ministers and high-ranking officials have been on holiday, I assume, as they have not been visible; Jacinda is rumored to be getting married at an American hedge fund family's holiday place at the end of the month near Gisbourne, and has not been seen in weeks. If you are to believe the MSM, the government wants us to prepare for mass spreading of Omicron in the community, as our health systems are "well-placed" for it. Good on scientists who continue to appear and write how they think we should face Omicron in the meantime. 
 
Anti-vax/anti-lockdown propaganda continue to present problems, although big name activist continue to act with impunity, and Nelson is one hotbed. The American doctor specializing in weight-loss who sold vaccination exemption certificate for $80 in Kaiapoi had her license taken away, but has moved on to making chocolates. I'm not advertising the brand name. 
 
Lastly, my favorite place in town, Volume book store, decided to go online-only. I can't blame them; the store is tiny; even before vaccination and anti-vaxers, some folks were offended by distancing or scanning; and the shop does well online. But loosing a place to accidentally discover hitherto unknown authors or beautifully produced books is a big loss. For now, I must try to get my head out of lockdown/housewife mode and into "making" mode, with the occasional, until it gets cooler, weeding and such outdoor pursuits. And the occasional, "OMG, look what's happening in Aotearoa" posts. And food pics. Maybe "I made this" pics.
 
Thank you for tagging along with us for 147 days. Be well, you and yours, take care; this thing is not over yet.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Plague Diary Season 3 Week 20

Day 14+7+86+27, December 29. 46 in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Rotorua, Tairawhiti, and Canterbury, (linked to a previous case.) 0 in Nelson. Re. Omicron, the media, or the Ministry, used a weird expression today: total Omicon cases are 71 today, up from yesterday's 49 (stuff.co.nz) or 54 (radionz). 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed. 
 
We went to a couple of stores to get what's needed for more of our projects; I've now been to four stores I believe should have asked for my vax pass that didn't. But tonight...
 
An Omicron case was out and about in Auckland on December 26 and 27, visiting bars, restaurants, and a shopping area. There will be an announcement regarding this at 11AM tomorrow, but from what I read so far: 
* The person, fully vaccinated, not a New Zealand citizen, arrived from the UK via Doha on December 16.
* Current NZ rules are for all arrivals to stay at managed isolation for seven days, (during which time this person tested negative three times,) and in self isolation for three days. The case tested positive on Day Nine, which would be December 25. Nobody else on the same "flight" (singular, so presumably Doha-Auckland) tested positive.
* The person was notified on December 27 and brought to managed isolation on the same day. Whole genome sequencing was done on the same day, clarifying it was Omicron. 
* The government had earlier changed the rules to extend the initial managed isolation to ten days starting December 23. 
* The Ministry does not believe the person was highly infectious at the time. 
 
So... Good luck to us.
Day 14+7+86+28, December 30. 60 in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Canterbury, (linked to a known case;) 0 in Nelson. Omicron cases, 6 new, 54 in all, one case announced released. 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed. 
 
Aotearoa's first "community" Omicron mentioned yesterday turned out to be a UK DJ who came to take part in a New Year's Eve concert. He stayed self-isolated until his tenth day, but the government said he broke the rule because he did not wait until he received the result of Day Nine test, (on Day Twelve;) this was his third trip in a year, so he should have known. His case is not genomically linked to any known cases here. 
 
There is another Omicron case who was in the community, an Air NZ crew who returned from Sydney on December 24. This case was identified during "routine surveillance" on December 27, (flight crews have different rules,) linked to three other cases on the same flight, and is now in managed isolation. No info on when/where they were. And at midnight tonight, all but Northland will move to Code Orange. 
 
Today Ben worked some more on the outside table, and touched up orange chairs he painted last year. I cleaned the fridge and the dinner set on the shelf above the fridge. When I broke up this year's kitchen cleaning tasks into five parts, I thought I could do almost any two in one day, and Ben can keep sprucing up our outdoor furniture. Wrong! I almost didn't get to the freezer. Amazing to think Ben and I used to clean the whole kitchen in one day every year, years ago. 

I like fridge magnets, but fridges, I prefer naked. I predict negotiations coming up.
Day 14+7+86+29, December 31. 49 Delta community cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hawkes Bay; 0 in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. Omicron cases, 10 new at the border, 88 in all, and so far no community transmission. No locations of interest for the Air NZ crew. The Ministry now assumes all border cases will be Omicron and will prioritized sequencing these. 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed. No updates tomorrow.

Insomnia has been out of control for weeks, but one benefit is I managed to read during the quiet hours. I've been trying to read more printed books, but found it hard to stick with them. Earlier in the month, I cleaned out boxes under the bed that housed all the books I started this year but hadn't finished; there might have been three dozens. Except young adult novels; I love them, they are inexpensive, quick, plot-driven, authors don't lie or trick you, and there are always likable characters I can cheer for. The picture shows all printed books I managed to finish reading this year, (yeah, dismal,) excluding two I borrowed, also for young folks.
 
What's with all the Nigellas, you ask? Well, I read cookbooks cover to cover as reading material; I have many I read but never cooked from. But if I can find the ingredients, (not always possible in little old Nelson,) I can manage the "complexity" of Nigella's everyday recipes, (i.e. they are not difficult,) and so I've cooked quite a lot from her first two books. Ben's found a couple of used ones for good prices in subsequent years, but around the time we went into lockdown, he decided to get me all the ones I wanted. Because when I read Nigella, I cook Nigella, and she has a lot of chicken dishes, Ben's favorite, so we had a whole lot of new chicken dishes during lockdown and since, one most definitely a regular item now. Reading Nigella is an on-going project; we bought her books in order they were published, and I'm reading them in that order, of course, so I have a few to go before we look for her latest she wrote during her solo lockdown. I hear that's supposed to be a bit of a game changer, although it might just be a promo thing. 

I also finished maybe 15 audiobooks; the experience is interesting because sometimes I just listen to the voices like they are singing and nothing of the story stays with me except maybe a vague impression; other times, I take in so much it's almost as if I experienced it.  

So in the coming year I have a promise to myself, resolution if you like; I'll try to finish a book before moving on to the next shiny one. That is not to say I'll finish come hell or high water; Ben said about 20 years ago I'm wasting my life reading books I don't like and I don't owe anyone anything. I used to take it so seriously back then, finishing, and it was a revelation I was allowed to move on. I might even tell you about some. 

And with that, let's hope for a quiet, little more predictable year next year; see you on the other side. 
Day 14+7+86+30, January 1, 2022. Well, hello! No Ministry updates today. I decided to take an online sketching course a while ago, but I wanted to start it today. (We're allowed to access the material for one year from the day of registration.) I feel great about the course, and about the year; how can I not when I opened the landing page to see I'm drinking water from the same glass as the teacher? 
 
And drinking water I did. I woke up with a lower back pain yesterday, and as usual I stretched several times, but it didn't work well. At 2.30AM, while reading about witches and pilots, I thought kidney stones. I should have rung the 24-hour 0800 health number then, but I waited until 11 this morning; the nurse (?) agreed it sounded like kidney stones; recommended I take a pain killer if I needed one; agreed I don't have to go to the hospital unless it worsened; said I wouldn't want to go near there on New Year's Day if I didn't have to. The Internet told me to drink 2l of water, preferably with lemon juice, so I did. 2.5l of it. And it was better by bedtime. Kitchen cleaning was slower with change of plan, but I kept at it.  
Day 14+7+86+31, January 2. 105 Delta community cases in the last two days on the North Island, none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. 33 cases at the border; Omicron 2 new, 90 in all, and so far no community transmission. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed.  

Ben finished treating the coffee-roasting table and touching up the orange chairs. I kept working in the kitchen, slower because it's been so hot, but progressing. I managed a little less than 1.5l lime water. Ben evacuated the pumpkin on top of finished weaving, next to the ironing pile, but no ironing happening in the foreseeable future.
Day 14+7+86+32, January 3. 27 Delta community cases on the North Island, none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. 24 cases at the border; Omicron 0 new, 90 in all, and so far no community transmission. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed. They'll have to start adding the boosted numbers, don't you think?
 
So hot, so humid, today was disgusting from the moment I woke up. But kitchen looking like this for days, I had to keep going. (The last couple of evenings we had sandwiches made with deli meat, salad leaves in bags, and supermarket rye bread, but they're all gone.) 
 
Because we don't have a lovely purpose-built pantry like many Kiwi kitchens, part of this year's "cleaning" is amalgamating "pantry space" within our cupboards in this post-lockdown living-with-Covid era. We went to the hardware store to buy fancy build-to-measure shelving we planned to get 12 years ago, but after an hour of looking for the right sizes and negotiating configuration, I remembered the back/far wall of the cupboard is a flimsy board and can't support the heavy setup. So we came home with a cheap flat pack. It's not great, but we got rid of the temporary plastic trolley we bought for our Auckland rental that's been disintegrating for a couple of years.
 
I broke this year's kitchen cleaning schedule into five daily bits, but I'm not sure if I'll be done tomorrow. "Reducing" isn't going great, but magically the dishes and glasses aren't as crammed on shelves as we think they used to be, so we're good. I haven't reached 1l of lime water yet today, but also, I almost forgot I had a lower back problem; kidney stones don't pass this quickly, do they?
Day 14+7+86+33, January 4. 31 Delta community cases on the North Island, none in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. 29 cases at the border; new Omicron genome sequencing has not come out yet, 90 in all; a family member of the Air NZ crew tested positive and was relocated to Managed Isolation. The UK DJ will not be charged as the police, as has been their usual MO, worry charging him may discourage future cases from cooperating with the health authorities. 77% of population and 92% over 12 double-jabbed.
 
Today was not as hot or humid as yesterday, but for most of the day I scrubbed pots and baking dishes, so I was just $@#)^&(%!* hot. And I need a couple of more days. One reason the kitchen is taking longer in recent years has to be we have. more. stuff. We gave most of our delicate Japanese ceramics to charity a few years ago, (too delicate for us and our current life,) and that freed up some space, but we still have too. much. stuff. This afternoon, I added four items in the charity box, but took one out because Ben makes souffle in it, and we have nothing similar. So, yeah...

Ben took a wee detour with his projects, and finished a quick one, but one that packed a punch, making a tiny part of our place look very cheerful. I'll show you tomorrow. And I just found this on his office floor. We're exhausted tonight. 

LOL.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Plague Diary Season 3 Week 19

Day 14+7+86+20, December 22. 56 Delta cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Lakes, and Hutt Valley, near Wellington, linked to the Lakes case. Not even Nelson paper mentions Nelson's Covid these days so the "latest" numbers stay at 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. None in the rest of the South Island. Omicron: 6 new, total 28, one released. 76% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed. 

I'm going to take a break from Covid news tonight because, goodness, there is a lot. Except to tell you, in case you were worried, the twice-negative-tested person with a child voluntarily returned to the Managed Isolation facility. Both parent and child were tested upon return. And did you see? Sweden has microchips that can be embedded under human skin to be used as vax passes.
Today I made cookie cutter cookies for the first time in... 45 years. And I remembered I was always bad at this. On top of that, today was another super hot day, and I didn't get started early enough; and on top of that, the counter where I cut the cookies is right next to oven. And my red silicone baking sheets are so warped, they are not suitable for these guys. But these taste great, so that's a relief. It has lime peels in it, and smells dreamy, but if I were to make these again, I'll chop the peels smaller. 
 
The plan was to make icing with either lime juice or diluted orange flower water, but I don't know, are these guys worth icing? They are also rather sweet without the icing. And I don't remember these being so time-consuming.  
Day 14+7+86+21 December 23. 56 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Taranaki, and Tairawhiti. Nelson and the rest of the South Island: nada. Omicron cases, all at the border, 3; total 31, one case released. 76% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed.
 
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board recommends we keep a Covid kit of food and hygiene products at home, or while travelling, so there is no panic in case we need testing. (After testing we are prohibited from leaving home or accommodation until we get results.) The kit suggestion includes lemons - no explanation. :-D Although Bloomfield repeats often that testing is free, apparently this is not always true; e.g. an asymptomatic close contact may be required to pay $140, but may be refunded if the result is positive. I think the message is, ring the 0800 number first and see if they tell you to get tested.      
 
Today was so, so hot and sunny, but we went into town because Ben was expecting a bill in the PO Box, and as long as he was going, I wanted to pick up a few things so I can finish some project, as well as a few exotic ingredients in case we get inspired to cook something a little out of the ordinary. 
 
There is a good reason we usually stay home between, oh, the 20th and Christmas Eve. We have been known to loiter late on Christmas Eve in supermarkets, but days leading up to Christmas, no! The road and parking lots are busy, people are in a hurry, and, well, you get the picture. We made it to the craft store, the PO Box, two specialist food stores, two supermarkets, and the petrol station, but we skipped the rest. 
 
For a few years, I've given plants I propagated to close friends, and delivering them on Christmas Eve became Ben and my ritual. Some years I decorated the pots, other years I did something or rather with cards or ribbons. Usually, it didn't involve any elaborate plans. 
 
This year, Option One barely survived; Option Two didn't look as good as I expected, and Option Three finally started to grow in the last few days, but are still a little too little. I was in mini panic this afternoon, but hey, it's been an unusual year, so why not prepare something nice and deliver them whenever the plants are ready, right? 
 
And remember the tiny chocolates I was going to give the milkie and courier folks? I didn't get my act together there, either, so the chocs are still sitting in the living room. Well, I'll make up to them in good time, also. 

Tomorrow, there is a bit of cooking to do. I'd better get up early so I can use the oven before it gets too hot.
Day 14+7+86+22, December 24. 62 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, and one case in Christchurch, someone who travelled from Auckland on Monday. Nelson Mail hasn't had a Covid numbers article in several days, but Ben says the Ministry website says we have nine active cases. One death in hospital in Auckland; 50th in Aotearoa NZ. New Omicron cases, 7; total 38 cases. (Did this jump while I looked away for a couple of days?) 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed.
 
A screening of the new Spider Man film in Rotorua is among the new locations of interest. An unvaxed Belfast doctor practicing near Rotorua had a shipment of Ivermectin for his patients confiscated by Medsafe, our medical regulatory body. Sadly, his was among 905 referred to Medsafe this year, compared to 13 last year.
 
If tonight is a special night for you and yours, I wish you a peaceful night. If it's another Friday, have a relaxing weekend. 
Day 14+7+86+23, December 25. There were no updates from the government today, and no reading. We spent a lovely afternoon/evening with friends including some young folks. I didn't take any pictures; I was too busy talking and listening and eating. And taking a tour on a properly loved Kiwi garden with so much veg and fruit trees. Oh, my, the fruit trees! 
 
This is ours, though. We tasted one this morning, just a little too early.
Day 14+7+86+24, December 26. Today's numbers are for the last two days. 126 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Waikato, Northland. None in Nelson or the rest of the South Island. New Omicron cases 7 new, 45 total, one case released. 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed. And of course there is very little press activity. 
 
Yesterday I thought friends had a new outdoor table, but in fact Mother and Son had given it a good spa treatment. So today Ben got working on his outdoor coffee bean roasting table/courier pickup/drop off point. After reading the fine print, it transpired he has to leave it for a fortnight after applying this agent, but weather being dry and slightly windy, we might cheat and oil after a week's wait.
Day 14+7+86+25 December 27. 34 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, and Canterbury, South Island, linked to a previous case. None in Nelson. No surprises in wastewater anywhere. Omicron cases, all at the border, 4 new; 49 total identified; one case released. (I bet there are more by now.) 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed.
 
Ben started working on the table early, and told me it's hot and humid, with only the occasional cool breeze. He didn't think I'd last long outside, (I was planning to move bulbs out of clay pots and herbs growing in ice cream containers in them,) and suggested I weave. With Christmas finished, we're practically in January, and I'm falling way behind in the project if I am to weave what I had in mind in November, a project that takes nearly a week just to thread. 
 
I cut off another sample yesterday and washed, but I'm still not happy with the sett, so I chastely rethreaded this afternoon. Tonight, though, as I checked the math, it needs rethreading, again. The project is, what's that expression, loosing its shine, so I'm in head-down-bum-up mode, and much remains undecided.
Day 14+7+86+26, December 28. 18 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua; 0 in Nelson or the rest of the South Island, but a new location of interest in Canterbury. One death in hospital. The low case numbers do not necessarily reflect few cases, but fewer people getting tested, and fewer test centers remaining open this time of year. There are 1334 active Delta cases. Omicron cases, all at the border, 5 new, 54 in all, one case announced released. 77% of population and 91% over 12 double-jabbed. 

It was the same last year. I didn't have a problem knowing the days of the week even though Ben was home every day, thanks to our home milk delivery. It's the years I'm confused about. I remember having to rush home to Japan for the month of August 2019 to clean out Mom's apartment after she suddenly went into care. And looking back, what good timing for her to move, because not six months later, Diamond Princess full of Covid cases arrived at the port of Yokohama, my home town.

In Aotearoa NZ, we went into Level 4 lockdown the first time on March 26, 2020, and came out to Level 1 on June 9, 2020, which allowed us to get back to near-Pre-Covid normal within the nation's borders. For those of us outside Auckland and Wellington, this continued until August 18, 2021 when we went into two weeks of Level 4, a week of Level 3, interminable Level 2, and now this traffic light system akin to Level 1.5 with whatever rules you like, up to you. 

Late last year, I couldn't remember much about the year 2020, as if the whole year was washed out, but 2019 clearly. These last few weeks I kept thinking we're at the end of 2022; 2019 and 2020 are all mixed up, and 2021 has been erased from my consciousness. Confused? So am I. 

We had rain today, bringing lovely cool air; I read most of the day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Plague Diary Season 3 Week 18

Day 14+7+86+13, December 15. 74 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, and one in Canterbury. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. One death in Tauranga. A Taranaki town has an outbreak in a primary school, so unvaxed and non-scanning littlies. I'm not the praying type, but I hope they don't have to isolate during the holidays. Aucklanders are free to travel either with a vax pass or negative test 72 hours prior to being checked; on the road, though, checking is random, depending on the traffic, etc. 75% of population and 89% over 12 double-jabbed.  
 
Parliament broke for the summer; daily reporting from the Ministry will change a little; there will be no numbers published on December 25, January 1 and 8, but otherwise check their website, or... Twitter. Again, I worry about oldies without access or knowledge, not so much because oldies are necessarily tech-ignorant, but because I've got one foot in that group now.

While Nelson-Marlborough health district, (which includes Tasman,) is 1905 shots shy of 90% of over 12 being double-jabbed, a testing center in Richmond was closed due to abuse staff suffered from anti peeps, as the threats became increasing personal. I'll just leave it at that. 
 
The second care package awaiting us at the PO Box on Monday was loot from my sister's short trip to Kyoto. Well-deserved after taking a break from volunteering at a vax center. She was always the one who did things, as opposed to Dad, Mom, Bro and I shouting and criticizing since the ye olde pre-keybord era. No wonder she thought - wished? - she was adopted, except for her resemblance to Dad's side. 
 
There were more in the pack, but she noted these masks are just for show and not to wear in crowded places. Having had long discussions on mask types and prices just recently, I told her we'll wear them on top of proper ones, which defeats the purpose of Japanese gauze masks which are soft and lovely on the face, but needs must. 
 
Later, I asked a young checkout guy at the supermarket, if we forget masks, could we buy them at the entrance of the store, not boxes in the aisles but just to wear in the store, and he said they are 50c each at Customer Service. Then he told me they used to hand them out free of charge, but staff noticed customers "collecting" them, including to wear in the bar across the street. He saw a guy come in,  ask for one, swore when told there is a cost, walk out, get out his own from his car, and proceed to the bar.
Day 14+7+86+14, December 16. Newsy day. 91 new cases in the last 15 hours due to changes in reporting time frame; Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taupo/Lakes, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. Nobody else seems bothered any more that we still don't know how it reached Nelson. 
 
None in the rest of the South Island, but a border case from Germany via Dubai quarantining in Christchurch became our first Omicron case. This person arrived on Deceber 10, was tested on Day 1, and result came out on Day2, December 12. They were double-jabbed. Bloomfield says our quarantine system is well-set up to prevent spreading Omicron, and folks are not to come out of their rooms until Day 1 test results were known, but these folk were crammed in an airplane for, what, half a day? He must not read the articles I do, where in Europe 80% and 90% of folks in small and large gatherings are getting Omicron, albeit with less severe symptoms... Gisbourne, meanwhile, is still producing positive wastewater test results. We've now had 10,054 cases in this community Delta outbreak. 

Nelson is among five locations in the country where a fancy new "PCR analyser called Panther Fusion" has been installed. This cuts testing time to 24-48 hours, and smaller centers like we don't have to send specimens away when testing gets busy, not only for Covid, but flu, respiratory syncytial virus, and some STD. Good news ahead of influx of summer tourist, says the Panther project manager. :-D (I changed the order of the sentences in the article, because if you don't laugh...)
 
76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. Yay, 90%! But Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman is still at 88.6-88.8% depending on the website, or 1527 shots shy, between 9th and 11th place of the 20 District Health Boards. Vax for 5-11-year olds were provisionally approved; 2 doses, 21 days apart. Cabinet must approve next, so roll out will start late January 2022, just before the school year starts. 

Although Parliament finished for the year yesterday, there was another anti protest in Wellington, organized by the usual cohorts, disrupting bus schedules. 

Today I finished culling/tidying/reorganizing my art supplies, something I put off for a couple of years. The main aim was to free up more space for weaving. I used to keep art supplies in half a dozen cardboard boxes by category: acrylic, watercolor/gouache, print-making, dry drawing material, etc. When I worked, usually in the kitchen, I only needed to bring one box and maybe just a few other supplies. I wanted to put everything in one biggish plastic box, which is a physical impossibility, and in the end I managed to get rid of just one box but in a somewhat less organized way. It felt like tidying for the sake of tidying, so unsatisfying...
 
Still, it was worth sorting all the papers, (plenty for watercolor/gouache, in different weight and sizes;) getting rid of a whole host of stale collage material, and going through a box of "Not sure how to proceed" projects. 
 
Above is a small book I started in an Seth Apter workshop in Australia in 2014. It's about my Dad, and on the cover is the main office building of the university where he taught, and somewhere on the second floor is the window of his vice chancellor office, his last job before retirement. At the workshop I thought it was small enough project I could finish quickly, I could not only 15 months after he died. The pages are covered in sticky acrylic in spite of leaving it dry all that winter, but I might work on it this summer.
Day 14+7+86+15, December 17. 76 community cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; 0 in the rest of the South Island. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman is 1183 doses away from 90% qualifieds double-jab. 
 
In the last couple of days the number of Covid-related articles increased dramatically. I wonder if it has to do with the press getting a few final pieces out before closing down for the year. I've managed to read about a quarter of today's pieces, and haven't even started on Omicron coverage, but then hoping some issues will resolve/progress in the next couple of days, here are the first few that caught my blurry eye.
 
We have now have had 10,129 cases in the Delta community outbreak; 12,947 (community?) cases since the start of the pandemic; and 49 deaths. A boy under age 10 died in hospital (today?), and tested positive after death; it is not clear if he died of Covid, or for another reason, or was infected after death, but he was a contact of a known case and our youngest loss. Gisbourne wastewater tested negative after six positive results, but neighbouring Napier tested positive, possibly relating to a historic case. There were verbal confrontations at Wellington Airport between unmasked would-be passengers dressed as nuns and priests, (at least a couple with exemptions,) and masked, dressed-as-themselves passengers. Jetstar staff said it's a police matter, while police called to the scene said, "What can we do?" Jetstar also only spotchecks for vax passes. And in AotearoaNZ, there is still no discussion of ventilation.

Today Ben finished work for the year. He went into the office for the first time in 17 and a half weeks; put in a couple of hours from his desk; said hi to everybody; and good-bye to a colleague who resigned. Short of drastic changes/events, (still possible,) he'll resume working at work in the new year. And his work place will require all staff and students get vaxed, like most tertiary institutions in the country. 
 
Meanwhile I ran errands for a couple of hours. Now, my understanding of Code Orange was, shops/businesses, (other than pharmacies and supermarkets,) required a vax pass. I was shocked, but not shocked, having to show my pass at only one of the four places I visited. Slack staff mask-wearing practices was also worrying, and I still blame the government's wishy-washy "kind" non-commitment; at this point, there should be no doubt we're better off with than without them. In contrast, supermarkets are old hands at this by now, down to the trainee check-out teenager at the far left lane. They are now the safe, comforting retail oasis. (In reviewing the quick color code reference, I see I'm confusing the masks and vax passes. It's too fiddly to list here, but I see the government still likes to "encourage" mask use in some places.)    

Every year, we give our milkie a small gift, usually an inexpensive assorted choc box from the supermarket. They are not bad stuff, though; we buy the same for ourselves. This year, Ben thought we could put in a little more work, so we got the mini version of some of our favorites, and we'll mix and match and put them in a handmade bag or box with a message of thanks. I want to make a few packs for our courier delivery folks, too, even though sometimes they some can't be bothered driving down our windy driveway. 
 
I like this season of being thankful. I know handmade whatever pleases some, puzzles others, but making is for the gratification of the maker; what follows is extra.   
Day 14+7+86+16, December 18. 39 in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taupo/Lakes, Taranaki. Nelson stays at 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. Counted as border cases are four new cases of Omicron in addition to the first on Thursday and three I didn't mention yesterday; total is now eight, but only two are linked; they were from Europe, Africa, and Asia. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed.    
 
I don't understand when the ministry says, "today's case numbers do not cover a full 24 hour period due to the change in reporting times to a midnight-to-midnight cycle from 9am-to-9aml" wasn't the switch take place midweek? The ministry's website I mentioned Wednesday has not been updated since Thursday. Otherwise today was a slow reporting day, giving me a chance to catch up. 

In Aotearoa NZ, up-your-nose PCR tests has been the only commonly used testing method. Though saliva testing has been in use in very limited number of places, it was not available to the wider public. BUT now they say we can get it for $115 a pop at some pharmacies if we really want one. AND the first NZ study found them 99.1% accurate. 
 
Lateral Flow Tests the UK government distributed free of charge, (until they ran out recently?) may be what is called the Rapid Antigen Tests here. Though they are not available to the general public as far as I've read, free testing has been conditionally available since December 15 until January 31 for the not-fully-vaccinated and under 12s to submit for travel purposes. With the new normal of living with Covid the world over, let's hope these will be widely available free or at low cost around the world. And hey, let the ready facilities in poorer places make their own vaccines already!! 

It's almost 8:30PM but I'm nearly caught up on the Covid reading for today. And that's great because all this month I've been reading printed books before I go to sleep, until the arrival of Omicron. Tonight I might finish one. 
 
I had an idea midweek and was going to have a little fun in the kitchen, but that'll have to wait until tomorrow.   
Day 14+7+86+17, December 19. 55 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; 0 in the rest of the South Island. Five new Omicron at managed isolation, total 13, but one has recovered and been released. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. 
 
It's been so hot today, I might see if there are Covid articles later, or not. Ben made another never-to-be-repeated cheesecake, coffee this time, and we had a lovely afternoon with friends. Among other things we compared notes about our aging parents. As we near old age ourselves, the best I can aim is not to complain (too much) and be grateful for everything I have/had in life; I better start training today, as it's not exactly my natural disposition.  

Pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas Tree, is flowering late this year in Nelson, which is great because often they are in full bloom at the start of December. This is the view from our living room window, and why don't need a tree inside. It's actually one tree - the front part Ben managed to trim standing on the stairs outside the window in April last year; the tall part he couldn't reach. The photo is unedited. We are going to get professional tree guys to trim it nicely. Eventually. 
Day 14+7+86+18, December 20. 69 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; 0 in the rest of the South Island. New Omicron cases 9, total 22, one case released. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. As of midnight last night, Nelson-Marlborugh-Tasman had 550 doses to reach 90%.

A person who tested positive twice, (unspecified if Delta/Omicron,) [EDIT: my mistake, they tested negative twice,] and transferred from Managed Isolation to hospital "left" and is missing in Auckland. No more detail. I'm shocked the media is not all over this, but there is an (insert-adjective) reduction in Covid news coverage since the weekend.
 
We had another hot day, and all I did was read and doze off in different parts of the house as I looked for cooler spots every couple of hours. And a big thank you, Esther, we looked forward to and speculated what we'll be getting this year, but you have exceeded all our expectations. Meals will be served on these for the foreseeable future unless we cook something too runny.
Day 14+7+86+19, December 21. Remind me never to mention light news days. Because, whoa. 28 in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; none in the rest of the South Island. 
 
No new Omicron cases at the border; total 22. There was something that bothered me for a wee while; only a few days after Omicron arrived, the government snuck in one case already recovered and released. I wondered how a case could be deemed safe and be released so quickly, but it turns out this case arrived nine days before our "first" Omicron case. The person travelled from London via Singapore; arrived on December 7; tested positive on Day 0/1; stayed in managed isolation in Auckland; recovered and was out in the community around December 16 or 17. On December 9, when this case was reported, the Ministry did not know where the travel originated, (HUH???) and the test was not genomically sequenced until later, even though WHO had announced Omicron to be Variant of Concern on November 26, and by the time the person arrived UK had around 600 cases. This case was added to NZ's Omicron number on December 19 as "already recovered and released". So am I the only person freaking out a little at the Ministry's slackness??

The person who "left" the hospital yesterday has a young child with them and is still missing; this person tested negative twice, not positive as I wrote yesterday. Sorry. Meanwhile, a Santa visit is among Locations of Interest in Tauranga. The lottery for returning Kiwis to secure managed isolation is on hold until January 6. The government had announced some weeks ago Kiwis returning from Australia can go straight to self-isolation starting January 17; this has been pushed back to end of February, along with some rule changes. Air NZ will cancel around 120 flights, mostly trans-Tasman. I haven't seen anything about Kiwis returning from elsewhere going straight to self-isolation, which was to start on February 14 from memory. 
 
76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. Nelson-Marlborough-Tasman reached 90%, 10th of the 20 District Health Boards. Cabinet approved vaccination for 5-11 year olds; littlelies can start on January 17. Those over 18 can get 3rd/booster jabs four months after the second, starting early January, which puts us eligible for boosters on January 17. I thought maybe we'll give the system time to get used to littlelies, but Ben will be on campus by then, and I think he'd like it ASAP for now. We don't have to go together; heavens, we booked to get the second shots together, but we didn't get there together, so he had to wait for me afterwards. :-D

This time of year, we often get Blackball black pudding; it's "local" in that it's not from Nelson but the West Coast, a few hours away. Blackball brand is yummy and is "World-Famous in New Zealand"; catchy, but I stole it from another NZ brand. I love back and white puddings so much, when we visited Scotland, I had it as often as I could, including deep-fried black pud on a stick at a fish and chip shop in Orkney. Ben cooked in a more ordinary way this morning.