Sunday, May 15, 2016

Autumn and DIY Double Glazed Windows

Autumn is here. Time for falling leaves and chillier weather. The last of the garden plants are finished -- some nasty infestations of bugs got to some of them unfortunately. Electricity bills are rising. Winter is coming.

You know you’ve been in New Zealand a while when you accept that substandard housing is a fact of life and attempt to DIY double-glaze your windows with the plastic film and double-sided tape. I know it’s ridiculous, but windows are the main source of heat loss, and our bills were so high last winter, I figured it was worth a shot at trying to keep more of the heat in, at least in the front windows which are right next to the heat pump.

The advertisements for home improvement stores started having sections on the DIY kits, so we got a couple (the box of course unhelpfully didn't say that it included tape, so we ended up buying a separate roll). You put up the double-sided tape around the windows, cut out and fit the plastic film to the tape, and then gently blow-dry it to make it taut. Wala – homemade double glazing. From the package instructions: "CONGRATULATIONS On choosing Stormguard Seasonal Double Glazing: Comfort and heat saving economy at a fraction of the cost of double glazing." Technically they are only designed to last one season, and when you factor in the time spent, they are definitely a pain to put up. Hopefully the cat doesn’t destroy all of our work! We also bought a frost cloth for some of the plants (before realizing the bugs had gotten to them) and a fabric thing to put under one of the outer doors to reduce the draught coming in under it. Here's hoping...
old, thin windows
cool mushrooms!

Limited edition Whittaker's chocolate "Jelly Tip" with raspberry jelly filling
inside a combination of white and milk chocolate (see cutaway of actual chocolate piece in picture).
It is very sugary but melds nicely!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Corsair Bay and Visitors

I've been busy writing and thankfully doing pretty well on the academic track: was accepted into a conference in Australia (well, two really, but I can't make the second one), received good feedback on an article submitted months ago, finished a helpful seminar for postgrad students where we learned about some of the ins and outs of academia from an insider's perspective, and am almost finished with a chapter of the thesis. I'm realizing just how little you can actually say when you have to integrate theory and support from outside the primary texts. I'm very excited about the opportunity to go to Australia again. We wanted to check out Tasmania while we were here, and now we will be able to. We're going to spend a week in Melbourne first since everyone has recommended it, and it looks like a cool place from the little I've read in the guidebook so far. Tasmania has some good wildlife spots, so I want to visit some of them despite the fact that it will be winter and likely very cold, possibly even snowing!

We checked out Corsair Bay on the other side of the Port Hills during a nice sunny weekend. Days like those where you're out enjoying the natural beauty remind me of what's nice about New Zealand.

Our car started stalling really badly while driving so we had to take it in and get something in the air line fixed. That was several hundred dollars of fun.It was out of commission for a few days, so we had our first experience taking the bus to school from our house, and it wasn't too bad, although it takes almost an hour (car takes 20 minutes). There were a lot of school kids taking it, and they would come on in big bunches and sit on their phones or chatter amongst themselves. Most wear school uniforms here, so they can't really not stand out.

We had some American visitors come over for dinner, and beforehand we drove them up to the Port Hills for some good views. It was nice to hear about what's going on in the U.S. from folks 'on the ground' and compare with some of the features in New Zealand. They also graciously brought us some supplies from back home, including D's favorite Pasta Roni and Mexican food supplies like chili powder and sauce which will be great for cooking, and we loaded them up with some delicious Whittaker's chocolate. I've got two more planned visitors in the next year and am looking forward to showing them around, too.

Someone here wanted to know about how to work for a U.S. company and deal with tax issues, and I found a helpful site that explains about 1099s for foreign contractors. Taxes are often confusing, but especially so when you're coming from a country like New Zealand where a lot of people don't even have to worry about them or file tax returns because the government handles everything (their tax code is a lot simpler).

I found out that here they have flatmates but not roommates, and that they think sharing a room with someone, even in college, is weird. Of course, it's not all like the movies they see, but it does take getting used to sharing a tight space with a stranger.