As I said the other day...

Retired PR hack / public servant, dog walker, nature lover, dharma student, community builder. I live in a small village in a small country on the edge of a big ocean.

New drug option for treating myeloma

I’ve had a couple of conversations in the past week with Wellington’s Blood and Cancer Centre about the new availability of pomalidomide. Read Pharmac announcement here I am eligible, given that I relapsed last year and turned out to be refractory for lenalidomide. We had considered trying to get it under compassionate access or self-funding it, but as I had already had a mini-stroke (TIA) last year, we weren’t sure it was worth the clotting and stroke risk. I’ve unexpectedly stabilised sinc...
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Sore back. Take my word, life's more fun without one.

My back’s been giving me gyp the past few weeks. I have three collapsed vertebrae; the L12, L8 and T4. The L12 is from a motorcycle accident in my twenties (1985) and can ache a bit from time to time, but it isn’t generally a problem. The T8 dates from 2013 and the L4 from 2020, and are caused by damage from the myeloma eating away at the bone. The L4 had the added bonus of crushing my sciatic nerve, giving me painful sciatica down my right leg for many months. After my second stem cell transpl...
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We're going solar on our house

When we moved into the new house we built three years ago, I was pretty keen on getting solar panels on the roof and using solar power as much as possible. I knew we could make good use of it, but the cost was pretty high for the potential benefits. Kate was reluctant, partly because of the impact of the panels on the appearance of the roofline. She was also concerned about the cost and wasn't sure they would pay for themselves. However, she recently had a good conversation with our sister-in-...
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Faith in dealing with illness

When my haematologist told me in November last year that, after 13 years of treatment, they had run out of publicly-funded options for treating my myeloma and I had, as a worst-case scenario, a few weeks left to live, it was a bit of a shock. "You could be dead by Christmas," were his exact words. And yet, here we are, officially in the second half of the new year, and I'm still hanging around—a bit slower and shorter than before—but above ground! They did have some older treatments to reuse, w...
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Cancer drugs announcement good for many people

The government's announcement of an extra $605 million for Pharmac to fund new cancer drugs over the next four years is terrific news for many of us with relapsed (i.e. come out of remission) or refractory (drug no longer works for us) cancers and no other options for publicly-funded drugs to treat our disease. There is still some uncertainty over which drugs will be funded, but we know it includes some of the drugs on the list of 13 National campaigned on in the election last year. The ones tha...
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Why do I love Pukerua Bay?

Reflections on my hometown It is just before Christmas 1988, and you are looking for a nest of your own. You look at townhouses in other parts of Porirua, none of which appeal, and the estate agent suggests you look further north. Somewhere your money will go a bit further to buy something you like more. "I know a house for sale in Pukerua Bay. You probably won't like it, but it has character." And it does: pinex walls, a sheepskin carpet in the lounge, and a water stain on the hall carpet fr...
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My cryptocurrency experiment

About three years ago, I got interested in this cryptocurrency thing and thought I would run an experiment to see how it actually works. So I spent a bit of time hunting around to find an exchange that looked like it was reputable and settled on Binance. I also found that the smallest trade I could possibly make was NZ$85 to buy a crypto coin, which I thought was enough to toss away on something it if failed. I was also using the Brave browser, which paid me in a BAT token in the Upworthy exchan...
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Feeling loved

I had an interesting and intense experience last week when I attended a small church service at my mother-in-law's retirement village. One of the other residents had organised a service for people who were suffering grief or unhappiness in the lead in to Christmas. In a retirement village, with aged people, and many family members to worry about, especially those who are getting older, there are many opportunities for sadness and grief. My mother-in-law asked the organiser and minister whether ...
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That difficult conversation with my doctor

Well, we finally had that difficult conversation with the haematologist that went along the lines of, “I’m sorry, Iain, but we have run out of treatment options for you and the other drugs we have available in New Zealand aren’t going to stop your myeloma from developing any further. We haven’t been able to access any others through a clinical trial or compassionate access. Your bone marrow is chocker with abnormal plasma cells and you have a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, left to live. I’...
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Three waters improvements essential for coping with climate change

I’m very concerned with the changes to Cabinet that the government might be considering watering down the 3-waters proposal. This will be a serious mistake, given the country's poor record of investment in infrastructure. When I worked for Porirua City Council in 2006, they were concerned that the council was wasting money by spending it unnecessarily on asset maintenance. Their solution was to create a new asset manager position and give the person the job of analysing how effectively the cou...
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GIB board crisis is more than it's held out to be

Situation exposes fundamental economic issues The so-called 'GIB crisis' in New Zealand is significant because discussion of it ignores a fundamental economic issue; far from being simply a supply issue, it is actually a demand issue created by activity in a sector that is outstripping the economy's ability to support it. Anyone who works in the construction sector knows it has been going gang-busters since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, tradies were getting more work than they...
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Transparency with the media?

We need to ensure we continue to get it as citizens Thirty years ago I was a radio journalist. I wasn't great at it; competent, but no award winner. I enjoyed being a broadcaster more and the whole process of making radio. But the shortness of the news cycle, the brevity of radio stories and the limited opportunities to dig into issues and stories and explore them in depth were not very satisfying. I lasted five years before going into government PR as a Ministerial press secretary, which was n...
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Alternative society

I often try to imagine what an alternative society might look like. A system-wide improvement on what we currently have: a pluralist, multi-cultural, post-colonial society; with a modern, resource-intensive capitalist economy and a welfare state; extensive export-focused pastoral agriculture; and a parliamentary democracy. Looking backwards doesn't really help as historical systems were the products of conditions we can't, and wouldn't want to, replicate. It's not hard to imagine something for ...
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Whose voices are heard about development?

I was reading an article in The Atlantic a couple of days ago Community Input is Bad, Actually by Jerusalem Demsas. In it she argues that the process of community input to development projects is fundamentally flawed because: "It’s biased toward the status quo and privileges a small group of residents who for reasons that range from the sympathetic to the selfish don’t want to allow projects that are broadly useful." She describes how the American legal and planning system is full of points ...
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Local development agitates locals

Our council is one that government policy is forcing to allow more intensive development, which I generally think is a good thing. We already have two developments planned for the outskirts of the village, which will more than double the number of houses. This isn’t popular. We’ve organised a public workshop with the council to look at their structure plan for the area. However, a few residents have got pretty wound up on social media, and I’m worried locals will turn up with pitchforks and burn...
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Taking responsibility for saving the world

One of the big problems I often come back to is how to convert campaigns into individual action, and vice versa. Or, even more commonly, how do we make good intentions into actions that have a public benefit? This can be simple when looking at local things, like picking up litter or clearing weeds from a local native plant reserve. We can just go and do that, normally without too much effort. We can even invite some friends to join us. When we come to issues like climate change, the oceans fill...
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'Burning' brings home the horror of climate change bush fires

We've just watched the documentary Burning on the Black Summer bushfires in Australia. It was a terrible reminder of what we saw in person and in the media in the summer of 2019–2020 — Black Summer. We were in Australia on holiday with friends in mid-November 2019 and spent some time in Leura in the Blue Mountains. On one of the days (12 November 2019), as we were walking between the villages of Katoomba and Leura, a fire started in the huge gully below the towns and spread up the hill towards ...
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Back on the drugs

Well, I'm back onto the chemo for my myeloma, after almost 6½ years remission. I can't say I'm not a little disappointed, but I'm not surprised. As myeloma is basically incurable — the best you can hope for is a long remission — I always knew it would be back. I have been very lucky. I haven't had to take any drugs since October 2013. Some of my friends who went through treatment at the same time as me did not achieve the deep remission I had and have been on what is called 'maintenance therapy...
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White supremacist vs Islamist murderers

I wrote this shortly after the horrific murders of 51 innocent people and wounding of another 40 at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. I didn't publish it at the time, but I think it is still apposite. What do you think the public reaction would have been if, instead of a white supremacist murdering 51 Muslims on 15 March 2019, a radical Islamist had murdered 51 Christians in a church? The days after those murders were almost free of revenge talk from Muslims, ...
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Floating in the Fediverse

I've been pretty keen on the idea of social media ever since I first started dabbling in it. I admit that the first social media account I got was on Bebo, and that was to keep an eye on my kids when they were young teenagers so they didn't get into trouble. I didn't care if they got up to the usual young kids' silliness, and there was plenty of that, but I wanted to make sure they didn't get into any creepy situations (they didn't, fortunately). Facebook was very seductive initially and I was ...
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Acceptance first, problem-solving next

The most crucial step in dealing with any problem that crops up is accepting that it’s happened, and nothing's going to change that fact. That might sound obvious, but we spend a lot of time when difficulties arise or bad things happen wishing things were different. We're stuck listening to that internal voice that says, “No, I don’t like this. I want it to stop. I wish it hadn’t happened and that everything would go back to how it was before.” We’ve all been there; I certainly have. You lose y...
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Local authority funding response to COVID-19

Like many local politicians, Porirua City councillors are considering the impact of the looming global recession on the council's finances and how they should react. I knew they would be getting lots of advice — requested and unsolicited — and decided to add my voice to the noise. I sent this last weekend for them to consider. Economic forecast for recession New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is heading into what is projected to be the severest recession since the 1930s. This recession ...
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Morality of a Covid-19 lockdown

What is often presented as a binary 'jobs versus lives' choice in debates on the appropriate response for the Covid-19 pandemic is anything but. It's really a moral choice, although both sides can often present it as a conflict between their competing expertise. However, as a society, we appear incapable of having these debates in public in a reasonable manner. There is no shortage of people pushing their opinions on the right response to Covid-19 that New Zealand should follow. We've been in a...
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Wendell Berry on community

"A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves." Wendell Berry (2012). The Long-Legged House, p.71, Counterpoint Press ...
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Living differently in a modern city

Closer community, more efficient transport, better recreation With Porirua's population expected to grow by at least 50 per cent in the next 30 years, we are going to have to look at ways of redesigning our suburbs — new and existing — if we want to avoid continued sprawl over neighbouring farmland. But, to do so, we are going to have to change our psyche and our quarter acre suburban culture to foster closer connections between neighbours, make better use of more efficient public transport sys...
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Candidates' meeting stump speech notes

We had our second-to-last 'meet the candidates' community meetings tonight in Paremata. We got three to five minutes to talk at each one. If you weren't able to get along to any of them, here's my campaign stump speech. Tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Iain MacLean ahau. What sort of community do you want to live in? Infrastructure and how much it costs is critically important. But that's only part of what council does. It also helps build communities. I'm focused on three, closely related areas. The f...
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Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet

The Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet asked me about what I saw as the challenges and my priorities for the inlet, and what I would do about them if I were elected to Porirua City Council. This is what I told them. What are the challenges facing the inlet? The inlet is facing multiple challenges from the impacts of development in the catchments, both existing and planned. The large earthworks from Transmission Gully, existing subdivisions in Whitby/Pauatahanui, and farming activities all add to th...
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Common Climate Network survey

Here are the answers I provided to the Common Climate Network survey of candidates on climate change (one of several surveys on climate change). Vision for future in one tweet (If you were looking back at the decisions the council made about climate change, what would you like to say in a tweet?) We had made sure that new developments were climate change resilient and reduced emissions, council had chosen low emission operational options, and we had minimised the impact of sea level rise on co...
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Government's urban development intentions laudable, but funding is still a problem

There's a lot to like about the government's National Policy Statement on Urban Development, released yesterday. Its intentions to allow cities to grow up around city centres and transport connections take advantage of the efficiencies you can get from more compact growth. And the desire to create "high and medium density communities with good urban design and open spaces" while avoiding all the downsides of sprawl at urban margins is right on the money as far as I'm concerned. This is exactly ...
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New schools for northern ward

We need schools in new developments before existing local schools run out of room As our population grows in Porirua, we’ll need more of the social services we expect in our city. One of them is new schools. The Plimmerton Farm development will add another 5,000 people to that part of town, which will included a few hundred school-aged children. What schools will they go to? The surrounding primary schools — Plimmerton, St Theresa’s, Pukerua Bay and Paremata — don’t have the room to take ano...
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