Fuck you, Goldman Sachs

With the kind of impeccable timing I usually have, today as I prepare to list my Auckland home for sale, Goldman Sachs announced the Auckland housing market has a 40% chance of crashing, literally immediately softening house sales and freaking out our stock market.

Well, screw you, Goldman Sachs. I’m going to get a good price for my place from buyers who love it, and everything’s going to work out fine.

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I’m so scared I’m screwing up

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Photo by Brendon Connelly on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence

I have three realtors coming next week to appraise my place. The plan for a while now has been to move out of Auckland, but now I’m facing this as an increasingly urgent financial necessity.

As I mentioned last year, my mom had to leave work and she lives with me now. Although New Zealand has excellent public health care, it doesn’t cover things like the neurophysio who helps my mom keep mobile.

As soon as I realized I was financially responsible for both of us I started applying for any and all jobs I was vaguely able to do. I haven’t even gotten an interview. This has not been a surprise. I’m over 40 and  overqualified. As an introvert I don’t have a good network, and in New Zealand most jobs come from who you know.

If it was just me I could live in the back of my car if I had to, and shower at the gym. I’ve given this a lot of thought: it’s always good to have a contingency plan, right? But I can’t ask an older woman with MS to do the same. I have to find somewhere that can be a home for us both, and which I can afford to buy outright.

I’m feeling crushing guilt. I should have been – I should be – a better provider. When I started my PhD I assumed once I finished I’d be able to get reliable, stable work as an academic, which is a sign of my horrible naivety.

As a kid I thought I would run my life more successfully than this. For forty years I’ve been showing ‘potential’ but never managed to turn it into actually being good enough at anything. I feel like I made poor decisions my whole life, and now I’m making another.

I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky I had work for as long as I did. I’m lucky my daughter grew up into a functioning adult and is out there living her life. I’m lucky I snuck onto the lowest rung of the property ladder in the 90s recession. I’m lucky Auckland house prices rose 325% since then. I’m extremely lucky New Zealand has good unemployment benefits.

I don’t know how fast I can sell my place. I don’t know where we’ll go. But now it’s time to jump.

Human-eating sand dunes re-open


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Four years after 6-year-old Nathan Woessner got eaten by the Mount Baldy sand dune  in Indiana, the dunes are reopening. Nathan lived even after spending three-and-a-half hours trapped in a narrow hole, and geologists like Erin Argyilan have spent the last four years trying to work out what the hell happened.

Turns out “the entire dune had shifted 134 metres away from the lakefront between 1938 and 2007, swallowing up long-forgotten trees, trails and stairs along the way.”  As the sand-covered trees rotted over a seventy year period, “fungi on the covered trees formed a sort of cement that enabled the sand to keep its hollowed-out shape as the wood decayed and collapsed inward, leaving holes more than 10 feet deep in the dune.”

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The Mount Baldy dune, Indiana. Photo by Gail Fisher on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Tree-trunk-shaped hole, meet small boy. Voila,  a parents’ worst nightmare. My favorite part is Argyilan — who was actually there that day — not believing the parents when they said their son had been eaten by the dune, because science said sand dunes couldn’t be hollow. See, Nathan is an N of 1, and anecdotal experience is not evidence. Statistically, even now, no one has ever been eaten by a sand dune. Argyilan figured the kid was hiding.

After authorities recovered Nathan, still and cold and “gasping like a fish”, ground-penetrating radar found more than 60 spots where the sandy surface covered voids lurking beneath.

And now I’m wondering if there are any skeletons lying unsuspected inside the dune: very thin humans who took an unwary step and didn’t have doting parents as witnesses. One day the dune will move again, and we might all find out. And if you’re visiting the Indiana lakeshore, watch your step.

Music Monday: Tomandandy

Half Light, from the soundtrack to 2002’s tragically underappreciated The Mothman Prophecies.  This film manages to be poetic, gorgeous, and genuinely creepy: far more than you’d expect from the somewhat kitchy tales of Point Pleasant’s Mothman legend.  It’s Richard Gere’s best movie, although Will Patton‘s superb performance steals the show. If you haven’t seen it, check it out as a great example of film-making.