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after a lifetime of advertisements from the personal injury lawyers i was well into making my list of people & organizations that had done me wrong related to my injury – and who *owed* me.
– the companies that made the skis & the bindings. i saw no warning that i could break my leg anywhere on those products.
– the ski rental shop. no explanation possible except flawed equipment and setup. nice try trying to hide this with the “friendly” staff (aka merchants of doom).
– the ski resort. fat cats making fortunes whist their customers lie strewn across their injury park.
– motel we stayed near the resort. the photos in the brochure were all smiling people enjoying their day skiing. no photos of folks on backboards being taking away in a toboggan by ski patrol. clearly bait and switch.
– ski pants manufacturer. they seemed nice and soft and i assumed would protect me from harm.
– china. i expect all that weather engineering they were doing for the olympics had an impact on us here in nz making the ice particularly hard.

but then i remembered that in new zealand coverage for my accident would be covered by the accident compensation corporation (acc) which provides personal injury cover for anyone legally in new zealand in return for losing the right to sue for damages. doh!

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i guess that’s a fair trade off. but i still think i’ll miss my day in court with the obligatory crutches and neck brace.

the acc experience shows what can be done when the lawyers and insurance companies are out of the picture. funded by payroll deductions (1.16% of salary) and auto registration fees ($204.78 / vehicle) acc covers all medical & rehab expenses and any lost salary.

as soon as we submitted the hospital provided acc forms they called right away to set up a time to drop off equipment to make life at home easier (for me a shower seat and a grabby thing to pickup items out of my reach). my acc case officer called the next day to discuss when i would be able to return to work and what support i would need as i recovered. she said their experience with my injury was that it would 84 days before i would be fully recovered. since by tuesday i was totally bored and was ready to start working from home we agreed that i didn’t need any lost salary coverage. my case officer then reviewed the other items they could help me with – taxi rides to & from work and medical appointments, any prescription medication costs, follow-up gp & ortho visits, and support for any home chores that are normally my responsibility.

my acc coverage list
– rescue helicopter
– emergency room
– surgery
– 3 days recovery in the hospital
– prescription medications
– home aids
– subsidized gp follow-up visits
– orthopedic follow-up visits
– physio
– taxi rides as needed
– home support (not required)
– lost salary coverage (not required)

total cost to me so far: $85 for the private clinic at mountain, my gp visit and some panadol (tylenol).

we find these truths to be self evident

  • that insurance companies are not really as interested in your well being as they claim in their marketing

nz has national heathcare coverage for all but with all such plans sometimes you can’t get seen or treated when you would prefer – and that’s *now!*. so there is a private insurance market that provides access to speedier access to some services. with the national plan covering all acute and emergency care, and the acc system covering all accident related care, companies like southern cross can offer private insurance policies for a few bucks a week. for just me it was nz$17 fortnightly – a bit more when we added the jboss.

as expected they don’t cover pre-existing conditions and you have to complete detailed survey of your medical history when you join. but this is where the trouble begins. to quote the sales person “we can’t afford to provide coverage for conditions that members knew about before joining but chose not to treat.” sure – that’s fair. problem is that the claims adjusters don’t see it that way. the fine print of the policy says any “signs or symptom” – not diagnosis. so sprained your ankle in 3rd grade? that would be listed as “lower leg treatment” and anything lower leg related would be denied. nice.

so – since we have full coverage with the national plan and we’re not paying that much for the private insurance it is not a huge deal – except that we’re more than a bit disappointed that 1) the sales staff are clearly misrepresenting the coverage and the company’s treatment of pre-existing condition makes the policy worth much less that we expected. quite frustrating when you get stiffed by a big company and are basically told – those are the rules, take it or leave it.

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  • that big american companies do the most amazing things, no matter where in the world you are

getting simple office supplies has always been a bit of a challenge at company e2 (an nz subsidiary of a big us company). on your first day you arrive at an empty desk – no pen, paper, post-its. nuttin. when you ask you are pointed to the mail room.

[scene – entering mail room through door off reception. one staff member sitting at a beat up desk reading a checkout counter magazine. buzzing fluorescent bulb over head. office supply cabinet has cast offs from former employees. no new supplies in sight. new employee enters]

[action!]

[new employee] hello. excuse me. can you point me to the office supplies? i’m looking for a pen and a notebook.

[mail room employee. not looking up from magazine] there. in the cabinet.

[new employee looks in cabinet. finds a few yellow pads and a coffee cup containing some used pens, some with chewed caps] sorry to bother you but i’m looking for an a4 notebook?

[mail room employee. now looking up and pointing as supply cabinet] we don’t supply notebooks. there are notepads there for you.

[and cut]

the best was an email out last week that announced that the purchase of all office supplies – including paper – is on hold until the 30th of june.

whut?

a colleague of mine has decided to make the most of it. he has solved the problem – by photocopying (double sided) the last blank page from his existing notebook. for bonus points he has also photocopied the front and back covers of his existing notebook and attached it all together to create his new notebook. i think it’s genius. no one else seems to get the gag.

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  • that antony will underestimate the effort to complete our taxes.

despite being level 7 members of the church of quicken and using turbo tax for all it’s worth, every year doing our taxes is a big stress pill / marriage test. yes – ever for the tax master. and every year i think that next year will be easier. even though i knew this year would have some new challenges (me being on the dole for a bit, selling our house, moving to nz and foreign income) i still thought it would be doable.

well – 2 long weekends of effort and we finally have got to the point where we have bought more time.

firstly some background. all us citizens and permanent residents have a lifelong obligation to file and pay their us income taxes. so from now on we get twice the fun. that said the nz systems is a very simple totally PAYE (pay as you earn) and most kiwis have no need to file a return. for us we will have to since we will be earning income outside of nz.

thus the biggest hitch – foreign income.

the us does have a tax treaty with nz, so in theory that should make things easier and allow you to avoid paying double. first problem is to qualify as someone living outside the states you need to met one of two complicated criteria – bona fide residency or physical presence. and of course the criteria for both are byzantine and and we won’t qualify for either until much later this year. *but* – and this is key – once you qualify then your qualification is backdated to the day you arrived. so they suggest that for filers in our situation that we ask for an extension until jan of 2009 when we will qualify for our bona fide foreign residency.

this is one of my favourite parts of publication 54 – tax guide for us citizens and resident aliens abroad.

“To figure the amount of your moving expense that is allocable to your excluded foreign earned income (and not deductible), you must multiply your total moving expense deduction by a fraction. The numerator (top number) of the fraction is the total of our excluded foreign earned income and housing amounts for both year and the denominator (bottom number) of the fraction is your total foreign earned income for both years.”

so after all our effort we have a rough idea of how much we will owe and have the paperwork off asking for an extension to cover us until we can file as bona fide foreign residents.

i’ve now agreed it’s time to bring in the pros. we now have to find a tax advisor who can confidently take on our return before our new deadline.

more pain awaits.

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pan handling

today was the karori nature sanctuary’s annual street appeal and the jboss was out begging accepting contributions.

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jboss’ review of the day:

My two hour stint on the bucket brigade was pretty successful. It’s hard to say how much I collected as the bucket is sealed. I did have several people drop in $5 and one dropped in a $10, but the majority put in $1 and $2 coins. The hat with the bird on it was a good attention getter. Antony said I looked like dork, which I’m sure I did, but hey, I can be a dork if the cause is right. The two hour session was an interesting people experiment. My general assessment is that women donate more often than men. Women in Paris Hilton oversized sunglasses never donate (and often speed up to pass you by) and men in suits never donate (they were always on their cell phones). I will do it again next year.

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[ed. since this post we’ve been back for a tramp at the karori sanctuary and it really is fantastic. hard to believe you are just a few minutes from the cbd given the abundance of wildlife and density of the forest. unfortunately i forget my camera. looking forward to going back. highlights of the trip was encountering a pair of kaka birds (not joking – that’s their name) eating lunch and a large flock of tuis chowing down in a fruit tree.]

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più grande è migliore

i’m opening myself wide open for ridicule here – but i’m proud to announce that i am the new owner of a grigio avio (aviator gray) vespa gtv 250i.e.

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yes – that would be a second (who can really say how many is too many) scooter

yes – the green (small, little, meek) scooter arrived just 2 months ago

yes – i can only ride one scooter at a time

so in my defense:

  • two scooters parked outside the house provides better feng shui
  • just as a sharp knife is safer than a dull one, a bigger scooter is safer than a small one
  • the new one is quieter, cleaner and more fuel efficient
  • dark gray is easier to see
  • and the new scooter was *just such a good deal…*

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ok – so really. what made me buy a new scooter when i already had an almost brand new one? when i first started looking for a scooter i was fairly confident that i would enjoy it and use it – but there have definitely been a few purchases in my past that i was sure i would use like crazy and history has shown otherwise. so my plan was to start entry level and confirm that a scooter was right for me. a big second reason was that any scooter over 50cc requires a motorcycle license that i didn’t have. so the vespa lx 50 seemed perfect. and it was. but maybe for not as long as i would have expected.

the lxv 50 is a great scooter and instantly became my nearly exclusive means of transportation. almost every day back and forth to work. jackie and me scooting into town for the rugby matches. a great day out scooting around the peninsula. the only drawback was the 50cc engine was challenged by the wellington hills – even more so when we were ridding double. it’s max speed is 50 kph (30 mph) and that’s with one rider on the flats. on my rides to and from work i sometimes found myself leading a parade up a hill as my speed dropped down the low 30’s (kph). with the limited speed the lxv is not allowed on the motorways and due the wellington geography, you can’t get north of the cbd without traveling on state highway 1. this put a damper in our ability to get out and explore.

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(we have really embraced the whole looking young and italian thing)

so when i saw someone on trademe (nz ebay) selling a gtv 250 with only 523km (about 300 miles) for a huge discount i got the go-ahead from the jboss (she could sense this was a boulder already rolling down hill fast) and put my bid in. in parallel i began the long process of getting my motorcycle license. start to finish in 7 easy steps:

200803161920.jpg 1) attend a basic skill handling class
2) take a written test

learners license

3) hold a learners license for 6 months
4) take a road test

restricted license

5) hold a restricted license for 6 months
6) take a road test

full license

i’ve made it past step 2 and currently have my learner’s license.

last saturday i won the bidding and the gtv 250 was mine. the gtv has a 244cc engine and with a top speed of 125 kpm it can easily handle 2 on the motorways. it’s magnifico.

the green scoot went up on trademe today and should have a new owner in 2 weeks. i suggest you get your bids in early.

now that i have become a total scooterista and spend all my time learning italian and hanging out on on-line scooter forums, i stumbled on this posting from vermont.

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easy to admit that it made me and the jboss quite bummed. selling our vermont cabin was very hard and this road could very easily be the road our cabin was on. i’m sure we would have had a great time scooting along the vermont country roads.

now i realize that if this photo were taken today the road would likely have snow up past the top of the scooter, but it’s easy to just remember the best parts.

green for being green

as i flashed my bus pass to the driver today i started thinking about how much less we were spending on just getting back and forth to work. i understand that the comparison is a bit flawed since the jboss is no longer working for the man – but the savings are real.

if you add up how much we were spending for insurance, maintenance, gas, tolls, taxes and depreciation just to drive back and forth to work it tallies up to a bit shy of $20,000 per year.

just to get to work and back.

here in nz we have just our used corolla and use the bus for almost all of our traveling. that plus the ability to walk to most everything (grocery, coffee, movie, paper, post, meals, pharmacy & beach) means the car mainly just sits unused out front. i haven’t been in it for a couple of weeks now.

gas prices here are crazy (NZ$1.78 / litre – or about US$5.50 / gallon) but we drive so little that it doesn’t really matter much.

adding up our nz costs the total was NZ$5,900 or about US$4,425 per year.

net savings: over US$ 15,000 per year.

that’s a lot of green. and red and purple. (nz currency has different colours for each denomination)

banking circa 1957

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5 major bank chains here in nz – westpac, bank of new zealand, national bank, anz and kiwi bank. surprisingly only kiwi bank is nz owned – the rest are australian. my bank is westpac and so far it has been a great experience. when you walk into a branch you have the following options:

  • tellers for the basics
  • inquires desk for questions and simple stuff like reseting a pin.
  • bankers at desks for opening accounts, changing an address, etc.
  • migrant bankers specializing in helping new migrants get settled.
  • personal bankers for an ongoing contact point at the bank.

my personal banker is ilana. earlier this week i walked in to ask about getting a credit card.

(at the inquires desk) “hello, is ilana available?”
“if you can wait just a moment i’ll see if she is available”
(ilana approaching) “hello antony, having a good day?” (i’ve only met ilana twice before and she knows my name. i know her’s only since i’ve put her card in my wallet)
“great. i’d like to apply for a credit card”
“i can help you with that. let’s step back to my office and i can get you setup. what did you have in mind for a credit line?”
“no strong desire – i need it to be enough to cover an occasional trip back to the states for me and my partner”
“a gold card would be best for that since it provides free travel cover. is 10,000 acceptable? we can increase it if you later find the need.”
“10,000 should be fine”
“great – then if i can just get a few details on this application we’ll be done.”
the application is an oddly empty form that asks for name, birth date, mother’s maiden name and signature.
“sorry to ask, but can i see your your driver’s license. i need to tick that i’ve sighted some id. thanks. that’s it. i’ll get your card out to you by the end of the week.”

out the door in under 10 minutes.

the travel insurance coverage is actually what was driving me to get a nz credit card. nz coverage only provides limited emergency care when out of nz. using the credit card for travel purchases will provide full coverage when we’re on holiday (vacation).

it’s a match!

most daily financial transactions in nz are made by eftpos (electronic funds transfer at point of sale). very similar to a debit card that is tied to your bank account and has a pin. unlike a credit card you don’t sign and there is no minimum purchase – i’ve seen folks use them for under $1. i can’t think of the last time i saw someone other than a tourist use a credit card for a store purchase. when i first got here i vowed i would use cash for anything under $20 – using the eftpos just seemed lazy. my new limit is $5. haven’t used a credit card once.

when it is time to pay the cashier almost always says “eftpos?” when you say yes you then hand them the card that they swipe and then hand you a keypad for you to enter your pin. the display on the keypad says “processing” and then “accepted”.

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*every* single time i see the display say “accepted” i think of the saturday night live sketch with the target (tuurget) cashier who is so excited when the customer’s signature matches the one on the card – “it’s a match!”. it takes all the restraint i can muster not to declare “accepted!” with the same enthusiasm.

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when i first arrived and signed up for my westpac “chequing” account i was surprised that they didn’t provide any cheques. they explained that for non retail transactions they are done electronically, usually with on-line banking. (a teller in a bank can do an electronic transaction for you if you can’t get on-line). so when i needed to pay for my parking space the company emailed me their bank details and i logged into my westpac account and sent them the cash.

westpac said they could provide me with cheques if i wanted and since i still expected that i would need them at some point so i asked for a box. they banker looked sideways a bit and said that cheques were issued 30 at a time. when i got my order i noticed that there is a government fee of $3 charged the first time a cheque is used to subsidize the old paper based system.

i’ve still got all 30.