Bike in Newtown

Good Reads and Fun Things, Vol. 5

Simplicity — the one-word answer to many of life’s problems

I’m currently experiencing a bit of internet malaise. Here’s five ways to avoid it.

So, so right. The seven deadly sins of freelancing.

Reuters has done an extensive and intensive investigation into the failed adoptions of US parents. What happens to the unwanted children? This five-part longread is absolutely riveting. Seriously, skip Breaking Bad tonight and read this instead.

14 weird reasons you’re not dead yet. In fact, Slate’s entire series on longevity is pretty damn interesting.

What Is Ugly? A New Exhibit Showcases The Diversity Of The Human Form

I’m somewhat torn between thoroughly researching our trip to Indonesia, or taking the que sera sera approach. I sometimes wonder if I would have enjoyed my time in India more had I been more prepared. Here’s some thoughts on trip planning.

This lady made a Feminist Cards Against Humanity.

Gender equity at Harvard Business School

What have you been reading lately? I’m quite enjoying the sexy decadence of Valley of the Dolls.


Before I Die // Art Installation in Newtown

Today was a good day. I did some web design at the Newtown Library and went for a wander through the town. I spotted this ‘Before I Die’ installation on Wilson Street, just opposite my much-beloved Moshims. A little further down the road, on the window of a vacant building, I spied some interesting post-its. I love my neighbourhood.

(click to make big)

Feel free to use these photos, just let me know if you do!

Have you seen any interesting street art lately?


I quit biting my nails and learned a few things about habits

I quit biting my nails about 9 weeks ago. I’ve tried many times before and always failed — I’ve painted on the gross-tasting stuff (if you really want to bite you eventually find the taste quite tolerable), I’ve glued on falsies, and I’ve tried growing one nail at a time. FAIL.

This time my method is different — I have committed to keeping my nails clean, filed, and beautifully painted. I’ve started getting into nail art and actually taking care of my nails. So far, I haven’t bitten, and have only been tempted to bite once. I feel like I’m on to a good thing, plus I have a new creative outlet. Nails = tiny canvases we carry with us.

So what have I learned about habit?


1. Have very specific, solid reasons

People have told me that biting my nails is unhealthy, gross, and makes my nails look bad. Fair point. But I was unperturbed.  None of points resonated with me — I’m neither germophobe nor hygiene freak, so picking up a few extra germs from my nails was not a huge nor tangible concern of mine. As for my nails looking bad…well, they never looked that bad…that’s just what my nails looked like.

Then I started following the Lacquerista community online. I subscribed to the subreddit (r/redditlaqueristas if you were wondering), trawled through some nail polish blogs and started following nail artists on Pinterest. With my eyes open to the awesome things these lacqueristas were doing, I decided I wanted that too! Awesome, pretty nail art. Maybe it’s not a noble reason, but that’s my reason for quitting and it’s more than good enough for me.

If you’re trying to begin or quit a habit, find yourself some really, oddly-specific, visceral reasons for doing it. If it’s smoking, maybe the possibility of cancer is too ephemeral to consider, while the goal of getting rid of your smoker’s cough might be of more immediate and measurable concern to you.

2. Take the problem and turn it into something beautiful or productive

For me, I’m taking my gross nails and giving them a whole lot of TLC. I’m taking my problem and turning it into a beautiful little project. For some bad habits of mine, I often find that the habit is really just a product of neglect — if I’m not eating well, it means that I’m neglecting my meal planning and not reading enough food blogs or recipe books. If I’m spending a lot of money it means that I haven’t put enough effort into being prepared by making a coffee at home before I leave for the day, or packing snacks in my bag. By injecting a bit of love into these areas, my bad habits go away.

3. Have a contingency plan

Presumably, you are human. I’m a human, too, and therefore sometimes I fail at things. If you consider the possibility of failure, you can plan for it — having a plan in place for potential failure can make failure a lot less stressful, and you’ll be more likely to try again rather than giving up completely.

When it comes to biting my nails, I know there are a few things that will lead to temptation — chipped nail polish, broken nails, or bare nails. So, I try to keep my nails freshly manicured as much as I can. I have a back-up plan, though — if I feel like I’m about to bite, I trim my nails instead which completely removes the temptation.

What are your thoughts on habits? Do you have any tricks for sticking to them?

Me and Happiness the Elephant

Good Reads and Fun Things, Vol. 4

If you haven’t listened to Nine Inch Nails’ new album Hesitation Marks yet, give it a listen then read Pretty Much Amazing’s review. I absolutely love the album with one notable exception (the single Everything is bizarre in a bad way. Oh Trent).

Amanda Palmer bought her Ninja Parade to Wellington this week, stopping in at Civic Square, the City Library and some spots on Cuba Street.

Choice: Texas | A web-based game in development that hopes to tackle and give context to the abortion issue

30 Things You Should Do Right Now

Rebecca Harrington tries out celebrity diets and writes (hilariously) about them. Apparently, Madonna’s was the hardest.

Every Tech Commercial Ever // see also: Android KitKat takes the piss out of Apple 

This biographical piece on Marissa Mayer is LONG but interesting

Ditto this exploration of the life of celebrity elephants in India. While we were in India we met an elephant (her name was Happiness) in some pretty dodgy circumstances, but the treatment of male elephants in Kerala is disgusting. Selling junk online | dealers peddle drugs online – how do they do it without getting caught?

Is ‘Pretty’ a set of skills? 

Dear Straight People…

Finally — this is beautiful and terrifying

24 New Things

24 new things to do before I turn 24

1. Make cheese

2. Try aerial yoga

3. Take the Parliament Tour

4. Get my full driver’s license

5. Walk the Town Belt Southern Walkway

6. Eat a plant-based diet for two weeks

7. Properly research an overseas trip. And go overseas. And enjoy.

8. Learn to use the fancy camera

9. Grow basil (successfully)

10. Run a 5k

11. Give up Facebook

12. Try Mexican corn

13. Visit the Carter Observatory

14. Eat at Floriditas

15. See a film at the NZIFF

16. Do the Wellington Writer’s Walk

17. Have High Tea at Martha’s Pantry

18. Decorate the house

19. Spend more than $100 on a pair of shoes

20. Totally nail water marbling

21. Get a piece of writing published in a local magazine or paper

22. Create a WordPress theme from scratch

23. Make something with silken tofu

24. Watch The New Zealand Wars 

Lyall Bay

The sun left my desk so I went and found it

Spring weather is beginning to creep into rotation, which means occasional glimpses of gorgeous Wellington sun. This morning I sat working in my desk under our bay window and the sun shone on my back while I sipped coffee and sent emails. It was pretty heavenly. At about 11:30am the sun dipped around the corner of the house and my desk grew cold.

I decided to drive to Lyall Bay for a walk along the beach. It was so beautiful…it only occurred to me when I got there that I should have taken the DSLR. Instead a took some photos on my phone, listened to my audiobook and got some sand in my shoes before returning home for lunch. The beach was empty, just a few kids playing on the jungle gym, and a couple of freelancers taking a mid-morning break like myself.

Did I mention that I adore working for myself?

Lyall Bay Lyall Bay Lyall Bay Lyall Bay Lyall Bay Lyall Bay Lyall Bay Lyall Bay



how to read a book

Book Review — How to Read a Book

I confess that, after skimming the preface of How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, I set my Kindle aside, cracked open my laptop and Googled ‘how to read a book key points’.

You see, I’m a lazy reader. I simply have not developed the fortitude to plough through a book that isn’t particularly interesting to me on a very superficial level. If it’s boring, I’m out. If it’s too complex and I can’t speed-read it as I usually do, I’m out. How to Read a Book is one of those books. It is bland and boring, soporific and tedious. Hell, even the book’s Wikipedia page was too long-of-wind for me. Take this for example:

There are three types of knowledge: practical, informational, and comprehensive. He discusses the methods of acquiring knowledge, concluding that practical knowledge, though teachable, cannot be truly mastered without experience; that only informational knowledge can be gained by one whose understanding equals the author’s; that comprehension (insight) is best learned from who first achieved said understanding — an “original communication” [Wikipedia]


I’m not entirely sure how I made it through an academic degree, considering my lazy reading habits. Oh wait–I know. I skimmed, I scanned, I read the introduction, the headings and the conclusions, and I always made sure I had a few morsels to contribute during tutorials. As a whole, I find non-fiction easier to read. Except essays by Griselda Pollock, I’m yet to make head or tail of her work. Blessedly, I know that I am personally not cut out for education beyond my Bachelor’s degree and that’s probably the most demanding reading load that will ever be expected of me. I can now choose to wallow in contemporary literature, essays, pop-science, and science fiction novels of dubious calibre. Hooray.

The thing is, though, I feel a bit of pressure (and maybe it’s imagined but nevertheless it presses me), to fully earn my status as a culturally-aware, educated, middle-class woman by reading books that are…challenging. The Classics, you know, The Great Books. I have read a few (and even liked a few)! But there are still others that I avoid because I know, I just know that I’ll struggle my way through them, probably miss the point and themes and what-have-you, and have nothing interesting to say about them. How embarrassing. It would seem that I am exactly the sort of person who would benefit from reading How to Read a Book. So I decided to read the damn thing–maybe it would do me some good.

After perusing the relevant Wikipedia page, I decided to skip Part I entirely. This is probably not how you’re meant to read a book. But really, the chapter summary made it seem like Some Old Guy ranting about the Shitty State of the Education System. Behold:

He takes time to tell the reader about how he believes that the educational system has failed to teach students the arts of reading well, up to and including undergraduate university-level institutions. He concludes that, due to these shortcomings in formal education, it falls upon the individuals to cultivate these abilities in themselves. Throughout this section, he relates anecdotes and summaries of his experience in education as support for these assertions.

While that’s all very nice, I really don’t care that much. Just tell me how I’m supposed to read the book, please. Alright. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about Part II:

The first stage of the third level of reading is concerned with understanding the structure and purpose of the book. It begins with determining the basic topic and type of the book being read, so as to better anticipate the contents and comprehend the book from the very beginning.

Ah! Great! I understand this. During teacher training, this was referred to as the top-down approach–mentally gathering information you already know and applying that knowledge to the topic. Great. This chapter concerns non-fiction, though. Look, honestly, non-fiction I’m fine with. I can read non-fiction, extract the themes and discuss them intelligently. I have a piece of paper from Victoria University that endorses this ability. What about fiction? Oh. That’s addressed in Part III.

Part III. The author immediately describes me:

People deceive themselves about their ability to read novels intelligently. From our teaching experience, we know how tongue-tied people become when asked to say what they liked about a novel. That they enjoyed it is perfectly clear to them, but they cannot give much of an account of their enjoyment or tell what the book contained that caused them pleasure.


I flicked through a few pages. What did I learn?

  • Read your fiction book quickly, to get a sense of the whole story.

Good. I do this. I read FAST.

  • When faced with a metric shit-ton of characters, don’t give up. Try and learn their names and who they are, just like you would when meeting people at a new job. 

Okay. Seems sensible. I’ll do it.

And then I gave up reading. I failed to read How to Read a Book, and I don’t think I’ll ever pick it up again. I’d much rather have started a Dickens novel, really. A quick scan of Goodreads shows that I’m not alone. Many others found the book long-winded and not extremely useful, particularly for fiction. Ultimately, the book wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean that my quest for a more meaningful reading experience is ended; I still want to learn to read more critically, but I’ll pursue it in my own way. After all, I want to be able to say something intelligent and compelling at my next book club meet-up. I certainly won’t be recommending How to Read a Book, though.



Good Reads and Fun Things, Vol. 3


It’s the middle of winter and I’m sick of it. The last few days of sunshine have been a welcome reprieve from the storms and earthquakes of the past few weeks. Still, I’m hankering for summer. I can’t wait to start planting plants and extending my tiny garden beyond a couple of herbs.

I’ve spent my past few weeks busily working and (still) trying to settle in to my new life. It’s amazing, and rewarding, but a little overwhelming at times.

Enough about me, though, here’s some good reads:


D-I-Why? Emily Matchar on the Lure of the “New Domesticity” | More thoughts on this to come, as I’m currently reading her book.

Boy Meets World | A great piece in Salient by Sebastian, a “transmasculine fella, a non-binary swoonprince smashing heteronormativity ”

Why the UK’s anti-porn laws are ridiculous and it matters that they’re overturned

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death | Dr. Michael Greger looks at the leading causes of death, and how a vegetarian diet can help fight and prevent most of them.

The History of CTRL+ALT+DELETE

I’m not a hero for taking care of my kids (I’m also not babysitting them. I’m their dad.)

The Comment Section for Every Article Ever Written about Intimate Grooming | This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read online.

Comics about Introversion | So, so accurate.

My Gucci Addiction | The author of Friday Night Lights gives a fascinating account of his high-fashion addiction

How to stop being mean | This should be required reading for everyone

Read anything good lately? Do share!

Introvert's Guide to Surviving a Party

The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Party

  •  Practice a face that will stop people from asking you what’s wrong. Doesn’t have to be a full on smile , a vague grimace will do. Drunk people won’t notice.
  • Find an empty room and read on your smartphone for as long as you can. If someone steps in and asks what you’re doing, claim you got a phone call and needed to be somewhere quiet to talk.
  • Make unnecessary trips to the bathroom.
  • Wander without talking to anyone. If you can, sneak past the sound system and turn the volume down just a smidge.
  • People watch, if you can get away with it. Wonder about people’s back stories. Don’t go up and ask them about themselves-create your own reality.
  • Leave, if you can.
  • Find the cat/dog/turtle and befriend it. People will think you’re an animal lover, not a complete weirdo.
  • Browse the bookshelves. Compare their collection to yours. Leaf through a few.
  • Go outside with the smokers. Stand at the edge of the conversation. Go back inside. Walk past the sound system again.
  • Make awkward conversation and mentally kick yourself the whole way through. You suck at this.
  • Feel inspired to write. Hide in a quiet room and tap out your notes on your phone.

Notes from the Road : Delhi to Jaipur

Sorry for the lack of photos so far! Blogging from my phone has its drawbacks.

India thus far has been a bit of a challenge, and the journey to get here was long. After a few days in Delhi, we’ve moved on to Jaipur and I finally feel like our holiday is starting.


After a jaunt in Sydney, we farewelled Western culture by eating pizza at The Rocks. We hopped on our plane to Guangzhou, which was old and hot and I was pretty sure that I had somehow committed each member of staff a great personal harm. At least, that is how they acted. My requested vegetariai meal did not eventuate, so I subsisted off bread rolls and fruit.


Guangzhou boasted the most humid climate I have ever encountered, and we didn’t even leave the airport. It was pretty grim and smoggy. We boarded our plane to Delhi, which was new, had personal entertainment sets and the most amazing air conditioning I’ve ever seen. Yes, seen. They turned the air conditioning on and frigid gusts of air suddenly fanned out of hundreds of vents, visible and beautiful. The staff were friendly and the vegetarian food was great. It seems that China Southern airlines is a bit hit-and-miss.


Of course, we were immediately scammed by a taxi driver at Delhi airport, but neither of us had the energy to do anything about it. We were exhausted. We finally found our hostel, and promptly collapsed for 14 hours of sleep.

Delhi was tough. It is smoggy, crowded, hot, and frenetic. It was difficult to relax and we spent a fair bit of time hiding in our air conditioned room. Being constantly hassled by hawkers, taxi drivers and people who want to’help’ is exhausting. I noticed that when I went out alone I was hassled less, though. Poor Callum bore the brunt of that.

We took a tour of Delhi with our guesthouse’s taxi driver. It was interesting, and we saw some beautiful monuments. I loved Humayums Tomb and the temples. We went for a walk in the Lodi gardens and were disappointed to find no bonsai trees in the bonsai garden….? By 3pm we were exhausted, though, and trundled back to collapse in our room.

Yesterday we took the evening train to Jaipur, a five hour trip. I was impressed at how stress-free the experience was, though the ride was a little uncomfortable. The cramped seating was designed for compact Indians, I think. I ended up dozing most of the way. We sat opposite an immaculately dressed young woman who was quite fascinating to look at.

On that note, Indian women have done fashion right. Seriously. Loose leggings and beautiful tunics, plus a scarf to keep out the dust (salwaar kameez) or a gorgeous sari with petticoat and crop top. It’s all absolutely beautiful and really comfortable in the heat. These ladies have won at fashion.

We’re staying at the Hotel Pearl Palace in Jaipur which is pretty amazing. Well priced with beautiful rooms and bathrooms, and a great rooftop restaurant with a mist cooling system. The staff and fantastic and have great integrity. We’re thinking of staying here for five days or so while we get to know Jaipur.

Stray thoughts :

There are more dogs and fewer monkeys than I expected. The stray dogs are absolutely everywhere. We saw one very rangy looking cat.