My history dabbling in the management and running of websites dates back to the turn of the century.
I had an S Club 7 fan site hosted on homepage.com. I was actually pretty proud of it. I had a wicked nav bar which changed colour as you rolled over the menu buttons (I stole the CSS off another site and tweaked it), a Bravenet hit counter, guestbook, photos, lyrics to every single song of theirs and MP3s for downloads.
Shit, copyright holders would have had a field day back in this wild west of content. I honestly don’t remember where I got all those image, music and video files that I linked to – presumably off various other S Club 7 sites without a thought to rights. That’s how things were.
I think I also had a Tripod site (simply because I recently got an email from Tripod – who knew they were still around?) and a Geocities page on which a friend and I posted parodies to songs that we made up during classes.
I occasionally blogged on Bebo, and in 2008 on a whim started up this WordPress blog here during downtime at my part time job. I picked WordPress because I liked the look of it better than Blogger (a good choice) and my username back before “musings” became passe, with my initial in front (twice for good measure. I have no love for e.e. cummings but I do think that’s an awesome moniker).
I’ve also got another two WP blogs – one I set up when T and I were flathunting in an effort to boost our chances, and one that’s not search-engine indexed that was meant to serve as my professional site, where I keep links to my best stories and such. Were I to get laid off, I’d whip that all into shape (possibly merging it with this blog to take advantage of its longevity).
But that’s not all. I’ve got a Posterous blog languishing, which was my first attempt at setting up a professional blog/website/portfolio, and lasted maybe two months.
And I’ve got my Tumblr, where I post photos from Project 365, reblog cool shit and share other snippets from life. I have to say, though, I’ve seen some awesome fully functioning websites built on Tumblr, and if I was starting from scratch today I’d be very tempted to make Tumblr my platform.
And slightly off topic, my writing itself dates back to the age of about 13-14, when I scored my first blogging gig (back before the word existing) writing an online “diary” for possibly the first women’s oriented online mag here. That, and all the other niche sites I went on to write for, have now gone through many incarnations and those words have been dispensed into the web’s graveyard, for which I am partially thankful.
My digital path is a bit of a wasteland. I should probably get around to cleaning up the litter of my abandoned footprints.
Confession two: I am ridiculously sad that Tom and Lynette have split up.
They’ve always been my favourite couple. She, the Type-A superwoman; he, the easy-going complement. T and I always agreed he was the best husband on the street.
To me, there’s one big lesson to be learned from their demise.
Imbalance can be deathly to a relationship.
If you are a driven person, it will be very hard to take the back seat to your partner’s career.
Lynette was a career woman to the core – as evidenced by her inability to defer to Tom even after encouraging him to pursue a big career move that saw his star really rise.
She supported, pushed him even, into accepting a high-powered job. He wasn’t keen, but eventually embraced his new position. And Lynette found that difficult to accept – being relegated to spa sessions with the other wives on an executive retreat, refusing to treat Tom like an actual client when he hired her to redecorate his office, and so on. She wanted it both ways – she wanted him to succeed, but not to play the role of supporting spouse – and refused to accept that the dynamic was irrevocably altered.
All of that made worse by the fact that they both work(ed) in the same field, and that Lynette brought the entire situation on herself. Sometimes the things you think you want don’t make you happy, after all.
Worst of all, it seemed she’d lost her own financial stability – surely having Tom stop by the house to drop off a cheque would have to qualify as a serious lifetime low.
I’m not saying that who makes the most holds all the cards. But I am aware that if you’re in a partnership where one party ultimately calls the shots, and the other suddenly becomes a power player professionally, that’s probably going to seep over into the personal realm.
I’m thankful that T does not work in the same industry as I do – partly because 2 x journalist incomes will never equal pots of money – but mainly because I think the competitiveness factor would kill us dead. And that’s all on my part. I can’t help myself. I would not be able to separate the personal and professional – to stop comparing our work, to make sure I measured up or better, to stop any envy eating away at our relationship.
I’d like to think if we ended up in the same scenario, that it wouldn’t break us. Him making most of the money would not represent a seismic power shift, because I’d still be the household money manager, keeping things humming along, perhaps working with a bigger budget. And if, like Lynette, adjusting to the new order proved tougher than it might seem, I’d hope that I would be able to rationally view how I was dealing with the situation and actually communicate with T to figure out how I could cope better.
I’m still rooting for these two.
Who’s your favourite DH couple?To what extent do you think money plays a role in relationship dynamics?
This has got to be the most notorious book of the past year. You might recall seeing an extract from it in the WSJ, after which a gigantic firestorm erupted, with battle lines drawn between author Amy Chua’s supporters and detractors.
In a nutshell, this is a memoir about parenting, revolving largely around Chua’s quest to constantly push her daughters to excel at piano and violin respectively. There are no days off, even on holidays. There are no sleepovers, no other extracurriculars, no boys, definitely. A traditionally strict Chinese “tiger mother”, Chua’s methods work well on older daughter Sophia, a piano prodigy of sorts who goes on to play at Carnegie Hall. Younger daughter Lulu, however, is not as easy to mould. And it’s clear that if something doesn’t change in their relationship, she will lose Lulu forever.
As she writes:
“This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”
And she concludes:
“When Chinese parenting succeeds, there’s nothing like it. But it doesn’t always succeed.”
Not since My Wedding and Other Secrets (which I cried in) have I had so much fun contemplating cross-cultural differences. I love her writing style; it’s clear, concise, immediately engaging, kind of self-deprecating.
Here are some of my favourite passages:
“By the time Sophia was three, she was reading Sartre, doing simple set theory, and could recognise 100 Chinese characters. (Jed’s translation: She recognised the words “no exit”, could draw two overlapping circles, and okay maybe on the Chinese characters).”
“A tiny part of me regrets that I didn’t marry another Chinese person and worries that i am letting down 4000 years of civilisation.”
“Jed’s parents gave him choices … and thought of him as a human being with views.”
“Like every Asian American woman in her late twenties, I had the idea of writing an epic novel about mother-daughter relationships spanning several generations, based loosely on my own family’s story.”
Chapter 5, On Generational Decline, struck a particular chord with me. There goes a common pattern: the first immigrant generation is the hardest working, building lives from the ground up. The second generation, aka Chua’s and mine (although in my case, technically still a first generation immigrant as I wasn’t born here) will typically go on to be high achieving professionals, less frugal than their parents, and often marry a white person (tick tick tick). The third generation – because of the hard work of their ancestors – will be born into middle class comforts, be surrounded by wealthy friends, expect all the trappings of middle class life, much more westernised and be more likely to disobey their parents.
I know I definitely worry about this – I can’t imagine anything worse than raising a spoilt, entitled child. I don’t want my kids to be as petrified/cowed of me as I was by my parents for most of my life, but I would hope to instil a basic level of respect from the beginning. I want to encourage confidence and individualism, without allowing them to get away with anything they want.
Let me be upfront about where I’m coming from. I didn’t have an Amy Chua for a mother. But mine was certainly more tiger than Western. I never ever nagged them for anything, never ever talked back, never ever challenged my parents, even if I knew I had reason to.
Well, until I did. It was a battle of wills. They pushed, I pushed. I won. I moved out of home while still at high school, went on to win a full scholarship, got my degree, entered the working world. For the first few years, yeah, I kind of hated my parents. The conflict pushed me away, much like Chua’s own father distanced himself from his family. As Chua learns, every child is different. Having the flexibility to adapt is key.
As Chua points out, Asian parents don’t generally blanch at comparing their offspring. This can be tough, especially when siblings are close in age, and one is clearly the more talented/driven. I was aware that I was that sibling, and my own mother expected more of me (which she articulated).
I was a good daughter. I didn’t drink, do drugs, have sex (not that I was exactly awash in temptation even if I wanted to, being a total nerd). Was that ever appreciated? Nope, I only got exhorted to compare myself to those above me, rather than all those slack white kids. Sophia’s diatribe towards the end runs exactly along these lines – railing against that inescapable push to always aim higher, that nothing is ever sufficient.
That said, personally, I’m a Chua supporter. Unlike my family, she knew when to stop, although she very nearly didn’t. I think her methods were extreme – the screams, the threats, the spending every waking hour outside of school practising music. But her daughters do not actually hate her for that; they’re grateful. They achieved amazing things as a result. The same might not work for other families, but as we know, one size does not fit all.
What I didn’t like about her? She comes across as a bit of a snob. Law and medicine were her only acceptable career paths – typical. She and husband Jed are well off by any standards – law professors who both have books to their name, who travel a lot and take multiple holidays a year. Not all of us can afford to live such a cultured lifestyle by her definition. (Sure, I wish my parents had taken us travelling more. We never went on holidays, domestic or otherwise. And yet, can I really blame them? I found myself perusing the specials board at the fish and chip shop the other day; a family pack was $20, and if our kids inherit our appetites, $30 is probably a more realistic figure. That’s Friday night dinner. And with bread nearly $2 a loaf and milk nearly $4 for two litres, even my dad’s so-called “simple meals” don’t cost what they used to.)
Also, she slammed guitar and drums. (!!!) Granted, neither are as subtle or, perhaps, sophisticated as piano or violin. (I’ll speak as a 6-year dilettante school violinist who never even approached the bar of ‘adequate’. The fretless fingerboard, the bow, the awkward chin resting – it’s got to be one of the hardest instruments to conquer.) But do you know how much hard graft, coordination and rhythm a kickass drummer needs? Are you aware just how many techniques there are to be learned, across different kinds of drums, sticks, genres? And as a guitarist, I will also defend six-stringers. Music theory applies here, too – chords, scales – plus the huge variety offered by alternate tunings, and of course, learning to use sound effects effectively. Different does not have to mean inferior.
Contemplating my future children
This all got me thinking about what kind of a parent I want to be.
I have always maintained I would not make the same mistake my parents did. But I also hope I don’t go too far in the other direction.
Like Amy’s (white, Jewish) husband, T was raised in a totally opposite environment. And personally – I hate conflict. I like being liked. I’m stubborn, but not that stubborn. I am not a high energy person. And most of all, I do not want to fight my children.
Ultimately, Battle Hymn is about a struggle for control. Chua decides her children must play a classical instrument. She chooses one for each, and sets out on a path to turn her daughters into stars.
I disagree with this. And I personally see no reason to push my children into pursuing any activity professionally. That takes serious money (which we mostly likely won’t have) and time (which I simply am not prepared to give) – the exacting attention devoted to studying her daughters’ technique, the detailed practice notes she’d write, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons, the hours of driving to another city to see their out-of-town music teacher every weekend. Of course, if they were to be truly amazing at something and wanted to do that of their own accord, that would be a different story.
I also disagree with the notion that children owe their parents everything and personally I don’t subscribe to the whole filial piety thing (as I always used to shout at my father in my head “respect is earned!”).
But I do believe in the quest for excellence and a strong work ethic – because it’s 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent. It’s that tension, really, between helping your kids find what they like and exhorting them to stick with it. I fully agree with Chua that most things are not fun unless you’re good at them, which takes practice (and passion), which in turn often requires external motivation.
Thinking back, I do sometimes wish my parents had pushed me more in a couple of regards – to continue with swimming (I can’t swim more than a stroke or two now), to get braces – or rather, stick with them through a second round – learning another language, even. I wouldn’t call myself a quitter, but I do go through bursts and spurts of interest. Phases, if you like. Piano, tennis, violin and guitar (which I’ve gotten back into); songwriting. writing my great teen novel. While I am motivated enough to keep going with things that are truly important to me, I could’ve used a an extra push sometimes.
1. Post these rules.
2. Answer the 11 questions from the person who tagged you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag.
4. Tag 11 people and link them to your post.
5. Let them know that you tagged them.
1. What does your wallet look like? Is it organized or cluttered?
No money. Lots of cards. Reasonably organised.
2. If you had $10 to spend on a date, where would you go?
New Flavour, or another similar place, to share a plate of dumplings.
3. If you had $200 to spend on a date, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to go hot-air ballooning. Would that come in under budget?
4. What was the first blog that got you into PF blogging?
9. If you could resurrect one musician from the dead and watch him/her perform, who would it be?
10. What would your ideal retirement look like?
I really don’t know. Probably a mix of reading, volunteering, travelling and general chilling out in a rocking chair. All I know is that I want to have options – maybe I’ll want to work in some capacity, maybe I won’t. But I want choices, and that requires saving for retirement.
11. Are you going to do your taxes by yourself this year?
NZ taxes are pretty straightforward. So yes.
Dudes, I’m beat. It’s the end of the week and I just don’t have the brain juice to come up with one single original question right now, let alone 11. I can think of some people to tag, but really, if you want to take part, feel free to carry on with these prompts (what an [exhausted] rebel). Or whatever.
Our rent has gone up twice in the last six months or so. First, an increase from $250 to $280 a week. That was the prompt we needed to start looking for a larger place for our money, and for $320, we now have a garage for T’s motorbike, a living room (before we were in a studio where there was barely space for me to lie on the floor by the bed and do stretches), a kitchen we can both fit into at the same time (no more bitter cursing from me every other minute while I’m cooking), and there’s also all the little things:
a decent laundry line
our own recycling bin
lightbulbs that don’t cost the earth to replace
honest-to-goodness hot water in the kitchen
saving on bus fare
and saving on petrol, being closer to T’s friends and family
Our utilities are also going up, our internet package costs $10 more, and our electricity is also on the rise.
At our old house our daily spend ranged from $2.30 to $3.50 a day, or around $80 to $100 a month, with a decent on time, online discount of 22 percent. I think we were averaging around 250 kw a month in raw unit use.
Now, our usage is closer to 400kw, although our bills have not increased significantly (to date $99 and $80) thanks to Powershop.
But that’s a big jump in units used. Why?
I’ve lived in larger houses than this with flatmates, and power was usually around $40-60 each when split. And while we are in a bigger place now, I didn’t see any reason why we would be using more electricity. After all, we still only have the lights or fan on in one room at a time.
However, at our old place, the water was heated by gas, which we didn’t pay for (nor did we pay for water itself, actually. Another bill to add – usually $90 a quarter, depending how much rates have gone up in the last two years).
To compensate, we’re downgrading our TV package. I anticipate adding on the movie channels maybe once every few months when good films are on, or buying the odd Box Office movie – but our regular monthly bill will be lower.
Eavesdropping is one of my guilty pleasures. I like listening in to others’ conversations on the bus, in the office, wherever. (And most certainly on Twitter, where jumping into the stream is what it’s all about.)
Sometimes, though, these conversations only serve to rark you up.
Recent case in point: a discussion about the student allowance, and specifically how it’s not enough to live on.
Right now, student allowance runs to a maximum of $167 a week, from what I can tell. If you’re in Auckland, you can get another $40 in accommodation allowance for a total of $207. (If you don’t qualify for the student allowance, you can borrow $169 a week in living costs. This is never a good idea, because your loan balance will balloon like you cannot believe. But it’s an option.) And if you’re over 24 – a personal bugbear for me; why should you get more simply for being over an arbitrary age? – you qualify for up to $201 a week.
You can’t live on that alone, I grant you. But it’s not so hard to get a job for 10 or 15 hours a week, and with that additional income, it’s certainly more than enough to eke out a reasonable standard of living. Your income in any one week can be up to $203.13 before tax before your allowance payments are affected.
When I was studying, I received a total of $185 a week (the maximum back then). I was making maybe another $150 between my various hustles (I’ve always worked multiple jobs, although now my second gig consists of the very occasional mystery shop or essay editing gig).
My basic expenses were $100 rent (I was living three stages out on the bus route), $30 for transport (an unlimited monthly pass), $50 or so on groceries (a princely sum compared to the $25/30 I spent during the last year of high school in which I lived on my own) and utilities worked out to around $30 a week.
But I don’t want to live out in the burbs!!!
Well, you could live closer to town, or in town, and cut out transport for a corresponding gain in rent (probably $150 or more but you might find a cheap room for around $120). Still doable.
Yes, it’s an austere existence, but we don’t pay taxes so you can live it up while at uni.
And if you can’t find a job (or can’t work one because you’re a medical student, etc), then living at home it is. Such is life.
Worst case scenario, you left a small town in order to attend university and your parents can’t or won’t provide any financial help. That’s rough, and kind of leaves with little choice aside from racking up more debt. But as a student, you do at least have access to cheap loans and overdrafts (and potentially cheap credit cards; I can’t remember what the banks were offering in my day).
Let’s face it, nobody ever promised that student allowance would provide for all your needs. As a nation we simply cannot afford such a luxury. It’d be nice to have $15 minimum wage and free medical and dental care for all. But these things just aren’t realistic for this (any?) country.
What do you reckon? Classic entitlement attitude? Something worthy of tax dollars? Something in between?
We’ve been living at our current place for three months. And yet my recent visit to our local dairy, two minutes away at the corner shops, was my first.
Here’s what I picked up – a Primo, two Time Outs and two ice blocks. Total cost: $10.20. (Paid for by T. He wanted snacks, and didn’t want to wait till we did our grocery shop.)
There really is no quicker way to bust the budget than through frequent stops to pick up stuff at dairies and petrol stations. The markup on everything from milk to tampons is out of this world – the cost of convenience.
We pick up treats during the weekly supermarket shop, and those have to last us the week. As you can guess, they usually get devoured in the first couple of days. T also isn’t a fan of tap water, so the shop usually includes juice and fizzy – and he spends his own money on more snacks during the week.
In fact, the vast majority of his spending money goes on consumables. I used to pack his lunches, but while sometimes he devoured them, most of the time he didn’t eat them at all (whether because he really didn’t feel like whatever food it was, or because he simply didn’t eat at all that day. He has a terrible lack of routine) so they went to waste. Now he’s responsible for buying his own lunches, and while the cost makes me grit my teeth a little, it’s also a relief – honestly, making my own lunches is enough of a chore.
I’m a total cheapskate, on the other hand. I drink water when we go out to eat, and do my level best to avoid being forced into food purchases on the run. For example, I ate an early dinner before the Incubus gig last month while everybody else headed to the nearby McDonalds straight after, and if I’m out at an event after work that doesn’t feed a full dinner, rather than stopping somewhere for a bite I’ll hold on till I can get home and whip up something quick that’s both cheaper and healthier.
That said, sometimes I’m willing to pay for convenience – packs of frozen hash browns, the occasional pack of pre-cut stir fry beef, the odd soup from the local takeaway when I’m sick and cannot face standing over the stove to make my own dinner (ahem, too many times this week).
The gods have really had fun this week, from my viewpoint.
Rain sun, rain sun, rain sun. That’s how it goes in Auckland, and this week definitely took it to extremes. But then, A WATERSPOUT?
Meanwhile, pretty much everything I had planned for this week went kaput. A meeting room I booked didn’t pan out as the previous meeting in there ran overtime. An interviewee didn’t pick up the phone at our scheduled time. Got sick. Planned to work from home. Went to bed early to try get a jumpstart on recovery, woke early in the morning to a crashing sound, and later woke again to a knock on the door where a linesman informed me that a car had taken out the power pole across the street and consequently we would be without power for the rest of the day. No power, no internet, no working from home. Thunderstorms stopped us from going to Movies in Parks to see the King’s Speech (there’s no shortage of outdoor film screenings lately, especially with Silo Park coming onto the scene, but Auckland is about the worst city to hold them in. I’ve managed to make it to ONE in the past few years, between weather woes and ignoring films I don’t want to see). And my sudden bout of summer flu stopped me attending a conference I’d been planning to go to.
On the plus side, I ended the week with some unsolicited praise/feedback that in my weakened physical state, nearly brought me to (happy, appreciative) tears.
Valentine’s Day sparked a ton of posts on the role of money in love and relationships. I liked Serendipity’s take on financial love lessons learned over the years.
Three years ago I penned my first story as a journalism major. I was pretty proud of myself – it was an entirely original idea, stemming from the ads Powershop broadcast around its launch. The final piece was somewhat negative, which I felt bad about – although I got slammed for not making it even more negative or more extreme – and even worse when my tutor told me that my story was referenced on the radio. Crikey.
Anyway, three years on Powershop is still going strong, and five years on, I’m finally getting around to trying it out.
By way of explanation, it’s a subsidiary of Meridian Energy, one of the big providers. However, it’s possibly the single biggest innovation in electricity ever. It’s all about choice and empowerment (ha ha) – and transparency.
The key differences:
Upfront, low unit charges. No additional daily fees.
You can buy power “on sale”, locking in special prices to score a bargain
Let’s take a walk through the system.
Here’s the landing page. Check out your daily use and how much you’ve got left, or enter a meter read. It’s easy to monitor your use reeeally closely, if you’re so inclined.
The next tab over is where we go shopping. This is the part I like best. Power sales! There are, of course, all the normal products available for purchase at any time. In the middle, packs for the colder season ahead that you can buy now to lock in a good price; Powershop exposes you to the full cycle of unit prices, which are invariably more expensive in winter. Down the bottom, though, are special offers. Click through for more details on each – how much it costs, how many units you get, and when the pack needs to be used by. Deals I’ve scored to date include a special Christmas pack, a cricket win pack, back to work and Friday the 13th discounts at just 18.87, 20.63, 20.12 and 20.18 cents a unit respectively.
Now, I’m not a fan of prepaying for stuff. However, if it means I can get a significant discount, I’ll do it. And more importantly, Powershop will refund unused units from purchased packs. (Caveat: Certain special deals do NOT offer a refund guarantee, so check the details on those).
You don’t have to prepay, however. If you can’t be bothered to proactively seek out deals yourself, then just set a default product and Powershop will keep your account topped up for you as needed (mine is set to the lowest-available price, but you could choose a certain power product, for example, renewable energy, and that’s what will be bought on your behalf). You can pay by credit card if you like (hurrah)!
Onto the My Account tab. Here’s where you can see at a glance what you’ve bought, track your usage more in depth and review trends in prices.
Plus every month, you’ll get an email with a breakdown of your usage, purchases and the like.
Now the kicker: Am I saving money?
I went back to try and figure out exactly what I was paying for power previously.
Look at this for only a small sample of my previous energy provider’s overcomplicated pricing chart #headdesk
From what I can tell, I would have been paying 20.62 cents per unit, including online and prompt payment discounts. Plus a daily charge of 92.48 cents.
Based on a 31-day month and 250kW used overall, I calculate I would have paid $51.55 in usage and $28.67 in daily charges for a total of $80.22.
Running equivalent factors for Powershop with an average price paid per unit of a flat 20.68 cents (only slightly higher than the other price AFTER its two-tier discount) I come up with a total of $51.72.
Meanwhile, our last two bills were both under $100 – not very different from the bills we would get at our old, much smaller place – despite our usage having increased by what I estimate as much as a third.
For all Powershop’s low pricing, for all the removal of daily charges, I am missing out on the 22 percent online and prompt payment discounts I was getting with Contact. It’s true. But I’m still coming out ahead. Those daily charges wipe out the benefit of the discounts.
This may not be the case so much when it comes to winter and prices increase a little. But I will still know I’m supporting innovation and disruption and consumer choice. It’s a no-brainer.