July 2012 archive
A few weekends ago we swapped cars with T’s brother. We were driving a fair distance up north and our car, while it’s the nicest we’ve ever owned, isn’t in the best shape – and he figured if we could avoid putting it through the stress of a long journey, why not?
Now, he whinges and moans a lot about the state of our car. It’s always had a wee bit of an issue (we don’t know exactly what it is, and mechanics haven’t had any luck definitively pinning it down) that has to do with the steering or the wheel alignment. It drives fine, but not perfectly. And that really gets to him. He loves driving, and he has a long commute. He’s the one who spends the most time in the car. I get that. But I’ve always thought he’s overblown things. Our car gets us from A to B. It starts when we turn the key. The seatbelts work. Ya know? So it’s a little vibraty when we get on the motorway. No biggie. It’s more than 10 years old.
But for some reason he has it in his head that our car should drive perfectly. Immaculately. I do not know where he got this notion. Like I say, our 1998 Mazda is the best car we’ve ever owned. Our friends drive equally old, if not older, cars, by and large. My parents drive cars that are nearly as old as me. His family, well, don’t even have cars. We do not know anyone who owns one of these mythical vehicles that feels flawless to drive.
But as soon we exchanged keys, got into his brother’s Honda and drove off, he frowned. We weren’t even down the road when he declared it a piece of crap that drove even worse than ours. All the way through the high speed curves up out of Auckland he griped about the poor handling and what a terrible car it was to steer.
The grass is always greener.
(I think now he just might shut up about our car, at least for a few weeks.)
Do you care if your car drives perfectly? Do you expect it to? (More interested to hear from owners of older cars, obviously.)
I may have indulged in a bit of false advertising there, I’m afraid.
Really, I’m just going to list a few quick points, and frankly, that’s probably all that matters.
It’s been a month or so since I was issued an iPad for work (an old model – it doesn’t even have a camera). I’ve long been a tablet holdout, and am vehemently personally opposed to e-readers. I don’t care what you say; you’ll never convert me to e-books. I do see the appeal of the iPad for media consumption, but not for anything beyond that.
I’m still of that opinion, though I’ve warmed to the iPad somewhat. I took it on my work trip to Sydney, which was a good choice. It’s a less obtrusive way to keep up with emails and it was easy to check in on my Google Reader while waiting for presentations to start and whatnot. I can even get close to touch typing on it now, though it’s still a pain to comment on blogs this way, which I would much rather do on a proper computer. Nonetheless, it’s handy for pre-bed online tinkering (compared to my laptop) and T uses it just as much as I do, albeit for playing games and watching Naruto.
Big is beautiful when it comes to the screen, which renders content beautifully and responds instantly to gestures. My early-gen model is probably about twice the size of the current version, but I’m not opposed to a bit of comfortably solid heft – while reviewing the super lightweight Samsung Galaxy S3 a while back, I couldn’t get over the flimsy feeling.
But in order to squeeze more out of it, accessories are where it’s at. Special stands to place the iPad at the right angle, so it’s not sitting awkwardly in your lap, on a table, or being propped up either by your hands or something else close to hand. Keyboards enabling you to type out lengthy emails and documents without your hands cramping up. Or, my favourite to date, a combination keyboard/cover – the former works over Bluetooth, the latter through a combination of a physical slot combined with magnetic wizardry. Get that going and you have a pretty neat setup to take anywhere – it’s just as easy as sliding out and unfolding a laptop.
I do feel that a tablet could eventually make up my entire workstation, and sooner rather than later. When I’m at the office, I hook up my laptop to a larger keyboard and extra-large second monitor; it’s not a huge leap to think the laptop could be replaced by a tablet as technology improves. I firmly believe that it’s all about going for what’s closest at hand, mixed in with choosing the right device for the job (I am a guilty second-screener as charged), but maybe when it comes time to buy my next laptop, perhaps I won’t be replacing it with a laptop at all.
- Well, it all comes down to one thing, really, doesn’t it? The iPad is all about reading and viewing content, be it through a browser or via an app. And it does that brilliantly (I love the Twitter app, for one). Beats browsing on your phone any day.
- A lot of sites (cough *Flash* cough) don’t play nicely with the iPad. For example, I can’t watch iSky content on it, and when I tried to pay our Northern Gateway toll online on the iPad, the fields for inputting my Visa details weren’t working.
- I can almost touchtype on it … but not quite.
- I can’t plug my phone into it to charge like I can with my laptop.
While I’m on this topic, is anyone else out there totally drowning in digital overload? I know a lot of you take online sabbatical from time to time, and occasionally I’ll more or less unplug for a weekend.
Flipboard helps, of course, as does following good curators who filter content for you. For example, there’s Jason Hirschorn’s media/tech/digital roundup, the new Evening Edition, and new attempts at delivering stringently curated and targeted stories popping up frequently, like Launchticket. I was gutted when Summify was sold, though Twitter now uses that technology to send out its own daily summaries.
Yet I often feel that reading news and blogs and keeping up with industry happenings is itself a fulltime job. While I do that for fun sometimes, more often than not I actually can’t be bothered. Heck, the majority of the time I just skim over or delete the Hirschorn roundups because I’m short on time, though it’s a valuable digest. Attention and time is finite, which as a content creator, I am also well aware of, treading both sides of the line.
Keeping on top of the digital world is tough. It takes so much time and effort, and increasingly I’m torn by my love for the web and my desire to unplug from it all.
Tags: reflections, technology
Following on from my last-musically inspired post, I’m putting it out there: the Beatles are overrated.
I’m not trying to downplay their impact on pop culture. I’m not saying they were not groundbreaking. I’m not detracting from their talent.
I’m just saying they’re not for me. I like a few songs but overall, the Beatles are not a group that tickles my musical fancy. Yet it has taken me a lifetime to find ONE other person on this earth who shares my view. I find it baffling that the Beatles are so universally dug, to be honest.
To the links!
James Robinson (a Kiwi in the US) offers his take on guns in the land of the free
Mutant Supermodel reminds us that better does not equal easier. Truer words were never spoken
Steve Buttry has a great post on dealing with being fired
Kyla offers some vegetarian-friendly advice on beating the workday energy slump
Quote of the week: “Sometimes I desperately want to sit in the center of Barnes and Nobles and cut the word “sorry” out of every single dictionary in stock. Because it is a word I’ve misunderstood. It is a five letter word that I have used, time & time again, as a strike against me.” From Hannah at As Simple As That.
And my read of the week: a fascinating yet incredibly disturbing Reddit thread (not for the faint) offering insights into the minds of rapists and sexual abusers. One of the saddest is a post from a person whose brother was a child abuser, and now had kids of their own and is afraid to let him be around them.
Friends, I have made one last outrageous expenditure. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are coming to Auckland in January. I tried to get tickets to their last gig in 2007, and failed. This time, I would not be thwarted.
I’m paying $160 apiece for the privilege … and it burns even more that this is a lineup sans Frusciante, who is about 75% of the entire reason I love this band, but now that I’ve seen Metallica, the Chilis are the only other group I want to see before I (or rather, they) die.
That said, here are five other performers I wouldn’t mind seeing in concert:
Would need to be up front in a fairly personal show, or else what’s the point? But I would DIE if I could marvel at the legend himself up close.
I find it hilarious that there is a Facebook group called Michael Buble’s voice makes my clothes fall off. Forget Barry White.
I only recently realised Maroon 6 has been around for a decade. Can I get a WOAH to that?! I have fond memories of a lazy summer afternoon practising for the high school talent quest at our drummer’s house and bashing out a rough version of their first big hit, Harder to Breathe. And now look at them, all Jaggered up. Adam Levine would put on a damn good show, I can just tell.
The artist who made me want to write songs and play guitar. An artist who actually inspired me to buy an album (Hotel Paper, which I picked up in Singapore).
The diva herself. Granted, there are plenty of her songs that I really dislike, but anyone with a vocal range of five octaves is, quite frankly, superhuman.
DAMMIT JOHN. COME BACK ALREADY.
I’ll leave you with my five favourite Chilis songs.
Who are you hanging out to see live in concert?
Tags: about me, music, random
It’s been a year now since I reclaimed my weekends (aka, got a new job).
Longtimers might recall I used to work a schedule that differed wildly from T’s. News isn’t a 9-5 gig, and for over a year, we had none of the same days off, except for when I specifically took leave on a weekend.
I had all these grand plans for our newly discovered weekends. And while we’ve done a few of those things, and crossed a couple more off my bucket list, a lot of them were summer-oriented. And we had a SHOCKER of a summer, weatherwise. It was basically a non-summer. I felt a little cheated.
Lately, it’s been even worse. He’s been working all hours, coming home exhausted on Friday and basically recovering by dozing all weekend (that is, the weeks that he wasn’t working right through the weekend…). And in winter it’s hard to muster up the energy or desire to do anything. It rains all the damn time, it’s dark by 5.30, and after a sleep-in, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of daylight. (I’m one of those people whose mood really lives and dies by the weather.)
Nonetheless. I’m generally content with quietly satisfying, relaxing weekends. Movie marathons. Reading on the deck. That kind of thing. Stuff that pales in comparison to the weekend shenanigans of all the vastly cooler people I work with, that makes me kind of dread the question “So what are your weekend plans?”
On that note, I’m taking a drastic step: unsubscribing from Meetup emails. One of my other good intentions was to meet new people and go to Meetups, now that my schedule actually allowed for socialising at normal times. But after a year of those invites clogging up my inbox daily, and my deleting them after barely scanning the subject line, enough is enough. None of the outings appeal, and I don’t really care to spend money on hanging out with strangers (I’m reluctant enough to spend it on hanging out with friends). The idea was to expand my friend circle, I guess, but in reality that’s the last thing I want.That kind of struck home when Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory uttered that classic line: However will I juggle five friendships? And you know, I have enough trouble maintaining my current ones. I don’t care to find more that would place demands on my time. As a kid, I wanted to spend every moment of every day with my friends, but along the way I swung in the opposite direction and became a total lone wolf.
Do you have epic weekends? What’s your idea of the perfect summer weekend? What about a winter one?
Last night I attended a slightly odd event with plenty of canapes and drinks – I was expecting dinner, and indeed at some point about half the crowd disappeared into a side room that had been set for a sit-down meal, while the rest of us milled around. Strange.
Nonetheless, it’s been a week of tastebud tickling, in a good way.
It started with a lunch at The Grill, a three course meal that started with uber-fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon, kingfish), served with wasabi, soy and white ginger to cut through the rich, creamy flesh. I chose a rib eye for the main (the steak was served alone, on a plate, and measured about twice my handspan), and went for the treale tart to finish off. Dessert successfully trod the fine line between succulently sweet and sickly sweet, helped along by the strategic and generous accompaniment of vanilla custard.
There was our day trip up to Puhoi cafe in the weekend. While the weather left something to be desired, the hum and warm, welcoming bustle of this small-town mainstay more than made up for it. We sat out on the deck, overlooking the stream, and feasted on a giant lamb roll (basically just a massive gourmet sausage roll) and the beer battered fish and chips. Beer batter can do no wrong in my books, and we were both blown away by the fresh yet firm fish within, to say nothing of the perfectly crisped fries. Mastery.
We picked up a few cheeses to take home, and before hitting the road, gorged on four different flavours of ice cream. I can’t say enough good things about the berry sorbet and lemon sorbet, and while the hokey ice cream was delicious, I really don’t think anything beats a quality vanilla ice cream. It’s all about the ingredients, and it seems Puhoi has only the best. Definitely a case of “how have we lived here forever and never visited this place?!”
And while it was pretty shameful that it’s been four months since I last saw one of my oldest high school friends (and we only live about 20 minutes away from each other) at least we finally caught up – not least over tagine at Salam, which you’ll find in the Lim Chhour food hall in K Rd. Served up in massive bowls, along with a full plate of yellow rice, the food here is well worth seeking out. You can even pay after you eat. A word of warning, though: the coffee they offer smells of cinnamon and a myriad of other aromatic spices but taste-wise, doesn’t come anywhere near to living up to that fragrant promise.
Tags: auckland, food, Puhoi
A while ago, a 40th birthday was celebrated at my company. The birthday belonged to a man. There was hoopla, and a huge birthday card, with plenty of jokes scribbled inside joking about him now being ‘past it’ and so forth.
You would NEVER see the same happen for a woman. Age is never celebrated in the same way, if at all, when you’re female.
Speaking of which, the big news this week was Marissa Mayer becoming CEO of Yahoo, spawning an interesting Penelope Trunk take in defense of stay home parents arguing that this proves women cannot have it all
Blog Zombie makes the case for arrogance (within reason)
Shannon’s post on keeping up with the Joneses of Pinterest cracked me up
Caroline compiles a list of resources for beginner photographers
A Yes and Yes true story on going from self-employed to 9-5er
Just back from a holiday? Erika shares some tips for dealing with the come-down blues
Gmail hacks to keep your head from exploding, via Alexis Grant
Finally, thanks to The Ultimate Juggle for hosting the latest Yakezie carnival, featuring my post about QR codes on vending machines
Permit me, dear readers, to get up on my ranty rant soapbox and let off some steam, in the vein of Perfectly Cursed Life, who does a regular series of Open Letters on Fridays. You can see them all here.
Dear landlords of New Zealand,
Two words: Wall insulation. That is all.
Shivering and potentially asthmatic renter
Dear people who email me out of the blue,
If you want to have any chance of a reply, then do not pitch me asking if you can pitch me. Just attach your damn outline, your draft, your infographic, whatever. Make things easier for the both of us.
All my love,
Dear people who think it’s a good idea to call me five minutes after sending a pitch,
Just … no.
Get a job, and a life.
A productive member of society
Please stop with your nagging us about not leaving enough room on the driveway for your car to get past. T is a large person and needs space to exit the driver’s side on the right, and space enough between the car and garage to open it up to get to his motorbike (and when he spends time in the mancave with friends). You’re just going to have to live with driving ever so slightly over the grassy verge between our driveway and the next, and you cannot tell me that that alone is ruining your tyres and alignment.
Girl in the front house
Dear deadbeat parents,
Don’t have kids if you can’t afford them, and don’t have kids if you can’t look after them. Simple really.
You probably should ease off on the bad parent hate when you, who have money enough to save, could help these kids out (and yeah, you know the ones I’m referring to), but aren’t unselfish enough to do so, because you know opening up the door to financial help will only unleash a dam.
The nice thing about going exploring on your own is there’s no compromise involved. You go at your own pace, see what you want to see.
But you are then at the mercy of strangers to snap the obligatory shots of you at tourist spots.
While wandering open-mouthed around the Sydney Opera House, a lone guy saw me angling to snap a self shot against the backdrop of the famous sail roof, and against the bridge. He offered to take one for me – kindly, I thought. And then he wanted to have a photo of us together, in which he snuck his arm around me. And the photo he’d taken of me … well, a three-year-old could have snapped a better pic. I gapped it down to the lower levels quick smart, and found a nice pair of women with accents that suggested they were from around Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka or similar to take my picture. As I started to leave to head down toward the quay, I spotted the creepy guy not far away looking at me – he’d followed me down.
I had to make conscious decisions to push myself.
Not automatically zooming in on the cheapest thing on the menu. Not automatically ruling out any dish involving tofu (I got the battered vegetables in chili miso at Mother Chu’s, and it was the best damn thing I tasted all the time I was there. The catered food was mediocre to dire on most days, so I didn’t feel too bad about fitting in some restaurant sampling).
Going with the flow.
When I needed to take a round trip on the Sky Safari at Taronga Zoo in order to get back up to the shuttle buses that were leaving soon, and they were only doing one-way trips, I took a single and caught a ferry back instead – mostly because the people in line behind me, who were with the same delegation, were doing the same (an example, I guess, of how easy it is to find buddies when you’re all travellers in a strange place together).
Realising just how sheltered you are – priceless.
I met a guy from Palestine – a place I simply can’t comprehend, a place he’d never left until this month, a place that’s been occupied all his life, a place that doesn’t even have its own currency, he told me. It was beauteous seeing him experience so many things for the first time – first time out of the country, first time on a plane, on a ferry, for pretty much everything that occurred over here.
He helped me find the Harbour Bridge – an epic mission, which made triumph taste so sweet – so I could see out my hope of walking over it, and I accompanied him to the Opera House. I’ll admit, I had wanted to do it alone – that really is how antisocial I actually am, I’d prefer to explore by myself – but it was all good fun. And come the next day, our last night in Sydney, I suddenly didn’t feel like being alone anymore, so it was nice to have someone to call on to wander the streets together. The city let through some rain that evening, and being a Tuesday it was quiet, but we took a meander around the CBD, my shoes cracked and flooding, squelching along.
It’s the little moments I want to remember. My face upturned to the sun whilst walking alongside Paddy’s Markets, heading to the leather goods shop I’d spotted days earlier (for the third time; it was closed when I first passed it, and when I went back a second time). Catching the tram without cocking it up and getting lost. Marvelling at the ferry terminal ticket machines, and the auto turnstiles. The sprawling wall at the end of Darling Harbour, engraved with the names of migrant families for generations past, and room for many more in the future. The matte black Lamborghini on the sidewalk outside a showroom on the way to Kings Cross. The sight, smell and sound of Chinatown and its market. The bustle and sheer scale of Sydney fish market. Being so close to an emu at Taronga Zoo I thought it was going to run into me. The sleeping koalas, so small in real life, curled up high in the branches of a tall, thin tree. And of course, lazily wandering the length of Bondi, which despite being the middle of winter, was packed out (though it’s not obvious from the shot here of me and my shadow).
I need my September holiday to be here already…
Do you ever travel by yourself? Love it? Hate it?
Tags: reflections, travel
There is something sacred, in my mind, about air travel. That moment when the wheels leave the ground and a momentary jolt of downward pressure as the plane embarks on its gravity-defying ascent. Of all human inventions, surely the aeroplane is one of the most marvelous and miraculous.
I am not a particularly spiritual person, but the ascent into the heavens gets me every time. I’m sure those who travel frequently don’t take a second look or give it a second thought. They grumble about the inevitable flight delays. They take the aisle seat. They board first, as regular and valued flyers.
The plebs like me stare out intently at the landscape of plush clouds – just daring us to take a dive into their midst. We delight in the woolly wisps and the dense wads so much like candyfloss. The brief but full whiteout that’s exhilarating, but could turn terrifying. The steep bank that makes you suck in your breath unexpectedly. Every slight change in pressure that indicates something happening altitude-wise. The descent, beginning with the stippled blue of the ocean clearing to the recognisable sheen of water, as the first shadow of clouds materialises on its surface.
Last year I painstakingly planned a tropical birthday getaway in Rarotonga. I spent time splashing in the sea and sunning myself in hedonistic abandon.
This year a business trip offered me my first taste of Australia, and while I spent most of my birthday in transit, a day and a half later I was digging my toes into the brown sugar sand of Bondi. (That type of sand, found in the middle zone between the finest grains closest to the road and the firm, compressed stuff that borders the waterfront, is my favourite.)
I watched parents photograph their toddlers tripping along the beach. Surfers trying to ride the puny waves in. Lots more crazy people venturing out in their skimpiest togs (submerging my feet was enough – midwinter sea is about as icy as it gets. The one time I went swimming in the bitter cold of Raglan, in the crazy month of April or September or some other decidedly non-summer month, I was sick for days). I walked along the Bondi shops carrying my shoes, ignoring the Italian matron out front of her restaurant who gestured frantically and uttered distraught cries of some sort as she caught sight of my unshod trotters, and the other stares from, well, everyone (it’s a beach! Why on earth would you not go barefoot? Granted, I was perhaps a bit overdressed for it, but still. I’M FROM NEW ZEALAND). Oh, and then there was the ice rink up at the top of the beach for the local winter festival. An ice skating rink on the beach, people.
Spring rolls at Miss Chu. Kaya roti with ice cream / Murtabak at Mamak. Cookie dough ice cream at Baskin Robbins
I ate at Mamak. Red Lantern, Luke Nguyen’s restaurant (I walked to Surry Hills from Darling Harbour in the dark and felt a cold stab of terror when I got there only to be told they had no tables … except these two tiny tables outside by the entry. I TOOK ONE.). Coast. Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen. Miss Chu. Baskin Robbins. All get the thumbs up – especially divine was the coconut mussel curry at Red Lantern, which I couldn’t snap a decent photo of as it was night time and my phone camera has no flash – even Photoshop couldn’t wrangle enough detail out of the shadows.
If there was one colour I would associate with Sydney, it would be this.
Overwhelmingly, the buildings were all brown or shades of beige.
But there were exceptions, like this theatre or these cute terrace houses further out in Darlinghurst.
I kid you not, this was the filming of a music video inside a water feature along the waterfront, one that spirals down into the ground. And seriously, that’s outdoor table tennis.
And of course, there were bridges. Lots and lots of bridges. The very first night, we arrived in the back door of the hotel, and left the same way, none the wiser. We couldn’t for ages figure out how to get across the motorway – we had to turn back to find our way to the main road, and find a footbridge to take us over.
But overall, I was really struck by the good urban planning. Granted, I come from Auckland where the bar is about as low as it can be. But the light rail, the monorail, the buses, the roads that are painted to say ‘look left’ or ‘look right’ on one-way streets for pedestrians, the fact that after every block along the waterfront, there are steps leading back up to the main street … It’s all well signposted, and there are maps all over the place. Even without the throng of azns leading the way to the fish market, I would have made my way there from the train stop with zero problems.
Ah, foreign money. For all the overthinking I did about where to change my cash, I ended going the easy route and stopping at a booth between my hotel and the convention centre. I’ve fallen off the financial bandwagon a bit and need to regroup, including a Sydney tally.
And of course I was amazed by the shopping. Gap! Nine West! And ING Direct! Plus check this sign at the Hard Rock Cafe shop.
Every day I fell into bed with aching legs and feet, muscles getting that tingly feeling from unprecedented exertion. I packed in the sights whenever I could. The zoo, the museums, the parks, the Opera House, the bridge, the free ferry to Cockatoo Island as part of the Biennale – a stunning place, it’s an ex-convict island full of raw industrial beauty, just my thing. I have a ton of photos, so I’ll probably dump those on Tumblr this week. And I then got to come back to this view from my room.
Americans, you have no excuse for postponing a European adventure. Flights are hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. (When looking to see if we could book a cheap flight to Sydney for T to accompany me, we were faced with fares of $500 plus.)
Bridget just wrote about deliberately not cramming in all the tourist sights when you’re overseas. She can always go back, she says.
This is true. Sydney is not far from New Zealand, and T has already been. I don’t feel a need to come back with him, though I’m not saying we never will.
But truth be told, for most of the destinations we will eventually see together, we are only going to see them once. We live at the bottom of the world. We don’t make big bank. And we want to settle down and have a family, not design a perpetually peripatetic life. Places like Spain and Russia are going to most likely be a one-time shot.
On a happier note, though, I have officially earned my big girl pants. I’ve flown alone, travelled overseas alone, and dined in a restaurant alone. *fist pump*
Tags: australia, sydney, travel