Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking responsibility...

I'm really liking the take on responsibility in this video:

Quotes that jump out at me:
All of us in our society have to take responsibility for what we find in front of us
If I see a set of social conditions that have been handed to me, and which not only did wrong by others but elevated me and give me advantage that I did not earn, it's not about beating myself up - I'm not responsible for that having happened, I'm not to blame for it, so guilt is totally unproductive, but, in order to live an ethical life, it seems to me, to live ethically and responsibly, I have to take some responsibility for the unearned advantage.
Via Cynical-C

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Comfort Music

Again via LSIBR, I read about the concept of 'comfort music' - not necessarily your favouritest ever albums/songs, but more about the music you cling to when you need familiar and safe and known.

Here are a few of mine..

Ani Difranco - Dilate, and in particular Untouchable Face. This was the first Ani Difranco song I ever heard, and it really sparked something for me. Ani Difranco introduced me to feminism and that it was ok to have opinions and ideas and to say them out loud..

The Whitlams - Eternal Nightcap. Key song on this album is probably Buy Now, Pay Later (Charlie No. 2). I went through quite a long phase of liking melancholy, aching songs, and this one fits that bill quite well.

(At this point I switched to Last.FM to see what else comes up, and I'm quite amused to see that Ani and The Whitlams are numbers 1 and 2 on my artist chart. Surprise!)

Other songs that spring to mind:

Simon and Garfunkel - I am a rock, particularly when feeling a bit down. It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

Me and Bobby McGee - depending on mood, either Janis Joplin or Gordon Lightfoot. They bring quite different feelings to it.

Bob Seger - Turn the Page. So evocative - it's all about the journey.

Looking at that list, I think I need to be more upbeat ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I've recently started following Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews on Tumblr. For a lazy reviewer she sure posts a lot of good content!!

One that grabbed me today has nothing to do with books - rather, this YouTube video:

Which then led me to find the original:

And now I'm on a Stevie Nicks YouTube stint. Funny how you get to these places..

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My hubby wears Lynx!

I am not in the target demographic of The Breeze radio station. From what I can tell, the people who listen mostly live in the Hutt, are married, and have at least a couple of kids. They're the kind who like to call up to win a prize by guessing what some random magazine's survey said 10,000 people do every week.

Until today, I have had a radio in the bathroom, and I would listen to the fairly inane breakfast radio programme while showering.

This morning the male presenter was asking people to call in and validate the fact that he didn't remember his wife's preferred brand of perfume. Most of the people who called in validated the exact opposite - the men knew what perfurme their wives (always wives, never 'partners') wore, and the women were confident that their husbands could name it. Until the last caller.

This woman stated that her husband only knew it was 'something in a jar'. The radio presenter asked her what her husband wore and she proclaimed that it was lynx. Upon being asked if it was 'Lynx Africa' she squealed and shrilly announced that yes, it was!!

I briefly switched on the radio this afternoon and there was the same shrill woman, validating the radio presenter's lack of memory about his wife's perfurme.

This was some kind of catalyst for me and I turned off the radio at the wall and removed it from the bathroom. I don't want to become part of the demographic that endorses such contentless ravings. I love that my iphone has a speaker, and I can use it to choose exactly what shower music I want to listen to.

Sidenote: I don't wear perfume, but if I did, I think Paul would remember with a bit of prompting at the right moment (ie in duty free). Do you know what your partner wears?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I've learned about consulting (so far)

I've been a business consultant for a software vendor for just over two years now. Turns out there are some things worth knowing..

Remember people's names. Not just those you deal with directly - that's a given. But also those you come across when you're workshopping or conducting training. It gives them a pleasant surprise to realise you paid enough attention to know who they are.

People will always want to fix the problem. They'll probably already have a solution in their head. Don't let this distract you from defining the problem properly first. Sometimes the thing that's causing the problem won't be fixed by their proposed solution.

Provide good advice, but understand that they might not take it. Be ready to walk away from what you think would be best. If you can't do this, don't be a consultant.

Have fun and work with good people. You don't have to be best friends, but why waste time and energy surrounding yourself with people who don't click?

I'm sure I'll think of more - any additions?

Monday, September 6, 2010

You had shoes? Luxury!!

Quake after effects in Kaiapoi
On the weekend Christchurch was pretty devastated by a 7.1 earthquake and a massive number of aftershocks (sidenote: good graphic here of the aftershocks)

Interesting reading the responses to this blog post which questions whether uninsured people should get aid from the government or other funds. There's plenty of discussion from a range of positions about the potential response. They range from 'they should have had insurance, too bad for them' to 'help them out, it's too big an event to quibble about what they should have done'.

I appreciate the point that people can't just not get insurance and expect the government to bail them out when disaster strikes, but I couldn't countenance just letting people cope.

Here's the thing though - on the blog post there was a fairly strong trend towards 'help them get back on their feet, but don't pay for luxuries like a flat-screen tv'. Another comment suggested that 'broadband and Sky' were things that shouldn't be paid for via government assistance.

It just makes me wonder, what's a basic need, and what's a luxury? I agree that people could live without Sky - but broadband? If you've got kids who 'need' the internet for their homework, surely dialup is cruel and unusual punishment? And maybe they don't need Sky, but most houses in NZ have tvs for at least the free to air channels - is that a luxury?

We have insurance (although I'm thinking we should check if we have enough) but I wonder, if it came down to it, what we would *need*, as opposed to things that simply make life that bit simpler.

(Picture from stuff.co.nz - Kaiapoi after the Canterbury earthquake)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Elementary, my dear Watson*

There are a group of stories whose permutations I can't resist. New production of Romeo and Juliet? I'm there. Same for movie or book versions of Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and almost anything along the 'fairy tale' path.

So when I read about the new BBC tv show Sherlock, I was there with a detective's hat on. Although the new Sherlock doesn't seem to have a hat, and he has nicotine patches instead of a pipe.

Critics have been a bit dubious about the fun it has with some of the traditions, and seem to have picked a few holes in the stories, but overall, it's great. Benedict Cumberpatch is delightfully sociopathic as Holmes, and Martin Freeman is a great foil as John Watson.

Find it. Watch it.

(Also, hoping to head over to Melbourne to see the new production of Mary Poppins. Heard that it's great..)

* Pretty sure so far there has been no mention of the famous line.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Picking your seat on Air New Zealand

In the past 18 months or so I've been doing a fair bit of travelling for work. And I've learned some things about flying with Air NZ...

As long as you have a booking reference, and/or if you have a frequent flier account, you can log in to the website to check your booking and more importantly request your seats.

If you're flying on a Boeing 737-300 (mostly between AKL-WLG-CHC) then the closer to the front you can get the better. There's the obvious benefit of getting off faster when you land, but also, on the AirNZ layout at least, there's increasing amounts of legroom the closer you get to the front. After about row 13 (exit row) it's all the same. My personal preference is a window seat so I can watch the countryside go by, but that's definitely dependent on what you like.

If you're flying on a Bombardier Q300 which are used for flights between major town centres, I have a strong preference for row 1. It's an exit row, so you can't access your hand luggage as well, but I've found that it's often free when you go to request a seat, and again, you get to get off first.

However - if you're flying on a Aerospatiale ATR72 passengers get on at the back, so it's best to sit down that end :) For some reason these are my least favourite planes. I think it's because of the way the wings are almost level with the top of the body of the plane, which makes it look kinda... dumpy.

And then there's the good old 19 seater Beechcraft 1900D. Entry is from the front, but I don't recommend sitting in rows 1 or 2 - there are no windows until row 3. If you've been on these planes, you'll know that there's one seat on either side of the aisle, and at row five the floor goes up and down over a ramp. Which means that in row 6 there's hardly any room to put your hand luggage under the seat in front - and there's no overhead locker so it makes it pretty cramped. Personally I go for 3 or 4 if I have a short connection and need to get off fast, but otherwise I'd go for rows 8 or 9 because your view isn't obscured by the propellors.

My only other hint for now is that the belgian biscuits at the cafe in Auckland airport just opposite the security screening area for gates 28-33 are excellent, and really good when you've had a long day and have one more flight to go :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sentenced to.. read

This is a fascinating idea - people found guilty of crimes are sentenced to join a particular kind of reading group instead of being sent to jail. In Texas. And apparently it's working:

Groups are single sex and the books chosen resonate with some of the issues the offenders may be facing. A male group, for example, may read books with a theme of male identity. A judge, a probation officer and an academic join a session of 30 offenders to talk about issues as equals.

Of the 597 who have completed the course in Brazoria County, Texas, between 1997 and 2008, only 36 (6%) had their probations revoked and were sent to jail.

A year-long study of the first cohort that went through the programme, which was founded in Massachusetts in 1991, found that only 19% had reoffended compared with 42% in a control group. And those from the programme who did reoffend committed less serious crimes.

This is so scary - The guy took his kids camping and took photos on a disposable camera. When they took the photos to be developed the photo people called in the police because there were naked kids.. Cue descent into hell.

I'd like to think it wouldn't happen here, but..

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caught up in the salmon run

I live quite close to the main train station in Wellington and often get caught up in the trail of the commuters on their way to the station in the evening.

The thing that bemuses me is the runners. Most people amble their way along the main roads, knowing they've got time to make their train. But there are some who run, because they either have an appointment at the other end, or they just must catch their routine train.

I guess that they know what time they have to leave, but get caught up by a minute or two when their computer does something weird at the end of the day. And then the lift takes a bit longer to arrive and stops at a few too many floors on the way to the ground. And those silly red lights. All conspiring to make the harrassed commuter late for their train. And so they run. They take risks with the lights. They barrel through the amblers with little care for personal space.

When they get there, I figure half the time their train is probably running late anyway.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Music on high repeat

Things what I'm listening to:

The Duke and the King - Nothing Gold Can Stay

This is a fairly quiet album, with pretty melodies and interesting stories to tell. So it pretty much ticks all the boxes for me. Lingering tunes.

The Cat Empire - Cinema

One of the guys at my workplace in Melbourne sent around an mp3 and noted that the band was playing in St Kilda and who wanted to go. The song (Hello hello) was bouncy and fun and good so I went along and have been hooked since. The enthusiasm of the first album turned into interesting musicality over time. The latest album is a bit more self-aligned that previous albums, in that a similar sound pervades through all the tracks. This is a bit of a change and so far so good.

The Magic Numbers - Those the Brokes

Just found this one a few days ago. Needs some more listening, but I like the ways the various vocalists play with each other and the tunes are pretty infectious. Random trivia: the band is composed of 2 sets of brother-and-sister.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Had a minor windfall in the shape of the work World Cup sweepstake, so decided to buy earrings. In one of the shops I wandered around, I had my headphones on. The woman in the store asked me what I was listening to. When I said Ani Difranco she said "ah, old school." I smiled and nodded and carried on.

Ani Difranco put out a studio album in 2008 (Red Letter Year) and has since released a couple of live albums. So I'm not sure her school is too old. That said, I'd also say that her older work is more well-known and better liked. I'm in the old-school-Ani camp :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Just back from seeing Bill Bailey at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington. Hilarious stuff.

My favourite bit: a mash-up of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' and 80s song 'Last Christmas' - all in the style of (and language of) Kraftwerk. Words cannot describe. But it was awesome :)

I love comedians like Bill Bailey for their ability to make the audience laugh about every day situations. Not everything has to be a joke about sex or women or penis size (Although there was some of that. Did you know that the barnacle has the largest sized penis in relation to the rest of its body in the world? True.)

My least favourite bit: the guy sitting next to me with a disturbingly high-pitched laugh, and a lack of understanding of his own innate lack of funniness. Ah well. He had a little notebook and was writing down random funny things. So either he's a wannabe comedian, or he has a Blog.

Anyway, Bill Bailey, very musically gifted and funny guy. Go see his latest show!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

None of these people, to my knowledge, are in a band.

On being a goalie:

Sometimes we'd lose 10-0, other times we were hammered. One day the manager's best mate decided to give me a boost. "Unlucky, son," he said, as another one flew past me into the middle of the goal. "You didn't stand a chance." He then turned to the manager. "Who's that useless bastard in goal, Irv?" I only lasted half a season as a proper goalie.

How to be a functional freak:

“You should never just read for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior; or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for God’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.”

Pretty (video)

Will I be rich? Which is almost pretty depending on where you shop...

Murals and skin colour

.. my cousin's company driver showed us the sights, but when we stopped for lunch at Howard Johnson's he explained he couldn't go inside because they didn't serve colored people. "But you're with us!" I said. "I know," he said, smiling over my head at my mother, "but they don't know who you are." Inside, I asked my mother why they wouldn't serve him. "They have their own nice places to eat," she said. I don't believe she was particularly upset on his behalf.

(Roger Ebert has gotten much more verbose since losing the ability to talk)

Are you fat positive?

For some time I've been following a small number of 'fat positive' blogs. These are blogs from the 'fatosphere' which encourages positive attitudes towards one's body no matter the size (although sometimes this falls into 'fat is better and how dare you be skinny'). Seems like a good attitude to have - that it's more about being happy with who you are and what you look like, than it is about conforming to society's norms and trying to become something you're not.

I fit into the fat side of things and am inclined to agree with the view that people have a natural 'point' that their body weight trends towards (but that they can buck this trend through diet and exercise or lack thereof). Some people's natural point is higher than others, some lower, and I'm not sure there's such a thing as normal. But then you could take the view that this is a useful excuse for not exercising more and not eating 'healthily'.. And maybe it is. I have observed that those in the 'fatosphere' are often women (almost always women) who incorporate some level of activity into their lives and generally don't have high degrees of health issues (or not that they talk about on their blog - which is fair enough if it's not about that). They are generally white, and often some level of 'middle class'. I'm not meaning to pigeon-hole but it's easier to talk about positivity if you're not coming from a position of zero..

Anyway I was reading a blog post about one woman's experience losing a fairly large amount of weight. And I was thinking about how some of the people in the fatosphere would consider this to be traitorous behaviour. But the woman telling her story sounded so positive.. Viz:
There will be such an huge weight lifted - literally and figuratively - from my life. I am going to be strong. I am already stronger than I remembered I could be.
So being overweight had a negative impact on her life. It sounds as though she was quite large (talks of not being able to fit into seats etc) - but I still wonder if the fat acceptance movement would tell her to learn to be happy with who she was..

Nothing is ever as simple as it would like to be.

Gratuitous links to websites on or around these kinds of topics that I have on my regular reading list:

http://www.dietgirl.org/ (Shauna has a great book out as well about how she lost half her body weight..)
http://www.bfdblog.com/ - I find this one a bit more challenging as they're more along the lines of fat positive

Friday, June 11, 2010

Glee Finale (spoiler alert..)

I have been a fan of musicals since well before we videotaped the Sound of Music when I was a child - but it was cemented by viewing after viewing, to the point where my sisters and I could sing/talk along with the whole thing, including the bit where someone forgot to pause the ads, and so we had to skip a few lines of dialogue to keep in sync..

I'm a natural candidate for the audience of Glee. Show choirs are (afaik) a uniquely American thing but the appeal is pretty universal, particularly for someone with my background - an enthusiastic singer who likes to couch dance, and was even in the Choir at high school, but I'm not a performer. Wish fulfillment, here we go. And the all-inclusive nature of the Glee group let's everyone in.

From here on, So Many Spoilers.

The extended season has been building and building to 'Regionals' - a winner-takes-all opportunity to qualify for the show choir Nationals. And really, they were never going to win. For a show that has sewn up probably at least another couple of seasons it would be too much too soon. So they put a lot of 'heart' into it, but the more 'professional' school won. Even though their performance was intentionally wooden and they were just going through the motions.

The final episode was a bit too rock and roll hydroslide through all the loose ends for me - it felt like it needed a bit longer to breathe. Normally the talking in Glee slows it down a bit too much for me, but tonight was as though the kids had all been given speed and everyone was runningandrunningandrunning.

And breathe.

Anyway, everyone will (I assume, from the action) be back 'next year' (actually September), and the scene is set for heaps more high school melodrama. Will Rachel and Finn get it on? Will Emma and Mr Schu sort it out? Will Quinn find out that the director of the enemy has adopted her baby? Will Brittany and Santana declare their undying love? Will poor old Kurt get the chance to have a boy-on-boy kiss on primetime tv? Remains to be seen, but I'm sure we'll see all that and more...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Let's start a band

Amy Macdonald is currently on high rotate for me. Similarly other females-with-a-[your instrument goes here]. It's a thing for me.

But having said that, I've recently realised that the key factor in most of the music I like is that... I can sing along. I love music and singing. I'll never be any kind of Idol, and wouldn't even get to the televised auditions of a tv show - because I'm not *awful* but I also have no delusions at all that I'm any more than vaguely tuneful.

So most of the music I listen to is music that's in the right key for me to dance around and sing to. Ani difranco is a big one for me. I'm definitely in the camp which prefers her older material, and I can sing along to all of Not A Pretty Girl and Not So Soft. I think she has some really important messages about being a strong woman etc - but even more helpfully her range is very similar to mine. If I'd had to squeak to sing along, I don't think her music would have stuck so much.

So the singers who go way up into the rooftops with their octaves and sopranoism are out of reach for me. So I stick with Amanda Palmer and Ani and Amy. The Whitlams are another band who make music in approximately the right key for me. Sometimes I have to modulate, but overall I can sing along.

The best thing for me is when I'm not tired and not distracted, and can go for a nice long drive, singing to my favourite songs and enjoying the road and the music and where they both take me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Skirting around

Of late, I have been on a mission to Wear More Skirts. It helps that it is winter, because it means I get to also wear tights (oh so many tights) and my cosy cardigan and generally feel well put together.

Skirts work better for me - I'm big enough that I don't fit the clothes from shops like Max or Portmans, so work-wear tends to come from plus-size shops. And trousers in such shops don't often differentiate between taller-than-average and average and shorter-than-average. I'm short-waisted and I don't like having to wear trousers that don't sit well at the top, and which have to be hemmed at the bottom - so skirts are ideal.

My favourite skirt of the moment is from Zebrano and is black with white circles. Or maybe it's white with black fill-in bits. Either way. I still find it hard to spend as much as you need to, to buy clothes from Zebrano, but I find that clothes from Farmers almost entirely come under the 'tent' category, so I suck it up and get Nice Things. I am lucky that I can do that.

But I've also been dipping into the delights of Trade Me - a significant percentage of the clothes on the auction site are either just straight up bad, or so poorly photographed that it's not worth the risk. But sometimes you get something worth having. My latest was a pencil skirt for about $30. It looks quite corporate so it's for the days when I feel like being a bit more formal.

Probably a post for another time is that whole concept of 'formal' clothes and what's appropriate for a Wellington office situation. I work in IT and am surrounded by men, who can do 'shirt and tie' with the same pants every day with no-one commenting or caring, but women's outfits tend to be a bit less pigeon-holed, which makes me feel like I need to be different every day. Mind you, there are 17 males in my office and one other female, so it's likely to be all in my head ;)