January 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments
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I’m gradually settling into the new house, although a week is hardly any time to live somewhere when you lived in your last place for 5 years. I own this house though, which of course makes it different; when I see things that annoy me (which I have, it’s amazing what you don’t notice when you’re just looking at a place during an open home) the thought that follows on from that is that when I have the money I can just get whatever it is changed. It’s a good feeling. I spilt tea on my brand new sofa today, which means it’s christened. Last week I also dropped a dining table on my bare foot and bled all over the carpet (seriously, blood was positively gushing out of my big toe. Toes bleed A LOT, FYI), so I guess that means that me and the house now have some sort of mystical blood bond or something.


The thing I’m most looking forward to is putting pictures up. In the years I’ve been renting I’ve actually not lived in a place with existing picture hooks, and it always seemed like too much trouble to ask to put things up, but ever since I’ve been planning to buy a house, I’ve been thinking about finally putting up some of the things I’ve collected over the years. I’ve travelled a lot over the last 10 years or so, and I have a lot of photos from those trips. Over the past 5 years or so I’ve also been collecting art, either prints, sketches, or paintings of the places I’ve been. I have quite a few of those now, so I’m going to put those up, mixed in with my own photos. I’m really looking forward to doing it too, although going through all my photos will be a mission.

I was thinking of doing this before, and wondering what photos I’d choose. The travel photos from before 2005 are all printed and in photo albums (so totally old school, I know), and the albums are lurking somewhere in a box I haven’t unpacked yet, so I was restricted to the ones I have on my hard drive. The earliest ones are from a trip to Italy I took in January of 2005, and I was just idly picking through them and decided to fish some out and post them here; they’re not necessarily the ones I’ll choose to get framed, but they’re ones I like all the same. I love Italy, it’s a beautiful, quirky country positively bursting with personality, but in the end I had to stop going there, mainly because if you can walk around Rome without a map then you’ve been there too many times, and it was time to remind myself that there was all of the rest of the world to explore as well.

Italy – Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Pompeii

First post of the year

January 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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2010 was quite a good year for me, particularly professionally, but also personally. I wasn’t under as much stress as I was in 2009 and 2008 (2008 was the Year of the Huge and Stressful Project(s), and 2009 was the Year of Ridiculous and Chronic Insomnia), and it really made a difference. Long may that continue.

I’m quite looking forward to 2011 – soon I’ll move into the house I bought, which I’m looking forward to so much I can’t even say. I think living in a house that’s mine will really make a difference to my outlook; maybe that’s silly, but I think it will. I’m really having to stop myself buying all new furniture for the place, haha! Those furniture places are so seductive with their rows and rows of bookcases and chests of drawers. I need another bookcase, too.

My goals for the upcoming year are relatively simple: write more (and hopefully publish more) and blog more. That seems achievable now while I’m still on holidays, of course; mind you, I have managed to fritter away the day and haven’t done a scrap of the editing I was meaning to do, so it’s not like being at work will make my procrastination any worse. I haven’t started packing either, but never mind. I’m not moving for 2 weeks, there’s still plenty of time! (Famous last words if I ever heard them.)

Not a Terminator sequel

December 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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It’s quite hard to believe that it’s almost 2011. I’ve dropped off the face of the earth recently, as I tend to do – something to rectify in the new year, for sure – because I’ve been quite busy. Apart from work stuff, which is always busy, I’ve bought a house and finished writing a novel. It’s quite hard to buy a house and try to finish a novel at the same time, I discovered. Very hard, in fact. But I did manage it, and I only wanted to shout at my lawyer and my bank guy a few times, which was a miracle, all things considered. Not that wanting to shout at them had anything to do with the novel. Not directly, anyway.

But I’m happy because now I have a lovely house that I’ll move into in a couple of weeks, and 66,000 words that manage to come together to form something resembling a coherent story, so yay. I’ve heard back from one of my betas, and once it’s back from the others I’ll shine it up and submit it in the new year, in between packing books into boxes.

So far it’s the longest thing I’ve written, with my two published things being shorts of ~8,000 words. Finishing something so long was a very weird experience. It was a lot like when I finished writing my PhD thesis, which took me 11 months (5 months full time, 6 months part time, ugh what a slog that was) – on the one hand I was so incredibly relieved it was done, but on the other hand it was very strange to come home from work and not have anything that I had to do. Right now I am enjoying having a little writing break over the holidays, but then I also can’t stop thinking about what to do next. I have a Color Box for Torquere due in April, but that’s a fair way away yet. I have some ideas for more short stories, which I can fit in with the Color Box, and also 10k worth of words for another novel in progress, which I can’t. But I can’t really decide what I want to do.

So far I am dealing with this paralysing indecision by lying around on my mother’s lounge watching cooking shows on cable and eating ice cream. Because that’s another thing, I’m not at home at the moment, I’m in Australia, at my mother’s for Christmas. I’ve been here for a few days and have a few days to go before I leave to go back to NZ. History tells me that I never write anything while I’m away from home, and given that it’s Christmas, that’s not likely to change now. So I probably shouldn’t worry about it at all and just continue to watch the Food channel and eat ice cream. Sounds like a plan.


October 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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I’m off to Canada for a week to attend a conference for work. I travel internationally a lot, and mostly for work, so I’ve got my routine down pat now. Everything’s packed, I’ve cleaned the house (I’m not a neat freak, but I really really hate coming home from overseas to a house that needs cleaning – the last thing I want to do when I get off a 14-hour flight is vacuum, let me tell you), so all that’s left to do now is have a shower and leave.

It’s meant to be rainy and cold in Canada next week, which makes it hard to leave sunny old New Zealand, especially since New Zealand is not sunny very often. But this time next week I’ll be back, so it’s a whirlwind tour.

I’ve got 200 books loaded onto my eReader for the in-transit time – what’s the bet that I’ll scroll through 20 pages of books and not be able to find a single thing to read?

Everyone take a deep breath and keep calm; or, how to backup without really trying

April 11, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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I really haven’t been writing very much lately, for several reasons, the main one being that in two weeks I move to the US to work for three months. It turns out that agreeing to go and work in another country, no matter how temporarily, is incredibly disruptive to one’s equilibrium – surprise, surprise! However, everything’s mostly organised now, and I am definitely on the downward slide to packing my life into a couple of bags and hauling it to another hemisphere for a while. So, typically, the universe had to throw something else at me just to remind me that I was alive: yesterday, through a series of very stupid occurrences, my user profile on this computer got corrupted, and for the space of a couple of hours, I thought I’d lost access to all of my files.

This was very bad, but not as bad as it could have been. It was bad because I had a backup on an external hard drive, but it was from almost a month ago. It was bad because I have 35Gb of music on this machine, and since that backup I’d bought more music which – obviously – I hadn’t yet backed up. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been because although I also have all my writing on this computer, I’ve been using other backup methods aside from the trusty-yet-fraught-with-issues-because-of-user-laziness external hard drive. So, even though for two hours I thought I’d lost a lot of stuff, I knew that I hadn’t lost a single word of any work in progress, of which I have several.

Using those alternative backup methods definitely paid off for me yesterday, and it occurred to me that there are probably other people who could benefit from them, but might not know of them, so here I am to tell you about them. I’m nice like that!

As far as I know, both these things are available for both Windows and Mac, and both are free for a certain amount of disk space. Both require that you download a small program to your hard drive, but downloading and installation was very easy and I’ve not detected that they came with any spyware or malware as of yet, so I think they’re fine.

The first is Windows Live Sync, which you sign into using a Windows Live ID, which you have automatically if you have a Hotmail or Messenger account. If you don’t, it’s still easy to sign up – I signed up using a Gmail address with no problem. Windows Live Sync is more something you’d use if you were in the habit of using multiple computers, like a desktop for home use and a laptop for travelling/times when you’re out and about – it doesn’t actually store any information online, but it ensures that the designated folders get synced between the machines that have Live Sync loaded on them, so that no matter what machine you’re using, the document you’re working on is always the current one, as long as it’s in that folder. I can tell you that the syncing is almost instantaneous – I can save the file on one machine, shut the document down and walk into the other room to my other computer in less than two minutes and access the updated file straight away.

The second thing I’ve been using is called Dropbox, which is free for up to 2 Gb of files. Now, this one is an online backup tool, and well as a synchronisation tool – once you’ve downloaded the programme to the computers that you want to use it on, all you have to do is drop the files into the Dropbox folder, and you have a copy on all your “Dropbox’d” machines and also online, so even if you don’t have access to your computers, you can still access a copy of your docs by logging into the webpage. This one does require that you actually update the file within the Dropbox folder, but if you only work on files within the Dropbox folder, then everything would sync automatically; it would only not sync if you were working on a file from another location, and then didn’t save a copy to the Dropbox folder. It also doesn’t sync on computers that are turned off, obviously, but does update from the webpage straight away when those computers are powered up again.

Both of these methods are similar, but different – I use both, because I’m massively paranoid like that, and also I travel a lot, so I use multiple machines and also computers that aren’t necessarily mine, so having things stored on a webpage is an additional safeguard against being caught without access to files I might need, without having to remember to save everything to a USB drive and keep track of that. If I was to choose to use only one, it would be Dropbox, but your mileage may vary.

Hopefully this is news to some of you, and hopefully one of these things will save you from panic just like they saved me yesterday. As someone who has also had to build their profile again from scratch, installing all programs as if they were completely new, I’d also recommend the Firefox extension Xmarks bookmarks and passwords sync, but that’s a story for another day…

Edited to fix links, because I am a muppet

Apocalypse now. Or quite soon, anyway.

February 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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It’s valentine’s day in my part of the world, so naturally this is the day when a young person’s (or not so young person, as the case may be *cough*) thoughts turn to the apocalypse.

Before I moved to New Zealand, I had no idea that Auckland sits on an active hot spot of magma that’s only about 100 km underneath the city.


The type of volcanic activity which has created the Auckland volcanic field is referred to as monogenetic which means that each time there has been an eruption it has occurred at a new location and that each eruption is the result of a single batch of magma which rises from its source in the mantle about 100km beneath the city.

The monogenetic nature of Auckland’s volcanoes has particular implications for volcanic hazards because in the event of an eruption, rather than one of the existing volcanoes becoming active, a new volcano will form. Because of this situation, a hazard map based on any one location cannot be drawn and the entire field has to be considered as under a threat of a future volcanic eruption.

Although it is at least 600 years since the last eruption in the Auckland volcanic field, there is every reason to expect eruptions in the future.

These eruptions are likely to be on a small scale compared with some recent overseas eruptions, but because the city of Auckland is built on and around potential eruption sites their effects are likely to be serious.


The volcanoes in Auckland are everywhere. For instance, there’s Mount Eden. Or Mangere mountain. Or Rangitoto, which I can see every day when I go for my walk, from the top of my street.

As if that’s not bad enough, my hairdresser – a volcano nut, who I saw yesterday – tells me that there have been quite a few earthquakes in the Hauraki Gulf over the past couple of months, which is of course indicative of potential volcanic activity. He says that he’s sure that we’ll see a new volcano forming off Auckland’s coast at some point during the next year or two. He says that if that happens, while everyone is being evacuated, he will be in his car, driving toward the volcano. He is SUCH a boy.

If that happens, I will be in my car as well, but I’ll be bawling my eyes out and driving as fast as I can to the airport, on my way back to a CIVILISED country (i.e., AUSTRALIA), where we don’t have to watch out for random LAVA FLOWS, for God’s sake.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the apocalypse. There’s been a rash of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic movies and books around lately, from 2012 to The Road. It doesn’t actually surprise me, given that you only have to turn on the TV to see that the world’s pretty much going to hell in a handbasket, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the number of stories concerned with the end of the world as we know it is increasing as the number of reports of how we’re running our planet into the ground increase. It’s the ultimate what-if, in a way – if the world as we knew it was changed irrevocably, through whatever means, how would we survive? Presuming we weren’t wiped out completely, of course, and even then something would likely evolve to replace us. Or would we escape, build space arks or something and carry ourselves away, missing the destruction completely? It’s an interesting question, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with to answer it.

He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

December 2, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I was going to write tonight, and I haven’t. So in the absence of one type of writing, I’ll do another.

I’ve been in a very Australian mood lately, so much so that I’ve been really noticing it. I mean, I’m downloading Australian Crawl, Icehouse and Cold Chisel songs off iTunes, for God’s sake. That is really taking it quite far in the scheme of things, I reckon, to have Khe Sanh in my iTunes library. I was wondering why I was in such a mood, but today it occurred to me that what it actually is is shared experience, or rather, the lack of shared experience that exists for someone who doesn’t live in the place where they grew up.

A friend of mine is Scottish, but has been in NZ for ten years. He was telling me today that he met a couple of people from Glasgow over the weekend, and he had a great time talking with them about places in Glasgow where they all used to go, pubs and clubs and cafes, etc. My friend and these people didn’t grow up together, but the experiences of their youth and early adulthood were very similar, and he said he was struck by how much he enjoyed talking about all these old haunts. It doesn’t really surprise me though, because I find that too. There aren’t many Australians here, and I often find myself explaining things to people here that I wouldn’t have to explain if I was in Australia. I’ve even stopped using certain expressions, because if I say them then I have to explain what they mean, and getting blank looks about things you say gets old after a while. Obviously when I go back to Australia this doesn’t happen to me, and I do notice the difference. So I completely understand the relief that comes with being able to say anything you like and be instantly understood, or to talk about a place without needing to describe what it’s like.

What’s compounding these issues for me at the moment is that I’m reading a fantastically entertaining book set in Australia (Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils, and it is so good I can’t even find the words to express it), and I’m really noticing that the characters are Australian, and not in a bad way – I said to another friend when I was telling her about how much I liked the book that “they speak how I speak”, and that’s true, and it’s something that you don’t often see, or I don’t anyway, not in the stories I read. And since I don’t get that in real life either, there’s an almost continuous ‘shock of recognition’ feeling associated with it.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, and I don’t mean to imply that this lack of ‘Australian-ness’ upsets me in any way – I love living in NZ, and I have no plans to move back to Australia any time soon, if ever. Most of the time Australia doesn’t even feel like home anymore, to be honest. I don’t even really notice the lack of shared experience in NZ for the most part, except when something reminds me, like the book, or stories of Scottish lads and their old hangouts. It’s just funny that these things have conspired all at once to make me think about it.

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