Working and Spending

I feel like I must have read this article about how we work and consume a few years back when it first came out. If you have read Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed, please take a second to. It really changed quite a bit about how I think and helped me to prioritize what is important in my life: i.e. spending time with family, having fun rather than being overtired, stressed but rich. As a naturally very stingy person, but also someone who wants to be comfortable and live in the world I was appalled by the contrived nature of the entire system.

Anyway, the article in question was making the rounds on my facebook feed and so I read it again and have been re-thinking it all. One thing that has changed now, is that I finally managed to get a job. It doesn’t start until January, but it is going to be one of those all consuming jobs. I’m excited, and elated, because as you know, I really struggled with finding self-worth in myself, and needed it in the form of some stranger willing to dole out money to me. So rational, I know!

Combine the new job with the Christmas season, and my little 1-year don’t buy any retail is so far out the window. I’m sure it will return soon, but I realized Chris and I were currently undergoing exactly what this guy had. The long time travelling, scrimping budget because there is only a minus number every month, suddenly you land a job and POW, you should buy starbucks–cuz I love it. Also…gingerbread frappuccino (cuz its summer here baby!!!).

The first step to anything is being aware of it. How you spend and why. I want to take back this consumer drive that I feel pressured into from global economies, and buy only what I need (not what they want me to need). I hope this is something I can start/maintain this next year. I’m not saying don’t spend–that is impossible. I’m saying think. There are some things like living which are so much more important (if you can even figure out what those are–I’m still working on it).


The Lemonheads in Wellington

One of the reasons Chris and I decided to settle in Wellington was that there were so many more opportunities to go to gigs (whatever bands actually make it out this far). So last night, we went to Chris’ all time favourite band’s show the Lemonheads at a really fun little venue called the Bodega. I’m sorry there are no pictures, I seem to have lost all types of cameras. Chris had seen him twice before, the first time he told me was terrible, and the second time was absolutely amazing, so I wasn’t actually sure what to expect. I only really knew 2 songs (into your arms, and being around), but both of those made the playlist, so I was very pleased.

In Chris’ words, he had a great time hearing the songs and having ‘a bit of a boogie’, and when Evan smiled (although it was rare) it looked like he was having an amazing time. The problem was, all the things I’d read in Amanda Palmer’s book kept bouncing around in my head. He looked quite tired most of the time and the only time he really addressed the audience in terms of a little speech was when he forgot the words to one of his songs. I loved that because I got to see him as human, relating to us other humans in dark, sweaty and slightly stinky floor beneath him. I wanted to know him, why he was here singing to us what motivated him. It is that divide between the famous and the normal. Was he here because he loves playing or he needed the money? I should probably leave such questions unasked. And I think he just had ‘resting grumpy face’ which is totally a thing. I wonder if it is awful to be famous.

I’m glad we went, and I can understand a bit more now why Chris loves the Lemonheads as they have those quirky, random lyrics that keep you on your toes yet still relate to your life. I did, however, find it slightly odd that they played Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana as his entrance song. Chris that I was over-reading into things (he dated Courtney Love who was previously married to Kurt Cobain) but then, I also heard someone in the audience go “waaa :(” (not quite a boo) when the song ended prematurely for the show to start…I’m just hypersensitive.

In other news, while at the gig, Chris commented ‘Wow, I forgot how short you are, how can you see anything.’ Well, the truth is I couldn’t, so we scrunched at the front and it turned out a bit better. Also, the opening band was nice–Brave New Void–who are apparently local so I’m sure we will be seeing lots more of them.

Economists and Christmas

Many things happened to me yesterday. But one of the more interesting ones was that I attended a debate put on jointly by the GOVERNMENT ECONOMICS NETWORK AND CHAIR IN PUBLIC FINANCE on whether or not the Christmas extravaganza is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

The first thing I noticed is that despite this not being my own comfortable corner of academia, the people all acted the same with various in-jokes self-deprecating in tone. They opened with a comment on gender: the two men were against Christmas and the two women were for it. Looking around the room it seemed unbalanced gender-wise anyway (way more men), although the room was packed out signalling the event’s cultural relevance and general interest to quite a few people.

Each speaker was given 10 minutes to argue there position. The first speaker took about 20 or more minutes and actually argued both sides. He was an excellent speaker, engaging and interesting to listen to. I could have gladly heard him for the full hour, mainly because I disagreed with what he said. I think he must hate Christmas quite a bit.

The rebuttal included bribes and an appeal to emotion and sentimentality. Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory episodes and even the good old classic the Grinch abounded along with a comfortable about of ‘lols’. The next two speakers were also very good, but it is perhaps no surprise that the pro-Christmas-female team won. We are not walking wallets, and no matter how much you feel coerced into buying gifts, we all know that it is more than that.

The point that interested me the most was about holiday time off work and travel. The first speaker said it made no sense to schedule this during the worst weather ever. He is American–did he forget the talk is in New Zealand, where it is summer now? But more than that, without close-to universal breaks at one point in the year, I would never see or spend time with my family. Either I or they would always be working. We would not be capable of coordinating similar times off, and in fact, my workaholic family would never get a break were it not for Christmas. But I guess I can see how whole countries shutting down could effect the economy for the worse.

Other ideas included: how a present of $10 value is received as lower, like $5, and so cash is a better present. How much value does the giver receive for having given something? If we bunch all our sales in one month, we have actually stolen sales from other months rather than created MORE money for the economy. There was even evidence for a spike in divorce filing the day after Christmas because of poor gift giving.

Since it was also economists giving the talk, there was not mention whatsoever of the religious significance, which I guess I can understand, but since the base underlying theme for Christmas (in modern times, don’t give me that Christians usurped it from druids, that is fine, but hardly relevant now) it should have some mention. Not only do sales, shopping and money spent peak at Christmas but so does church attendance. Economists see in money only–including of course the idea of time spent and so on–but I can’t help but think that more should be considered.

I recently finished watching this series of videos called We the Economy in an attempt to better understand the world around me–all the videos are excellent by the way. The one that I was reminded of during this talk was how when we calculate a countries’ GDP: we look at numbers, and not happiness. I think that may have been the problem with the anti-Christmas argument.

Also…you maybe tortured by brass bands in the street playing carols, but I LOVE it.

So what do you think? Is the commercial hype of Christmas a waste of time and money where we feel forced to buy things for each other that no one wants? Or is it more than that, and so worthwhile?

Fan Fiction and Academic Writing

Since I seem to have time on my hands, I recently volunteered to write for New Zealand’s Creative Commons about various topics that may be relevant to copy right and creativity. My first entry went up a few days about Fan Fiction, and while I attempt to champion the cause, and stick by to the idea that people should write more because it does make them more creative, and indeed eventually makes them read more which expands the entire literary market, it is a tough sell. Why?

I remember  back when I was very young, I read a lot of Fan Fiction. Mostly X-files stuff since that was the only thing I cared about and I couldn’t wait to read the new situations. Then fast forward a few years, and in University I had a roommate who wrote Fan Fiction, I can’t remember in what area, and I was upset. 1) Because she had gone beyond me, beyond the reading and 2) I didn’t think she was cool enough (not that I was cool by any stretch of the imagination). I fell short of the whole community again. See, I’m not nerdy or geeky enough with my obsessions to be accepted, but the fact that I have such leanings makes me strange to the outside world. I’m guessing a lot of people must fall in this category but because of this ‘middle of the road’ mentality, we never meet or form support groups. We are perhaps, just a bit normal.

Anyway, writers were never supposed to be ‘cool’. So what is wrong with Fan Fiction? It IS creative. I guess it comes down to quality control–the complaint against a lot of indie publishing. But really what is quality. You can have a perfectly written manuscript with a terrible story. Or a terribly written great story. We are looking for that sweet spot. But that ‘spot’ is subjective.

Throughout the course of my PhD, I was told again and again what a terrible writer I was. And I would meticulously re-read my paragraphs for what they meant. I think, they hated my style–my voice. That illusive thing that writers are searching for all the time. Academic writing is supposed to be bland and dry. The more boring it is, the better it sells (to libraries and people who only skim read it because it is so boring).

Academic writing may have something in common with Fan Fiction then–that sort of tight initiation group and a particular way of writing. Not everyone can fit in. Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch. Neither is evil, both need something a bit more. I want MORE creativity from Fan Fiction and a transition into ‘real fiction’ which is silly. And I want academic writing to be interesting.

As a way of confession, I finally opened up my old thesis. I’ve decided to take a Fan Fiction approach to it. Make it more interesting, fill in the gaps and tell the story that people actually want to hear. But to do that I have to become a fan of my own work, which is going to be a tough one.

Sorry for the ramble. But I’d love to hear thoughts on Fan Fiction and Academic writings for you guys. Parallels, differences, you hate one, love the other. Again, I guess my mantra really is: just write.

Why should we hire you?

Today I had my very first interview here in New Zealand. It was my first non-Classics related, or teaching related job interview as well. I’m sure you can imagine how nervous I was, because every single one of us has been there.

Last night while watching scifi on the couch next to Chris, I typed into pinterest ‘interview’. The site came through for me offering hundreds of links to advice from what to wear, how to answer questions and other tricky topics. Reading it at first made me feel amazing. Then I clicked over and felt worse. I typed into Google ‘how can I get a job when I have no skills’ and was reassured that just by having lived, I certainly must have something to offer. I didn’t sleep well.

The interview was at 10:30, and I nervously stared off into the middle distance while re-reading and re-researching everything I had already done weeks before. I’m not sure if it helped. I left my house way too soon, walked too quickly and arrived 20 minutes early. I pretended to look at hair dye for 15 minutes. I should dye my hair.

So how did all the advice stack up? Well, I had dressed fine, tried not to touch my face or hair, gave some eye contact, but not creepy eye contact (I hope), and the hour of grilling passed quite quickly. I can’t tell how I did though. No one threw anything at me, or shouted, so that is always a positive sign. As sick as it may be, I loved talking about how I could help, and what I could do. I felt…useful. Perhaps the best bit of advice was from something I learned from a TED talk last year about body language. And yes, I totally did a power pose before going in…

There were many predictable questions: tell me about yourself, what is your greatest strength, how would you do X, and finally, Why should we hire you? I’m not sure I got that one correct. I had read, last night, about a question “If you were a brick in a brick wall, which brick would you be?” I think that may have been the question that threw me over the edge. Obviously I would be that left over brick that people stubbed their toes on as they walked past since the manager had ordered TOO MANY bricks. Does anyone know a better answer??

Its easier to interview and apply for jobs when you aren’t in love with the job. So now I try to convince myself that I didn’t want it, so that I will be ready for rejection if it comes. Now back to more job applications. Does anyone have any useful interview tips, if I get other interviews?

In other news–it is officially Christmas since I now have a sparkling gold tree…

Real Fiction and Fake Fiction–both are Fiction

I was brought up on a strict diet of Star Trek, Star Wars and basically any scifi that my parents could get their hands on back in the 90s in Tokyo. We had friends in the USA tape the latest TV programs including Babylon 5, send then in the mail and then binge watch them, about 4 episodes a night. I have been binge watching scifi before it was even an option for the rest of the world. So it was of no surprise that the material I wanted to read the most was scifi. I tried the American Girl series, remember those? But I hated them. I would sit there and turn the page every five minutes or so rather than actually read them. Then I met Bruce Coville, and Aliens Ate My Homework and caught the reading bug.

In my naivete, I thought this was normal. I’d never met anyone who didn’t love scifi. At university I found out the hard way, and got strangely made fun of for this love. Someone told me that they only read real literature, or rather realistic fiction. What is interesting to them is real life. They don’t need to pretend. Human nature is the biggest mystery. I was surprised, I felt a bit of shame, and then I got over it and kept on reading what I liked.

But I disagree with his premise. I have read widely now, and I do like ‘real life’ fiction, but it will never be scifi. Less imagination, and it is only with scifi that you can test human nature to the ultimate limits–see what those characters are actually made of. I can go through my own life experiences real life, I want my reading to be more than that. Also, I want to believe in more. I want to believe in the impossible. There is a sort of optimism in scifi even when it turns to horror from humans experimenting where they shouldn’t. We are curious. We push boundaries! Its exciting.

So I guess I’m wondering, is there a stigma against reading scifi? Or did I just meet a few jerks back in university (very possible)? Is there a stigma against writing scifi? I was excited to see that locally here in New Zealand this one guy has just set up his own scifi exclusive publishing house. It is beyond cool.

Ngawi baby seals

Thanksgiving came and went, an overall success of a small group of friends filled to the gills with food. Since then we have had turkey and stuffing burritos for every lunch and Turkey soup twice. The fridge is still quite full, but I love the left overs.

On Saturday Chris got the urge to “get out of dodge”. Those are his words and I’m never quite sure what they mean. Well–okay–they mean he wants to get in the car and drive for a minimum of an hour one way to do something. So he looked it up, and we packed a picnic. We went to the Ngawi baby seal area with a view of the light house as well.

The first spot we tried was a little too close to this mama sized seal, who was camouflaged so we moved.

They played and splashed while we ate.

Dessert was tasty

There were quite a few people there, but nothing compared to the crowd that would have gathered in other parts of the world on a perfectly beautiful Saturday.

The lighthouse was a bit far for us to visit this time.

I was reminded of visiting the lighthouse out on Vashon island with my Aunt and cousins. We saw a baby seal then too. But Chris got in trouble for walking too close to it and taking a picture. That would ‘traumatize’ it apparently. No one said that here as everyone snapped pictures from as close as they dared. Sometimes people are just busy bodies, and the seals don’t care. Other times humans catch and kill or torture seals and they should be in trouble. Here, the seals out numbered the humans. They probably should have caught us and returned the favor.

Just to give you an idea of the area:

If you haven’t, everyone needs to go to New Zealand at least once. If Lord of the Rings/Hobbit doesn’t convince you, perhaps baby seals will.