Archive for the ‘Things I like’ Category

One of the reasons I love listening to Radio NZ National (one of our public radio stations) is how much I learn from it. I often take notes about ideas or books or songs that inspire or delight or even horrify me. As I’m about to pour a glass of bubbles before going out to dinner for a special occasion, I’ll share just a couple of things I noted down this week.

I learned the term ultracrepidarian this week. It’s a wonderful word that means someone who has many opinions that are not supported by knowledge. I think this is something we see all the time, and that has always existed, but technology has allowed such people a much higher profile these days. I try not to be an ultracrepidarian on this blog!

There’s a new book – The Meritocracy Trap by Daniel Markovits– that caught my attention. Whilst the idea of a meritocracy may have worked in the past, these days there is evidence, according to the author, that it actually increases inequality. It doesn’t surprise me. Men, for example, think that business and business appointments are a meritocracy, and decry the idea of putting more women in leadership positions or on boards, insisting that it is important that businesses be allowed to appoint the most qualified and able people. If that was the case, I always add, then they have never been doing that by excluding women, which has happened … well … forever. So I would suggest that the idea of a meritocracy has not worked for a long time. Anyway, maybe I should read the book, or risk becoming an ultracrepidarian. I wouldn’t want that!

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My nose in a book

I’ve written quite regularly about losing my reading mojo over the last seven years or so. About once a year or so I bemoan the fact that I’ve lost my mojo, and that I have been way behind my Goodreads target. Every so often there’s a post claiming that I got it back, where I’ve read a couple of good books. The general trend though has been down! I reached a high of 45 books back in 2012. Last year I reached my all-time low of only 16 books (including audiobooks), barely scraping past 50% of my target of 30 books. It’s perhaps not surprising given other things that were going on in my life last year, and the fact that I was also participating in a daily blogging project for the entire year. Still, I could tell that I was struggling to read, and so this year set an achievable target of only 20.

But this year, as I mentioned here, I seem to have rediscovered my reading mojo. I enjoy listening to audiobooks when I walk (for exercise), though it takes quite a few kilometres/hours to get through a single book, and that means I get through several hours of a book per week. And I’ve been reading. A lot. (My target this year was 20 books. I’m already at 30.) Many years ago now, when I first stopped working full-time, I decided that I couldn’t read during the day or I would never get anything done. So reading was only permitted post 5 pm. I gradually got into the habit of not reading until after dinner, and then that slipped, and I almost forgot how to read.

But this winter I’ve been indulgent. I’ve looked forward to the weekends, as there have been a couple of Saturdays or Sundays (rainy days, of course) when I have curled up on the couch and read a book in a day. Saturday’s book was Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, which I gobbled up. I’ve rediscovered the joy of a good book, of a story that captures me. I even read a paper book! I’ve stayed up late, reading. I’ve got out of bed late – I’ve been awake but reading. I’ve spent some days when I never even turned on my laptop. I need to sort and edit all my trip photos to make a new photobook (or two), but I’ve barely made a start. I wanted to review some parts of my photography course from 2018 and do the exercises that I missed in the second half of the year. As always, I need to spring clean my office, but it hasn’t been done or even started. My attention is elsewhere. My nose is in a book. Or more accurately, my iPad’s Overdrive (library) or Kindle app.

Reading, I am reminded, takes up a lot of time!

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After my (very legitimate) rant of last week, I thought I’d write about things that made me happy today:

  • The huge wasp (the biggest I’ve ever seen) that I discovered in the house this afternoon obediently flew out the door when I opened it.
  • I managed to get to my favourite supermarket this morning before the lunch rush.
  • I received a package from some printers. After years of printing my own greeting cards with my own photos, always customised to suit the recipient, I can’t find any stockists of blank printable cards any more. And the ones I could find on the internet cost an absolute fortune. I’ve used an online printing company to make my Christmas cards previously, but I didn’t want a run of 10 or 20 cards all the same. But I discovered a printer that allows you to mix and match, for the same price. So in a print run of 50 cards, I could use 25 different designs. Yay! They arrived today, and I’m thrilled with how they turned out. So if you want something similar, I recommend Moo Print (http://www.moo.com).
  • It’s a lovely winter day, and I enjoyed a good walk this morning.
  • The house is clean, and (or because) I have friends coming for dinner tonight.
  • There is wine in the fridge!

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Sightseeing in some cities (Tokyo) involves taking subways, which are usually convenient, cheap and easy to take. In other cities, it involves the adventure of local bus services, especially adventurous in places with different languages and scripts, though locals are generally friendly and helpful, telling us when to get off (Busan, Korea) because they can guess where we want to go! In many cities though, it involves walking, a lot of walking, and we certainly got our step counts up in many of the cities we visited in the last couple of months. In some countries, we can supplement the walking with taxis and cyclos/rickshaws etc if we wish. Walking in the heat and humidity is another issue. Coming home, though, we realised how easy it would be to lapse into a habit of only occasional exercise. So, on days when it hasn’t been raining, we have ventured out to pound the streets.

This morning, it was an absolute joy to put on my walking shoes, my cap, sunglasses and a lightweight walking jacket and head out. It was a perfect winter’s day – still, clear, cold but not too cold (about 11C probably). The greens of all our evergreen native trees were very green, the blue of the sky was blue, and the tui were going mad in the macrocarpa tree just down the street. The harbour was calm and blue, with container ships and ferries gliding across it. A few trees and shrubs were in flower – I don’t know if that’s by design, or because this winter has been unusually (or perhaps the new norm) warm.

School holidays started this week, so the park at the bottom of our street was full of boys at a football camp, whilst their parents were at work. A new home-owner was out digging up her garden, doing some serious restructuring with a pick-axe at this time of year. Another woman further on was pruning some trees, taking off major chunks. New parents ventured out of their driveway with their twins all wrapped up against the cold in the double pram.

I love walking in new places, to see new things. But it’s nice walking here at home too.

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I’m ba-ack! We’ve been home for 24 hours. It always requires some adjustment:

  • Delays – it’s better they happen on the way home, than the way there.
  • Everyone I see looks familiar. That started in Hong Kong, when we got on our Air NZ flight!
  • Boarding an Air NZ flight feels like arriving home, even if we still have 10+ hours to go before we get to NZ, followed by more waiting and another flight before we’re home.
  • Unpacking and holiday washing is much easier when our check-in bags get stuck in Hong Kong. We hope to see them today.
  • There’s nothing like our own bed – though it is noticeably smaller than those super-super-kings they like in hotels in SE Asia.
  • That first glass of water, straight from the tap, reminds us how lucky we are.
  • I hit Peak Breakfast (after seven weeks of hotel breakfasts most days) a week or two ago, so the lack of a buffet breakfast spread, with eggs as-you-like-them, Asian and Western food choices, pastries and exotic fruit, plus coffee on tap, wasn’t a hardship at all this morning. (Usually, I can easily miss breakfast, but when travelling find I need the energy injection.)
  • It’s so nice not to be too hot!
  • There’s a real feeling of disorientation the next morning when our body clocks are still five hours behind. Everything looks slightly different, through a slightly different lens, the temperature and the air feel different (though the change is welcome), and even walking in different shoes feels odd.
  • Even though the house was clean when we left, seven weeks away means dust. Lots of dust.
  • We don’t even remember what we were watching seven weeks ago, so we don’t care whether the recorder (for our cable TV) worked or not!
  • Though that’s not entirely true, as last night we watched the final two episodes of GoT.
  • Oh yeah. I forgot my laptop takes AGES to boot up. It is six years old, so that might be my next major expense. And that brings me back to earth with a thud.

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At the beach

By the time you read this, we’ll be at the beach. Precisely which beach, I might divulge later. The last time I was at the beach was over four years ago, at Byron Bay in Australia. We’d been at a family wedding in southern Queensland, and headed just an hour or so south to this relaxed spot. When we arrived, we grabbed some lunch near the beach, and sat at the table outside eating and having a beer, as a bunch of nude cyclists biked past. We took just a few days to explore the region, to relax, and to swim at the beach. It wasn’t a relaxing beach though – the waves prevented too much real swimming, and the beach didn’t have trees where I could hide from the fierce southern sun.

I came to love beach holidays when we lived in Thailand. There’s something about lying under palm trees and hearing the gentle lapping of waves at the beach. We’ve been to quite a few beaches – in the Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, Spain and Italy. We have very definite preferences. I don’t want wild or choppy seas. It must not be too crowded or noisy. A pool is always good. The accommodation needs to be comfortable. Our favourite beach was probably Krabi in southern Thailand, but Bedarra in Queensland comes a close second, mainly for the bottomless Bolly we got at the time. Although at one stage we did come to question whether we had outgrown beach holidays, as I struggled with the heat, and began to yearn for cold temperatures and cosy hotels. That didn’t last though.

This year, after such a long break between warm beach interludes, I have big plans for our holiday at a beach. They might be a little aspirational. After all, I have been known to ambitious with my time in the past. (Or rather, to find I procrastinate writing a blog post when I should be doing something else!) So this is what is on my to-do list for my time at the beach.

  • Swim daily.
  • Take an afternoon nap.
  • Read a book, or preferably more than one. Finish said book.
  • Get, in this order, a massage, a mani/pedi, a facial, another massage. Throw in a dedicated foot massage too.
  • Set Beer O’clock at 11 am.
  • Indulge in happy hour cocktails.
  • Eat good food.

Yes, I know. Life’s a (cliched) beach!

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Thoughts about travel :

  • I’d rather take my time and be able to relax and people-watch than run around ticking off all the sights
  • Awareness of the people around you is only polite
  • A good museum is priceless
  • Experimenting with different food is great fun – watch the locals to figure out how to eat it
  • Beer is the same in every language!
  • Have the hotel’s name printed out in the local language for an easier taxi experience
  • Public transport is worth figuring out, to see the local people and – if you are using buses – to see the local neighbourhoods
  • A smile goes a long way
  • Take fewer clothes and more laundry detergent
  • Retain a sense of humour – it turns disgust into delight
  • Building in a little extra recovery time in an itinerary is useful as you get older!


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