Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Go on, laugh

Thanks to my friends over at The Hand Mirror, I've just discovered the wonderful Jacky Fleming. She's British, but her cartoons are astonishingly relevant to New Zealand now, especially after the Budget.

On asset sales:

On reducing tax breaks for second houses:

And on using the recession to justify cutting public services and taking away tax breaks for low and middle income people (including children), after massively decreasing taxes for the rich:

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I'm sorry I didn't write a proper post at the proper time last week - but it was for a good reason. I've had a birthday, and have been busy organising nice things to do and doing the nice things other lovely people have organised for me. And I've enjoyed it all, because a week ago I realised I was feeling Much Better. I don't know why, any more than I knew exactly why I felt so awful before, but I think it's partly because I wrote about it here (and got lovely messages back), and spoke about it to a few good friends.
          Anyway, it was very timely - I wanted to enjoy my birthday, and I did. And - I've now managed to get my iPad working properly in the ways I want it to work, with only one phone call to the help desk :) So I'm quite proud of myself. I know everyone under 20 can do this stuff standing on their head, but for me and my peers, it's another story. I finished the first (free) volume of In Search of Lost Time, and decided I'd give myself a birthday present: the Kindle edition of the whole series, over 2000 pages. It cost $2.99. So now I can look forward every evening to going to bed with Marcel.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A mixed bag

Very cold here this week, winter seems to have set in early. Despite a forecast of wind and rain, my gardening mentor Ali and I managed to plant the lilac tree she had grown for me from an offshoot of hers (which came originally from her mother's, so it has a venerable lineage). She assures me it can cope with neglect, which is probably what it will get from me most of the time.
        We didn't get the multi-coloured tulips into their pot, but I can manage those myself, I've done it before. But we did plant ten fancy daffodil bulbs and the rhubarb plant she also brought me. As my food blog shows, I'm very keen on rhubarb, so I hope it survives. It's in a pot, which it may or may not like, but it's a better alternative than the rubble-strewn clay which makes up most of my garden, under a very thin layer of topsoil.
         I questioned Ali closely about how to look after it. At first she was far too vague, as good gardeners (like good cooks) so often are - "they like a lot of feeding..." No, no, I said, that's no good, you have to tell me exactly what kind of food, how much of it, how often, and how to put it on. Then I wrote it all down - that's the only way I'll have any hope of getting it done.
          I've found a good new way to get myself into town, too. On Monday afternoons I take my turn as a volunteer at the wonderful Eva's Attic, where you can find amazing bargains in smart second-hand clothes and do good at the same time - all the proceeds go to excellent causes, such as the New Horizons for Women Trust.  It's in Cuba Street, upstairs next to Olive Cafe.  The only hazard is that I get to see the new stock, and sometimes it calls to me, so I have to try it on...
          Eva's is lovely and warm, but otherwise it's been a bit damp and chilly indoors as well as out - nothing wrong with the heating, I just can't seem to keep it together very well.  Last year's emotions ran both lower and higher; now it feels more like a persistent slough of despond. I have plenty to do, and manage to get absorbed in various kinds of wordsmithing, but otherwise... not so good. Can't be helped, of course, and I'm sure it will pass in time. But I try to tell the truth here, as much as I can, so there it is.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

The iPad and I: so far, so good...

This week I picked up my  new iPad. Not that I ever had an old iPad - I've just bought one - but instead of calling the latest version the iPad 3, its creators insisted it was simply "the new iPad". I decided to get one because 
         (a) more and more of the books I want to read are appearing in paperback editions that look as if someone has simply taken the original (unaffordable) hardback and shrunk it down, resulting in small thick clumsy books with tiny print;
         (b) I can't see to read unless I'm in a really good light, which isn't always available, especially when travelling (even on the bus). The iPad is lit and you can make the print bigger. Unlike the Kindle, the iPad has a screen big enough to let you do this and still get a reasonable amount of text on the page;
         (c) I thought it would be nice to stay in the warmth downstairs instead of having to go upstairs every time I needed to use the computer. I don't own a laptop, so the iPad seemed like a good idea all round.
         The nice young man in the shop wrote down a list of basic instructions for getting started. You have to sign up to iTunes, which I'd never bothered with before. 
         The first hurdle was getting my iPad to do anything at all. I would turn it on, it would show me the apple, then it would go black. In desperation, I finally resorted to my desktop PC  to find and download the User Manual. It told me about the arrow that flicked up for a moment when I turned the iPad on. You have to slide it across to unlock everything.
         Once I got that far, it was reasonably plain sailing until I got to the part about there being an email from Apple asking me to verify my email. It asked me to put in my Apple ID. But by that time I'd filled in so many boxes and answered so many security questions that i couldn't remember what my Apple ID was. So I clicked on "Forgotten your ID?", and it asked me to input my birthday. I did that, and it told me I was wrong.
         At this point I gave in and phoned the help desk. A very calm woman with an accent that was only slightly difficult to follow (as I'm sure mine was for her) started by asking me for the serial number. Then she told me where it was - on the back of the box. I peered intently at the tiny letters to make them out, eventually she understood what I was telling her, and she got me back on track. She even helped me go back into the maw of the beast and correct my birthday. (I could have lived with it recording the wrong birthday, except that I didn't of course know what wrong birthday it had.) Then the call got cut off.
         I bravely carried on, alone. I knew exactly what I wanted to do first: download the app (see, I can speak iPad!) for Kindle, so I could get ebooks from Amazon. I will still buy real books from real booksellers, but there are some venerable classics available for free. One of these is the first volume of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things Past, the first thing I wanted to download - I'd decided this was the year to tackle it.
         I didn't quite get that far last night - it took me all my remaining time and energy to get onto the internet and download Kindle before falling into bed, too exhausted to read. (Halfway through I had to phone the help desk again, because although this book was free, they still wanted all my billing details, and I couldn't work out how to type in my phone number in any way that was acceptable to the unseen god of the machine, which insisted on a three-digit area code. A nice young man got me over that hurdle. They train them very well not to laugh). 
         This morning, after a frustrating half hour or so (the manual kept telling me what to go to in Settings, but I couldn't find Settings, so that was no help), I finally managed (I'm not quite sure how, and I probably won't be able to do it again without a lot more futile prodding at the screen and swearing) to get into Amazon and download Swann's Way. And start reading it.
         I still don't have a clue about the iCloud, or how to write (or dictate!) notes and send them to my proper computer,  let alone how to look at my emails (I think it can do that, but I'm not sure). And I was disappointed that the Kindle books seem to stay floating around in Kindle, rather than neatly installing themselves on one of the most reassuring bits of iPad, the nice wooden bookcase (the only thing I have on it so far is the manual). Maybe the only books that go onto it are iBooks? 
         But I've just discovered the Gutenberg Project, with its enormous and fascinating lists of bygone books (including Proust, only in French). And I expect I'll be able to figure out how to do the other things I need or want to do. Eventually. Meanwhile I'm having a good time with Marcel.