Monday, January 26, 2015

Secondhand Smarts - community works!

I haven't posted a Secondhand Smarts update for a while, but rest assured I get so many bargains from secondhand shops, TradeMe, etc, that I can hardly keep up.

An extra special nod must go to the bargains I got at last year's school fair. OK, I put in a lot of hours at the White Elephant sale where I got the goodies, but it was a great community event and raised much needed funds for the kids' school. And hundreds of people went away happy with their bargain finds!

Community and charity work can seem thankless at times, but as well as the reality of the help you're providing, you are also making connections that can sometimes reap more tangible rewards. Sometimes you need something and someone else already has exactly what you need. Like these...

Stepping out...

The boy needed some shoes. Look what I found!

Tevas. Good as new. In the right size. For a couple of dollars!

Yeah, this attachment!
I love making frozen banana ice cream. It is pretty hard work for the S-blade on the food processor though, and we've heard that juicers and mincers do an even better job on the frozen bananas. I don't want another whole gizmo in my kitchen, but I have idly considered buying the mincer attachment for our mixer.

I almost let this amazing coincidence at the White Elephant Sale pass me by. I'd even shelved this box and moved it around a couple of times. But it wasn't until a customer said "there are bits missing from this" that we both realised it was an attachment, not a standalone machine. Just exactly what I needed for the machine we have at home, and luckily the customer didn't! $5, for an attachment retailing new for £38.

I can confirm that the banana ice cream product from the mincer is far superior - it can take the totally frozen banana chunks without strain and produce a really really cold treat instead of one that melts almost as served.

The icing on the cake

And cookies, and vegan cupcakes for the Vegan Society stall, and...

My sister's a decorating ace with all the equipment, but sometimes there's no chance to go borrowing. There were a couple of icing sets in the sale, and I knew I wanted to go home with one.

This one was pretty and compact, so it won the toss, and at $4 was quite the bargain. Especially when later at home, I found this was a collector tin retailing for $70.

Yes, there were even more bargains we got at the fair, but enough already! Secondhand is totally smart shopping.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Faking maturity on Facebook: underage accounts

What I've always wanted to know but been afraid to ask. So I'll risk general offense in the hope of getting some answers.

Why the fake account for your kid who is legally too young to be on Facebook? I know you know it's there, because s/he's in your friend list.

Why I haven't and I wish you wouldn't

  1. It's fraudulent. Here's lesson 1 on "it's OK to fake your age to get in where you shouldn't;" what could possibly go wrong...?
  2. It exposes your child randomly to inappropriate material, messages and ads. Facebook's only parental control setting is requiring your child to be 13 - why blow that?
  3. It allows your child to send private messages to other Facebook users.
  4. If I'm your friend on Facebook, your underage child will see our interactions and could potentially participate. Which could mean all THEIR underage friends might see it. Sorry, but ewww. My young adult nieces and my parents are in my network, and that cramps my style enough.
If you wouldn't invite your children to your pub crawl, why invite them illegally onto a worldwide social network?

Is 13 just forever to wait, when all of their friends already have one? 

Is it never too early to start putting yourself out there, counting how many friends and likes you get, with the added bonus of cyberbullying?

Are they growing up too slowly?

I'm only seeing the downside here - please supply some balance!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fun with Feminist Hacker Barbie!

If you haven't yet heard about Kathleen Tuite, Feminist Hacker Barbie and her awesome backlash against Mattel's book “Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer,” this Wired article is a great place to start.

Then visit the site, view the original pages, and rewrite the book for all our sakes.

(And btw, her mom and my mom are friends, so I'm pretty sure that makes me cool too.)

Here's my bit of fun....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pin the sexist shirt on the comet's tail

The amazing news of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission landing on the comet has burst onto the scene. Even more colourfully, so has the shirt of Mike Taylor, the talented Rosetta scientist who appeared in the media.

(Will we now have the "Rosetta Shirt" to go along with the famed "Rosetta Stone?")

What's the big deal?

I studied tech and worked in tech industries for more than 10 years. Then, as now, the techier it got, the more men worked there, and the more casual the dress code. Not suit and tie, but T-shirts and cycling gear. New Zealand is pretty relaxed. They were not the most politically careful people around.

But not one of those men would have worn a shirt like that to work. If they had actually made such a bad call, they wouldn't have made it down the hall before somebody responsible would have gently but firmly reminded them how inappropriate it was.

If I interviewed for a company where I saw someone wearing such a shirt unchallenged, I would have known there were problems.

So scientist dude Mike Taylor put on a shirt covered in fantasy cartoon body babes, went to work, and made it onscreen without anybody around him noticing a problem. This is a workplace with an ingrained sexism problem. This is a classic real life illustration of this gender-divide study in technical fields. In a way, Mike Taylor has done us a favour by showing how invisible sexism is to him and his field. And I salute him for apologising for his mistake.

Mike Taylor's response is more enlightened than the people who have blamed the feminists for the problem. Apparently the shirt was not the distraction from the major scientific accomplishment - it was those who complained about it.

On the world stage

Like it or not, ready or not, Mike Taylor just appeared on the world stage. In a recent show I was in, the director asked one of the supporting actors to remove a hat supplied by wardrobe. Obviously wardrobe loved the hat, and the actor also loved the hat, and it looked dramatic, so what was the problem?

Well, the hat was so big that you couldn't stop looking at it and pay full attention to the scene. It was like, there were three on stage: the main actor and the supporting actor and her hat, and the scene only called for two. When a piece of clothing, like that hat or that shirt, has its own personality, handle with care.

We should only have been hearing the awesome space message. Some director just had an epic fail.

Copyright Looney Tunes
Reframing the stereotype

What if the white guy's shirt had jolly drawings of black people in rags pickin' cotton? Would objectors have been labelled bullies, as the feminists have been? Would that have been "not actual racism"? Would anyone say, "If black people let something like this put them off, they shouldn't work in the STEM fields."

News flash. Black people are also largely underrepresented in STEM fields. Perhaps secretly white men prefer them in the cotton fields. It's no secret that too many still prefer barely dressed fantasy women to real women challenging them in the real world. Is this an offensive stereotype? Yes. No fun, is it?

Basically, what that says is, "If you can't handle that STEM fields are sexist/racist, you shouldn't work there. Don't complain!"

Even Star Trek changed their motto to "boldly go where no one has gone before." Little by little, oppression could become invisible because it doesn't exist anymore. But it won't happen if we ignore it.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why this vegan won't go to Hell

...that's Hell Pizza, in New Zealand, of course.

What the Hell?

Recently, my network feed from my local vegan friends and vegan boards have been dripping with pizza selfies. What's the news? Hell Pizza with the brand new addition of Angel Food's delicious vegan mozzarella cheese. I have eaten Hell Pizza before, but they are expensive and gourmet, and I'm a frugal gal, so although they are just up the road we don't often meet anyway.

But we won't be meeting anytime soon, in spite of the vegan cheese. I'm in a minority compared to the Hell-ravers, and I don't enjoy feeling in conflict with a business coup for a well-loved vegan business, but here we go.

Hell of an advertisement

Hell Pizza's name and image is based on exploitation of Christian ideas. Because only a minority in New Zealand take religion seriously, Hell is able to appeal to the majority by using those familiar ideas lightly with that hint of sacrilege to spice up their commercial presence and grab attention.

That's just how they roll. So no surprises really when they advertise rabbit pizza with a billboard of actual rabbit skins and lamb shanks with a cartoon "lambputee". This little lamb came out right before the vegan cheese deal and pushed me over my personal limit. I will get my pizza elsewhere.
Thanks SuicideFood!

Who the Hell cares?

At the end of the day, none of this matters much. But this sort of advertising represents the sort of over-the-top satire about animal rights often summed up as "MMMMM...bacon".

Some vegans believe that rabbit skin and legless lamb ads encourage us to connect the dots with animal production and use. Unlikely. Hell pays to design ads to increase sales, not make their loyal customers question their food. It's far more likely that the advertising focus groups showed that this level of satire encourages meat-eaters in their recognised defense mechanism.

Few people walk around draped in furs, and everybody knows that the lambs don't haunt the paddocks with prosthetic legs. The absurdity is a shared joke that avoids consideration of the reality.

But...vegan pizza!

I know, I know. Hell has always offered an unusual range of gourmet vegan pizzas, and now they're offering vegan cheese too!

But Hell's ads show me that they are confident in offending the minority of animal rights supporters, just like  Christians (and amputees, and who's next?), and still sell lots of pizza to those who overlook or even enjoy such jokes at other's expense. Controversy stimulates sales, so offending a minority is a win-win situation.


Hell offering vegan cheese may be a shining example of how far veganism has come. Another sign of how far we've come is how other pizza places (Domino's or Pizza Hut) don't even blink when you order a pizza with no cheese - and then perhaps add your own Angel Food mozzarella at home.

And if you're a vegan who still wants to support Hell, please consider, between mouthfuls of pizza, sending a message to them about the message their advertising sends to us.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dirty Politics: the expose IS the issue

Anyone following the impact of Dirty Politics (The Herald, Stuff, and the Standard have all the background and breaking news) has already been treated to several rounds of Protection Protest:

  • This is a smear and it didn't happen.
  • I didn't do it and it's not my responsibility.
  • Maybe someone else did it, but it was a long time ago and it's already been handled.
  • If it happened, it's OK because everyone does it.
  • It may look like I did it, but that is misrepresentation.
  • If I did it, I can't remember - I can't remember everything!
  • It's under enquiry, so I can't comment.
  • This is a smear; we need to talk about real issues.

I have news for John Key and his band of dirty politician and supporters - this issue is as real as it gets.

Dirty Politics shows how these influential people operate. How they treat their friends, their colleagues, their supporters and their competition. How they treat the truth. How the best defense is the next lie.

This forms the real context for any other issues such people might care to discuss with the public they claim to serve.


If you have not read Hagar's book, you can easily have a scan of the source emails on WhaleDump. One series of emails between Slater and Bhatnagar sets a scene of vicious and fawning scheming, including areas already well-known:  favoured OIA requests to the SIS, threatened blackmail of Rodney Hide, and  downloading of the Labour members' database and gloating over the damage potential, the political advantages to Allan Peachey's dying.

It is regularly punctuated by obscene ad hominem attacks on many people:

why is Blair Mulholland supporting this cock
Because Blair IS a cock
never had a job cock

darren hughes is dead meat
he tried to get his leg over with a 18yo bloke who isn't gay
and tryiong to pull a Labour indian slut
you are right, he is fucked.

if he didn't get it last time based on all the referees i orgnaised then he never will...the national parrty really are cunts to their own

i have txts as recent as three weeks ago between him and his latest root
Yep i know that, Mallard is a cunt but don't get distracted let me deal with that shit
The exchange is also oddly peppered with slices of reality where both men discuss personal issues, political aspirations and outings together. This would be touching, if there were any hint of empathy elsewhere for their targets. One might excuse the whole as just a couple of not-yet-grownup boys seeking power together, no matter the cost.

But wait! Much of the same vicious ground is covered from another angle between Slater and Lusk, including Slater commenting about his mate Bhatnagar:
"cactus says Bhatty [ Bhatnagar] needs to groe the fuck up and realise that fat indians with a BA in Russian are no good in politics and the only reason he has any chance is because daddy's rich and nearly dead. What a loser, he couldn't even win WITH daddy's money, you think Zac Goldsmith wouldhave ever stood ina seat he couldn't win. Rich people don't lose selections unless they are fucking hopeless or fucking stupid. he lost to a maori and that is even funnier."
Folks, this isn't just dirty. It's ugly, from start to finish. The files must be experienced to be believed (and they are believable, in a tedious and sickening way).

Who cares?

Why should anyone care about the nastiness of Slater and his mates? Because these files provide the documentary evidence needed to back up all the circumstantial evidence in 2011 that the National government probably used Slater's blog as a favoured channel for sensitive information about National's competition. In other words, official goverment information channels have been coopted for political purposes, and an official enquiry is now underway.

This is but one documented issue that needs addressing. Key's repeated defense of Judith Collins is inexplicable unless you wonder how many other messes are being covered up on the denial system.

Is it OK to use stolen emails?

It may seem hypocritical to accuse someone based upon stolen emails. However, the information that Slater and National are alleged to have misused were for their own advancement, and if they did it, that information is in the public interest. These emails are evidence that contradict Key's wobbly 2011 statements about the SIS OIA process. They indicate that perhaps the watchdogs of the day might have done well to investigate this fracas with more energy, including legally asking for Slater's communications as evidence instead of accepting implausible reassurances.

For those who still feel a bit squeamish, remember that anonymous sources have an accepted and protected role. Justice is sometimes even served via criminals who turn in evidence of crimes they may themselves have been involved in.

Slater is a tool

It's dodgy for the National Party even to associate with Slater and his blog. It's inexcusable how they have been using Slater as the medium for public messages that cannot conscionably or legally be said by any public servant.

Slater is clearly a man who is desperately angling to be powerful since he cannot be liked. The files indicate that not only did he get an illegal inside track on the Goff briefing, he was discussing with National the release of the illegally downloaded Labour membership files. 

National has used Slater for this dirty work precisely so that Key can say "He's not my guy" and "nothing to do with National" when the charges start flying. After all, Cameron has been convicted of illegal information handling before. Not only does Key keep a clean image for his voters, he keeps a clean police record. That's a win-win.

Everybody does it?

No. There may be certain things that "everybody does" in the network of political success. But everybody doesn't have emails containing discussions of blackmail or conspiracy to release regular people's private information. Everybody doesn't have years of email records which routinely abuse colleagues and competitors. And everybody certainly doesn't fiddle with the protected information from the SIS.

So does John Key really believe that everyone is this dirty, or does he simply hope that you will?

That would certainly keep you out of the voting booth.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hybrids: driving with new energy

So after 14 years, two children and a frugal lifestyle, it was finally time to upgrade the car, which was showing signs of needing expensive repairs and still not being OK anymore.
We have considered the one-car family option, but since I would expect it to be me who had the one car for daily runabouts, I can't push this one hard.
Our upgrade wish list included a fancy to invest in advanced motoring technology that uses less petrol.

New Zealand has not yet integrated public charging stations for fully electric vehicles, but some clever online shopping by the DH resulted in quite a special deal from far away from the big smoke: a tidy 10-year-old Toyota Prius with less than 40,000 ks and a certified service history.

The ups

Of course a newer car is always a pleasure to drive, and the whole family is helping to keep it in its original tidy condition instead of its natural state of the "family car".

And it is really really quiet !  We call it the sneaky car, because you often can't hear when it arrives in the garage. Unless the tires squeak.

While I drive it, I get instant feedback on how much petrol I am using vs how much battery power. It's very motivational - it's like a driving game where I see how long I can run just on battery power before running out, or getting to the next hill so I can recharge. If nobody is following me I will often drive much more slowly than I used to, just to keep it on battery only. It's only a few hundres metres to the next corner anyway, so what's the rush? "I'm using no petrol!"

OK, mine shows kms and litres, but you get the idea...
And it is educational to see how just THIS much more pressure on the pedal spends your petrol THAT much faster. I think every car needs this even if it's not a hybrid.

The downs

While I love the extra storage the hatchback provides compared to our previous sedan, I absolutely hate the reduced visibility in every corner and behind the car.

Squashed window and a spoiler - I can't see! DH has kindly installed a high-tech tennis ball feature in the garage so I know when I am finished parking.

And there is always a risk that the hybrid battery could fail, which could be $thousands to replace, or somewhat more reasonably amounts to repair...

The results

I'm sure that like me, when you read about hybrid or electric technology and see the theoretical efficiency, you still wonder how that really translates to real life, especially when hybrids are more expensive to buy than their regular counterparts.

So I'm very happy to report that I am regularly, easily, getting twice the distance from a tank of petrol in the Prius as I did for the old Nissan Sunny. Really: 400km when running the Sunny to the fumes at the bottom of the tank, and 800+ no problem on the Prius.

Modify that gain slightly because the Prius runs on slightly more expensive petrol. But even so, we are doing about 1 fill per month instead of 2 - say about $80/month or $960 per year - this should eventually provide our ROI plus the satisfaction that we are using that much less petrol to get around.