Monday, 10 December 2007

NZ Book Month: Blog 3

Five, zero, zero, eight, seven.

Fifty thousand and eighty seven.

50087 – no matter how you say it, it feels pretty damn good; from writing nine words on the 1st, till the 30th when I wrote a grand total of 8285 words on the day. In fact, after the 1st of November I didn't write anything more until the 13th – the day of my last exam, so I've actually written 50000 words in only 18 days; that’s easily a new record for me.

I was bouncing off the walls after I finished writing; I couldn’t believe I had actually done it. I think the turning point came for me when one evening when I was talking with a friend who was also doing NaNoWriMo, and we decided to have a ‘word war’ – we set the clock for twenty minutes and wrote furiously to see who would write the most words. And at the end of those twenty minutes, spelling and punctuation flung to the winds, I clocked in with a grand total of 1220 words, over a word a second. Usually, I thought, I could average about a thousand words an hour; finding how fast I can actually write when I set my mind to it, I start giving myself lots of little 10- and 15-minute word races, and then ten or twenty minute rest breaks in between.

At the end of 23 November, with one week to go, I had written 10156 words; in my last week I wrote almost forty thousand words, getting up and doing 500 words before going to work, coming home during lunch a couple of times to write another few hundred, and setting myself goals each day. Finishing was a fantastic feeling; I was – and am – so proud of myself.

The meet-ups were great; it’s always cool to meet new people with similar interests as my own, and as usual our group this year was fantastic. We actually all got on so well that we’ve agreed to keep meeting up once every month or so, just to keep in touch and see how things are going. One of our writers, Jonathan, got to 50000 but didn’t finish his novel; so he’s still going in December. He’s already up to 60000, and is aiming for 80000 by the end of the month.

Speaking of finishing the novels, I completed three new landmarks for myself this year. The first I’ve already mentioned, writing 50000 words in 18 days. The second – and one I’ve never achieved before – is that this year, I actually finished my novel. I have never completed a NaNoWriMo novel before, and I’m so proud I did. And during December I’ve already started editing a previous novel, to see if I can get it completed and maybe even ready to be submitted to a publisher one day.

And my third task this November was to write a non-fantasy novel; every year, so far, I’ve based my novel in a fantasy world. I find it a lot easier; you can make up rules, insert magic and mythical creatures, and so on. This year, I decided to write it about the real world. No magic, no myths; just real life, and what goes on around us in the lives of several made-up characters in small-town New Zealand.

It was hard; I needed to draw a lot more on my own and others’ experiences, and my plot needed to be more solid since I didn’t want any murders or romances in my novel; just a story about real life and the struggles people go through. To my astonishment, I achieved it this year, and it came together well at the end.

I think, every year, you need to set yourself a new goal. Last year I didn’t feel as great at the end; I hadn’t really completed any new goals. This year, I achieved three new accomplishments, and I’m so proud and happy with myself. I can’t believe I did it so quickly; and I can’t believe I completed my novel. And you know what? At our final official NaNoWriMo meet-up, on 1 December, so many of us were sitting there tossing around new ideas for our next novel; and all of us, I think, will be back next year, ready to try again.

I’m so happy. And I can’t wait for next November.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

NZ Book Month: Blog 2

I don't think I ever realised how important the weekly meet-ups are. The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I didn't attend any meet-ups because there were none in my area; but the excitement of writing my first novel kept me going that year. I started late, pounded out thousands of words in a burst of enthusiasm, lost all hope about Week 3, missed a few days, skipped a boring chapter or two to get to the end and finished triumphant on November 25, astonishing every single one of my friends and family.

Your second NaNoWriMo is meant to be the hardest, because you've lost that initial enthusiasm and can-I-really-do-this spirit. I did find it harder, but still finished, no problems. My third and fourth years flew by with varying problems but consistent success; and I started looking forward to this year, my fifth.

Honestly, I really can't be bothered any more. I ask myself what the point is, why I'm doing this? I already know I can do it, what am I proving now? Wouldn't my time be better spent working on the unfinished manuscripts I already have? Is it really sensible to do this in a month where I already have so much other stuff going on?

Because of exams, I've actually barely started yet. Exams have to take priority; so I wrote my opening sentence – nine words – on the first of the month, and thereafter focused on exams until they were over. Now, finally, they're all done, but I just can't get stuck into my novel.

Then it occurred to me I haven't been to any meet-ups this month. I went to the pre-November meet-up, but couldn't make the next two due to exams and family responsibilities. (Thankfully, Angela – my unofficial co-coordinator – stood in for me on both occasions!) But it's usually the meet-ups that really energise me and motivate me. It's talking to other people going through the same thing that reminds me I can do this, that at some stage we all hate our novels, that the point is to challenge yourself and your creativity to see if you can get out yet another novel, even on top of the stresses of exams, work and daily life in general. It's a support group, I guess – and I need some of that support.

It's generally agreed that 1667 words a day is a huge number to expect anyone to write. My added challenge this year is that I haven't even properly started yet. At time of writing, my "novel" is 363 words long. This blog entry is longer than that! It also means that, to finish on time, I'll need to write over 3000 words a day to finish my NaNoWriMo. To be fair, I did the same last year – but last year my last exam was on 6 November, so I only started a week late. This year, half the month's already over.

Does that mean I'm giving up? Nahhh. It just makes it more of a challenge. And it means that – in my present uninspired state of mind – I'm really going to be needing that meet-up on Saturday.

Now I need to get back to my novel, and setting myself incredibly high goals... let's see if I can have 5000 words by the end of the day. Why not?

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

NZ Book Month: Blog 1

It's 8.30pm and already I'm exhausted. That might have something to do with my exam earlier today, but it might also have something to do with NaNoWriMo. In fact, when I realised at the start of September that NaNoWriMo was coming up yet again, I felt exhausted at the mere thought of another month of stress and sleep-deprivation.

That didn't stop me from signing up for my fifth year of NaNoWriMo, of course. Or from volunteering to be Palmerston North's regional coordinator for the third year in a row. I think the appropriate term here would be "sucker for punishment". At least I was organised this year, though. I decided on a setting, drafted a plot, created some characters.

Then a few days ago, I decided my idea was boring, so I've scrapped everything except the setting (New Zealand… and even then, I might still decide to scrap it), and now it's back to the drawing-board. I don't view this as a particular drawback – I've often started November with no idea of what to write, but the need to meet those 1667 words a day always pushes me to write SOMETHING, and along the way I gradually plan out the plot. Often huge plot-holes develop because of this, but all that means is that I need to go back and add extra scenes to explain them away – which just means more words.

We had our first kick-off event on Saturday, the last weekend before we're plunged into a month of mayhem – the kick-off event was great, and I got home really psyched up for November, far more so than I had been before the meet-up. It's always great to talk with other participants, discuss each other's plots, laugh at silly stories, get help with ideas – and of course, just meeting other people with similar interests is always a good thing. Because we're all into writing, most of us enjoy reading, so there's always something to talk about with our favourite authors, new books to recommend each other, and so on.

I'm really worried about November, but my upcoming exams are worrying me more than NaNoWriMo. It'll be a crazy adventure – it always is. I'll miss out on sleep and skip entire days of writing and then have days where I write 5,000 words in one go (between cups of coffee), and I'll meet new people and make up crazy plots and laugh at myself and stretch my ingenuity and creativity to their absolute limits. That's always what it's like, more or less, and exams this year only make it more of a challenge. No matter how often I've done it, there are always new challenges to overcome; other time commitments to work around; the question of whether I can do it again this year.

But that's why we have instant meals these days, and that's why our minds stretch the more we push them. Yes, it's 8.30pm and I'm tired already; and as November crashes in on me, I'll probably get more tired still. But it's so much fun, the people are so great, and having that finished manuscript is SUCH an excellent feeling – I can't wait for November to get here.

Monday, 29 October 2007

To blog or not to blog

Exams are coming up fast, and I still need a few more months so that I can actually learn what it is I'm meant to know — this does not augur well for exams. Especially when I do silly things like driving to Joy's place to check if my new Threadless hoodies have arrived yet, or doing the daily crossword, or... well... blogging.

A lot's happened in the last couple weeks. Well, actually, not much has happened, but one significant event has happened at least.

I'm now living with Dan.

Sort of. And finally! All my furniture is still at Joy's, and my mail's still all going there, but it just makes more sense to have all my clothes, computer and study in one place while I'm doing exams — and for that place to actually be where I spend my evenings and weekends.

So my stuff is now all here at Dan's, and he's cleared half of the double garage for me to park my car in, and moved half his furniture out of his room to make space for mine, when it gets here.

While clearing my stuff out on Saturday, I found so much random junk that I'd forgotten about or assumed I'd thrown out or used up, it was great — but that's always the way when you move, isn't it? I'm burning to unpack more of my stuff — currently all sitting in boxes in Dan's spare room — but I need to study more than unpack.

I'm extremely worried about my exam tomorrow. I know very little about whatever we're supposed to be writing essays on (the paper's called The History of the World, like that helps). I have to write four essays, and I honestly don't know if there's room in my brain for four topics. I normally like to have a back-up topic or two, but there's simply no room in my brain for more — the information would fall out.

On a brighter (but no less stressful) note, we had our NaNoWriMo kick-off on Saturday. There were seven people there — a vast improvement on last year's total of three. This year we even had an eleven-year-old come along — participating in the Young Writers programme, which is great. Another participant turned out to be a Massey student, who's in one of my papers during summer semester.

Angela was and is a veritable godsend. She even brought along a guy from work that she'd helped talk into it, and was great with talking to the quieter participants and keeping the conversation going. She even left work an hour early so she could be there. By the end of our meet-up, she was even thinking of writing her own short story as well — she wasn't originally intending to participate in NaNoWriMo, but if you're going to help out with organising it, it makes so much more sense to be writing as well. So yay for Ang.

And my grandfather's eightieth birthday is this weekend, so after my exam on Saturday morning I have to journey up to Taranaki (hopefully with Dan) and do the family thing for the weekend before sitting my last two exams! Madness, I tell you.

So when the lovely Dee from NZ Book Month emailed me to tell me she's put an article on NaNoWriMo on the NZ Book Month site, and to ask me whether I'd be interested in blogging for them during November, clearly it would have been madness to say yes.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that I happily said "Yes", and will shortly be tearing my hair out over yet another time commitment. I can't even keep this blog up, let alone another one!

Ah, life's fun. I need to go study for my exam now. But isn't it cool? :-)

Update: NZ Book Month blog

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The lifestyle of writing

I'm a writer.

I don't write for a living or even as frequently as I should; I've never published a book and only one short story; I'm in no way a professional writer. But I feel like, intrinsically, that's what I am, that's what I'll always be — even if I never write another word again.

It's like a lifestyle. Writing affects everything I do. And I mean apart from my crazy grammar-Nazi thing.

Writing affects my fashion — I'm incapable of not buying any and all clothing related to books/reading or writing.

Writing affects what books I buy. I have to buy things like the Six Pack and Huia Short Stories because it's supporting New Zealanders like me — who love writing and want to do it, and do it well — I'd be betraying my own cause not to buy them, and encourage others to buy them. Support NZ writers! Buy NZ made! Go the patriotism.

Writing affects other books I buy, too — I'm interested in writing about Regency England, so I buy books based in Regency England — relatively historically accurate ones, e.g. Georgette Heyer rather than Ken Follett (at least she researched the era properly).

Similarly, I feel like I have to complete events like good ol' NaNoWriMo, and even be ML for it until someone else is able to take over my region or until I (please dear God, please!) move away. It's good practice, it's good experience, and it's getting things done. When I discovered Kiwi Writers, initiated by the fantastic Kerryn (NaNoWriMo ML for Wellington) and some other WriMos, I had to first join, and then sign up for any and all writing challenges I could find.

Writing affects the way you talk and think and observe other people, writing makes you note down funny comments and spy on interesting strangers in coffee shops and make mental memos of what different people say and wear and do and act around you.

I feel like I could never write another word, and still be a writer.

Although honestly, I don't think that would happen since I'd get out of that way of thinking. But is, to me at least, as much of a lifestyle as an activity; it affects everything I do (albeit very subtly).

If I'm trying to work out an issue in my life, I sometimes write little fictional stories about characters in similar situations, and helping them work it out helps me work it out.

With Massey, all my papers are geared towards writing — writing and journalism papers, literature and history and classics paper — a good literary writer needs at least a basic knowledge of those areas.

I feel the need to travel, to experience more life outside NZ, understand different persons and peoples and cultures — I can't just keep living in small-town New Zealand and experiencing nothing for the rest of my life. What kinda writing am I going to be able to do about that? I need experiences, ones I can't get in New Zealand or from just visiting other places — I'm so glad I grew up overseas, even if I never get to live overseas again. But I hope I do.

I've been thinking lately about how important it is to me, how central to my life — past, present and future — and dreams for the future.

This entry may not sound finished; that's because I'm not.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


Well, to continue the Chaffy news, I do now officially have a Regular Column for Chaff. Which also means I'm on my way to completing that task — two down, ten to go. Kinda sucks, since there aren't ten weeks left of the Massey year, but that's OK... I'll just finish it next year. I've made a start, which is the important thing. Or the first important thing, anyway.

The only problem, in fact, that I'm having with the column so far (I know, second week and already I'm having issues!) is that I'm not serious enough. Chaff, being a student magazine, is pretty much full of juvenile crap and retarded humour. I'm writing this column with a view to learning how to do it "properly" in case I ever want a job as a reporter, kind of a preparatory thing, learning experience, all that good stuff. And so my poor editor is going through and inserting silly jokes at random places in the column — which sucks for him to have to do that, and sucks for me to see my column thus maligned! So this week I had to try to turn perfectly serious subjects into causes for ridicule and juvenile humour. Ugh, it's hard.

And on that note, I totally sold myself out this week. I have an assignment due on Monday — a travel writing story — which we had to do a draft for and then the final thing. So I wrote the draft, we workshopped it in class, and people reckoned I was too harsh on Sarah, a character who was a complete bitch and quite stupid in real life. So I rewrote the story, and portrayed Sarah in the light of something approaching angelic — I showed a couple of my classmates the rewritten story, and they much approved. I showed Dan the rewritten story, and he read it without comment.

"I kinda sold myself out, didn't I," I said shame-facedly. He just looked at me.

"Yeah, you really did."

Damn it. Oh well, hopefully my lecturer likes it more now. I care more about getting good grades than keeping the story true to life and true to what I wanted to show. I did consider changing my story to show why I thought she was such a bitch, but it would have taken a lot more words and I was way over the word limit anyway. Ah well.

In other writing news, it's that time of year again! NaNoWriMo is now a bare month away, and foolishly as usual I signed up to be ML for Palmy again. I've already asked my editor if I can write a feature article on NaNoWriMo — he's more than happy — but I still need to write to "real" newspapers and see if I can get a bit more publicity than we achieved last year.

I wonder if we could get NZ Book Month to promote it? Damn, probably a bit late for that now, considering NZ Book Month (3-30 Sept) finishes on Sunday. Still, that's an idea for next year. We'll see.

But on that note, if you haven't bought the Six Pack Two, go buy it now! Currently Number One on the bestsellers list in New Zealand, available from all major bookshops, and best of all it's only six dollars for six excellent short stories from six up-and-coming New Zealand writers — some unheard-of, some well-known, but the point is you're supporting New Zealand talent and writers for six measly dollars.

Disclaimer: I haven't actually bought it myself yet, but I do hear the stories are excellent — better than last year's one. Plus I haven't heard of any of the writers previously so I'm not actually sure if any of them are well-known. Although I'm pretty sure Dave Armstrong is.

But I can tell you that (a) it definitely is six dollars, (b) it definitely is numero uno on the bestsellers list, and (c) it definitely is supporting new New Zealand writers. Those are the key factors, so go buy it now! (I will buy it, I just have no money right at the moment. No, not even $6. But I'm gonna buy it when I do!)

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

In recent news...

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles... my car is back, and both Anna and my car remained safe and sound (or so she'd have me believe) for the duration of the trip — with the exception of a chip in my windscreen, which is fixed for free under my insurance.

Thursday was an awful, stressful day though, which had little to do with waiting for the return of my car (at 8pm in the end, but only because my considerate little sister had taken it to her friend's place to vacuum it out first!). I had a job interview and a practical assessment for another job, both of which went horribly. Easily my worst day this year.

That's all good though. I didn't even want the practical-assessment job, as it was more hours than I was looking for; I went along for the practice, and I'm glad I did. If I apply for a similar job, I'll now be that little bit more experienced, that little bit less wracked with trauma.

Sadly, I did want the other job; but since the interview I knew I hadn't got it, so thankfully the stress ended then. When I got my rejection call I was disappointed, but not surprised — went back online, applied for another job, and was rung up within four hours to ask if I would come in for an interview! That interview went well, so I'm back and happy and, well, still applying for other jobs since honestly I don't have a chance in hell of getting this one. But I like that they think I do.

On another positive note, I did get offered one job. I didn't actually want it, in the end, so I turned it down; but it was good to have the option. I'm not too desperate for a job, thankfully — my student allowance covers all my basic needs, and while it would be nice to be able to have a bit more to spend on luxuries, I'm easily surviving without. So I'll still keep avidly job-hunting, but it's a good feeling to know I'm financially stable without one.

For possibly the first time in my life, I've actually been sticking to my budget this year — that's gotta make life a lot easier. I've started a student loan this semester — not because I can't afford tuition fees, but because student loans are now interest-free, and it makes far more sense to stick my moolah in the bank. If the government ever change that policy, I'll just pay my whole student loan off at that time. I understand the reasons they initiated that policy, but I don't think it'll serve to keep as many graduates in New Zealand as they'd want; and anyone in New Zealand with a student loan no longer has any incentive to pay off more than the bare minimum.

In non-financial study-related news, I've handed in all of my assignments on time to date, not even taking advantage of offered extensions (go me!), and now I'm well on my way to completing two out of my three next assignments, all of which are due next weekend. (The lecturers conspire against us, they really do.) But thanks to my once-in-a-lifetime organisational skills, partly to Angela's wonderful help and partly to my workshop group, I' ve nearly finished the first two, and have made a tentative start on the third. I gotta say, it's a good feeling. I should do that more often!

In Wellington news, Dan and I are meandering southward this weekend, for the first time in... well, a week and a half, but still. That was just a flying visit; this will be (drumroll) an overnight stay. I'm meeting up with quite a few people so far; should be good times.

And now, having covered the car-related, study-related, work-related and money-related aspects of my life, let me retire gracefully from the lists. Although I have a feeling that that was originally boxing cant, which is singularly inappropriate. Oh, and in Chaff-related news I may be starting up writing a regular column. Don't I rock? Oh yeah!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

She's taken my car

She's gone.

With my car.

My car's gone and she's taken it with her.

I am so very worried and so very stressed. And unsure as to how I'm going to get to my upcoming job interviews, especially if it keeps raining like this.

I hope she drives safely and is back and happy with my car on Thursday!

And I hope she doesn't get lost — poor girl had to rely on my directions.

And I hope she remembers all my instructions. No alcohol in car, no drugs in car, no speeding, no food in car, if she gets a speeding ticket she pays for it, take the face-plate out every time she leaves the car, even if it's just at a rest-stop for two minutes, no drinks apart from water in car, no luggage left in backseat, no maps left in car, no bags left in car, nothing remotely valuable left in car, turn the lights off when leaving the car, fill up before leaving the Naki, no hitchhikers, no crashes, take the key out of the ignition when you leave the car (which she didn't do at the petrol station... OK, I was still in the car, but still!)....

I hope she's OK.

I'm worried.

Friday, 31 August 2007

My poor, beautiful, injured car

Good morning, boys and girls.

Today's the last day of August, so I considered it my duty to update one more time, avoiding the shame and humiliation of admitting that I only updated twice this month. Thrice is far more impressive.

I don't have any particular philosophical ramblings to communicate, nor events to divulge, nor 101 tasks to exult over. Unfortunately, this whole blog has mostly fit into one or other of the above categories; when I have none of the above to talk about, I'm slightly at a loss.

This has been a crazy week, though. Partly due to my own lack of organisation, I have to admit, but not all my own fault. I had an assignment due last Friday; one on Monday; one today; and two next week. Add to that visits from Darcy, Shaun and my sister, and three contact courses, all within this week, and it was busy — especially when two of the contact courses fell on exactly the same days. Amusingly, they're exactly across the hall from each other, so I'm sitting in one lecture room, looking across the hall at the other lecture I'm meant to be at.

I was gutted that I didn't actually have time to hang out with Shaun in the end — I almost didn't have time to hang out with Darcy either, but managed to squeeze him in. And it was great to see Anna — Joy cooked dinner for her, Dan and me, and afterwards she and Dan and I went to his place and watched a movie. Just relaxed... but I guess Anna and Dan haven't ever really hung out together before (living on different islands makes it difficult), so that was cool. She and I are so alike though, it was hilarious. Joy didn't notice it, but Dan and I definitely did.

My big stress for next week, though, is not my two assignments — nor my meeting with my lecturer — nor even my job interview on Monday (wish me luck! although Kylie may never speak to me again if I get it).

My big stress is my sister. Well, more accurately, my car.

My sister in my car.

Yup, next week Anna is borrowing my beautiful, new, glossy, featureful car to drive up to Auckland with one of her friends to go to a concert. My baby sister driving my car for several hours on end. Then in Auckland. That's Auckland — not renowned for easy traffic. Then keep my precious car there overnight. Then drive back.

All without crashing or being broken into or hitting another car or being hit by another car or bumping something while parking or getting out of a park or falling asleep at the wheel or having my lovely new car stereo stolen....

Stressed, so very very stressed! If anything does happen, Anna's volunteered to bear the costs (damn straight!) but when I asked her if she actually had enough money to cover the excess, she had to admit she doesn't. So I would have to pay anyway, and then my little sister would owe me money (cos I'm not forgiving that kind of a debt!) and owing money within the family worries me. Or being owed money within the family, for that matter.

It's stressful, it's very stressful. I'll be so relieved when (when, not ifwhen) my car is back with me, safe and relatively sound. We're ignoring the fact that I've actually mildly jarred it twice in the last two weeks — once misjudging the distance as I edged out of a parallel park, and once a fence springing up to plow a huge horrible dent in my poor car. I feel so guilty for injuring my beautiful car!

Surprisingly enough, writing about all the things that could and have gone wrong with my car is not calming me notably, either. In fact, I might go and do what I'm actually meant to be doing — working on the assignment due today.

I hope my poor, beautiful car is OK. I hope my sister treats it well. I hope Auckland treats her well.

...Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Friday, 10 August 2007


I can't remember when it occurred to me that I didn't have a cultural background. There's the Maori culture, Aboriginal culture, Native American culture, Russian cultures — but what's the Pakeha (New Zealand European) culture? I couldn't think of anything that was culturally mine, and suddenly I felt a chasm of historical nothingness open up behind me.

I do have a culture, of course. Christianity.

It only occurred to me recently, how closely religion and culture are connected. It explains why so many indigenous cultures have been wiped out, in missionaries' zealous attempts to chase out ungodliness. It shows why Christians who come from a different culture, can have problems reconciling their faith with their intrinsic beliefs and systems.

I can't remember what brought it up, maybe the furor a little while ago about having a Maori Day. After all, Maori don't have a day that's specifically theirs.

That got me thinking about how Pakeha don't have a day that's specifically ours, either. Not that I particularly feel the need for one, to be fair. I've heard the argument that every holiday New Zealand has is a Pakeha holiday — Christmas, Easter, Labour Day, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day and so on. A couple of those are debatable. But all of them (except Waitangi Day) at least have English names.

I've wondered, since I stopped believing in God, if I should still celebrate days like Easter and Christmas. I do, of course. Even if I'm not exactly thanking Jehovah for the gift of his son, I don't see any reason not to have a fun family time and all give each other presents. I imagine very few people honestly believe in Christianity these days, but that doesn't stop almost everyone from celebrating what is still, in its essence, a Christian holiday. It's our culture.

I don't think you can ever completely separate religon from culture. You can stop practising a religion, and cut yourself off from your culture as well; but I don't think you can really adopt a religion without adopting at least some of its culture, or continue cultural observances while disassociating yourself from the related religion. Religion and culture are too intertwined.

And all this talk about culture got me thinking about cultural/historical background. Everyone else seems to have a history to be proud of.

What's my history? Englishmen and Scotsmen who came over to conquer an inoffensive land for the sake of their own greed.

I'm still proud of my history, though. I'm ashamed to think of the things those first Europeans did in New Zealand, those blood-shedding pioneers and overzealous missionaries, but it's not exactly something I can change now. And I am proud of how far the English got, their technological advances, their pioneering spirit. I'm proud to be descended from so many intelligent, courageous people.

Part of the reason I decided to major in history was to find out where I come from, what my roots are, what traditions and observances and changes my ancestors, way way back in the day, went through. I mentioned once to a fellow student on a contact course, that I was studying history "to see the wider picture of where I came from", and she eagerly recommended I take a paper on Maori history in the twentieth century. I smiled and murmured something noncommital, but I was thinking: I meant a much wider picture than that.

Maybe it was started by the hullabaloo a while back about whether or not Palmerston North should keep the cross on the top of the clock tower in the Square. In the end, the cross was knocked down during a storm (or stolen by Muslim vandals, depending on whom you listen to) and the City Council replaced it with a far uglier cross than before.

But people were protesting that the cross was offensive to people of other religions. Why not put up a Star of David, a pentacle, a crescent? Why elevate one religion over all others?

Yes, the cross is a Christian symbol. But my European heritage doesn't come with any cultural holidays or symbols that aren't Christian. To me, the cross on the clock tower isn't a symbol of Christianity lording it over all other religions — just a reminder of my Christian heritage.

My culture is Christian; my history leads from one of the world's greatest Empires; I'm proud of both. We get taught a lot about Maori history in New Zealand school, which is great. But I think it would have been nice to get some sense of pride in my own history, too.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Being happy with who YOU are

The other day I was in a conversation with someone who started talking about how I will bring up my future children. Midway through our discussion, I mentioned something about my parents' Christianity, and how they'll want my children brought up to know about Christianity and God etc (neither Dan nor I, of course, are Christian) and the person I was talking to made some sweeping statement about how my parents will have to support my beliefs as equal to theirs, or something to that effect.

I think it's very easy for people to talk about respecting other people's beliefs, when most New Zealanders don't have any firm beliefs themselves. But as someone who has had a firm belief in God in the past — even if I don't any more — I think that's rubbish. I don't mean respecting people's beliefs is rubbish; but the people spouting off that phrase usually don't honestly understand what it means to hold a strong belief.

Say I had a kid. My parents believe that if this kid doesn't become a Christian, she (we'll assume it's a girl) will go to Hell. In that case, I think the most loving, caring thing they can do for their granddaughter is to tell her about God to at least try to prevent that.

I'm not saying I'd bring my kids up as Christians; that makes no sense, when it's not something either Dan or I believe in ourselves. But if I had a kid, I'd talk to my parents about it, and as long as they don't tell my kids "Mummy's wrong and is going to hell", I've no objection to my future children learning about Christianity, deciding they want to be Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever. Hell, Christianity might be true, in which case I don't particularly want my kids heading for hell either! I wouldn't undermine my parents' talks as long as they wouldn't undermine me and my partner. I don't think they would, though.

But respecting other people's beliefs is only relevant if you believe it doesn't matter in the end. "As long as you're OK with you." Truth is relative, the afterlife's unimportant, and as long as you're happy and healthy it doesn't matter if most of the world is quite literally going to Hell.

I don't really know what my point is here. I did have a point, at some stage. I think my point was that people might potentially be critical of some people (like my parents) who have strong beliefs, because my parents don't hold that all other beliefs are equal and good and irrelevant so long as the person themselves is happy. That doesn't mean that people like my parents wouldn't equally respect a Muslim or a pagan or an athiest. Just that they don't believe any belief is OK.

It's that whole thing again, being intolerant of the intolerant. So ironic.

Unfortunately, truth is not relative, facts are facts, and if there's an afterlife I'm very worried. If you're happy your whole life long and then end up in an eternity of torture, it does matter.

I don't believe in Christianity. But if any of these spiritual theories are true, then "being happy with who you are" just isn't enough, in the long run.

And people who believe that they respect all beliefs, should respect the beliefs of people who don't respect all beliefs.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Travel writing

So I just had my first Travel Writing lecture for the semester. And am I excited? Well, to be honest I'm not quite sure yet. I'm not sure whether the lectures will be dull, thought-provoking, or theoretical to the point of inanity. But I am looking forward to the course content more than I was initially — the content being three more or less creative exercises, two of which are stories; and two analytical book discussions, which are dull but more or less enjoyable.

And, the danger of inanity aside, I think this paper will bring me back from the cliff of insanity which I've been hovering over for the past week or so.

Doing nothing is so dull.

So very, very, extremely boring.

I've been looking forward very much to this semester, just for the enjoyment of doing something again, and of having interaction with people other than Joy and Dan, and the occasional catch-up with Ang and Kylie. My life is so sad right now — purely because of how few people there are in it. Everyone keeps moving to Wellington, and now even Kylie and Angela are starting to consider it!

Anyhow, the disappointment of this semester is that the way my papers fall, I only have one internal paper. This means I'll need to exercise considerable self-control, which is challenging at all times — but far worse, it means I only have two days of the week where I actually have class; only four hours of seeing people outside my regular sphere.

The positive aspect is that, in these four hours, I found out today that a chick who was in one of my classes last semester, whom I got on pretty well with, is in Travel Writing as well. That's positive, at any rate; and most of the other people in the class look like cool people, whom I'd like to (hopefully) get to know a little. It seems a pretty small, informal class, so hopefully that will happen.

I was thinking unhappily about how I haven't been out of the country for eight years, and haven't done any travel at all in the last few years, apart from Dan's and my excursion round the North Island last year. Then I was thinking about going to Dunedin on Wednesday, and it occurred to me — that's technically travelling as well. Technically, I travel at least every month or so, whether it's to visit Dan's grandmother or mother and sister; or go to Wellington or the Naki, or even (as now) to Dunedin. They aren't interesting or unusual trips, but they are technically travelling.

Go me.

In fact, if you get really technical about it, I travel to Massey twice a week now, and I travel to town to go to the supermarket or to do some shopping. I even travel to see Dan.

I wonder if I could base my story around travels within town? Journey to the Supermarket — the new travel thriller by Ruth.

I wonder if I could get away with that....

#80: Red meat

Well, there's honestly not a lot to say about this one, except that I'm glad I did it, and I'm going to keep trying to have red meat every week. Over the last few weeks I've had lasagne, satay beef, ham steaks, beef stroganoff, roast lamb, beef stir-fry, spaghetti bolognese and so on. I know red meat's easy enough to cook — it's just that in a house of two women, we tend to make vegetarian or chicken meals.

But I do love eating red meat — taste so good! — and I want to either find my old recipe book or buy a new one, so I can make things like beef stroganoff from scratch, without any packet mixes. I rely far too much on packet mixes at the moment, but it's hard to change when you have no idea where your cherished recipe book is! Time to start on goal #33: Sorting out all those boxes of random junk in my room....

Monday, 9 July 2007

It's a rich man's world

I like being a student. But I'm not so keen on being poor — man, do I need a job. I've got a couple I might ring up about tomorrow, but I'm not terribly keen about either of them. Dan tells me my standards are too high, and I know it's true — I wouldn't be applying for either of these jobs if I hadn't forced my standards down somewhat. Most of the jobs out there are retail, too — and I have zero retail experience. Not an auspicious beginning.

The other problem with retail is that most jobs require you to give up your weekends, and I treasure my weekends. Apart from my temp job over summer, my last three jobs have all had me working weekends — that's four years of weekend work. Enough!

And the degradation, the humiliation. I didn't mind my brief stint at the bar — except for when I had to serve Ang's mum, or my old boss — but I don't really want any of my mates — or worse, old workmates or schoolfriends — to walk past and see me as checkout chick at K-Mart or serving burgers at McD's. I've been there, figuratively speaking, and done that. I've had four years of crappy jobs. And then, briefly, a temp job I enjoyed. It's just raised my standards unreasonably. :-(

This morning, I sorted through my bookcases, found a grand total of nine books that I was willing to sell, and listed them on TradeMe. The shame, the humiliation — reduced to selling my personal belongings (note sarcasm!). Actually, seven of the books were just double-ups of other ones I already had, and the other two were crap — one of which was Shakespeare. I refuse to have Shakespeare in my bookcase.

Yesterday I underwent a similar pain — in tidying my room last week, I cleared out two bags full of clothes I haven't worn in years and am not likely to wear again, and yesterday I dropped them off at clothing donations. It makes me really sad — a lot of it I didn't care about, like my Canteen bandanas — but there were some clothes I loved there too. My bright pink floral V-neck top, which makes me look as flat and as pale as physically possible (it brings out the red in my nose), but which is such a lovely pattern. My shiny purple trousers that zip up to my hips at the sides — trousers I haven't worn in several years and wouldn't be seen dead in these days; but I saved up for those trousers and loved them and wore them so much, years ago. All of those clothes were ones I bought years ago, but loved. Awful, but...

I loved those old clothes of mine.

Oh well. Hopefully someone else will love them now. Or possibly buy them for a fancy-dress party.

And I now have all my exam results for my three exams from this semester — an "A-" for my second-year paper and two "A"s for my first-year ones. I'm happy — and that's another task complete. But these are all the easier tasks, so far. I still have so much to do.

In other news, Dad's definitely moving to Kuwait. At the end of July, probably. The good news is that, because it's not for a few weeks, I'm flying down in a couple weeks to see the family for a few days, before Dad takes off for a year. It's just...weird. But good, in that I've more or less had time to adjust now. They're paying for all of Dad's flights; so he's arranging the local flights so that he'll get stop-overs to see Anna and me. At least, he better be. I'm trusting Mum to make him.

And I still have my "rewards" to look forward to — I pre-decided on a reward to buy myself for every "A" grade I got — so I'll soon be getting a new top and two new pairs of jeans, which is great. I haven't quite figured out how to pay for them yet, but that's all OK. Maybe tomorrow I'll wander into town with my CV instead of just hunting through the ads. Go me — lowering the standards, and hopefully finding I'll enjoy a job I wouldn't normally have gone for. Stepping outside my comfort zone! It's all good. :-)

Thursday, 5 July 2007

#23: "A" grade

I rock! I rock! I rock I rock I rock... finally, at last, на конец-то же my exam results are back! Two out of three of them, anyway... Five classic novels, my second-year paper, I got an A- for — early medieval England, the history exam I thought I screwed up, got an A!

I rock!


Man, imagine if I'd aced that history exam. I'd have got an A+.


My next goal?

#61: Scrabble

Dan and I were playing Scrabble the other night, when suddenly I saw a way of using up all of my letters... Stringer! Dan unwittingly put another word in the space I'd been going to use — but when I cried out and told him I'd been going to use that G, his next move thoughtfully made a word with another G in it. And then I saw a space which gave me slightly more points, and put down all of my letters: Strainer. I feel a bit guilty, because I wouldn't have got that without Dan — but I almost got it the first time without his help, and I didn't end up using the G he gave me, so I might have got it even without his help. So I still think it counts, and this task is complete.

But in our next game, I'll still be trying for another eight-letter word....

#97: Head unit

I am now the proud owner of a beautiful new head unit for my car.

Mum and Dad's Christmas present to me was something for my car — Mum later admitted that that was partly to encourage me to actually buy a car, since I'd been planning to for months and still hadn't decided on one. But I bought my lovely car in February, and decided to get a head unit. When my birthday rolled around in May and I still hadn't bought it, though, Mum and Dad decided their birthday present to me was a bigger budget for my head unit.

Side note on my car: I really love it. It's a big five-door family-sized car with a massive boot, and for a first car it's great. Relatively new, electric windows, already armed with an alarm, manual gearbox, a bigger engine than I'm used to, and in really good condition — although, really sadly, it's already been nicked and dinged in a couple of places by careless drivers and (in one instance) by my own careless/overtired driving. :-(

It also came with a Kenwood tape deck but, much as I like Kenwood, a tape deck is frankly useless. Dan and I went shopping for CD head units a couple weeks ago, and finally found a good branded one with more than all the specifications that I wanted, and at exactly my price range — to the dollar. Of course Dan, being Dan, said we could get it cheaper somewhere else, now that I knew what I was looking for. I sighed impatiently, but he was right — after some ferreting around on the internet (ha, ha), Dan found the next model up from the one I wanted, for $20 less. Surprisingly, it was on Ferrit — my opinion of that place is slowly rising, and my opinion of their current free delivery policy is very high indeed.

We placed the order on Saturday night. Since the payment couldn't go through till Monday at the absolute earliest, I was very impressed to receive my beautiful new head unit promptly on Tuesday morning; and Dan installed it for me last night. Ah, it's lovely. I love it so much. And it's so pretty. And it has so many functions — though at least I didn't let Dan talk me into getting the head unit with a two-inch screen to play my videos on!

So I'm very happy. And now, because my new head unit plays ATRAC and AAC tracks (neither of which I've heard of before, but apparently they're smaller and better than mp3s?), I am off to convert my mp3s to ATRAC format.

Life is good.

Monday, 2 July 2007

#9: Script Frenzy

I really hated Script Frenzy. Don't anyone, for the sake of your own health and sanity, ever attempt it.

I hadn't actually planned to do it, until I realised that none of the four NZ NaNoWriMo coordinators were stepping up either; so it was me or no one. So I did it — talked to people, wrote an article for Chaff: no response.

I hated the silent community. I hated the fact I was the only one posting most of the time, and I hate the fact that I basically just gave up on my community, because of that silence. I don't like giving up, and I hate that my community was so very unhelpful and uncommunicative.

I hate scriptwriting. Even at my lowest point of NaNoWriMo, which I've done and won four times, I've always been happy I'm doing it and enjoyed the writing. Scriptwriting, I hated from start to end, and the only reason I finished was because I'm the ML, I almost have a responsibility to finish.

I hate my shirt. I read the sizing, measured myself, ordered a medium and, I'm sorry, that's not medium. I am drowning in this shirt.

With Script Frenzy, I was so unmotivated that on the morning of June 30th I was only up to 5067 words (which I can do in a day). But:
1. I was the regional coordinator.
2. Completing Script Frenzy was a 101 goal, so if I didn't do it this year, I'd have to put myself through it again another year. It was the thought of having to do it again that drove me to write 15000 words on 30th June.

I guess I kind of did it to see if I could. And I could. I won't be doing it again. I do think novel-writing is more enjoyable — I'm a reader, and readers are more likely to be drawn to writing novels than movies or stageshows. To be fair, in 2003 I did NNWM just to see if I could do it. But, in doing it, I loved it, and actually had something not too awful to show for it. So I've done it again every year since.

I love NaNoWriMo. I may well coordinate it again this year. I've coordinated NaNoWriMo in 2005 and 2006, and enjoyed both times. The NaNoWriMo community is awesome and fun and enthusiastic and creative, and I've never had a single problem participant (knock on wood).

At least it's over. And I never have to write a script again!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Becoming Jane

Pride and Prejudice is a great (if rather girly) book, and deservedly a classic; and Austen's books were unquestionably trendsetters. So when I found out there was a movie on Austen's life, I was quite excited.

Becoming Jane was a huge disappointment.

Here are the facts: Jane Austen had five brothers and a sister, Cassandra, whose fiancé died of yellow fever. At 21, Austen had a brief flirtation with Tom LeFroy. Six years later, a Mr Bigg-Wither proposed to her; she accepted him, only to change her mind and retract her acceptance the next day. In the end, she never married.

Becoming Jane is a romance. Surely, its makers say, Jane Austen must have had some spectacular romance, to write so well? And so they've set out to create a romance based on Jane's brief flirtation with Tom LeFroy.

Austen was an advocate of sense and propriety. She extolled love in marriage; but as books like Persuasion show, any woman who marries without security is a fool, and the world not well lost. But I doubt Becoming Jane's makers had read any Austen other than Pride and Prejudice.

What is shown in Becoming Jane is as follows: Cassandra's fiancé dies of yellow fever (true). Jane Austen has a passionate love affair with Tom LeFroy at the same time as she's being pursued by Mr Bigg-Wither (whose name is changed to Mr Wisley); Austen and LeFroy elope to Gretna Green; Austen changes her mind halfway through and returns home; and Bigg-Wither/Wisley kindly dumps her (untrue).

The overt sexuality in the movie is completely out of period. One scene in the library is almost laughably impossible — Austen would never have stood for such lewd talking, and LeFroy would not have attempted it. This is a modern movie putting a modern character in Georgian England; not a depiction of Jane Austen, a Georgian woman, as she really was.

The movie trailer says it wants to show Jane as a woman in love with life and all its possibilities. Instead, it diminishes the facts of Austen's life, magnifying her flirtation with LeFroy out of any reasonable proportion and bearing little comparison to Austen's real character.

It's a shame that, instead of a biography, Becoming Jane is a trite, unrealistic romance. The film-makers looked at her life, and found it dull. They've fabricated a much more Hollywood story, and told that one instead. But if you're not going to stick to the bare facts, don't pose as biographical. Jane Austen deserved a better tribute than this.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

#55: Belly-dancing

My hips hurt from belly-dancing last night... Angela helpfully pointed out that when doing hip arches, my feet were too wide apart... so I put them closer together and now my hips hurt! It was quite uncomfortable having my feet close together, but apparently it looks better. Ang said it's uncomfortable for her as well, so it must be right. Gelinda (our teacher) seems to do it, no problem; I guess it's just one of those things that takes practice till it stops causing pain. Probably makes my hips more flexible, they seem to have difficulty twisting and bending at the moment... at least in the ways that Gelinda seems to think they should!

I have really enjoyed the belly-dancing class. It's weird to focus on moving one part of your body while keeping the rest of it still... last night, in one particular leg movement, Gelinda warned us to make sure our heads and bodies weren't moving, only our legs and hips... I looked around curiously, and the entire class was just bobbing up and down, completely out of time with each other.

A few mornings-after, my hips have felt a bit sore; but it's encouraging that everything's getting easier, except for those damned shoulder shimmies... I think a more appropriate description would be shoulder twitches, as Gelinda described it last night.

I love the fact that some days I've started unthinkingly belly-dancing around the place, just at home... when I'm cooking in the kitchen, I'll do hip arches or hip circles around the kitchen; when I'm sitting at the computer, I'll do rib circles and attempt (and still fail) shoulder shimmies; and so on. I don't know that this impromptu practice actually helps my belly-dancing at all, but it amuses me.

Yesterday's belly-dancing class fell on the same day as Dan's and my three-year anniversary! In the end I did go to class, and Dan and I met up afterwards. Until yesterday afternoon, I hadn't even realised that this meant I would have completed another task on my list; I have to complete about one task every ten days, so it was a good feeling to get my second task completed on Day 26. Now to complete another task within 4 days... hmm. Script Frenzy?

Monday, 18 June 2007

Three years today

Exams are over. My first was good, second was OK, third was forgettable. But they're over — and a good reason to study harder next semester!

The third exam — history — went badly enough that instead of the post-exam relief I was expecting, I just felt worried. I made the unprecedented mistake of looking up stuff I'd talked about in the exam, and thus found out what a huge number of mistakes I'd made — misnaming a king, saying something happened in Spain which was actually in Italy, and so on... maybe I need to resign myself to just not doing well in history. It's interesting, but it's by no means my forte.

The morning after my last exam, I started stressing about all the stuff I've been putting off until "after exams". I have to complete Script Frenzy and a short story for the BNZ short story competition; I have to write letters to my sponsored child and my grandparents; and I have to, importantly, get a job. I have to get Dan a birthday present, visit Wellington, catch up with friends, take Kylie's car for a warrant..!

Script Frenzy and the short story are my biggest worries, since they have the strictest time limit. I almost wish I hadn't signed up for Script Frenzy. It's just a big waste of time. I don't want to write a screenplay, I never have, I probably never will; the only reason I signed up is because they needed an ML and now, as ML, I have a responsibility to complete it — otherwise I'll let my silent, unenthusiastic team down. I've tried getting them talking, but — nothing. Kinda given up on that now. It's just silly, posting messages and trying to rouse some (any) enthusiasm, when there's little or no response.

At least now I have an idea for my screenplay, thanks to Dan.

On the subject of Dan, today's our three-year anniversary... I'm so happy. I honestly thought, a while ago, that I would never find a guy who would put up with me even for one year (not to mention vice versa). I guess I've changed since then, though. Grown up a little bit.

Three years!

That's cool.

Monday, 11 June 2007


I will be fine. I have revised thoroughly. I am going to give myself a mock exam before the real one. I will pass — but I don't know what grade I'll get.

I'm so worried I won't get a really good grade. Today I have my English Studies exam — almost a guaranteed pass (I need to get less than 2%).

I'm reassured by the fact that I got an A+ for my big assignment on Atonement. Woohoo! That's my first A+ for that paper... I'm really happy. But to be fair, we had to hand in a draft for that assignment, which was critiqued and then given back to us; so without my tutor's comments on my draft I probably wouldn't have got that grade. But an A+ for an assignment worth 30% of our final grade — that's fantastic.

If I'm going to get an A- or higher in any paper, this'll be it. But 40% of the exam is based on The Tempest. I hate Shakespeare. I think plays should be acted out and watched, rather than studied in reading. I loathe having to learn language four centuries old, language that I have to reread twice before I even understand it. And 40% of my exam mark is based on my ability to discuss literary-critical approaches to a text that I don't fully understand the face-value speech of, let alone the literary intricacies!

And I'm worried about the rest of the exam. I've been feeling more and more nauseous when I think about exams, over the last week and a half. I'm so much more nervous about my upcoming exams than usual. I think it might be because I've prepared so much more — I know I'll pass, but I'm so worried my hard work won't pay off in a good grade.

I feel if I don't get good marks, I'll have let down my parents, Dan, myself....

And today's exam is the easy one. I always do badly in history exams, which is going to pull down those lovely two A+s that I got for my medieval England paper; and my classic novels paper I didn't even get good marks in to begin with (well, B+); the exam won't help anything there, either.

And I really haven't revised for either of those exams as much as I should have (much more than usual, but still much less than I should have!). I'm going to have to rely on knowledge accumulated over the semester — something I've never been able to do before.

On the radio they're extolling the virtues of last-minute cramming. I've summarised notes to look over again before the exam, but I'm not cramming. I just hope steady work pays off as well....

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

#28: Diaryland entries

Wow. That took longer than I expected, and now I feel sadder than I'd have thought. I'd hoped to get my first task completed sooner; but hopefully I'll be able to start getting through them faster when exams are over.

It was interesting sorting through old entries. At the beginning it was cool: sorting through old memories, laughing at old jokes, remembering old friends, shaking my head at old scenes I'd blocked out.

But as I sorted through older and older entries, dating back to 2002, it got almost painful... certainly embarrassing. I was so juvenile, so self-conscious, so desperate to assert my happiness even when I was clearly miserable, so entirely boy-focussed, and most of all just so... young. Punctuation is overused horribly, and there are a few spelling errors. So many of the entries just display my teenage self-consciousness, a desperation to please, for everyone to approve, and utter dejection whenever anyone dares to say anything negative.

But in amongst the trash, there was a lot worth keeping — more recent stuff than old. In a lot of the old entries, I seem to be trying to test how many boundaries I can break and how much painful internal monologue I can dissect, while still desperately trying to appear somehow happy, Christian but "cool", popular with guys but not a slut. Ugh.

But disregarding aforementioned trash, I think I might create a blog of selected archives... there are a lot of entries which contain valid opinions and arguments that, while poorly-constructed and poorly-thought-out, are passionate and do have some valid points.

Of course, I can now label all of them, which makes it so much easier to sort through... most of the ones worth keeping are in pretty definitive categories. God, writing, internal monologues... I don't think there's much else worth keeping, but oh my god I repeated the God problem a lot! There are almost two years' worth of entries solely on the God conundrum; I don't know how I managed to stay sane through that.

I may post some of these less trash-worthy entries in a separate "Selected Archives" blog at some stage. If so... I'll let you know.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


So, it turns out I may not need to worry about Dad going to South Korea. He's been offered a job somewhere slightly more appealing: Kuwait.

At least South Korea's a Christian nation, with people Dad gets on with and in a country he likes. Kuwait is, to be fair, one of the less radical Muslim countries, but it's still illegal to proselytise Muslims, so not quite as liberal as, say, New Zealand. Or, for that matter, South Korea.

Kuwait are offering him a financially better deal than South Korea. It would be uncovered territory for Dad: something new and interesting to do, somewhere new and interesting to be. And as he commented to me, he speaks Arabic every bit as well as he speaks Korean.

I'm not as upset as I was when I found out Dad might be moving to South Korea, but that's probably because I'm now used to the idea that my father may be leaving New Zealand to go to the other side of the world, alone, for a year. But Kuwait as opposed to South Korea is still a shock.

Mum and Dad laughed away my fears of a wartorn country (I know nothing about Kuwait). Dad told me, reassuringly, that the woman from the recruitment agency said she's been there three years and not yet seen a soldier in uniform. Well, if the recruitment agency say that, it must be true.

I suspect it's similar to Kyrgyzstan; basically a second-world country — what might seem third-world to many Kiwis and others who've never seen true poverty. I have no doubt that Dad will be able to cope with living again in a second-world country again.

My concern is for Dad, and for Mum and Sasha, rather than me. I don't think it will affect me that much. (I've told Mum to make sure his life insurance is up-to-date. She says it is.)

There are positives and negatives each way. Kuwait would is better financially and it's a new, unexplored country to Dad. He'd still have phone access and probably internet access as well, so he wouldn't be cutting himself off from the rest of the world.

And, to be honest, a year's not a long period of time.

We'll see.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Script Frenzy Eve

...It's the 31st of May.

...That means tomorrow is the 1st of June.

ARGHHH! Script Frenzy! Am I prepared? No. Have I thought about it? No. Do I have any idea of plot, character, setting, title? No.

Tomorrow I'm going to be pretty busy for much of the day; then for the weekend Dan and I are going to Wellington; and if that weren't enough, exams are in a week, and Dan's birthday is in two days! Have I got him a present yet, or even had time to start looking for one? You guessed it... no.

I would like to repeat one statement, for the record: Arghhh!

Ooh, although Dan and Jo and I are going to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie in the Embassy Theatre on the weekend, which should be fantastic... from all reports the movie's great.

And that reminds me: I got an A+ today! Again! I rock. It was for the same paper as I got the other A+ for... which is funny, cos I didn't think I'd done this assignment particularly brilliantly... but I guess I fulfilled the essay requirements, so that's all good.

I realised something today, which I should have realised long ago: out of all of my assignments, the lowest I've got for a first-year paper has been an A-; but the two second-year assignments I've got back (from two different papers) have got a B+ and a B. Clearly, I need to raise my work a notch to meet second-year requirements; considering I'm doing at least one third-year paper next semester, I really need to raise my standards. I don't want to be a C student again.

But for some reason, the knowledge that I'm going to have to start doing better, makes me feel better rather than worse, and look forward to next semester. I like a challenge, especially a realistic one.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

101 in 1001

Start date: 24 May 2007
End date: 18 February 2010

The aim of the game (found here): Complete 101 preset tasks over 1001 days.
Tasks must be: specific (unambiguous); realistic; represent some effort; and have a result that is either measurable or clearly defined.

60 tasks down, 41 to go.
    Lexicological — writing
  1. Complete a crossword a week for twelve weeks. (12/12)
  2. Write a book review for Chaff.
  3. Write a feature for Chaff — no personal hobby-horses.
  4. Write a column for Chaff for twelve weeks.
  5. Enter the Sunday Star-Times short story competition.
  6. Enter the BNZ short story competition. (Complete: 27.06.2008)
  7. Get two NaNoWriMo novels self-published through CreateSpace.
  8. Get a short story published in Takahe.
  9. Complete Script Frenzy. (Complete: 20056 words)
  10. Write a non-fantasy NaNoWriMo novel. (Complete: 30.11.2007)
  11. Finish a first draft of 100,000+ words.
  12. Query a novel with a publisher/agent.

  13. Mental/Educational — scholarly, reading, linguistics
  14. Read all Jane Austen novels/novellas.
  15. Read all books in the BBC Top 100 list (33/100).
  16. Read/sell/give away all my books. (135 left)
  17. Complete a French or Russian course.
  18. Complete my Russian textbook. (6/90)
  19. Read all of the short stories that Jo gave me in Russian.
  20. Include a word from SPBoW in a Chaff article.
  21. Learn to swim. Swim the length of a swimming pool.
  22. Hand in an assignment at least three days early.
  23. A semester with no late assignments.
  24. Get an "A" grade for a paper. (Complete: Sem 1 2007)
  25. Graduate with a double major.

  26. Domestic — home life
  27. Sort out my Unsorted folder. (2771/4005 files sorted)
  28. Have bought all of my music. (Complete: 05.11.2007)
  29. Reinstall Windows.
  30. Download my diaryland entries. (417/417: 06.06.2007)
  31. Back up Personal folder.
  32. Single-handedly change a tyre.
  33. Mow a lawn.
  34. Help finish painting Dan's house.
  35. Sort out boxes of papers and random junk in my room.
  36. Keep my desk and floor tidy and clear for a week.
  37. Move out of Joy's.
  38. Get a cat from the SPCA.(Complete)

  39. Personal — just for me
  40. Get a manicure.
  41. Get a facial.
  42. Get a massage.
  43. Get a tattoo.
  44. See a professional stage-show.
  45. Go to a live concert of a really good artist or band.
  46. Go indoor rock-climbing again — and get to the top again!
  47. Complete massage course.
  48. Transplant roses, rhododendrons and chrysanthemum.
  49. Not cry for four consecutive weeks.
  50. **** ****** *********.
  51. Go overseas. Australia doesn't count.

  52. Creative — arts and crafts
  53. Bake a Russian "bird's milk" cake — птичье молоко.
  54. Bake biscuits by myself.
  55. Cook a roast by myself.
  56. Make jam!
  57. Make a large shirt into a skirt or smaller top for me.
  58. Complete ceramics course.
  59. Complete belly-dancing course. (Complete: 18.06.2007)
  60. Make sushi.
  61. Make spring rolls.
  62. Knit something wearable.
  63. Mend my black trousers = sewing = arghhh!
  64. Sew button onto white work shirt.

  65. Social — friends and family
  66. Use all seven letters in Scrabble! (Complete: 20.06.2007)
  67. Learn to play chess and beat Dan. (lost 1/1 game so far)
  68. Get a nice frame-able photo of me and Dan.
  69. Get a nice framed photo of my family.
  70. Go out on the town at least six times in four months.
  71. Visit Mum and Dad twice (Christmas doesn't count).
  72. Go for a walk with Dan twice a week for eight weeks.
  73. Play a game of cricket with my little brother.
  74. Have a "date night" with Dan every week for twelve weeks.
  75. Write four letters to Grandma and Granddad.
  76. **** ** ****** *** **** * **** ****.
  77. Start on family tree: at least 200 individuals .

  78. Physical — health and fitness
  79. Go skiing.
  80. Stepper — 3-5 times a week, for eight consecutive weeks.
  81. Skip 100 times in a row with skipping-rope.
  82. Start yoga again — twenty minutes a week for eight weeks.
  83. Use the Wii Fit for thirty minutes a day for eight weeks.
  84. Join gym — burn 1000 calories a week for eight weeks. (8/8)
  85. Have confidence/legs/tan to start wearing shorts to gym.
  86. Eat red meat weekly for eight weeks. (Complete: 11.07.2007)
  87. [Raw fruit] a day keeps the doctor away; 56 days.
  88. Finish that plaque-fighting stuff my dentist gave me.
  89. Brush teeth three times a day for 56 days.
  90. Get an eye exam/contact lenses.

  91. Professional/Societal/Financial — job, society and moolah
  92. Write a letter to my MP.
  93. Get a part-time job while studying.
  94. (Complete: 27.05.2008)
  95. Once graduated, get good, full-time, ongoing job.
  96. Do ten phone/support shifts at Youthline.
  97. Take a call at Youthline.
  98. Donate fifty good-condition items to a charity (e.g. Red Cross).
  99. Sponsor Francis for twelve consecutive months. (12/12)
  100. Send four letters and one photo to Francis. (1/5)
  101. Send my sponsored child a present on his birthday.
  102. Once graduated, start monthly donation to another charity too.
  103. Once graduated, double current savings scheme.
  104. Have $x in savings account.

  105. Material — possessions (complete)
  106. Buy/get installed a car CD head unit. (Complete: 04.07.2007)
  107. Sell my motorbike. (Complete: 27.05.2008)
  108. Buy a new pair of shoes.
  109. Purchase Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
  110. Buy and frame a nice painting.

  111. Celebrate by going somewhere nice for dinner. (Not official goal, but it better happen.)
It took me about a week to write up 101 goals. Some of them are quite small and won't involve too much effort, as I don't want to overcommit myself. Some are things that I would probably do anyway (e.g. graduate) but are still significant goals. And others are big things that I want to do but probably wouldn't have got around to (e.g. go overseas). Hopefully, having these set tasks to work towards will help me accomplish every goal.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007


I don't think I've mentioned this previously; Chaff is the Massey student magazine, and a few weeks ago I walked nervously into the Chaff office to offer the editor my literary services.

We decided that I'll start slow by doing the occasional movie review; so a couple weeks ago, armed with a complimentary double pass, Shaz and I marched off to a screening of Shooter, which I subsequently wrote a review of and rather tentatively sent it in.

Yesterday, I eagerly grabbed my copy of Chaff and looked inside the front page. List of contributors: My name amongst the gloried others. Thumbing through the pages, and there it is: My movie review, with a few shots of the movie, and my name in small bold letters at the end.

It's not pride I feel; Chaff were pretty desperate for new blood, so far as I can tell; and it wasn't a particularly well-written review. But seeing my name in print — it's a good feeling. This is something I've wanted to do for a while, and now I'm doing it. Even if I just start with the occasional movie review — that's fine. Building my way up. Start small. Et cetera.

And on the bus home, seeing four or five students on my bus flipping through their copies of Chaff, I strain my neck to see which page they're on... and earlier, at my tutorial, seeing one guy actually reading the first couple of paragraphs of my review, and then the last paragraph, before flipping on to another page. I don't like that guy, and I think it's pretty rude to openly read a magazine in full view of your tutor... but still.

Today, I sent Chaff another piece: a feature article on Script Frenzy. Big step; I'm quite nervous. And the editor hasn't replied yet, so I don't know what he thinks of it.

I'm hoping it'll get some students interested in Script Frenzy; it'd be nice to have an advance on our current total of eleven NZ members. Writing the article started as me just trying to interest potential participants; but now I'm more excited about my article as an article. As me, Ruth, getting an unpaid feature article in a (frankly) quite retarded student magazine.

But — a feature article! *squeaks* Me!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

South Korea

In my last entry I didn't mention one of the things that's arguably foremost on my mind at the moment. Basically, Dad's potentially moving to South Korea for a year. Not Mum, not Sasha. Just Dad.

Dad's applied for a job, y'see. He's applied for a few jobs over the last year, and got a few short-term jobs; but the fact is that he's over the Fatal Fifty mark, and despite being an excellent teacher and having every relevant qualification, NZ employers aren't...employing him.

But this particular South Korean company do regular intakes of ESOL teachers for one-year positions, and Dad's interested. He would be leaving Mum and Sasha; but they don't want to uproot Sasha from school, and Mum needs to stay near Nana. Besides, Mum and Dad just bought a house in Dunedin — it would be ridiculous to up and move again so early, especially when he'd only be in Korea for a year. Neither of them want to do this, but it might be the best option.

To think I was upset when they moved to Dunedin, because I wouldn't be able to see them as often. Trips to the South Island I can occasionally afford. Korea... I'm guessing never.

I don't like the thought of Mum and Dad being apart for a year. And Sasha's turning 13 this year; that's an important/formative year for a father not to spend with his son, not to see him for a year when he's used to seeing him every day.

It's probably the best option. Dad would be earning again, working full-time at a job he loves, in a country he loves, with people he has a track record of getting on really well with.

Mum's thinking of coming up for a visit in June, and I was planning to take a trip down to Dunedin later in the year. But if I see Mum in June, and Dad won't even be there when I go down — what's the point?

The other thing is how soon it is: July. That's only a month away. If Dad goes then, I might not even see him again for more than a year. I don't think I'm that close to my Dad, but a year... I love him, he's so supportive, I care so much about him and I don't want not to see him or be able to talk to him for a year. A year. I don't like the thought of him being in a different country from the rest of us.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Sugar daddy

So how was my birthday, you ask?

Good, actually. Dan didn't un-invite his mates, so in the end he and his mates and I hung out, and I re-invited Darcy, Shaz, Ang and Jo, and good times were had by all.

I now have to do the age-old Show-and-Tell of birthday presents... the ones that most stood out were:

  • A car stereo from my mommy and daddy
  • A compilation of short stories by Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and the like — the original stories printed in Russian on the left-hand pages and the English translation on the right-hand; and with a rather helpful vocabulary list at the back! from the estimable Jo
  • The Devil's Dictionary, from Darcy: a dictionary of normal words... and definitions that suit its original title: The Cynic's Word Book. Example definition:
    History, noun. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
  • A white gold-and-diamond ring for my index finger from Dan — I'd drooled over it a few months ago but decided I couldn't afford it, and he got it for me! It has ten tiny diamonds side by side, and is so beautiful....
  • An mp3 player from Dan as well! It has video, radio, MS word capability, photos, motion-sensitive games (not dissimilar to the infamous WII!), and so forth... it interacts with my camera (that Dan bought me) and my computer and comes with three different USB cords so I can plug my USB drive etc into it... I love my mp3 player so much. It's so beautiful and shiny and new and functional!
The only problem I have now: Should I be calling Dan my boyfriend or my sugar daddy?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Shaz is so thoughtful. I had three assignments due in yesterday, so when she texted on Sunday to ask if I wanted to hang out, I regretfully had to say no. She then astonished me a couple hours later by turning up at Joy's place with a packet of Tic-tacs, a bag of chocolate peanuts, an Aero bar, a Mars bar, a Milk-and-cookies bar, and so on... "Study incentives," she explained, dumping the load of chocolate on the table in front of me. I'd just been craving chocolate, too!

That was really sweet and thoughtful of her. She's often like that — the last time I was sick, she heard I was sick and thoughtfully brought round the perfect meal — food not only guaranteed not to make the queasiest person feel sick, but nourishing and filling as well. She'd even remembered from some comment I must have made months ago, that Milk-and-cookies were my favourite white chocolate.

On a less happy note, my birthday thing is officially cancelled. Some people from Wellington can't come, some had anniversaries, some had their own birthdays, some had graduation parties, and some were going to have to make special trips to Palmy for it. It just wasn't worth it.

So I'm kind of gutted, even if it's not a major birthday or anything. Kylie even double-booked her evening and was planning to be in Wellington that night — although to be fair, as soon as she found out that my thing was the same night, she rescheduled her other evening. Oh well, now she can reschedule it back.

I feel bad for Dan — he'd just vacuumed and cleaned the entire kitchen and living room, cleaned the bar and tidied the study up in case anyone wanted to crash on his spare bed in there (it was going to be at his place). So, went to a lot of effort for nothing.

I'd still like to have something this weekend... all I want to do is hang out with my friends, really, even if we all just did dinner or something. But it's either a hassle or a no-go for everyone.

So, yeah. Screw that.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Fiddler on the Roof

That was fantastic. More enjoyable for me than the movie, which I also loved — less tragically sad, especially the ending. Topol was brilliant. I have the greatest respect for that actor, and I feel so lucky to have seen him play Tevye in person!

You can tell he's getting older, though, poor guy; when he dances, and sometimes when he sings. He's got a great voice, but he sometimes takes a slightly easier note, and when he dances (like the immortal If I were a rich man), he's not shaking his old bones around as much as he did in the movie. He's seventy-two years old this year; if it were me, I'd have retired long ago! I hope he's very rich by now; I'd say he's earned it. The movie was made in 1971, but it's such a timeless piece that it doesn't seem old at all.

I'd never realised before (not having watched the movie in years) what a complex show it is, containing commentaries on contemporary society, marital roles, religion, racism, politics, and of course traditioooon! Tradition! OK, I'd realised it had some content against racism, but not really anything further. It's such a rich show, though.

I still have a major crick in my neck from gazing in rapt silence at the stage for three hours — but we were in the third row from the front! I realise that's why I have the crick in my neck, but I don't regret it even slightly — we were so close to the stage, it was amazing. Topol especially acted so genuinely, I was sure in a couple of scenes that if I could see closer I'd see the actual tears in his eyes.

I want to say it was the best show I've ever seen, but it's a ridiculous comparison — it's not even in the same league as anything else.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

You better believe it, baby

A+! Oh yeah... oh yeah... *does little dance* My first one! I'd resigned myself to getting a C in this paper (a history one) this semester, but after getting my first assignment back, I've changed my mind!

Not that I think, to be honest, that I deserved an A+. It was mostly well-written (although when I re-read it just now I saw a misplaced comma *shudders*) and carefully structured; but I forgot to include a sentence I should've included in my introduction, and the conclusion (on re-reading) brought in some new information which should've been brought in earlier than that. OK, when I say it like that it sounds like trivial errors, but they aren't! Especially the comma.

But out of my four assignments I've received back so far, I've received a B+, two A's and now an A+. Not too shabby — it really raises the bar, though. I'm so much more motivated to work harder on my upcoming assignments — I've got out books to research my topic and started taking notes already (it's due on 7 May; this is something I would normally do about 2-3 days before the assignment was due). I mean, if my next assignment gets a C+, which last year was a typical mark for me in history, it'll now be a big disappointment, and show I really didn't put much effort into that assignment. I have to do bigger and better! Or at least better, since that history assignment was nearly 200 words over the limit. Standards to uphold...

It's so exciting. I'm so proud of myself, which I normally shy away from being, but I feel I'm allowed to be proud in this case. I put effort in, I studied hard, I researched my topic well; and I got an even higher grade than I candidly admit I deserved.

A+! Woo yeah! You better believe it, baby!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

RIP Yeltsin

Not the best man, not a shining model of all that is good and pure — but a man who brought around some damn good changes, and led the abolishment of communism in the Soviet Union. Rest in peace, Boris Yeltsin.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007


Grandma's always been a strong woman, mentally and physically. Her short-term memory's started deteriorating lately; but she's still fine, just forgets things a bit. So it came as a shock when Dad texted me on Sunday to say Grandma had had some kind of attack and been diagnosed with Bell's palsy. On Tuesday, he texted again to say Grandma had been misdiagnosed: she'd had a stroke — and now she was in hospital again. Apparently she couldn't "speak or think well" but it "wasn't too serious".

Naturally, Dad flew up that day anyway; he couldn't get a cheap direct flight, so flew to Palmy instead, and I gave him a lift to New Plymouth. We were so relieved to see Grandma hadn't changed at all, except that she couldn't say anything other than "Yes" and "No" and (when we asked if Grandma wanted anything taped from TV), "Coronation Street!" So at least she can say the things closest to her heart. She also managed "peach therapist", and was so (understandably) proud.

She still can't remember how to spell some things (success = sucuss), and has difficulty writing and speaking, but it's coming back. She's forgotten a few things, like how to use her computer; it's difficult as Granddad generally depends on Grandma — the strong, dependable, capable woman! — and now he has no-one to print off the church newsletter or drive to the supermarket or text us. So Dad's staying another week or so to help Granddad learn some basic things, so he's less dependent on Grandma.

You should have seen her face when Dad and I walked in to her ward. Overjoyed! She didn't have any idea that we were coming, and was so excited. She couldn't say our names, but she kept pointing at me and then at Dad, and hugging us, as if she couldn't believe we were actually there. She was in such great spirits; so happy to see us.

And Grandma got discharged this afternoon.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)

Well, I've just finished another terrible, well-written book. Tess of the D'Urbervilles is not as disturbing as Atonement (nor quite as well-written, in my opinion), but it's still got a dark, perverted plot. Sorry, Jo, I know you love it. But seriously. Plot summary:

Chick is taken advantage of (not quite raped, but not in a state where she could necessarily consent) by Loserguy, back in the days when premarital sex was a major no-no. Chick has baby, which dies. Loserguy has abandoned chick and doesn't know of baby's existence.

Chick meets Mr Right, they get married; and on the wedding night she confesses that she slept with Loserguy. Mr Right is so upset he takes off, and chick meets Loserguy again. Loserguy decides she's hot again (and feels stink for ruining her life), so convinces her that Mr Right is never coming back.

Chick moves in with Loserguy, at which point Mr Right returns but, finding out that she lives with Loserguy, leaves again. Chick is gutted, kills Loserguy so that Mr Right will come back, has a happy week with Mr Right and then is arrested and executed for murder of Loserguy. Mr Right then marries chick's little sister.

Seriously. Does that sound like a nice book to you? I'm not saying books have to be happy-happy lovey-dovey, but I don't know why so many of these classics can't be less perverted, less dark, less morbidly unhappy throughout. Wuthering Heights wasn't really perverted, but happy is not an adjective that anyone could apply to it. Next on the reading list: Heart of Darkness by Conrad....

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Atonement (Ian McEwan)

I've been reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. It's well-written, it's evocative and provocative, it explores unseen depths — but the plot sickens me. If I wanted to read a book about a child being molested and some innocent guy falsely accused of it, I would... no, I would never want to read a book like that.

It sickens me. I'm about halfway through the book now, and I had to put it down and go away. The worst thing is that I'm reading it for Massey — if I'd started this book for leisure, I would probably "have" to finish it just to find out what happened, but I don't think I'd have read more than the first chapter of it if I wasn't required to.

If I'd read this book coming straight out of high school, I would have been shocked and much more sickened than I am now, even if I hadn't understand all the nuances. Even now, halfway through, it hasn't explicitly been said that this guy was raping this child, or who this guy was; but it's completely clear. It's a well-written book.

It's called Atonement because the child who reports the rape and accuses Mr Innocent has to spend the rest of her life atoning for her mistake, or some such thing. I've probably ruined the plot for anyone who hasn't read the book; but I'd recommend you not to read it anyway, so I'm unrepentant for plot-spoiling.

I think it's false, sort of, that the child should be the one atoning for her mistake made in all innocence and ignorance; it should be the guy who actually does commit the rape, that atones for it. I'm not sure what happens there yet, since as I say, I'm only halfway through it — the rape's only just been committed, and reported.