Monday, March 17, 2014

Shopping without supermarkets, mark II

It's been a few weeks since my first post about shopping without supermarkets, and surprisingly it is still working for us. We're still running on our last bog-roll buy up, but I have found several places to buy it... just not the particular brand we actually want.

But into the good stuff. I've decided that from here I will only profile stores I haven't profiled previously. For example, Farro Fresh is a weekly destination, but I told you about them last time, so this time I'll concentrate on the new places I've been.

So, first up: Reduced To Clear
Reduced to Clear - Vitasovich St, Waitakare Mega Centre, Auckland
This place really surprised me. I came in expecting a whole lot of rubbish, but what I found was a whole lot of goods I had been stuck on. I had no idea where I would buy Chux cloths for example. Here I found 25 for $1.99. I also found margarine.

Basically most grocery items can be found here. Some are very close to expiry, and some are brands you've probably never heard of, but the fact is you will find most of the things you would normally buy at a supermarket here including:
  • Chilled and frozen foods
  • Canned goods
  • Confectionery
  • Cereals
  • Cleaning products
  • Personal hygiene products.
While there were a couple of noticeable quality issues (particularly with the Tim Tams and Pinky Bars), the majority of the stuff we got was 100% fine.

Total spend: $27.66
Countdown price: $54.60
Difference: Reduced to Clear is $26.94 cheaper.

Bulk Barn Food & General Store - 1 Buscomb Ave, Henderson
While in the neighbourhood, I decided to check out another bulk store. They are not as well-stocked as Bulk Food Savings, but are still worth a visit. They were stocked with:
  • Bird seeds
  • Baking supplies
  • Lentils and grains
  • Nuts and dried fruit.
The owner was very helpful and friendly, and broke apart a 5kg bag of sugar for me as they were waiting for a new delivery, and I only needed 1kg.

As a side note, if you're trying to cut your sugar intake, this place has coconut sugar, which is amazing. Unfortunately, Countdown does not, so that purchase is not included in the figures below.

Total spend: $8.52
Countdown price: $12.92
Difference: Bulk Barn Food & General Store is $4.40 cheaper.

Henderson Discount Pharmacy - 383 Great North Road, Henderson
This is the reason I came out to Henderson in the first place. Some things (like mouthwash and "clinical protection" deodorant), I'm yet to find anywhere else, so I wanted a relatively cheap pharmacy.

This is not that pharmacy. I do not recommend you try here if you're looking for discount anything. The service was prompt and friendly, but the name is a straight-up misnomer.

Total spend: $27.98
Countdown price: $14.69
Difference: Countdown is $13.29 cheaper.

Fruitworld, Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
After the last fruit and vege debacle, I was interested to see what would happen here.

While the prices are the expected way round this time (Fruit World is cheaper), it's not by as much as you'd think. Without a doubt, Fruit World has a better selection than Countdown though. Two items (nectarines and broccolini stems) weren't available using the online store, so have been removed from the total.

Total spend: $19.70
Countdown price: $24.48
Difference: Fruit World is $4.78 cheaper.

Everything purchased in this trip, including goods from the Eco Store and Farro Fresh
This trip took me WAY longer. The trip out to Henderson added considerable time to my shopping, consumed gas, and is probably not something I would want to do on a regular basis. All in all this trip took 3 and a half hours.

However, the variety and price at Reduced to Clear would make me drop in if I was in the neighbourhood, and I might be in the neighbourhood for some of that coconut sugar!

And now for the totals. These prices include all the goods seen above, including the Farro and Eco Store totals, minus the goods not stocked at Countdown.

Total spend: $180.16
Countdown price: $209.38
Difference: I was $29.22 better off financially overall, not shopping at Countdown.

In my car, $30 is half a tank. I didn't use anywhere near that during my trip. So even taking into consideration the physical distance I covered to do the shopping, our bottom line is still better off not shopping at the supermarket.

It is harder. I'm not denying that. But I really am noticing the difference to our bank account. We pick up some goods like milk and Coke Zero at the dairy or service station and still, everything works out much better than it used to.

The longer I do this, the better I get at it. Even though it is much easier to shop at one place, it's not better for the suppliers, the regulators, the New Zealand economy, or your wallet.

Have you given the challenge a try? How are you finding it? Have you got any tips of stores I should check out? Please leave a comment below!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The 'No More Supermarkets' Challenge

With the allegations being made in parliament lately by Shane Jones regarding the treatment of suppliers by Progressive-owned supermarkets, I was left wondering if there was a better way.

The more I read, and saw, the more strongly I felt about it. I currently work for the betterment of the manufacturing sector, and it goes against my grain to see this happening. While the allegations don't specifically refer to Foodstuffs (who own New World and Pak'n'Save), I find it really hard to believe their practices aren't similar. So I've set myself a challenge: to shop at places that aren't the supermarket.

Now, we have at least 4 Countdowns and a New World within 3 km of my house. They have market coverage for sure. But I've been talking to my friends who have been doing this themselves for various reasons, and they have helped point me in the right direction.

The last of the bogroll
The only problem I really see coming sits with where on earth I'm going to buy bog roll (without compromising on quality). So I used my (well timed) OneCard voucher (which will most likely be my last), and bought 3 packs for the princely sum of 20 cents cash. That gives me some time to sort that particular problem out, and was my final contribution to the coiffures of Progressive.

And with that, I set out at 1pm today to do the household shopping. I'm writing this blog for anyone else who wishes to stand on the side of the manufacturers, and boycott the big boys. To me, these business practices are completely unacceptable.

Prices quoted from Countdown come off their online shopping website, taken within hours of the purchase being made. Where I couldn't find a comparable product on the Countdown website, I have removed them from my 'total spend' tally, so both totals are comparable.

Eco Store - 1 Scotland St, Freemans Bay, Auckland
I began at Eco Store, who have an outlet near Victoria Park. They are the place to go for:
  • Laundry detergents
  • Cleaning products
  • Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel
I took in some old bottles and had them refilled. Awesomely, they were having 20% off today. 

Total spend: $14.80
Countdown price: $21.47
Difference: Ecostore is $6.67 cheaper, and allows recycling of own packaging.

Bulk Food Savings - Shop 3, 217 Dominion Road (go into the Wendy's drive through, then go immediately right into the carpark)
I'd done some Googling to find the next place, but if you're in Auckland City, Bulk Food Savings off Dominion Road is the place to go for:
  • Dried goods
  • Beans, pulses, legumes
  • A selection of regular grocery items, such as oil and tinned tomatoes
  • A selection of the non-food items like tinfoil, clingwrap etc
  • Organic goods
  • Gluten-free goods
The fact is their variety is miles better than Countdown's. Only one brand, but there was at least 7 different sugars, and 10 different flours. I bought one product here (yeast flakes) I couldn't compare because it's not stocked at Countdown. 

Much of what I did buy is organic, and not stocked at Countdown, so where that happens I've used the product I would normally buy for comparison price. 

Total spend: $60.60
Countdown price: $59.60
Difference: Countdown is $1.00 cheaper

Fresh World - 270 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden
Next stop, Fresh World. I can't say I'm too fussed about which fruit and vege store I go to, but these guys are around the corner from Bulk Food Savings, making them convenient. I don't really think you need a breakdown of what you can buy at a fruit and vege store... do you?

There are two things I bought here that Countdown wouldn't provide on their website: fresh limes (at $14.99/kg here - about half what I have seen them for at Countdown in the past), and shallots.

This one genuinely surprised me, because I was not expecting this kind of price difference in Countdown's favour, but there you are.

Total spend: $23.95
Countdown price: $16.39
Difference: Countdown is $7.56 cheaper

Farro - 34 Westmoreland St W, Grey Lynn
Lastly, (after an aborted attempt to go to Nosh, who didn't have half of what I wanted to get), I went to Farro. We've been shopping here for our meat for about a year now anyway for one reason: it's far, far superior. It's cut better and it tastes better. As you're about to see, the price difference will make you wonder why you're not doing it as well.

Farro excels at fresh meat, but you'll also find:
  • Fruit and vege
  • Full deli
  • Fresh baked goods
  • Fresh fish
  • Eggs
  • Cheese and dairy goods
  • Sauces, vinegars, spices, herbs, oils, pasta
I was minorly disappointed not to find cottage cheese here, and they were also missing my favourite flavour of yoghurt.

Total spend: $69.18
Countdown price: $84.44
Difference: Farro is $15.44 cheaper because...

Note about the meat: Meat is a pretty important part of many people's diets. We don't actually eat that much of it (this will last us a couple of weeks), so when we do, we eat very good cuts. Yes, we spend some money on it, and I recognise not every family is in a financial position to do so, but there are also cheaper cuts available, and they're still competitively priced. To be honest, if we bought this at Countdown, we wouldn't be able to do it either.

Eye fillet steak - two thick-cut pieces (0.326kg)
Farro (@ $39.99/kg) - $13.04 
Countdown (@ $45.99/kg) - $14.99

Lamb tenderloins
Farro (390g): $14.82
Countdown (340g, prepackaged): $22.99

500g Premium angus mince
Farro: $6.50
Countdown: $8.99

Total meat cost Farro: $34.36
Total meat cost Countdown: $46.97
Difference: Farro is $12.61 cheaper, and it really is a faaaaaar superior product. (Like 'I would serve this to Prince William if he and Kate were coming for dinner' superior).

That's everything I got without visiting Countdown. It's all high quality. In most cases I am supporting exactly the same suppliers I always was (except those I would normally buy as 'Home Brand').

My total spend: $168.53
Countdown price: $181.90
Difference: I was $13.37 better off financially overall, not shopping at Countdown.

This took me 2 hours. Which means it took me about an hour longer than normal. But actually, I really enjoyed getting creative on it, and I enjoyed the trip. I can't always say that about the thought of going to the supermarket.

All of these stores were within 3km of my house. All of them are located 'in the shadow' of a supermarket (by that I mean they are all either right beside or across the road from a New World or Countdown). This didn't take me to new neighbourhoods or make life difficult. In fact, it was actually pretty fun!

I saved some money, I learned some interesting stuff, I supported four local retailers, I offered moral support to the suppliers, and I had fun doing it all!

I'll continue to refine this process, and I'll continue to blog about it. If you know anywhere in the Auckland Central area I should try out, please let me know in comments... especially if you've got an idea about the bog roll. Shop smarter New Zealand!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why I hate BMI

The Body Mass Index (BMI) has called me "obese" since I was 10.

Before you go any further, think about what hearing that might do to a 10 year old. Not consciously maybe, but equally, being labelled in such a negative way does sink into your subconscious, and you know what it told me?

That I was fat. That I was useless. That I was not as good as other people.

Now, that might be my own internalising of the situation, and I recognise it doesn't apply to everyone, but this was how it affected me. The negative language associated with BMI did absolutely nothing to get me to change. In fact, it had the opposite affect. I began consciously avoiding opportunities to look after myself, and my health.

I stopped going to the doctor because even if I went for a runny nose, every appointment came back to my weight. I can't tell you how many times I've sat crying in a doctor's office telling them I didn't know how to be better, and that this conversation wasn't helping. I can't tell you how bad getting on scales was.

For 20 years I sat on "obese", and every time I had to go to the doctor, I felt hopeless, powerless, fat and unworthy.

Now, before you go thinking I'm some sad woman who took solace in a bag of Salt and Vinegar Ripples and Bridget Jones' Diary every night while obsessing over my BMI, I'm going to tell you that's not true. The labels associated with BMI are not something we obsess over, and that's half the problem. They are insidious. They are a negative label associated with the most intimate and important part of ourselves - our bodies. They are given to us by those who are supposed to care for us, and who we put ultimate trust in. They tell us (unless you are a 'normal' weight) that we are not good enough, and that we should change. And that's echoed every time we try to take care of ourselves by visiting our health providers.

BMI was invented between 1830 and 1850. During Victorian times. The language and approach is very Victorian. You're this or you're that, and most likely, you are not good enough, and you should strive to be better.

Forgetting the fact that overall human health has moved forward in leaps and bounds since then (we grow taller, and live longer), our approach to mental health has also moved in leaps and bounds. We recognise that a person's subconscious mind has an effect on our conscious lives. In education, we recognise that positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative reinforcement. So why don't we do that in health? My issue is not with having an indicator of body fitness, but that BMI is so black-and-white, and not at all positive.

Last year, my workplace began offering Weight Watchers programs at work. For $30, I got access to the whole shebang for 13 weeks. The app, the meetings, the website. I was encouraged to go to meetings during work time in my workplace, and I sat next to people on the journey with me for most of the day. Initially, I signed up because I thought I'd be an idiot not to at least give this a try. I signed up again this year because I love it.

Everything about the program has been positive. Everything has been empowering. I had the opportunity to share my feelings and experiences with the people who I interacted with every day. We could support each other in the food court and the lunch room. We could walk around the block together and tell each other how amazing we were beginning to look as the weightloss became apparent.

During meetings, I literally ran to get on the scale. On the weeks where we had troubles, we learned about 'non-scale victories'. Things like going down a belt notch, or being able to touch your toes. Those small moments of positive results, even when the numbers on the scale made us think badly of our progress. On days where I feel like a fat lump, I've found myself actively looking for these non-scale victories. My favourite is putting on the pair of jeans I was wearing at my first meeting. They fall straight down now. The non-scale victories keep me going.

No doctor ever told me about them. The only thing any doctor I have ever seen has been focused on was the number on the scale. The very thing that depresses women all around the world every day.

Outside of work, Facebook was the biggest encouragement. I posted when I hit milestones and I got massive reactions and encouragement. Everyone was cheering me on. They still are.

I've lost 15 kgs, and I feel brilliant. My confidence is up, my energy is up, and I haven't looked back.

Everything I've ever been told about weight loss is true, except for one thing: it wasn't hard. It didn't take sacrifice. It didn't even take exercise (though I now enjoy exercising). It just took learning about food, a plan, a support network of incredible people, and coming at it from a place that is positive. The net result is that this experience has entirely changed my outlook on life, and on food. I genuinely think that I'm now on the road to permanent weight loss.

Today, I checked my BMI using my new weight. I've lost 15 kg, and more than 10cm around the belly. I'm positive and happy. I'm on a roll. And my for the first time in my life, my BMI has changed. I'm now "overweight".

Yes, I still have work to do, but the weight I am aiming for - the weight I have always dreamed of being - is still classed as "overweight".

The language is still negative. Nothing about the BMI encourages me to be better, and this is why I think it shouldn't be used by health professionals to class patients. On my personal journey I am supported by every person I know, and every tool I can get my hands on. But despite my success, I will still be unworthy in the eyes of the tool used by the medical profession to judge me.

Now, I'm no medical professional or scientist. I haven't researched the studies done on the accuracy of BMI. I'm not debating the science (though, I am dubious from my anecdotal experience). I'm debating the language, and how we approach the subject of weight loss, particularly in the medical profession.

No doctor has ever given me what my friends, family, workmates and, yes, Weight Watchers have. They've never made weight loss something I want to do, or something I think I can achieve. It's worth noting that Weight Watchers itself works on the BMI principle, and that the ultimate goal of the program is to get you to your 'normal' range. I know that, but it has never, ever come up in meetings.

It's time to stop telling people they are not good enough, and need to eat fewer pies. It's time to start supporting them, and changing the frame of the conversation to make weight loss journeys positive experiences. Make the tools and resources available to anyone, for anyone to be able to learn how to change.

It's time to stop focusing on what is "right" and what is "wrong", and start focusing on what makes you happy. Stop categorising people by a number, and start talking about positive steps to happiness. Most overweight people I know want to change, but they look at weight loss as hard. To them, it requires sacrifice and self-moderation and sweating. The truth is, when you come at it from the right direction, none of that matters. It's not hard, because it makes you happy, and you fall in love with the process itself.

The BMI is a number. It judges us and it tells us we're not normal. It does not encourage action. That's the realm of people and our surroundings. It's time for health professionals to change the conversation. Ask us if we're happy, and for God's sake, lay off if we tell you we are. Do not simply tell us we need to lose weight and then frighten us with a dozen weight-related illnesses. Encourage us to make better decisions. Not because of a number, but because it will make us happy. Which, in the end, is all anyone wants.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Big Day Out, but better

So... it turns out the last Big Day Out was not, in fact, the last Big Day Out.

That said, I think it was the last of its kind, because in 2014, Campbell Smith seriously seems to be knocking it out of the park. Or into the park. There's a new venue, and it's a park, and now I'm losing track of my point.

New venue, new initiatives, new stages, new bands, and what seriously looks like the best menu to hit a music festival ever. Plus it's my tenth Big Day Out. To say I'm excited is somewhat of an understatement.

I could rant about all the awesome stuff that's going on, but to be honest that's well and truly covered elsewhere (click any of the links in this post and you'll find out more). Today, I'm republishing an old post dedicated to your personal survival at the Big Day Out.

So here is my advice from 2009, updated and made relevant for the new venue (or at least, what we know about it so far).

What to wear

  • Pants:  I always favour 3/4 pants. They're brilliant because they're cool enough with the heat, but warm enough at the end of the night when you're a little worn down and the weather gets cool. They're the smartest choice you can make. 
  • Pockets: Try and wear clothes with big pockets if you can. This is the best place for your ID, cash, keys etc. You're far less likely to lose them. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule - one friend of mine lost his pants at the entrance to the D in 2008 - but it's far more you'll likely lose a bag than your pants! 
  • Bag: If you decide to take a bag, make sure it's small and sturdy with a strap that goes over one shoulder and around the body. Make sure the items inside it are not of value. I know several people who have lost their bags in the crowds. Better to lose the inexpensive stuff than all your money and your house key!
  • Top: Wear a shirt that covers your back. A t-shirt is a great idea. An exposed back invites sunburn and it is not pleasant being crushed against a sweaty back in the mosh pit! Short sleeves are the go here - if you're wearing 3/4 pants and a t-shirt you'll be fine for the whole day.
  • Wear a hat: Sunburn is not a funky look and you'll feel like crap once the sun goes down and the big acts come on. Something you can roll up and throw in your pocket, and something that fits your head because if it's not there firmly chances are you'll lose it. 
  • Shoes: Wear closed-toe, sturdy shoes. Don't think fashion when it comes to your footwear (although it's a good secondary thought) - think practicality. If you don't own your BDO shoes by now, wear your ugly trainers. There is no time to wear them in - you want something that is comfortable because you will be on your feet for the majority of the day and you want something that can take being trodden on a few (hundred) times. 

The essentials

Once you've got your outfit sorted, think about the miscellaneous stuff you will need. Essential items in my BDO kit are:

  • Cash: At least $50. That's the amount I find is enough to feed you, buy water and get home again. You should take ID and your EFTPOS card as well, but cash is absolutely essential. The lines at the ATM are long and if you want to spend every minute enjoying yourself, you don't have the time to wait.
  • Plasters: Get sturdy ones. I always find the plastic ones fall off within minutes. Splash out and get some Elastoplast Tough Strips. They're big and they stay on. 
  • Panadol: No matter how much water I drink, or how well I look after myself at the event, I always leave the Big Day Out with a headache. 12 hours of constant music, sun exposure and being around thousands of other people really takes it out of me. Headaches will make the big acts (the one's that you're probably there to see) less enjoyable and will ruin your day.
  • Sunblock: Needs to be reapplied liberally through the day and it costs a fortune once you're there. This year I'm taking a tube of Skinnies - the best sunscreen I've ever found. It will withstand a lot of sweat and water without coming off.
  • Muesli bars: Great for keeping your energy up when you're waiting for an act to come on. Make sure it's packed full of fruit and nuts. Also, heed my experience and stay away from anything dipped in chocolate!
  • Earplugs: Pick them up while you're at the pharmacy (although you can get them for a couple of bucks at the event) - because the music is LOUD. You can still hear it well with the earplugs in but they block a lot of the excess noise, saving headaches later on.
  • A small packet of tissues: For the portaloos - there is no chance they will be stocked with toilet paper after about 3pm so it's worth taking your own. Make sure they are plain - no aloe vera and definitely no menthol!!
  • Rain poncho: Chances are you won't use it (the forecast is currently clear), but one of these has gone in my pack ever since I got soaked in the moshpit waiting for System of a Down in 2002. Pick them up for under $5 at any $2 shop, Warehouse or plastics retailer.


Check the timetable now.
Also, check the map.
In fact, screw the map and check out this 3D flyover. Then check out this guided tour.
This section used to have a lot of tips about moving around and setting your timetable but with the new venue I simply can't say anymore. Some key things:
  • You can't apparate between stages (I am assuming you're not Harry Potter), and the 5-10 minutes after a band finishes is always the highest foot traffic. If you can, move between stages while bands are still playing.
  • The new venue is physically larger than the old one.
  • Some people who have seen the venue say that the choke point will be getting in and out of the Lakeside stage, so leave more time if that's where you are.
  • Getting to the front: Arrive halfway through the previous act on that stage. Move forward as much as you can and wait it out. When that act's fans leave, spend your time getting a position. Sit through the act on the other stage. By the time your band is on, you'll have a great spot.
  • Getting to the front of Pearl Jam: Be aware that the D often closes well before the main acts (in 2008 they closed two and a half hours before Rage Against the Machine took the stage). Get in that D early if you want to be there.

General 'you're at a festival and this is how shit works' information

  • Clashes: It's a festival. It's highly likely two bands you like are playing at the same time. You have a choice: it can ruin your day, or you can accept that it happens to everyone, and make the most of it. This year, my strategy is to spend most of the afternoon (where the majority of my clashes are) mobile and floating between stages. At night, I'm only watching half of Pearl Jam so I can also see the entire Snoop Dogg set. See the acts you paid for, treat the rest as bonuses. You don't have to see every song of every act.
  • Transport: Auckland Transport are putting on FREE busses this year going to/from Britomart. More information can be found here.
  • Toilets: Look for toilets which are out of the way. Sometimes they're placed around a corner or somewhere just a little less obvious than the rest. Those are always the best ones. Be aware that even the best toilets are disgusting awful horrible places to be by 8pm.
  • Food: Chow Town baby! Menu (with prices) is here, and the great news is you'll be able to watch four out of five stages from the vantage point! This place is bound to be mad-insane busy, but it also sounds like it's gonna be one of the happiest places on Earth.
  • Water: Get it there. Buying water outside the event is cheaper but the hassle of getting it in is not worth the extra $2-3 you pay inside. You only need to buy water once - there are water tankers there where you can refill your bottle for free (be prepared for a 10 minute wait to do this though). Buying water should be the FIRST thing you do at the Big Day Out. If you do decide to bring your own water make sure it is a brand new, sealed bottle. They'll throw it out if it's open. 
  • Go with a positive attitude and expect nothing except to have a great time.

That's it! If you find something awesome, please tweet me (@katjnz) and let me know. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Things I like #2

Artists working with legends to create some true, ear-pumping funk.

PS - listen to Janelle Monae, her new album is awesome.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Park Road Post Film Lab

A week or so ago I told you about Hold Your Breath, a short film seeking crowdfunding and aiming to be the last short film to be processed in the Park Road Post Film Lab. Park Road is the last remaining film processing lab in Australasia, and due to be closed in just under a week.

I was a projectionist for about 6 years, in 4 cinema complexes (plus the odd shift in a further 4 projection rooms). In 2004, my boss - who had literally been in the industry for his entire life - mentioned during a shift that I should get out of the cinema industry. He'd recently been to SXSW and seen some of the earliest digital projectors. "It'll all be gone in 10 years" he told me.

Well, in 2007 I opened Hoyts Sylvia Park - which was equipped with the first digital projector in the country. Thankfully I was already a year and a half into my degree at that point, because the reason for film's death was quickly apparent. Compared to 35mm film, the digital's quality onscreen was a huge improvement, but it made a lot of sense from a cost point of view as well.

A 35mm projection room requires a projectionist to be on staff at all times. That person was responsible for lacing up each film (which could take between 2 and 5 minutes for a regular screening, to up to half an hour if the print would be screening in multiple theatres at the same time); making up and breaking down movies, organising the freight of the physical film between cinemas/complexes; and putting together the ads and trailers, among other things.

These duties lead to a LOT of human error:

  • Scratching the film was the worst thing you could do. If you did it badly, you'd be looking at an entirely unwatchable movie experience with black or green lines onscreen.
  • Rarer, but equally possible - putting together the film in the wrong order, or upside-down. Both of these things were equally possible. Putting together a film, you're entirely reliant on the last projectionist (who could live anywhere in the world) to have put it back together correctly. Even the world's most competent projectionist could get it wrong.
  • Sometimes the film went EVERYWHERE! My worst mistake was when I dropped not one, but TWO prints at the same time, in the same area. Equally, however, sometimes the equipment malfunctioned and it went all over the floor.
  • Stress error. If you are at the tail end of a 10 hour shift, and you have 8 cinemas to lace up in the space of 10 minutes, over a space of 6-700m, you have to do it FAST. If you have to move prints, or swap films for a session, the pressure was on. Sometimes you put on the wrong film.
I trawled my inbox for old photos which circled among projectionists I knew. I found these two, to give you an idea of the nightmare (both caused by faulty equipment).

None of these errors happen with digital. You program it all in at the beginning of the week, stick in a flash-drive and it goes. If it doesn't go, a regional maintenance guy comes in, or it's not the fault of the cinema (corrupt files happen, but it's a much quicker fix than a badly scratched physical copy).
While I haven't been in a projection room in a number of years, it's no secret that they're all going digital. It's sad, but it makes so much sense.

So, with the medium essentially dead, and the final processing lab in the country about to close, I pinged a friend of mine who happens to work there and she agreed to give me a tour.

I don't have any pictures of the inside, but this is me outside the post production facility:

It's a huge place, and the people that work there are so specialised. To see all the machinery which has been responsible for a huge part of my life in its death-throes was really sad. I think film will always have a place as a medium (much like vinyl still has a place as a medium), but as an industrial medium the way I used to know it - it's dead.

I'm glad I took the opportunity to see it. If you'd like a 'tour' of the facility, I happened to catch this on National Radio today. It's 12 minutes long, but I'd recommend it if you want to know how it used to happen.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

And all that I can see, is just another lemon tree

A couple of Christmases ago, work gave out corporate Christmas gifts of trees.

Some people got olives, some people got lemons.

I happened to be able to swap my olive for a lemon. Originally it was basically 3 sticks with a couple of leaves. Over the last year and a half, it's exploded to about 8 times its original size, and yesterday I got to harvest my first lemon.

I know it's pretty naughty to let it grow lemons in its first season. The tree puts more energy into the lemons than into growing. I've been pretty good about removing the flower buds, but I couldn't resist letting it keep three (actually I planned to let it keep two, but one snuck its way in).

I nursed it (not always well) through the drought, and feared for the quality of my lemons when half the leaves fell off a couple of months ago (I think because I sucked at watering it).

I was a bit stumped as to what to do with my single lemon. I wanted to use it in a way where I'd be able to really taste what my efforts had resulted in. Then Becs on Twitter suggested pancakes with lemon and sugar. The perfect Sunday breakfast and a meal which a single lemon could definitely star in.

So this morning I whipped up a batch of pancakes, sprinkled on some brown sugar and dutifully squeezed my lemon all over them.

It was delicious!

This is why I love gardening. Getting the literal fruit of your labours makes it all worth it.

Two more to go, and then next year I can let them grow to their hearts content. Maybe I'll be writing about my first ever batch of homegrown lemon honey this time next year!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New music from Lorde

A couple of weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of getting to see New Zealand's latest rising star, Lorde.

Her Love Club EP has been out for a while and I've completely thrashed it. Which meant that when she put up two new songs onto SoundCloud this afternoon, I was there immediately.

The first song, Tennis Court is one we got to hear at the gig. It also happens to be the song from the little teaser at the end of the video for her first single, Royals.

The second song is a B-Side. It's pretty different from the other stuff which has been released, but let's face it: Lorde is a musician who has her fans in the palm of her hand. Every crumb is scrambled for. This one isn't my favourite (that's still to be released), but now we have another two songs to thrash, and I'm just going to be thankful for that.

Update: Both songs are now available on iTunes and Spotify, if those are your musical weapons of choice.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

To: Steven Joyce, fix-it man supreme. CC: Peter Dunne; John Key; The Internet

Hey government,

I haven't talked to you in a while. There are reasons, but I'm not here to talk about them. I wanted to talk about your software requirements.

Lately, there have been a couple of pretty major government IT project clusterfucks. These include Novapay, the massive security risks in your public kiosks, and even your shiny new IRD system.

I mean, come on. 1.5 BILLION? On an IT system? Are you mad? Do you want software that works, or software that is bloated with false promises? (I'll give you a hint: false promises cost a LOT more than software that works).

What you need, dear government, is to take some of that 1.5 BILLION dollars and invest it in something I know you're going to hate: a new government department.

"Really?" I hear you say. "But we've just merged a bunch of those! We in National are about reducing the number of departments! You must be after David Shearer..."

Nope, I'm talking to you. You need a government department filled with young people. Young people who know about computers, and how to design software, and who know people who can build good software.

Why? Because it's incredibly apparent to everyone that bureaucrats and public servants know nothing about software. They hire the wrong people, and they don't know their FTP from their API. You need a safety net for that.

You need a government department whose only job is to educate other government departments about how software builds should go. Who can take the requirements, then get someone to build it at the best price. Someone who'll be able to recommend all the things you clearly don't know about good software. They should act as a connector between your IT projects and the IT industry. Someone to weed out the bad guys and keep you up to date.

The internet is a fast-paced world. It moves way faster than the cogs of bureaucracy (even when those cogs are under urgency). Out here, time is money (or better spent on Tumblr). We don't mess around with money or time out here, we leave that to you.

And that's why you shouldn't hire anyone who works in public service. Not a single one. Hire a bunch of people in their late 20s to early 40s (edit: It's been pointed out that this is age discrimination, so hire anyone with the relevant expertise and experience... who will probably be aged between 27 and 45). Make sure every single one of them has worked in start-ups (the successful ones that is), software companies, or in a related internet-based field. Make sure they know people. Pay them well and give them breakfast and a Playstation in the lunch room.

There is no reason your IRD system needs to cost 1.5 BILLION dollars. Novapay didn't need to have cost so much either. All those other bad IT projects that the media haven't heard about (yet) can stay swept under the carpet.

Just admit that you have no fucking idea what you're doing, and hire someone who does.


The people of the internet (and New Zealand)