Jun 16, 2016

Two App Ideas (please send money)

Dear Venture Capitalists, Developers and Marketers,

I have two great app ideas and would like these developed as soon as possible please.  Please note these are my intellectual property but I am open to sharing the millions of dollars we make on them under a reasonable arrangement.  Please let me know when they are ready.

1. HairNow!

 You know when you go to a hair salon and they have posters of hair styles in their windows or on their wall that look weird because they're always just slightly out of date?

Hairdressers can never keep up with current hair images, either in poster form or in their stacks of style books and magazines (do they still have those?)

The app:
A searchable database of hair styles, and a constantly-updating poster display for screens mounted on a salon wall

How hairdressers would use it:
Replace posters with huge screens and display an ever-changing rotation of latest hair style images. Optionally filter what styles, or types of styles, to display.

How customers would use it:
Phone app can be searched for images by hair style and type, e.g. "cool hairstyles for short thick brown curly hair" (just to throw a random example out there that has nothing to do with me).
Or search for current trends, e.g. "London 2016"

Does not promise to solve this problem

How it will make money:
Free for regular people. Hairdressers to pay a small subscription which gives them the rotating images of latest styles.  I guess the subscription has to be pretty small, if we compare it to the amount hairdressers spend on updating their posters once every few years.

2. PlantLife!

You know when you see a tree or plant you like but you don't know what it is? Or you think, "Is that a maple tree or not?" and you have to Google maple tree images and trawl through them trying to match them to what you are seeing?

Or maybe you live in North America and are hiking through the woods and want to make sure you're not about to walk through a patch of poison ivy.

We can't all be botany experts. That's why we need....


The app:
Like Shazam but for plant pictures. You hold your phone up to scan a plant or tree, focussing on leaves, for instance, or flowers. You press a button. The app trawls through the whole Google/Wikipedia images database or a botany database of some kind and bam! comes up with the name of the plant and some information.

How it will make money:
Obviously this is so useful that the money will just come rolling in from advertising we will host on the app. We will offer a premium edition with no ads but over time we will gradually put ads on the premium edition too, and raise the price. We will market this as an educational tool to schools and universities and maybe create a tie-in game? You guys can figure this stuff out, I am sure. I can't do everything.

OK so that's it for now, please go ahead and make these and I look forward to getting rich soon.
Thank you.

Jun 12, 2016

The Art of Leisure

I just came across a post in my Facebook feed called The Lost Art of Leisure, which I didn't have time to read but which I have bookmarked for later. I think I know what it says though, and the title struck a chord with me.

When I was younger, and the world was not yet digitised, I had ample time for leisure and I used it for the most part wisely - reading, walking, visiting art galleries, trawling bookshops, dinner with friends (we didn't do coffee or breakfast or brunch back then), going to see bands at pubs.  I had a big music collection and listened to it. I did painting classes. I sketched, and wrote poetry.

In short, I was probably an insufferable young idiot, but I did know how to enjoy myself.

When Y. and I lived in Santorini, many years ago, we spent our precious free time coasting around the winding roads on his bike, lying on the beach and drinking coffee or beer in cafes. This was high quality leisure time.

When I lived in Twickenham, my favourite activity was to walk the towpath to Richmond and back, snug in my army-surplus parka, a Kate Bush or Blur cassette in my Walkman, headphones on.

When I lived in St Kilda, my favourite activity was to go to the Espy with my boyfriend to see a band, and wander home in the early hours of the morning to his untidy flat, feeling happy and at home.

When I lived in Auckland, I loved cooking up dinner parties with my university flatmates and the sorts of long, honest conversations you only have at that age.

Growing up in Auckland, we were conscious of being at the outer limits of the world, and we lapped up everything that visited our shores. We saw every visiting art exhibit (though I only remember Monet), and every band or singer (Billy Idol, Bryan Ferry, America, David Bowie, U2 - it didn't matter who, in general if they came, I went to see them - though I did draw the line at Dire Straits, and was pleased to have my decision borne out by everyone's judgement the day after that "the laser show was really good").

But of course, as everyone knows by now, that all disappears when you have kids. And honestly, you don't mind. I didn't miss any of that stuff. Well, except walking on my own, and reading in a quiet corner - I could do both of those things forever.

When you have kids you grab your leisure where it's available, and when it's available you're not always ready. Or you only have a few minutes or half an hour, or a two-hour block, or whatever - not enough time to really sink into a full leisure activity and enjoy it without an eye on the next obligation.

Nina Cheng / Flickr CC

And of course we're all so busy. Kids, no kids - we're all busy with work and with keeping up with all the ceaseless household, personal and digital administration that is part of modern life.

All of which creates the situation we now find ourselves in, where leisure time is a five minute break huddled over your phone playing whatever dumb game is your secret shame, or strapping on your exercise shoes and convincing yourself that the 20-minute power walk you are forcing yourself to take at lunchtime is "relaxing" instead of a guilty workout.

We don't seem to have time to enjoy proper leisure, doing activities that absorb us and bring us joy, often enough.

Well, maybe this is only me.

But my guess is that an article called "The Lost Art of Leisure" means that it isn't.

The reason this article struck a chord was that I found myself, one day last week, quite unexpectedly enjoying some leisure time, that was actually leisurely.  I set myself the task on Sunday of doing nothing much, except beefing up my Spotify playlist and cooking a good winter meal for the kids.

I used to have a lot of CDs and a stereo, and I listened to music all the time. Then I had an iTunes account and listened to music on my iPhone. Then I changed to a Samsung phone and converted my music to Google Play, and.... I sort of forgot to listen to it. Or maybe I got older and music just gradually fell down the priority list, competing with podcasts and reading articles and watching Cracked videos on YouTube?

Phil Mike Jones / Flickr CC

But recently one of my daughters set me up with a Spotify playlist (it needs some work, but you can check it out here) and I have suddenly rediscovered the joy of music.

Jake Kitchener / Flickr CC

I dug out a couple of CDs and played them while cooking on Sunday. Then when they were finished I put on my Spotify playlist and listened to that. As I stirred a slow-cooking meat sauce and chatted easily to my daughter, with nothing else planned for that afternoon, I felt a strange sensation. It was a sweet surge of joy - a simple, swelling happiness that lifted with the music and reminded me that these moments, while fleeting, should be more than just gaps in a busy life.

I liked it.

Do you possess, or covet, the art of leisure?

May 15, 2016

Men and Women are Completely Different

It is obvious that men and women are completely different.

For instance, women love dressing up and reading horoscopes, and men love drinking beer and watching sports. But there are many other ways that men and women are different, and all of them are scientific fact.

The below well-known examples prove that men and women are very different.

Women are better at multi-tasking

This has nothing at all to do with the fact that men are not expected to multi-task, or that there is actually no such thing as multi-tasking.

I have to admit my husband cannot remotely multi-task, as he stops washing dishes while he's talking so he can wave his hands around to punctuate his sentences, which drives me crazy and makes me blurt out, "keep working while you're talking!" and then he gets annoyed and stops talking, so then I get annoyed, but he does go back to doing the dishes and I keep folding laundry and it means I get to dominate the conversation because I can do both at once. But that's not because I'm a woman, it's because I'm not him.

I can't actually multi-task either, unless you count listening to podcasts while driving or scrolling through emails while people are trying to talk to me.

When it comes to sexual arousal, men are very visual, while women are more cerebral


Women take ages to get ready

This has nothing to do with the fact that women are judged on their appearance which is generally expected to include flattering clothing, flawless makeup, smooth, styled hair and accessories that complement the outfit. None of that takes time to pull together. No, it's clearly a fact that women just take ages to get ready!

Young women wear ridiculously inappropriate and non-functional clothing

Well, we all know this is true. There's nothing quite as ridiculous as a tipsy young woman holding her shoes in her hand, or shivering in a backless dress on a winter street, or trying to hold down a wind-whipped skirt on a blustery day. Hilarious!

Here is something that happened to me more than once as a young woman:

Group of young people: Let's go to a bar!
Young woman (thinking): I am a girl, so I will need to look attractive at this bar. My boyfriend will be pleased and turned on if his friends and others like the way I look. I will feel confident and in control and we will have good sex later. If I don't dress up, my boyfriend will steal glances at other girls who have dressed up, and I will feel regretful and pissed off and we will not have good sex later.  So, I will wear something sexy, with high heels. 
Young woman (also thinking): It will be warm inside the bar and I don't want to carry too much as I already have to carry a purse and keys that I can't put in my pockets because women's evening outfits aren't designed to have pockets. So I won't wear or carry a jacket.  
Young man: I am a dude, so I will wear jeans or pants, a shirt and comfortable shoes. I will look good and be comfortable! 
Much time later, outside the bar, early morning. Group of young people stand around and realise there is no available transport. 
Young men: No drama, it's only 2 k's, let's walk home! 
Young woman (thinking): Fuck you all.

And when you are older, you may still be subjected to things like this, apparently:

Men don't like makeup

For sure, men hate makeup. They keep saying so!

Or maybe, what men like is natural-looking makeup and light, matte lipstick. On a naturally beautiful face. Which still looks better with makeup.

Men, this woman is wearing a shit-ton of makeup


Men are better at 'compartmentalising' work and family

God knows how I also manage to do this every workday.  Luck, I guess?

Mothers are naturally more bonded to their children / Women are more emotional / Women centre their worlds around family

For ages, I believed this one. When it suits me, I still believe it. But, since more dads are now performing a primary carer role (or even just a sharing-the-burden carer role), I've seen more and more men displaying the kind of 'motherly' behaviour that involves intuiting when your child is unwell, preparing lunch boxes, knowing your children's shoe sizes, etc.

So this one might be true if you substitute 'primary carer' for 'mothers/women'. When men perform these roles, they tend to have this outlook too.

When boys fight there's no drama. They get over it fast. Girls backstab and hold grudges

When I visit my kids' school to see a teacher or the principal or do some form of admin or whatnot, I see the student welfare officer mediating a constant stream of bitchy catfights, friendship dramas and tears, accusations and peer-exclusion. The fact that half of these incidents involve boys and the other half involve girls clearly makes our school a bit exceptional, as this is obviously very girly behaviour.


In conclusion, it's obvious. Men and women are, clearly, fundamentally different.

May 7, 2016

How To Find Out About Anyone: Great Questions!

One of my favourite sites is Quora, where people pose questions and others post answers. It's a great different kind of social media, even if these days it is more overrun by marketers and promoters than it used to be (welcome to any social media platform, right?)

Tonight I was happily browsing my feed while procrastinating doing some work, and came across a set of really great 'meme' style questions, in response to a question that asked, "What 10 questions can tell you the most about a person?"

As of tonight, 11 people had responded with their lists of questions, but the best response to my mind was this one, from Barnard Law Collier, "anthropologist, journalist, writer, director Scanmyhandwriting.com":

"Dear Horatio," he begins,

"These 20 (ten is too few to be at all comprehensive) questions are meant to be asked of public figures and would-be or current politicians, but they work well with almost anybody. 
It's best to ask them without revealing them in advance. But even if the questions are known in advance, they are devilishly hard to "spin" even for the most slippery interviewee and her/his spin doctors. 
They have been tested extensively, and if they are all asked and their answers recorded IN FULL WITH ALL ASIDES AND REMARKS ON THE RECORD (make this stipulation crystal clear to the interviewee ahead of time: "Be careful, everything you say is on the record") results are often quite astonishing. 
Be sure to listen carefully and faithfully record all the asides; they are often priceless...."

The questions themselves are pretty great. They are different or deeper enough from the usual, that I can see some interesting responses - and asides - coming out of people's attempts to answer.

Perhaps one for a meme, Sunday Stealing?

What 10 (20) questions can tell you the most about a person?

Answers by Barnard Law Collier

Besides to your God, your family and your country and your constituents (if any), where do your loyalties lie?
In as much precise detail as you see fit, how does your mind work?
Have you ever been in love? If so, describe the experience.
If you were an animal, what animal would you be ~ other than human?
What did your father fail at?
Except for "nothing," what or whom do you hate?
In deadly peril, name three people you want in your foxhole with you?
Have you ever dealt a death penalty? If yes,please explain.
Describe your ability to dance.
What do you think your worst enemy really thinks about you?
On a scale of 0 to 250, where would you score your intelligence?
In eight words or less, please define intelligence.
What is the greatest weakness in your character?
How do you verify the truth of what you are told?
Name and define your favorite word.
Of the following, which gives you the most pleasure: a) Music; b) Money; c) Literature; d) Science; e) Spirituality; f) Golf; g) Food & Wine; h) Films.
Briefly describe your favourite hat.
Who is the best living lawyer that you know?
If you were made to live out the rest of your days as a famous fictional or non-fictional character, who would you select?

Source: Quora, 26 April 2016

What do you think - could you answer these?

The only ones I think I would be stuck on are 18 (whaaaat??) and 19 - though actually, for 19 I'd probably choose Julian Burnside.  But I don't know many lawyers.

Apr 2, 2016


Today I went to a Tupperware party, the second one I have been to in my life. The first one was about 15 years ago when, if I remember correctly, I came to my cousin's house, drank some wine and admired some plastic stuff, and didn't buy a thing.

A week ago I told a friend I was going to a Tupperware party, and she immediately waxed lyrical about $40 lunch boxes and asked if I had a catalogue. I had a digital one, and we looked through it together over coffee while I tried not to spray the coffee out of my mouth in a cliche of shock. Holy cow, this stuff was expensive!

My friend told me that the last time she went to a Tupperware party she spent $400.
"Oh my god," I said, while inwardly I thought, Ha ha, you big chump! How did you do that!

So today I went to a Tupperware party to support a friend, and thought I would just buy one thing, if I could find something useful that wouldn't require a second mortgage.

National Museum of American History/Flickr CC

I very quickly found my Useful Thing: a sort of a manual food processor which chops, blends, whips or purees at the pull of a string. Sounds dodgy - actually works great (I had a go). I don't own a food processor. My blender is only good for blending. So this was obviously worth the money.

Then I found another Useful Thing: a replacement for my rice cooker that got lost some years ago.  I used to have a plastic rice cooker I bought at Kmart that I used all the time, not only to cook rice but also to make risottos and to steam vegetables. (Ha ha ha ha ha, my kids used to actually eat vegetables and risottos!)

The red bowl of my old rice cooker was a really good size and I used it as a mixing bowl and storage bowl too.  Then the lid got lost so it just became a mixing bowl. Then I took it to the school to collect eggs one weekend when we were on chook duty, and left it behind, full of nice brown eggs, sitting on top of a compost bin in the blazing sun.

I have always intended to replace my rice cooker.  I could have easily gone back to Kmart (where they still sell them for about $12) and bought one there. But why wouldn't I actually get a nice purple one from Tupperware, for only three times the price, now that the catalogue and a friendly hostess were right there in front of me?  So that was obviously worth the money too.

But then, a really, really Useful Thing. Tupperware these days also make cookware, and sitting right in front of me on the hostess' benchtop in all its gleaming, steely glory, was the heavy-bottomed casserole/saucepan combination of my dreams.

Some years ago my mother gave us a pair of heavy-bottomed saucepans that changed my life. I had no idea how much easier they make cooking. We used those saucepans almost daily for years. The small one got burnt out in the forgotten boiling eggs incident of 2014, and the large one is still being used but the non-stick coating is starting to flake off in tiny bits on the bottom, and I know that's not good.

So I have been wanting a replacement large, heavy-bottomed saucepan for some time, but I just couldn't afford one. Until today, I guess?

So... yeah. I can no longer chuckle at my friend spending all that money on Tupperware.

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