How to choose a flag

I was not interested in the debate around changing the New Zealand flag during the public submissions process. Public opinion seemed to be split between people lolzing at all the badly designed attempts at flags involving jandals, sheep, and fish and chips, and people raging that the government was spending money on the bloody flag referendum instead of addressing child poverty, the TPPA and other difficult matters.

But then the long list of 40 designs was announced and I realised, yeah, I can do this. I can wade in and have opinions and put my expert analysis skillz to work.

So to save the Flag Consideration Panel further work, I shall now go through and eliminate all the unsuitable designs which will leave us with the one true flag that will guide as, as a nation, through the new millennium and beyond.


Step one: eliminate all designs that look like a civil defence tsunami warning sign

Tsunami warning sign

Korus are nice and all – and people like them because they are highly symbolic – but the ones included on the flag designs all look like the giant wave of destruction on a tsunami sign.

This will mean that if one of those flags is chosen, people will look at it and think “Arrgh! A tsunami is coming! Run to higher ground!” Or worse – they’ll see a tsunami warning sign and instead of fleeing to safety, they’ll instead feel strong patriotic pride in New Zealand, go Kiwi, etc.

So let’s cull those korus:


Step two: eliminate all designs that look like the logo of a sports funding agency and/or the basis of the national costume worn by a Miss New Zealand in the 1980s

Sport NZ logo

It’s that darn silver fern. The trouble is, people are so in love with the Canadian flag. They look at it and say, “Canadia has a leaf on their flag, so why don’t we have a leaf on ours?” Because New Zealand is not Canada. We have no obvious ties to Canada. Unless you count Céline Dion’s three No.1 albums.

1986-miss-universeAs well as being a popular symbol in the New Zealand’s sporting world, there’s a much more serious risk. If any sort of silver fern design is selected, this will also do immense retrospective damage to New Zealand in beauty pageants of the ’80s.

As I have previously examined, a popular design for the national costume section was a black gown with a silver fern motif. If this becomes the flag, then all these Miss New Zealands (and the Duchess of Cambridge!) will suddenly look like they’ve dressed up in the flag, which is about the tackiest thing ever. And prior to this there was absolutely nothing tacky about their dresses.

So let’s make like the early settlers and clear those ferns:


Step three: eliminate all designs that look inspired by the 1990 Commonwealth Games logo

1990 Commonwealth GamesSo much symbolism! It’s round which resembles a ball, which is used in a lot of games. But the round shape also resembles a globe and therefore the red stripe is the mighty British Empire. The stripe also represents a running track, which is used in a lot of other games. The four stars represent the Southern Cross because it is not possible to live in the southern hemisphere and not have strangely erotic feelings about the Southern Cross.

So anything with too much symbolism (which, let’s be fair, is a lot of the designs) and/or with more stars than Celebrity Treasure Island cannot be included. Just think of the headache.

The Games are over and so is that Southern Cross:


Step four: And that leaves us with…

I thought this elimination process would be useful, but honestly it’s turned out to be a bit of a disaster.


The circular flag design looks like a modified goatse and/or a ’90s body piercing loop. The interlocking koru is just Gordon Walters lite. That leaves us with the two triangles. One is almost a square (ugh, Switzerland!) and I find the chopped-off corners of the triangle to be geometrically distressing. I don’t like feeling geometric distress.

This leaves us with the one with the red base. It is simple and geometrically pleasing and not drowning in symbolism. I like it, but do we want it as a flag? I can see it as the emblem of the resistance movement in a dystopian kidult TV series, but I’m not sure if it would work flying from Parliament.

Step five: I don’t even know anymore

But the emoji New Zealand flag will always be there for us.

NZ flag emojiNZ flag emojiNZ flag emojiNZ flag emojiNZ flag emoji

Life continues at 40

About a week ago, or whenever, I turned 40. It was even more low-key than my 39th birthday. I guess it’s the power combo of having a birthday three days before Christmas mixed with people just not caring so much about birthdays in adulthood. But hey, I got two presents so that’s something.

40 doesn’t really feel old – or at least it doesn’t feel anywhere as old as I was led to believe by Dave and the Dynamos’ 1983 No.1 hit single “Life Begins at 40”. And I know that whenever someone complains about being old, there’s always someone older who gets angry and tells them to make the most of their youth and stop complaining. But I’m thinking that maybe 40 is the kind of age where you can start saying “I’m too old for this shit” without irony.

A year ago I made a list of things to achieve before I turn 40:

  • Finish reading Ulysses.
  • Come up with a few more things to do before I turn 40.
  • Explore historic Northland.
  • Learn to say “Hi, my name is Robyn. I am 40 years old.” in 40 languages of the world.

My progress report:

  • Lol, as if. It’s still sitting on my bookshelf.
  • Well, yeah, I already did that one.
  • I did this, driving up the east coast and down the west. Highly recommended.
  • Um, je m’appelle Robyn. J’ai quarante ans. Aw, guys, I can’t even say it in Maori.

Glasses are so much cheaper now that you can order them online. All up, these cost about $200 less than the ones I got in 2000.
Glasses are so much cheaper now that you can order them online. All up, these cost about $200 less than the ones I got in 2000.
I have reading glasses, but I don’t really need them. Or rather, I had another thing wrong with my vision and my optometrist added a +1.00 magnification to the prescription. I guess it makes things slightly easier to read, but I’m not at the stage of complaining about the size of type in the phone book or a newspaper (lol “phone book”, “newspaper”).

I hardly have any grey hair, which is fun. A few years ago I decided to grow out my roots, expecting some sort of Bride of Frankenstein look, but my natural hair was just this fairly inoffensive shade of light brown, and in such better condition without all the battery from colouring. So I’ll make the most of that while it lasts.

I’ve been paying attention to people in showbiz who turned 40 in the last year. My fellow 1974 babies include: Robbie Williams, Mel C, Carrie Brownstein, Joaquin Phoenix, Chloë Sevigny, Kate Moss, Posh Spice, Li’l Kim, Jimmy Fallon, David Faustino and Miranda July. They all turned 40 and kept doing cool things, so I knew everything was going to be alright.

But I still don’t own a table.

Giving and receiving

My Secret Santa package arrived and it was good. I opened the box and discovered three items wrapped in newspaper (reuse!), with instructions on the order in which to unwrap.

Strangely, it was easier to plug into a USB port than a real one.

Gift #1 was a USB stick. Wait. It was a stick from a tree with “USB stick” scratched into the bark. WTF, worst Christmas ever!!!! I cried for several hours, before mustering up the physical and emotional strength to open the next gift.

One Direction would actually be improved if they replaced Louis with a sheet of lined refill.

Gift #2 was a CD of Four, the fourth album by One Direction. Despite having previously moaned about One Direction gifts, I was actually really happy to receive Four. While I do enjoy the musical oeuvre of 1D, I’m not enough of a fan to actually buy their albums, but Four is a good pop recording and represents a new stage in the boy band’s evolution. And besides, “Steal My Girl” is really decent tune.

My Secret Santa also went to the effort of blanking out all appearances of Louis in the CD booklet after I expressed my dislike of him. This was a really kind and thoughtful, because if I’d seen L. Tomlinson’s likeness, Christmas would have been ruined again.

USB stick
The perfect accessory for the modern girl.

Gift #3 was an actual real USB stick, a nice 16GB thing that I can use to put thing on. Hooray! Christmas is saved!

My Secret Santa also included a letter that old his amazing story (so far), and in a way that was the best part of package.

Oh, apropos of nothing, I was alerted to this vlog by a dude who is describing what he gave his Secret Santa person, and what he received. By total coincidence, the gift he gave his Secret Santa person was exactly the same as the gift I received. But obviously he wasn’t my Secret Santa as that would mean it wasn’t a secret and would somehow spoil the fun or something. But I’m sure that the person who received his gift was really happy to receive and it and may or may not have literally rolled on the floor squealing with delight. *wink*

On the flip side, my Secret Santa recipients enjoyed the present I got for them. It was hard because they were a business, but in the end I think I got something that a group could enjoy.

By the way, NZ Post and Secret Santa fans have donated more than $6000 to the Christchurch City Mission. The mission also gets all the gifts intended for people who didn’t keep up their end of the bargain and send a gift. So everyone has a happy Christmas!

Merry stuff

It’s Secret Santa season, and I’ve again taken the plunge and signed up for NZ Post’s very well organised NZ Twitter Secret Santa.

But I have a fear involving Secret Santa and One Direction. Every November (deep within Q4, the time of year when the best pop is released), One Direction release a new album and, despite my best intentions, I usually end up tweeting about it or something to do with the group around Secret Santa time. This year it’s been my newfound appreciation for Liam, due to his amazing production-line selfie-taking process:

My fear is this: my Secret Santa person will see a 1D tweet and think, “Oh, she must be a huge 1D fan!” and then gift me something like a thin book with a name like One Direction: Their Life in Pictures, full of various photo agency snaps of the quintet with scarves and haircuts outside film premieres. I would be genuinely upset by this for two reasons:

1. No one wants One Direction merch. Not even actual One Direction fans (especially not 1D fans). What the merch represents is not why people like One Direction. It’s not a keyring with their faces on it; it’s their music and their #cheekybantz. And, curiously enough, those things can be legitimately enjoyed for free online.

2. Novelty gifts are a heartbreaking waste of resources. George Monbiot wrote a piece about the short, pointless lives of novelty gifts and their impact on the planet. It made me think of all the weird novelty gifts I’ve received over the years. They all eventually end up in the bin or are taken to the local recycling shop. There’s a bit of science that says that people enjoy experiences more than objects. I keep seeing tweets from ladies saying “Something nice from Lush would be ok” and I think, yeah, some nice bath stuff would be really enjoyable.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. When I come to buying a Secret Santa gift for my person, I just think “Is this something I would like to receive?” If the answer is hellz yah, then that’s the thing.

One Direction Colgate
Get out of my mouth, Louis.

Hey pretty lady

Do men in New Zealand catcall women? Is street harassment a thing in Aotearoa? The New Zealand Herald made a hidden-camera video, with a model walking around central Auckland and only one person approached her but he “sounds European”.

So is this not a problem in New Zealand? Well, New Zealand may not have the same street culture as New York, but for sure women get unwanted men approaching them.

Unlike the Herald‘s test person, I’m not a model. I’m not the kind of girl that random men approach in a “hey baby” kind of way, but street harassment has even happened to me.

This is a sampling of the more memorable situations that have happened in the past 10 years:

Karangahape Road

I was walking home from work along Karangahape Road, along the bit over the motorway. A man approaches me. He says something but I can’t understand him so I ask him to repeat himself. He again mumbles, and again I look confused. The third time I hear him say “If I give you money will you have sex with me?” I walked off, feeling a bit sorry for him because he seemed quite messed up.


Hobson Street

It was about 6.45am, and I was heading to work as I was on the early shift. I was waiting at the pedestrian crossing outside the Skycity Theatre when a really drunk guy came up to me. He was convinced I’d just come from the casino and suggested we keep partying into the night morning. I said I was on my way to work, which he didn’t believe as obviously I was heading over to the Albion Hotel to play their poker machines. He seemed bewildered as I didn’t walk into the pub and kept going along Hobson Street.


Courtenay Place

I was walking along Courtenay Place on a Saturday afternoon. I passed a random white guy and he said, “How’s it going?” I didn’t know if he was talking to me and also couldn’t be bothered finding out so I ignored him. He shouted “I said, how’s it going?” and I just kept walking. With anger in his voice, he yelled “Fucking… red neck”. I’m pretty sure he was left kicking himself that he hadn’t been able to come up with a better insult.


Dixon Street

I was walking along Dixon Street on a Sunday afternoon. A guy started walking alongside me and said, “Hey, pretty girl. You wanna talk?” Really? I was not having it and shot back “get fucked”. He laughed and said, “Yeah, let’s do that!” I immediately turned and walked off in the other direction.


Munters in cars

And then there were all the times when munters in passing cars have yelled stuff, most of which is unintelligible. One time some teen boys yelled at me then turned down a nearby cul-de-sac (which seems like a real amateur move) so I found them still sitting in their car and told them they were dicks.

This is all a lot harder to capture on video, but who knows what the future of wearable tech will reveal. (Do men make passes at girls who wear Google Glass?)

None of these situations were pleasant. I had places to go, things to do and I was having to stop and deal with these random dudes. It doesn’t happen to me a lot, but when it does, it’s annoying and I wish it didn’t happen.


Drill down

Last week I was at the dentist getting a filling. This is what happens when you move to a town that doesn’t have fluoridated water. Previously the water of Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington kept my teeth so healthy I barely had any fillings, but Waikato District’s no-frills water has now necessitated that I use a super-fluoridated mouthwash once a week in order to protect my teeth and/or become a compliant sheeple.

So I was lying in the dentist’s chair with the relevant part of my mouth in a state of pleasing numbness. Getting a filling is kind of boring, so I started thinking about what I’d done on the weekend, but then I was distracted by the radio.

It was on ZM and over the sound of the drill and the sucker, I heard the following songs play:

I knew that a few of those songs had been number one in New Zealand, so once the filling was in and polished, I checked. Indeed, all but “Next to Me” (which was number six) were number one singles.

And I thought, is that all it takes to programme one of New Zealand major commercial radio stations? Is it just an algorithm that makes a list of number one songs from the previous eight years, throws in a few iconic top 10 hits, puts them in a random order and squirts them out in between the DJ’s madcap banter?

If so, I could totally be the programmer for ZM. And I could do it from a dentist’s chair.

The time the lights went out

Bits of central-east Auckland recently suffering a major power outage. Comedy rule: it’s funny if it affects to someone who lives in the posh bit of that area (lol how will they get their lattes!!!!!!) but it’s not funny if if affects someone in the poorer area, especially if it’s someone who’s had to go into hospital because their home dialysis machine won’t work.

This got me thinking about the Auckland power crisis of 1998. It didn’t affect me much. I lived outside the blackout zone in Auckland’s CBD (lattes galore!!!!!!) but my workplace, on Newton Road, was right on the fringe.

The office wasn’t supposed to be affected, but the power kept going off – I think it was due to repairs or diversions. There was a generator sitting in the car park, so that was fired up and extension cords ran everywhere.

There wasn’t enough capacity to have all the computers running at once, so we had to take turns. For an internet company, there wasn’t a lot of paperwork to do. Once all the filing had been done, it all just turned into a general afternoon mucking around and bonding session, with a few people working hard on the remaining computers.

After work one day a workmate and I went sightseeing in downtown Auckland, but closed shops and dead traffic lights have limited appeal. We ended up going to Starbucks in Parnell where the electricity was rich and plentiful and there were lattes galore.

Viz biz

bookBetween 2001 and 2008, this was the book I rested my laptop on. I borrowed it from my dad’s bookcase to protect my lap from the scorching hot underside of my fancy new iBook.

I had read the book, but I didn’t think too much about its contents. The shape of the book was of more interest to me.

But then people started talking about the book. As it happens, it’s Envisioning Information by Edward Tufts, which is like a seminal tome on the world of data visualisation, or dataviz if you’re cool like that.

I think data visualisation is basically colourful diagrams and pretty maps. Except you are less interested in the actual content of the diagram or map and more interested in its datavizness. “Wow, great dataviz,” you say as you admire the multicoloured map that shows there’s a giant sinkhole under your house.

I’m sure there’s some sort of metaphor in me using a book on data visualisation as a laptop rest. I misplaced it when I moved to Wellington and switched to a book on New Zealand architecture instead, then later I used a wooden trivet that broke when I accidentally sat on it. So I thought why not do some dataviz on this very topic:

My current laptop is solid state and disappointingly doesn’t get hot.

Votes and goats

ballot-boxHey guys, it’s general election times! I made an advance vote yesterday, which was rather thrilling. Previously advance voting was only available to people who would otherwise be occupied on polling day, but now anyone can do it. I don’t think “too hungover to get out of bed on Saturday” used to count, but it does now!

In a little meeting room inside the Waikato District Council office cum library, I cast my advance vote. It was the first day advance voting was available in Raglan, but I could have done it last week if I’d gone to Ngaruawahia or Hamilton or… Inglewood.

Whangamonona in happier times (i.e. when I went there in 2006 and had some wedges for lunch at the the pub).
Whangamonona in happier times (i.e. when I went there in 2006 and had some wedges for lunch at the the pub).
Oh, that’s right. The little Waikato town of Raglan is in the Taranaki-King Country electorate. This came about by Stratford being moved into the Whanganui electorate, so the Electoral Commission expanded Taranaki-King Country north to take in some parts of the Waikato.

I could have cast my vote in New Plymouth or Te Kuiti or even the little village of Whangamomona. In 1989 it declared itself an independent republic and elected a goat as the president. Election day road trip!!!

But I’m lazy so I just went down the road to the Raglan library and voted there. A huge burden has been lifted. I now no longer have to pay any attention to the pre-election amateur dramatics and tomcockery.

Highly symbolic.
Highly symbolic.

Too many mistakes

Today my mum cancelled her subscription to the Waikato Times because there were too many mistakes in it.

Generally one of the most annoying things on Twitter is people who go on about mistakes that subeditors make, all “sack the sub” about online articles that aren’t allowed to be wrong for even a couple of minutes.

But what happens when you’ve bought a newspaper and you’re sitting down to read it while you have your morning muesli? You’d like to enjoy having a smooth read of the news of the past 24 hours, but instead all these trivial but annoying errors keep turning up.

This is the kind of crap that bothered my mum this morning:

To ‘to’ or not to ‘to’.
Coming soon: Byline3D: The Return
Curtesy would evade a spellcheck because it’s the word given to what a husband inherits upon the death of his wife.

My parents have been regular readers of The Times since they moved to Hamilton in the early ’70s. Not any more. Not with this complete lack of common curtesy courtesy.

It’s not reasonable to expect that Waikato Times and Fairfax reporters and contributors will have flawless spelling and grammar, but the paper’s subeditors should actually pick up all the mistakes and have near perfect copy ready to go to the press.

But is this possible anymore? I know newsrooms are getting downsized and that Fairfax outsource their subediting. Is this half-arsed standard just normal now? Are printed newspapers just a service for the fish ‘n’ chip industry, and therefore who cares what gets printed?

Well, I suspect the people who work at the Waikato Times and Fairfax still care but probably find themselves without enough resources to have things running at the previous standard.

I guess now it’s time to get my mum an iPad to read over breakfast.

Update: Thanks to alert reader David who spotted this in the same edition:

Skulduggery is not duggery of a skull. And let’s not ponder the placement of the hyphen.

Evolution, revolution

The backend

Ok, I have my website back working the way I want it. Let me tell you about what happened!!!!

Back in February I moved to a new web host. At the time, The Morgan said there was a chance that the new host might not be as good as the old one. And that’s what happened. So I had to quickly move to another host.

But I decided I didn’t want it to be a rush job like it was the last time (on holiday, sitting in the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi, trying to sort out URL redirections using my iPhone) so I took some time to clean things up and get things how I wanted them. This is mainly backend stuff, but it’s nice to to have a tidy backend.

Hard-working rock unit update

I’ve just discovered that Prime Devastation have updated their website with the latest news. There’s a full report of what went down on their 20th/23rd reunion tour. It might not be a surprise that things didn’t go so well for the band in Cambridge. And Te Awamutu. And Papamoa. Bloody Papamoa. The Hamilton show was apparently good, though.

There’s also an official statement from Prime Devastation on the mega successful (and totally real) Hamilton rock band Devilskin. The ‘Skins had the number one album for the past three weeks. Take that, Ed Sheeran!

If you haven’t heard of Devilskin, this is their most recent single, “Start a Revolution”. They’re notable for being a metal band with a chick singer (rare) who can rap in that death-metal growl (even rarer). And with metal now being almost as niche as country music is in the pop charts, it’s cool that New Zealand’s metaller community has a local band to get behind. It probably comes as no surprise that they have quite a good range of t-shirts.

Life on the street

At the moment I’m enjoying the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood iPad game. The aim of the game is to become an A List celebrity, which I managed to do in about a week. So now it’s just all going to parties and doing photo shoots and going on dates.

This all sounds like fun, but it’s all work. The parties are all paid appearances, so you have talk to people about the various fictitious products in the KKH universe. Going on dates is super hard as well. You have to wear the right thing and buy your date dinner and flirt with him and stuff. If you’re short of cash, you can put in a shift at one of the clothing stores. And if you’re totally broke, you can actually scrounge for cash on the footpath.

It’s horrible. Basically, if you want nice things, you have to work to get the cash to buy them. It’s all about the value of hard work. And if you want someone to love you, you have to be nice to them and be attentive to their needs. If you ignore them, they will break up with you.

My friend Johubris is also playing. I’d previously done a photoshoot with her, then later I tried to invite her on a date because she’s fun to hang out with IRL. The game was all, if you change your relationship from business to romantic you will lose your business progress. Which is bullshit.

The most fun thing about the game (apart from scrounging for coins in the gutter, which is actually surprisingly fulfilling) is changing outfits. But the weirdest thing was that the hairstyle that most resembled my own actually looked the worst on my play character. I guess I’ll just have to get some wigs.


Domestic duties


NBC has a photo essay on the Russian mining city of Norilsk. It’s one of the few cities within the Arctic circle, and as a result there is total darkness for 45 days in peak winter. The average temperature is -10ºC, but it can get as cold as -50ºC.

So the photos are interesting, because what would it be like to live in such a bleak, desolate landscape. It’s a place where public buses travel in convoys so if one breaks down in the unforgiving tundra, passengers can safely transfer to another.

But is the photo that resonated the most with me:


The caption reads:

Once a month, the “Mechanika” night club is put on, organised by a group of volunteers. The dance club provides a rare opportunity to listen and dance to new music.

It also notes that young people born in Norilsk usually have one wish – to leave the city. They study to get accepted to a high school on the “mainland” and hope to find work there. The extreme weather, pollution, geographic isolation and lack of cultural and employment opportunities all contribute to their desire to flee.

I imagine a 15-year-old looking at a picture of Moscow in spring, with blossoms and soft sunshine and flowing rivers. A dream of a magical climate where you can wear t-shirts outdoors and everything isn’t frozen all the time. Who wouldn’t want to run away from the UV lamps, the domino-playing uncles, and the months spent indoors for the chance to experience a bit of life in the land of the thaw.

And wonder when the little girls from Norilsk watch Frozen (or Холодное сердцеCold Heart – as it’s called in Russia), if they roll their eyes as they are so totally over all that.

The time in London when they all chipped in for a cleaner

I’m currently obsessed with this Stuff Nation reader submission, a post written on the theme of “the flats nightmares are made of”. In it a young New Zealander writesof the time she naively ended up flatting with a drug dealer in London.

Oh, so that sounds like it would be a real nightmare, right? Addiction, theft, overdoses, police raids, gang warfare with rival drug dealers? No. None of that. Nothing happens. The most dramatic thing is when the flat gets a cleaner to come in in once a week.

“We eventually hired a cleaner – £2 each a week and the lounge, kitchen and bathrooms were cleaned on a Monday”

But yet I feel oddly proud that a New Zealander has had this experience. Flatting with a drug dealer in London, then coming home with this idea that there’s an epic story in there somewhere, but not being able to parlay it into anything more than an ordinary tale of flatting.

Nothing or everything

One day in the late 1980s, I was watching Ripley’s Believe It Or Not on the telly and I saw the most amazing thing.

It started off fairly innocently – lovely Marie Osmond introducing the work of dada artist Hugo Ball and his sound poem “Karawane”. It was written with sounds, not words, designed to be read aloud. And then Marie stops, looks at the camera and recites the poem from memory. In that moment, all the cheesiness of the Donny & Marie variety show faded into insignificance as Marie became possessed with the spirit of dada. It was the funniest, weirdest and most magnificent thing I’d seen at that point in my life. For weeks after, my brother and I would recite random lines at each other – “ü üü ü!”

The clip of that segment has become one of those weird internet things that people stumble across and they’re not sure what they’ve seen, but they can’t stop thinking about it. This blog has a bit of background about the clip, but the best thing to do is just watch it. Ba-umf.