*delighted screaming* Someone buy one of these!

See update at bottom of post for purchase info (Spoiler: it’s not good news) Updated: 18 Jan – you can preorder one!



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The Omoshiroi Block, from Japanese company Triad Inc, is a memo block, with an inbuilt pen holder, of 100 (non-sticky) pages. As you use each note you uncover a tiny sculpture, and the folded notes become a haunting, monochromatic landscape to surround it. They have other models, too, over on their beautiful Instagram, but this one, of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, is everything.


Apparently, these go for around US$50 to US$100, and so seriously, I will never have the budget to buy one, but I need some human I have at least a tenuous connection to, to own one and make my life complete. Forget the fact the notes are tiny. Write one word a day. It’ll be minimalistic poetry.

Update 15 Jan: WHERE TO BUY 

Basically, you can’t. There is no English language online retailer. The Triad-Inc server has crashed under the weight of traffic so I can’t ask them for purchase info.

Tokyu Hands in Umeda had some last week, but they are all gone. Kyoto Design House apparently had some as of the weekend 13/14 Jan, but they do not seem to have them listed on their website http://kyoto-dh.com/en/ If anyone has a contact to actually physically go to their store, let me know if they still have stock. (Update 2: Kyoto Design House posted on their Facebook they are sold out).

As far as I can tell, there are zero omoshiroi blocks left on the globe to buy. If I hear more I will update.

Update 18 Jan. Hat tip to Mike for letting us know Japan Trend Shop is accepting pre-orders for three styles of Omoshiroi block: Kiyomizudera Temple ( the one photographed above), Asakusa Temple, and Tokyo Tower, for USD$119 with $20 shipping, and stock expected Feb 1. Like Mike, I have no experience with Japan Trend Shop. If you’ve dealt with them before and found them to be a stand-up company – or not – share the info.


Meet my new toy

Stuck to the cupboard above my desk is a lump of Blu-Tack. Not because I want to adhere things to my wall, but because I use it like a fidget cube to distract my hands when I’m thinking. It’s kind of messy, it gets stuck under my nails sometimes, and if I drop it I have to throw it away, because tbh I don’t vacuum that often. But these disadvantages are far outweighed by how relaxing it is to pull and squish it.

But Blu-Tack no more! I found Crazy Aaron’s Magical Thinking Putty.

It’s a viscous silicone-based non-Newtonian fluid, which flows very slowly (but not as slowly as pitch), so for all practical purposes, it’s a rubbery, gel-like solid when you play with it. Just like Blu-Tack.

This stuff is totally old hat in the US, so Americans are saying “Jeez, duh!” and rolling their eyes at me here, but it’s only just hit popularity in NZ. If you’re a Kiwi, until Jan 31 MightyApe has some colors on sale in the mini-tins for only $3 (Whitcoulls stock it too). And for thinking purposes, a mini-tin is a perfectly cromulent amount. It fits in my everyday carry so I can get it out when I’m puzzling out a plot point. It senses as tacky to the fingers, but it doesn’t leave your skin sticky at all (magic!). Pro tip: don’t leave it sitting on the open page of a notebook while you take a bathroom break because it will sluggishly but inevitably drool all over the shop and it is not easy to pick off paper.

I got Super Scarab because it’s iridescent purple/teal and I am six years old. I put it right up there with Brain.FM as a key productivity tool. Possibly not coincidentally, I just had my most productive two weeks of writing since August 2016. For any aspies out there who like slightly sticky, rubbery textures, and have not yet tried putty as an executive-function-enhancing tool, give it a go.




Etsy artists screw up Thoreau

My daughter is about to go to the UK, in what would have been called her OE if she were going for longer, or was younger, but is probably now more accurately an extended holiday. Although, she’s chucking in her job when she leaves, and she has no plans for what she’s going to do when she returns. She hasn’t found her ikigai yet. It’s okay. I hadn’t either at her age. I want to let her know it’s okay to be floundering. That she doesn’t have to measure her life against the people around her. So I tried to buy her a keepsake quoting Thoreau, to take with her on her travels. Problem: on Etsy they all look like this:

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Well, this is just utterly wrong.

The original quote, from Thoreau’s Walden, is

“. . . if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

There is a huge fucking difference between “Live the life you have imagined” and “Endeavor to live the life you have imagined.”

Endeavor, man.

It’s about trying. Struggling, striving, laboring. It’s about exertion and slog. Doing the hard yards. Yakka. About getting up day after day and just bloody giving it a go, and failing, but getting up the day after that, and doing it all over again anyway.

And you might never get there. “Success unexpected” doesn’t mean you get everything you set out to achieve. Contrary to the beliefs espoused on reality talent shows, wanting it with your whole heart still doesn’t mean it will happen.

I definitely have a life I imagine. I earn enough from my fiction writing to pay all my bills, stash away some savings, look after my family, travel to a writing con or retreat every couple of years, and I can buy an espresso or a book each week without considering the cost.

I am not living this life.

But I am endeavoring to live this life. I am doing what I can to achieve it, one sunrise at a time, one sentence at a time. It’s fine if I don’t ever get there. I won’t have failed, because I will have spent my time on the journey. And maybe what I imagine will change in another 10 years anyway.

Whereas if I was judging myself through the evidence I was indeed “living the life I had imagined,” well, I’m a huge disappointment to myself.

Embrace the endeavor, talented Etsy makers.



I’ve been using my MacBook charger wrong

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Holy shit, you guys.

I was packing up my laptop today, coiling my power cable to fit into my cable bag, and the man next to me leant over and said, “Would you like to know a better way to do that?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I slowly nodded (on alert in case this was some kind of scam). He took my power cable from me, untangled its already-mobius-esque length, and did this.

Mind. Fucking. Blown. I had no idea those flaps folded out!

Makeup planner

Nine years after conception, I just found out this is a thing. Make up artist and Home Shopping Networker Trish McEvoy produces seasonal “makeup planners”: ringbinder cases for cosmetics.

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They come in seasonal colors like Kalahari Sky, Gold, Azure, Magenta Croc, White Sand, or Classic Black Quilted.

Screenshot 2017-04-25 15.07.32.pngThey’re sized in Petite, Medium or Large, and you can buy one pre-filled, or get it empty for USD $78 – $85 and build your own with refills, which McEvoy calls “makeup wardrobing pages.”

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Although the filled planners are pricey – USD $185 to $350 – for the amount of product you get I don’t actually think they’re too bad. And I admire the heck out of McEvoy for implementing the idea. I can see a big crossover market between the planner community and makeup buyers.

There’s something about the organization that comes with planners that makes part of me deeply content. I also get a huge sense of peace associated with completion and preparedness that comes with buying complete sets of things. (This may stem from an Erma Bombeck piece about a coordinated travel wardrobe I read when I was seven.)

I see these and just want to own one and play with it, to be like Eeyore taking things out and putting them back in again. Although I’m not a Trish McEvoy kind of person, in another lifetime I think I’d love to be.

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Hobonichi Niuhans Wallet review

Somehow there is still a perception with tourists that New Zealand is safe. In reality, while you’re unlikely to get mugged, tourists are sitting ducks for property theft. If you take a campervan/RV around New Zealand, take your passport, cash, and electronics with you every single time you leave the camper. Even if it’s for 2 minutes. If you leave your motel room to go to dinner, take your passport, cash, and electronics with you. All of them! Just try googling “Tourists lose everything theft New Zealand” some time.

Back in January, on my daily walk, I found a distraught tourist and her 8-year-old daughter in the beach carpark near my home. Their car had been stolen, including their clothes, bags, and phones. I loaned them my phone, but she was not pleased to learn that when you call about a stolen vehicle in Auckland the police tell you to come in to the station, file a report, and they’ll give you a copy for your insurance claim. That’s the extent of the action. The tourists were staying in a motel clear on the other side of Auckland, and she was even less impressed to find out a) there is no Uber service in my part of Auckland, and b) there was a minimum three-hour wait for a taxi, thanks to being a long way from the CBD, and it being a public holiday.

What else could I do but drive them back to their motel (also swing by McDonalds to buy cheeseburgers because an upset, sunburned, overtired 8-year-old requires immediate sedation in the form of carbohydrates and processed cows. How else will women learn to eat our feelings?)  The best moment of the drive was when the tourist said to me, “I suppose I shouldn’t have left my keys in the car.” Yes, she believed that NZ was some idyllic paradise where you could leave your car unlocked all day at the beach (perhaps she’d been reading 1930s tourist brochures). The next best was when we somehow ended up talking Hobonichi, as we were both fans.

Anyway, five weeks later I received a completely unexpected thank you gift from my tourist: the Hobonichi Niuhans wallet. Which is seriously a lovely, lovely thing to receive and was entirely unnecessary. I forced myself to carefully put away my A5 Safari and I’ve given the A6 wallet a test drive for the last six weeks.

Niuhans is a Japanese men’s fashion brand which sells hipster classics in solid colors and their own denim weave: the same denim the wallet is made from.

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The wallet holds the Hobonichi Original Techo. The zip is brass and solid and seems like it would wear well. The exterior is slightly padded. I’d prefer it if unpadded, but with a fabric cover this would make it wear out faster.

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However I seriously doubt the Niuhens wallet could actually work with the Original Techo.I don’t have an actual Original Techo, but I first tried a similar-sized Stalogy notebook and once I added my cards into the slots it bulked up and would barely zip up. I had more luck with a Kokuyo Buncobon grid notebook I found in my credenza. This notebook is actually a cracker little buy: USD$4 from Jet Pens. But if you wanted to carry a Hobonichi in here I think you’d much better off with the Avec (the two-volume six-month edition).

I found the pen loop annoying. It only holds the pen clip, not the barrel. Even so, to put the pen in and out I had to fold back the top edge of the wallet zip, and then fold it forward into place to fasten it. This got old quickly.

There’s a weird little pocket I still have no idea of the use for. Gillian St Kevern suggested it was for a flash drive, which is the only thing I can see even vaguely making sense, although I’m open to other ideas.


I really missed having a secretary pocket for receipts and papers. There’s a tiny nub of a secretary pocket but it’s not deep enough to hold more than a folded EFTPOS receipt.

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There simply weren’t enough card slits in the wallet for me, but luckily I already had a Hobonichi card case from a couple of years ago. One annoying thing with the card slits is the fabric lining separated from the leather pretty much immediately. This makes it hard to get the cards back into the slots. When I try to slide them in with one hand they go into the space between lining and leather, so they go in about 2cm and no further, leaving me fumbling like an idiot at the checkout counter.

The purse can hold a small number of coins, and I’ve always thought I missed a coin purse, but as I added coins the thickness of the wallet increased quickly, and then I ran into the same issue of bulk, with the zip no longer fastening easily (even with the thin notebook). The coin zip was also sticky and difficult to open, even after I applied a little silicon non-stick spray. I’d be happier if the coin purse was sacrificed for a deeper secretary pocket.

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This is a tiny issue and is probably be idiosyncratic to me, but even after six weeks I still expected to unfasten the wallet with the zip finishing on top, not on the bottom. I was forever opening the wallet back to front and upside down.

The wallet is fine, but the thing I want from my everyday carry items is that my use of them requires no thought. I just want it to work. And there were enough tiny issues that I had to pay attention as I used the wallet. I can’t complain about carrying less, but I missed my A5 notebook. I can’t think in an A6: the space is too confined. I know a lot of people find A5 far too bulky to carry around, but I have no problem with it. It’s hard to lose an A5 wallet. And it can hold a ton. I’m always confident that whatever I need for the day, I have it with me.

As you can probably tell, I moved back into my beloved A5 at the weekend. The gift was so thoughtful and kind, but this is not the wallet for me.

Eau de hard liquor

I found these new “all natural” perfumes this morning. The company is local.

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The labels do not lie. They smell exactly like vanilla and brandy, cinnamon and rum. That’s because they’re made by a distillery. They are vanilla and brandy, cinnamon and rum.

What I’ve been pondering all day is under what circumstances is it socially acceptable to walk around smelling of brandy? What will an employer think when you turn up reeking of spirits morning after morning? When you meet that client for coffee, won’t they assume you’ve been hitting the bottle before 10am? And is this likely to make them trust you?

The perfumes are sold in a delicate, miniature, hand-blown glass bottle that doubles as a necklace. They’re organic, and contain real ambergris aka whale vomit. I’m just not sold on the benefits of smelling of brandy. Or even rum. Who do you think the target market is?

Kanmido personal Kanban board

This will surprise exactly no-one who reads this blog, but when I’m letting my fear keep me from writing, I waste money on planning supplies. Here’s my new entirely unnecessary toy: the Kanmido 10 Min Work Life Balance Planning Board aka a personal Kanban board.

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Kanban was designed as an information tracking system for lean/just-in-time manufacturing, but it’s also super useful for keeping track of multiple writing projects simultaneously. I have a big whiteboard on my wall behind my desk I use as a Kanban board. I have columns for first conception, drafting, editing, cover commission, proofreading, and release. Each project gets one sticky note, and as the project goes into different phases the sticky advances across the board. Or, alternatively, the sticky stays exactly where it is for two years. This latter is more frequent. But the system does help me keep track of what’s where, what I have to do next, and why I absolutely cannot take on any new projects until 2022.

The Kanmido board is a variation on the idea. You’ve got columns for Today, This Week, and This Month, although of course you could change these to whatever you like. You use stickies for your tasks/appointments, and advance them across the columns – from right to left, like manga – as each becomes your priority. And unlike a whiteboard, you can tuck the board into your planner/notebook and take it to the cafe/office/meeting with you.

The back of the board has spaces for “whole life” tasks. No idea what these might be. Recreation? Apparently other people have lives outside of working. I haven’t got the hang of that yet. Maybe in my second half-century.


Kanmido intends you to use yellow stickies for must-do tasks, pink for want-to-do tasks, and blue for appointments. Handily, the stickies are built in to the bottom of the board, and refills can be found, but a) not easily, and b) they’re pricey. Hell, the whole board is pricey. Should this speak to you, definitely shop around: prices on ebay vary by over 100%.

I tried Hobonichi Coco Fusen refills in the Kanmido board, but they’re so much shorter they don’t really work. When you remove a sticky the end of the stack falls out of the board at the back.

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Kanmido sticky on the top, two colors of Hobonichi sticky at the bottom
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Spot the interloper.

The boards come in A6 (105 x 148 mm / 4.1 x 5.8 inches) and B6 (125 x 176 mm / 4.9 x 6.9 inches). They’re 2mm thin. The A6 fits perfectly inside an A6 notebook like a Stalogy or Hobonichi Planner/Original. The B6 is smaller than A5, so it easily fits inside a Leuchtturm large, Moleskine large, or Hobonichi Cousin.

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B6 in a Hobonichi Cousin
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Can you see it inside my Cousin?

The Kanmido board comes with a weird paperclip thing, with which to fasten it into your main planner, by using a tiny clear plastic loop attached to each top edge of the board. This kind of works. It does stop it falling out of your planner if you’re walking around, but the lower edge of the board is still free to slip out of place.


So, should you buy one of these?

Hell, no.

The process of tracking tasks/project status is great, but seriously, this is expensive for what it is. You can DIY this. Cut a piece of card to size and laminate it. Here’s one I made in sixty seconds with an unused divider and a sharpie, which fits the cheaper, larger, and more common 3M post-it flags.

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This column system won’t work for you if you find the process of writing your to-do list out each day helps sift through what you can safely forget. But if you have a lot of tasks to complete in series it can feel fucking good to pull them along the columns and see the progress you’re making.

Still, I have two annoyances with the Kanmido To-Do Board.

  1. It’s hard to find pens to write on the stickies. A Pilot Twin Marker works the best, because that sucker will write on anything up to and including window glass. Frixion pens also work, but all the rollerballs I’ve tried smudge easily, or the ink pools and won’t form letters at all.
  2. Because stickies only have adhesive on one end, once you write past half way the free end starts flapping around and it’s hard to write neatly. I have to try to hold the end down to hold it steady. The stickies are tiny. My hands are not.

Something else to consider, generic paper post-it flags don’t seem to stick well enough; they peel off within 30 minutes. You really need to use more expensive film stickies.

Disappointingly – but entirely predictably – the Kanmido doesn’t add value to my life. Because I spent money on it I’m going to force myself to use it for the rest of the month and see if I can make it work for me. Maybe I can use it for all those mosquito tasks that never make it onto my actual to-do list, and I can pick one to work on each day. That might work. I’ll update in March. If you try the Kanmido, or if you hack your own, please let me know how it goes for you.


Modem art

This should be a thing all the time.

In 2016 New Zealand ISP Orcon commissioned five New Zealand artists –Anna LeylandHayley King (Flox), Askew OneAndrew J. Steel, and Otis Frizzell, – to design router/modem housings.

Modem by Askew One
Modem by Otis Frizzell
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Modem by Haus of FLox
Modem by Andrew J. Steel
Modem by Anna Leyland

You’re gonna have a narrow lump of plastic sitting around your house, why not make it something intriguing to look at?

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I’m disappointed these didn’t go into full production. Instead Orcon did a limited edition run of 500 of each design, available to new subscribers. They’re all gone now, sad face. I probably wouldn’t change my ISP just to get one, but why can’t I buy a patterned modem when I need a new Belkin or Linksys?

Hobonichi Safari (Olive) Review: Pockets! Pockets! Pockets!

I am deeply and irrevocably in love with my 2017 Hobonichi cover: the Safari (Olive) for the A5 Cousin.


A Hobonichi cover is my everyday carry. It’s what I use instead of a wallet, because it’s better than a wallet: it’s a wallet and a journal. I don’t need a bag – I can leave the house with just my journal cover. I don’t actually use it for my Hobonichi, but rather a blank A5 journal. Currently I’m in the Taroko Engima – 480 pages of 68 gsm dot-grid Tomoe River paper in a lie-flat binding. The cover also works for pretty much any A5 journal or sketchbook, like the medium Leuchtturm 1917, the Nanami Seven Seas Writer or Crossfield, or a Rhodia Webnotebook.

So, you may remember my gripe with the regular Hobonichi covers is that the pen loops are too big (hence why I lost my Copper Lamy AL-Star to the wheels of an SUV). Also, I wish it had some way of fastening apart from a separate elastic closure like the Rivet Band Laccio. I don’t like closing it with a pen through both loops the way Hobonichi suggest because I find that awkward. I actually hack the front pen loop off my covers because it pisses me off flapping about to no purpose.

And Lo! Hobonichi heard the anguish in my soul and provided the solution: the Safari.


It’s literally my perfect journal cover. My stationery soulmate.


The front card pockets and leather smile pocket hold all my bits of plastic for 21st century life: debit/credit cards, insurance, library, coffee, breakdown assistance etc. Behind the card pockets is a long  pocket I’m currently using for a couple of movie vouchers and a store credit note. I keep my quarterly, monthly & weekly plans slipped in beside the journal cover. My Hobonichi ruler hooks over the top of the cover, too.


In the back is a secretary pocket, for letters to post, prescriptions to fill, grocery lists etc.


Behind this are three more spacious card pockets which I use for sticky notes & adhesive strips. And behind those is another long pocket for cash, letters, itineraries, schedules, etc.


But that’s not all! On the outside of the front flap are another two medium-sized pockets.


And it still has the large Hobonichi back pocket, ideal for receipts, letters, or a Hobonichi memo book, which slips inside perfectly.

This is not correct for color: it’s way too green. The other photos are pretty accurate.

As a public service I experimented with getting a Leuchtturm softcover A5 Jottbook in there, but the pocket’s not quite big enough. Maybe it would stretch with time to give you more room, but I don’t want to stretch mine out. It holds my phone like a dream

That’s a Samsung Galaxy Grand in the pocket.

There’s one single pen loop, the perfect size for a Lamy, a Coletto, or my 3-color Frixion, or for two regular-sized pens. A sturdy gold dome fastens the whole thing.


My Enigma is fatter than a Hobonichi Cousin or a Seven Seas journal. It’s 30mm thick (just under 1 & 1/4 inches). My pockets are packed, and you can see this is about as thick as you’d want to go. If you watercolor in your journal and end up with a two-inch-thick bulging book, the Safari may not be the option for you.

side-viewThe cover is made from a nylon twill which feels smooth and almost silky to touch, plus cleans up easy. The trim is leather. The bookmarks are kind of like . . . boot laces? Does that sound weird? They’re flat and plaited, with leather tips, and have a subtle glaze on them which has a slightly crispy hand.


There’s an A6 version too, in navy, which is cute as a button, but I don’t use an A6 journal, and it has insufficient delicious pockets. But if you prefer a smaller everyday carry notebook, it’s an option.

I slept with my Hobonichi cover the day we met. Go ahead and judge me. It’s true love, you guys. You can pry it from my frigid, decaying fingers. It makes my life better. I don’t care that it cost USD $93 before shipping. I seriously want to buy two more and hoard them like precious, precious gold for the inevitable moment when this one wears out. Want to apart from the, you know, having no job thing.

If you want a sturdy, practical, gorgeously-designed journal cover for an everyday carry, check out this one on the Hobonichi website while they’re still available.