The Mighty Manawatu

I’ve been in my new home for five weeks. I’m in love: with the house, with this city, with my garden.  I miss the ocean, but the beach is a 30 minute drive away, even though it’s the fierce, cold Tasman Sea, not my familiar Pacific.

Instead I get to walk beside the mighty Manwatu River. I found a great riverside trail, and if I walk to the Fitzherbert Bridge then back along the streets it’s a nice, even five miles.

Admittedly it doesn’t look so mighty right now.

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They had floods here in July, but now we’ve had no rain to speak of in months, although it’s not an official drought, because that would give farmers some government relief the government is clearly reluctant to offer.

manawatu river.jpg

Schools just let out for the summer break, and it’s 82F every day. In the afternoons I nap on a quilt, in the shade of the ornamental cherry tree, where the breeze keeps the heat down, while the starlings and wax-eyes flutter overhead.

I’m treasuring how calm and peaceful things are here.

In August last year my mom was asked to take medical leave from her work. On 31 December 2016 we found out my mom had a brain tumor, and because of the brain damage caused by her MS they won’t operate. She had to take retirement. We spent the year traveling all over the country looking for our new home, while we also waited for the condo to sell.

Thank you, universe, from the bottom of my heart, for sending me a buyer. Thank you, universe, for guiding me to this new house.

My mom had to give up driving, and I’ve watched as her memory and language skills decline weekly. My grandmother fell and broke her hip, and needed hospitalization, and I went to the United States anyway, because getting away to travel isn’t going to be so possible in the future.

I only published one book, and I forgive myself, because I didn’t just survive 2017, I sold a house, bought a house, moved to a different city, and most importantly, met treasured friends in the flesh. I fulfilled a dream I’ve had since I was six years old, and went to Disneyland.

I’m joyful, and revived, and eager to greet 2018.


Review: The bound Japanese Franklin Covey Planner – a rival to the Hobonichi

The Japanese version of the Franklin Covey planner should be better known. It’s a day-per -page planner printed on Tomoe River paper, in A5 Hobonichi Cousin size, so it’s a great alternative to a Hobonichi.

The planner is a Monday start for all weeks and months. It opens with a page for your details, and an overview for 2018 & 2019 on one page.


All the months are together at the beginning of the planner, then all the daily pages are grouped together after this. There’s a double-page spread for each month, starting with December 2017 (although there are no daily pages for December). There’s room for a Master task list down the right hand side, and plenty of extra room at the bottom of each monthly page spread.


There are two double-page spreads for 2019 future planning, then the daily pages start. There’s no similar yearly view for 2018 in the planner.


My favorite feature of the FC is each week begins with a Weekly Compass page. This gives you a place to write all the weekly tasks you need to do, as well as identify your “big rocks” aka key tasks for your roles (if you’re not familiar with the FC method, there’s a basic primer here. A weekly task list is crucial to my own planning, so I find this superior to the Hoboncihi layout.


Then there’s a day per page which is very similar to the Hobonichi layout, but you have even more space, as there’s no quote at the foot of the page. The top has a daily task list, and the appointment bar runs in half hours from 7am to 11pm. The grid is 4mm, and light enough it’s easy to ignore if you prefer to go freeform.


The paper is the same excellent quality, fountain pen friendly, as the Hobonichi. The cover is plain white card, with two ribbon bookmarks.

fc cover

The back has three blank double-page note spreads. The edges of each page are marked with the month to make it easier to navigate through the planner, but they’re all in one color – burgundy – instead of multiple colors as in the Hobonichi.

fc 30

The spine is cool, as you can see the stitched binding.


The main difference is the Franklin Covey (FC) doesn’t have the weekly view, but for me the weekly page more than makes up for it. However, even without this extra section, because of the weekly page the FC is pretty much the same thickness as the Hobonichi, just a smidgeon thinner.


Hobonichi Cousin on the bottom, Franklin Covey on top.


But we’re not done! With the FC planner you also get a separate Organizer Planner Guide and Forms. This is a 95-page booklet that contains a bunch of cool organize-y stuff you can use for wasting time instead of actually being productive.

The first 15 pages explain how to use the Franklin Covey system with the planner. Explains in Japanese, that is.


There are sections for writing down your roles, values, mission statement, and six Goal Planning Pages. If you’re familiar with the Franklin Covey system it doesn’t matter at all this is in Japanese, you can totally work out what you’re doing.






This is followed by Monthly Expense Trackers, Budget Worksheets, Yearly Income and Expense Tracking, and an Annual Summary of Expenses.





Then come three Meeting Planner double-pages, four pages of Contacts, four pages of Client Files, four Information Records, and three Project Planners.






Finally the booklet rounds off with calendar pages for 2017-2020, and one page each for future planning 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, broken down by month.



The booklet ends with 17 notes pages with dotted lines 4mm apart. If you write large this is a small scale, but again the gray dotted lines are easy to ignore.

Both books together will fit into a Hobonichi cover, as well as all the A5 covers I’ve got.

I bought mine on Rakuten Global Market and it was shipped fast and efficiently. I got a version without any cover, because the gods know I have enough journal covers, but the planner does come with very basic colored covers as well. If you’re interested in trying one make sure you order the bound version, otherwise you’re going to get the regular ringbound planner pages which Franklin Covey also produce for the US market. You also want to make sure you’re buying the daily planner, as there is a weekly one available too. The planner comes in B6 as well as A5. Basically you need to search Rakuten for:

Notebook system notebook Franklin planner 2018 that I bind it and begin in notebook January, 2018, and there is no Franklin planner in A5 organizer cover

The cost is US$29.55 vs US$33.26 for the Hobonichi Cousin. Shipping is still pricey because EMS is expensive, but you save the 500 yen handling fee Hobonichi charge.

Although it’s tempting as a delicious time-waster I won’t be using the Forms booklet; I don’t have meetings or clients to track. But for 2018 I’m going to try the planner as my daily carry notebook for lists and to-dos, in a Hobonichi cover. I’ll be planning my work out and tracking my progress in a different planner my friend Katie gave me, which I will review at some future date. I don’t want to overwhelm y’all with planner reviews: I seriously have enough to post a couple a week for months. I bought a shit-ton of planners to audition as potentials for next year (let’s not discuss how bloody much this cost me) including some I couldn’t get shipped to me in NZ and bought while I was in the US. It’s going to be seriously shaming to share them all with you. But, you know, it’s a cheaper vice than cocaine? Or polo ponies?

When classic tech pisses off “new” tech


(Updated 11 Dec: see bottom of post)

In 2014 Astrohaus Kickstarted a “smart keyboard” called the Hemingwrite to the tune of nearly $350,000. Since then they released it onto the regular retail market, and it’s now called the Freewrite. 

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The Freewrite is a single-purpose, distraction-free writing tool. You type on a Cherry-MX mechanical keyboard, your words are displayed on a tiny e-ink screen, and you can upload your text to Dropbox or Google Drive via the Freewrite website. Because of the lack of features the Freewrite can last a month on one charge.

True, the Freewrite was hailed by some aspretentious hipster nonsense”, but while a couple of post-use reviews have indicated it’s a product better in the imagining than the using,  others have found it a useful tool for the easily distracted.

I am easily distracted. On many occasions I have gazed longingly at the Freewrite, but the US$499 price tag (plus $30 for a felt case) made this an impossible purchase.

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Astrohaus market the Freewrite as “the world’s first smart typewriter” but this is untrue. Because AlphaSmart.

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AlphaSmart (later Renaissance Learning, then NEO Direct) manufactured smart typewriters from 1993 to 2013. The units are lightweight portable word processors, with a tiny LCD screen. They run on 3x AA batteries, which will keep them going for 700 hours aka a bloody long time. And they let you write in a distraction-free environment because they can’t connect to the net. To transfer your text to your laptop you just plug in a USB cable. The most popular models are the Neo and the Neo2. Secondhand units run from $20-$50 on Amazon and eBay. AlphaSmart units have been successes with writers since long before the Freewrite, so the introduction of the Freewrite inevitably brought a screed of comparison articles, which basically said the AphaSmart and the Freewrite do the same thing, but one costs a monthly rent payment.

Because I couldn’t afford a Freewrite in this lifetime, I bought an AlphaSmart and I have never regretted it for a second. These things are rugged as hell and fit inside a standard laptop cover. So, all good, right? Astrohaus make a cool-looking aluminium smart typewriter with lovely keys for those with a lot of money. Second-hand AlphaSmart units get exactly the same job done but earn you no hipster points. Yay, consumer choice in a capitalist system.

Then yesterday Astrohaus announced a “buyback” where you send them your AlphaSmart, and they give you $50 off a Freewrite.

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Astrohaus know users compare the products, and they don’t like the results. So here’s what I want to know: what is Astrohaus doing with the AlphaSmart units they collect? Because I’m having Will It Blend visions.

AlphaSmarts are fucking awesome and a brilliant example of what tech can be: a sound, practical, rugged, incredibly versatile device that will function under the most adverse of conditions. This is literally a unit you could hand down to your kids.

Good scenario: Astrohaus donate the AlphaSmart units to communities and schools – particularly ones without consistent reliable power – to use for learning and creating.

Bad scenario: Astrohaus scraps the AlphaSmarts and removes a competitor from the consumption chain, one machine at a time.

Wow, the dark side of capitalist choice has never been so starkly illustrated.

I’ve asked Astrohaus on Twitter what they’re doing with the AlphaSmart units, as have others, but no response yet. Do me a favor? Tweet Astrohaus and ask them. If enough of us work together maybe we can get some useful tech donated to people who can use it. Because the alternative is pointless to everyone except Astrohaus.

Update 11 Dec:

I heard back from Astrohaus via Twitter.

Screenshot 2017-12-11 17.59.36

I find it difficult to believe donating them was their plan from the beginning: they would have partnered with someone, promoted this from the offset, and worked out the logistics of physically redistributing hundreds/thousands of units. But I’m glad that’s their plan now. Thanks to those who reached out to Astrohaus to get an answer on this.

Mistakes I made so you don’t have to

OK, so, my first mistake was not the decision to go back to my Air BnB and rest up before the GRL evening program. That was an entirely logical and sound decision involving wise and judicious boundary-setting.

No, my first mistake was, having gone home, deciding that to relax I would eat – alone – a single-serve pot cookie, recommended by the dispensary as a gentle option for newbies who haven’t touched marijuana since 1991.

My second mistake was thinking, only an hour later, the cookie wasn’t working.

My third mistake was eating the single-serve THC chocolate.

My fourth mistake, and this, I think, was the critical one, was the brainstorm that – having ingested multiple THC-laden products – what would really relax me was a two-mile walk around a strange city. Again, alone.

The gravity of my compounding errors appeared one mile out when the time dilation set in. I’m not sure if the paranoia or the deja vu came next: both came before sensory distortions.

It took either five minutes, or around eight Martian years, to go from walking on a pavement beside a busy road, to traversing a black-sand beach atop ragged white cliffs, at the bottom of which ran a buzzing ribbon of expressway traffic. By the time I was 0.8 miles from home the small part of my brain that was not currently walking in an alternative reality – yellow, in the key of peppermint, and flavored with disquiet – remembered there’s a bloody good reason why I didn’t smoke pot for the last 26 years. Being utterly unable to restrain my mind from wandering really freaks me the fuck out.

Having floated home I curled up helplessly on the bed as my synapses buggered off to the playground beyond objective reality.

For five hours.

It was not fun.

The takeaway: when in Denver, imbibe with friends, single-serve means single serve, park yourself somewhere safe, and skip the aerobic exercise.

Oh, and I have two pot cookies available.


Adventures in the United States

Google is my shepherd; I shall not want.

It maketh me to sit down at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: it leadeth me to Caribou Coffee.

It restoreth my soul: it leadeth me in the paths of free wifi for its name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of “Where the fuck am I?” I will fear no evil: for Google art with me; its GPS and its transit schedules, they comfort me.

Google preparest a table before me in the presence of delayed rail services: it anointest my mouth with corndogs; my Vietnamese Cold Brew runneth over.

Surely bookstores and public bathrooms shall accompany me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the arms of Google forever


Jibun Techo Unboxing

Not mine, but the captivating Meredith Moore from Wonder Fair in Lawrence, Kansas. I’ve watched all her unboxings now and I wish this was my local store. They have an online shop, but they sell bugger all on it, so you can’t order the Jibun Techo from them. I wonder if it’s a distribution agreement thing? Maybe you can order if you phone them up, like you’re living in 1991?

They sell the Hobonichi too. If you’re in the midwest you have to check them out. For bonus points, report in and tell us how the shop was IRL.

How to repeat one song on Google Play (Android)

When I’m working I need to listen to one song on repeat all day. My autistic brain likes the comfort of knowing what’s coming next, and the critical, analytical part of my brain switches off and leaves me in flow. It’s awesome. Evidence arose this week that not everyone knows you can put one song on repeat on Google Play. Here’s how you do it on an Android phone.

Btw, this is my walking soundtrack. I don’t actually work to any of these. But Britney definitely gets me to pick up my pace. Don’t judge me 🙂

  1. Navigate to your playlist or album track listing and select the track you want to repeat.playlist.jpg

2) Tap on the album cover art.


3) When the album art enlarges, find the gray ‘loop’ icon on the lower left of the screen.


4) Tap this one time to put the whole playlist on repeat. The icon will turn orange.


5) Tap it again to put that single track on repeat – a small ‘1’ will appear in the middle of the loop icon. Now your brain too can enter flow.

loop 1

To remove from repeat just tap once more until the icon turns gray again.

If you want to shuffle the entire playlist choose the shuffle icon on the right side instead. I don’t use this because it would make my brain very unhappy to be unaware of what was coming next.


Happy walking and working.