Life Stuff, Music

I’m one of the five million people who have made YouTube Veela playlists.

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

The 676 Different Shades of Of White (and Seagull Grey)

Decision fatigue. It is something that happens.

decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making – Wikipedia

Towards the end of a house build, one of the things you think might be an easy thing to specify is the inside wall paint colors you have been picturing for over a year. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as “off-white” and “seagull grey”. I decided on seagull grey for my bedrooms a long time ago.  It is such a soothing color.  Cool, yet not cold, calming for sleep. And I like seagulls actually. I love them.

So I went to the paint store to pick up the paint sample and color to tell my builder so he would have it ready for the painter, when the time comes. I nearly had a panic attack when I saw that there were probably at the very least 25 shades that could qualify as ‘seagull grey’. And I am not joking, I actually felt like I was having a panic attack. The idea of having to narrow down the decision was completely debilitating. After making so many decisions, the idea of having to make just this one more felt overwhelming. I walked straight back out the door.

It took 3 days for me to force my way back there. I had to formulate a plan that I could live with. So I started taking home four color samples at a time. I would make myself pick my favorite of those 4 by the next morning, then go pick up four more to compare to that one and so on. By the end of the week, I had picked a grey for my bedrooms. And I refuse to look at any more “colors I may like”. I’ve gone with the following:

This is Lady Grey by Berger and I don’t care what brand of paint my painter uses as long as he gets the shade right.

Most people who have redecorated or built or painted know that there are 5 billion shades of off white. So I took a similar approach to the color of our other interior walls.

And now I just have to refrain from revisiting those choices and trust my decision. Because going back and questioning those decisions now might just break me.

 

Building the Dream House, Cats - Pets, Life Stuff

Feline Access Door

 

The most important beings in any place I’m going to call home are the cat(s) who currently own me. Something is just permanently missing without a cat around. Preferably two. If I can get away with it: three.

While we have lived in the US, we have had a strictly indoor only policy for our felines. We learned the hard way that the Eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains harbor many predators. Cats allowed to roam freely outside will, sooner rather than later, fall prey to owls, coyotes, foxes, or even cougars. Everyone we know has a personal story of learning this the hard way.

New Zealand does not have that problem! It is still very normal for cats to live inside and out. So while Booker and Noob, our 4 year old litter mate rescue kitties, will be staying here in Colorado with my son (and my husband when he has to be here for work), I am very much looking forward to welcoming another pair of litter mates. It will be wonderful. In my stints alone without my family in various rental places overseeing the build I have really really missed my cats. I talk to birds now because of it.

 

 

Our home already has a cat access sculpture outside our entry way. It’s a cool statement on the house as well as a way for any cats in my future to access the top floor where we will live.

And, a couple of weeks ago, I made the builders promise to make me a cat flap in the wall behind the couch. They are going above and beyond. It will match my window joinery and sit straight on the floor like an awning window.  Spoiled felines indeed!

House Blog Series

Life Stuff

In other news


In other news, my oldest son turned 21, my youngest son got an associates degree in science, my husband and I are better than ever, i do not have the ping to game, I miss living with a cat, and rumors are rife when I am absent.

My friends are my friends, my husband and I love each other, it was amazing to get some video calls from BlizzCon and I will probably never miss it again, even if I go by myself.

I know who I am. I know who my friends are. And that is important even if you run away to the edge of the world.

To quote Lily Allen:

“Do we have to

keep talking ’bout

where you think it is I’m from?

I’ma make you see

You don’t know me

You don’t know me

No things never change

No telling some people”

 

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

ROOF – General update on the house

So if you are paying attention, I am building a house. Well, I am not building, my awesome builder Damian Percival is building it for us. They are amazing. The guys building my home are amazing. I cannot even. In true millennial speak, I cannot even.

Today was a major milestone. We had the roof put on and it was beyond emotional for me. Usually, I go around and talk to my amazing carpenters whenever I feel that things are going well, the weather is shit, or good, or just when I feel like connecting with these awesome professionals.

Today, when I saw the roof going on as I drove slowly past, I started crying. Then I walked into the build after they had left and it was so amazing.

A roof, and plywood going up, makes it so … private. So much like the feeling of the home I know it will be.

It was a big day for me.

 

 

 

S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Door – Building the Dream

 

 

Books and Reading, Education, Language and Linguistics, Life Stuff, Politics

The power of research and knowing your sources

Today I want to think and write about this: one specific example of bad journalism/research/fact checking in ONE Cosmo online article I read today. If you don’t want to read my tirade at the state of today’s teens and 20 or 30 somethings, jump to the fun and skip all the stuff between the lines.


This is one example and therefore I probably am not justified in making my next statement. But I am going to anyway:

Rigorous research, healthy skepticism of sweeping generalisations, adherence to questioning your source and ITS methods of data collection and analysis are either 1) Not being taught in schools, or 2) we are allowing people who end up as journalists, social ‘scientists’ and commentators, to graduate from our schools without mastering the process.

In addition, the vast majority of my political, social or philosophical discussions in the last ten years lack NUANCE and an ability to agree on the topic of discussion. If I say, for example, that I believe Hemingway is a better author than Maya Angelou, the conversation changes to my racist white privileged self who needs to check it. No. Argue the merits with me. I’m capable. Trust me. Are you? There seems to be a real inability to actually argue or listen to a finer point that someone is making. They might actually be largely agreeing with you but you are too busy hearing how they are not just saying that the ACA was the best thing EVER.

Yes, I sound like I don’t want you on my lawn. And I really don’t. Especially if you’re going to be so immune to critical thinking and unable to argue a nuanced concept. The problem with that, of course, is that I am acquiescent. And I kind of refuse to silently sit and watch it all go to hell anymore.giphy.gif


So, onto my concrete example from this morning. I chose to speak about this one specific thing because it covers so many of the bases. It is all based around the following sentence in the article linked below. Please don’t get hung up on where I found it. It has plenty to discuss, but I’d like to focus on the ‘fact’ that’s thrown out here:

Blue used to be the color most associated with little girls, due to its association with the Virgin Mary. But Hitler—yes, Hitler—feminized the color pink by forcing gays to wear triangles in that shade during World War II.) – http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a10280732/gender-reveal-parties/?src=socialflowTW

Now, boys and girls, from reading comprehension lessons in English class, you should have acquired the skill to find the fact I focused on. If we strip away the adverbs and adjectives and other words that set the sentence’s tone we find this assertion:

“Hitler … feminized the color pink … during World War II.”

I have purposefully left out the judgmental “yes Hitler”  and the “and we know he is evil because he hated gays” part. I REALLY just want to focus on the factual statement made by Diane Stopyra in the above article.

tyra-bad.gifI went:  REALLY? We didn’t do pink before?

So, I did a FIFTEEN minute research stint from the comfort of my home desk. It was not exhaustive and did not involve my own gathering of evidence. But I believe I found solid scholarly publication that at the very least put her factual statement in question, and, I would argue, makes it sound simplistic and frankly untrue.

I tried two or three search terms before finding an article on gender and infant clothing colors that had an extensive list of cited sources that I could access quickly.

That article’s citations led me here: Pink and Blue  NOTE: I’m taking a moment to provide the credentials for the article, the publication, and the author between the next two lines.


The article is by Marco Del Giudice, PhD of the University of New Mexico. It was published this year (2017) as a Letter to the Editor in Archives of Sexual Behavior – the official publication of the International Academy of Sex Research, – a journal which has been in publication since 1971 and describes itself as “dedicated to the dissemination of information in the field of sexual science, broadly defined.” I think it seems a legitimate scholarly publication, although I have little knowledge of psychological journals specifically. My own academic expertise lies in legal research, textual analysis and manuscript research. 

I landed on this article in particular because it had more than a handful of citations to support of its sweeping statements about pink and blue clad human infants and toddlers. The majority of the other (admittedly quickly found) articles I saw all relied on one or two quotes and citations that supported their theory.


Yes, I’ve taken you out from between the lines here because it’s important you understand the strength of this particular article’s research and why I chose to rely on it. The author did the following:

I searched theGoogle BooksNgram Vieweron June 7, 2017,
using the 2012 American English corpus (identifier: google-
books-eng-us-all-20120701) and the 2012 British English cor-
pus (identifier: googlebooks-eng-gb-all-20120701). The follow-
ing search phrases were used (case insensitive): ‘‘pink for a girl,’’
‘‘blue for a boy,’’‘‘blue for a girl,’’‘‘pink for a boy,’’‘‘pink for girls,’’
‘‘blue for boys,’’‘‘blue for girls,’’‘‘pink for boys,’’‘‘pink for the
girls,’’‘‘blue for the boys,’’‘‘blue for the girls,’’ and‘‘pink for the
boys’’ (see Del Giudice, 2012). The search was repeated on six
20-year intervals spanning the range 1881–2000, with smooth-
ing set to 20 years to obtain the mean percentage of occurrences
over each time interval. Percentages were summed across search
phrases corresponding to the present-day standard convention
(pink =F, blue =M) and phrases corresponding to the reverse
convention (pink =M, blue =F). Finally, total percentages
were multiplied by 10
7
for readability.

Pink, Blue, and Gender: An Update (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317832997_Pink_Blue_and_Gender_An_Update [accessed Jul 16, 2017].

In other words, it was reasonably comprehensive and analytical and open to a wide range of results.

The results are not as clear cut as Ms Stopyra (remember my original Cosmo writer and her “Hitler did it” assertion?) would have her readers believe. The following screengrab is just a small selection of cited references that Del Giudice found. There is also a beautiful graph that shows a distinct pink tone in both girls and boys and back and forth decades before Hitler decided it was feminine.

DExvyzlV0AAkrBZ.jpgAs an aside, I find it hilarious  that Miss Grey of the Tacoma Times changed her mind 100% from 1909 to 1910 – see the two bottom parargraphs of my picture.

It is my assertion that the idea of an almost universally hated figure like Hitler coming up with the ‘feminising of pink’ suited Ms Stopyra’s narrative perfectly. Therefore she did not question her cited source’s methods or motives of tracing our (apparently sexist and disturbing) association of pink with girls. It fits in with the rest of her article and main point perfectly. Hitler did it, we don’t want to be like Hitler, don’t be bad.  My husband believes these things are done on purpose. I don’t think so. I think it’s just lazy critical thinking and thought-police propaganda. Never underestimate the power of confirmation bias.

Reader beware. I decided that in order to be thorough I had to give Ms Stopyra some credit and check the source of her incorrect assertion. There was a link to her cited source provided.

The Luxury Economy and Intellectual Property: Critical Reflections The book she cites actually looks like it may have some interesting reading and insights.  I have to question though if she actually read the sentence where she saw the word Hitler and understood what the statement being made was. To me it looks like she did a cursory glance, found the two evil words roughly in the same paragraph, and ran with it.

And now, thousands of young girls will tell each other the fact they read.

I mean, we shouldn’t even like pink; Hitler made us think we did.

But we all know purple is the only colour anyway.

*Disturbingly, I’ve just run a search engine check on the author. She writes ‘science’ articles for Salon.com as well.

 

Books and Reading, Life Stuff

Reading taste update

Reading has always been like eating and sleeping to me. For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books. I’m honestly not sure what I started with. The Hardy Boys? But I know at some point I started devouring Nancy Drew novels. I don’t even know if it was because I loved them or if it was because everyone my parents knew could count on that being a well-received gift. And there were lots of them. I kept reading. Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, trashy novels I’d sneak up in the middle of the night and borrow from my parents’ bookshelves, classics, Norwegian books, English books. I just READ.

And then I read for my degree. I have a Cand. Philol. (Master’s – M.A.) in English. I read literature out the wazoo. Loved it. Read Shakespeare. Read Beckett. Read Romantics, read 20th Century, read Chaucer. I read read read read. Now, I don’t necessarily go so ‘literary’ or classical. Here are the last 15 books I’ve read – I’ll discuss below.

When I finished my degree, I guess I had gotten a real taste for modern literature, and I tried to find everything I’d missed and everything still coming out in that vein. I read every Man Booker finalist, all the literary review books, and anything that smelled a LITTLE of ‘quality’ literary fiction. This way, I discovered Dancer by Colum McCann, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and many other gems. Good friends all those books.

Then for a few years here at the start of this decade, I read very little on a regular basis. My reading was limited to beach reading. That reading continued to be eclectic. But I’d read a book or two at the beach. Sometimes long ones.

I’ve always loved fantasy, but I stopped reading fantasy about 20 years ago. Nothing felt fresh anymore I guess. And, admittedly, I had my reading hands full with all my required course reading. During those years my ‘offtime’ reading moved from fantasy to legal thrillers, Stephen King, and what I think is loosely labeled ‘Women’s Fiction’ … Not  full on romance, I have yet to hit that treasure trove, but things like Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy … that sort of thing.

At some point, I discovered audio books. I started looking for Norwegian books, in particular on Audio books, to help keep up my mother tongue, even when I didn’t speak Norwegian to anyone for a year at a time. I also drove around the United States showing my cats (another story), and audio books kept me awake. ‘Read’ all the Harry Potter novels that way.  I discovered that I loved especially mystery/thriller/crime fiction on audio. And that led to actually reading crime fiction.

These days, I am VERY critical of any ‘literary’ fiction I pick up. Maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age. Or maybe the popularity of book clubs and ‘Book Club Discussion Guides’ has created a market for B-grade literary fiction that the Oprahs and publishers and Amazons of the world throw at us and tell us is very high brow. I find so much of it labored, inelegant and pompous. Hemingway would certainly not approve of much of it, I feel.   Funnily enough, I didn’t like Hemingway 30 years ago. Couldn’t stand him. Now I love his writing.

A couple of years ago, I trained myself to get back into reading every day. It didn’t take long, and now I’m right back into it. But I have less patience with books that irritate me, don’t grab me, or are just plain boring or not my style. I have no problem stopping at 30% and picking up something else. After all, it’s not my JOB anymore, I might as well like it!

Do you feel you ‘should’ be reading different material? Do your tastes change? Do you long to read more or less?

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

Build update – the finance drama

OK – so now that this story has a happy ending, I can talk about this. Because I think it DOES have a happy ending. Our construction loan papers are winging their way from the bank to our NZ solicitor to prepare for us to sign.

This pretty much means that the bank is happy and our solicitor just has to prepare the mortgage for them and us to sign. Then after we’ve paid our required input into the build, the bank will pay our builder’s invoices as they get presented. Well, we present the invoice, the bank releases the money to us, then we pay. When the build is complete we convert the construction loan to a ‘regular’ mortgage and negotiate our payments and interest rate at that point.

As a life decision, this has been easy for us. Financially, it has not been as easy. And I’ll admit it’s a HUGE decision for us. We gave my in-laws what amounts to a reverse mortgage on the property a few years ago. This meant that we effectively took on a second mortgage since we were paying a mortgage on our home in Colorado at the time.

When we made the decision, we figured we’d need about 500,000 NZD to tear down the existing bach and build a home we’d love on the property. We basically pulled this amount out of our armpit, but we were confident. Now, at the time, beachfront ‘nice’ places at the same beach were never selling for less than one million dollars. We had promised my in-laws a separate unit they could use for their life time. And we notoriously do not have inexpensive tastes.

We have been adamant the whole time that this is where we want to live ‘forever’. I am never happier than when I’m at the beach. The same goes for John, although he is also never happy when not working. So he is not ready to go fulltime beach bum. When we decided to go ahead and build we knew that I’d be spending the bulk of my time at the beach and he would be coming as often as he could. I was probably expecting the ‘often as he could’ to be more than it will be now that we know how much we’re really spending, but it is OK.

Most people who know us know that we have a strong relationship. Building has it’s stresses, but we’re feeling confident. I hope not over confident LOL.

When we met with our chosen builder he didn’t mess around with words. He said about 3k-5k NZD per square meter if you want ‘nice’; up to $15k per square meter if you want architectural.

As our plans, which we absolutely LOVED and were everything we wanted, started coming in, they were coming in at a total living area of approximately 210 square meters, and about 400 square meters including deck. Still we figured about 500-600 K — LOL do the math.  Talk about not wanting to actually check. Neither one of us actually remembers consciously putting our head in the sand, but there you go. Here is pretty much exactly what our builder told us:

  • As a very rough starting point, $1500 m2 is very cheap, $2-2500 m2 is more usual and then anything from $3000 m2 and up is more consistent with bespoke designed houses. Source

We figured we’d have 300-400K NZ after the sale of our house in Colorado. This turned out to be pretty much spot on. Luckily. We knew we’d have to ask a NZ bank for SOME money.

Then the initial estimate came in at 1.2 million. More after this lovely pic of the back of our design.

Our house back

The thing is: this whole time we were watching Grand Designs and Grand Designs Australia religiously. We KNEW, once we woke up and thought about it, that our estimate was ridiculous.

We were never going to go the cheapest materials. We’ve deliberately chosen pretty much ALL no- to low-maintenance building materials. Our cladding is a special aluminium cladding that ‘moves’ with coastal winds, doesn’t need painting, and won’t rust in the coastal climate. We’ve done the same with the roof, windows, and soffits (they’re a thing!). Inside, we have chosen seriously hard wood floors to deal with the inevitable tracking of sand from beach walks. If anything, we should have been amazed it wasn’t MORE expensive. – I’ll comment on why we decided to go ahead with the way for expensive build later or in another post.

In our favor have been the levelness of our section, the relative simple design we’ve fallen in love with, and the genius of our architect. She’s known exactly when another inch of deck would mean more steel beams and all that sort of thing.

So when we went to the bank, we knew we were asking for rather a lot. Luckily, the numbers with regards to total value of beach property in New Zealand, my husband’s average monthly salary, the value of the NZ dollar compared to the US dollar and the fact that on paper we own the section out-right were in our favor. The numbers crunch out right. And the bank’s policy is to encourage NZ’ers planning to move back to NZ permanently. We fit that bill.

Still, the logistics of proving income, proving US tax rate, and valuation of our current property has been hard on the stress levels. I tend to be more prone to stress, so I’ve been the ‘The world is ending’ person at every turn, while my husband has been calmly trying to put up with my hysteria. We’ve submitted Social Security statements, W2’s, letters from my husband’s company, deposited the required deposit amount in the bank, provided estimates, contracts, proof of builder’s insurance and probably promised my gay son’s first born as well.

It has NOT helped that our bank liaison person has been relatively inexperienced when it comes to overseas income. I don’t think she was very experienced in professional communication in general. At one stage, she told us that we HAD to have life insurance. Both of us. Despite the fact that currently I don’t have a personal income. The lawyer in me wants to sue her for unprofessional practices at the very least. Perhaps undue sales pressure – she wanted to sell us the bank’s life insurance. But in the end, we think she’s just not that bright, not malicious.

We got our pre-approval letter and offer of lending about a month ago – subject to professional valuation. Our valuation took its sweet time coming, and I was dying.

But it’s now through, our solicitor is preparing the loan documents for us to sign, and the bank is ‘giving’ us $5000 cash as a ‘thank you’. LOL 5000. I don’t blink an eye for less than 10K these days.

Why we went ahead with it, how we’re paying for it, etc will have to wait. On paper we can afford it, and if that’s good enough for the bank it’s good enough for me. My husband must be feeling the pressure, but he will not be alone in paying for it if things work out the way we hope.

There’s no more NYU tuition coming from us though.

The Green Door – Building the Dream

Life Stuff, Site news

Why I Keep On Blogging

I like to write about stuff. I write about living, life, gaming, music, photography, online life, parenting, travel, food, and anything else I feel like talking about. This of course makes it hard to fit my blog in a neat category or blog roll. Whatever. It’s my blog and this is how I roll. I used to try to split all my topics up into different places, but I’m stopping that crap. It’s all here. I add category tags, if you come here reading, you can click them.  I’m not just one topic, I’m afraid.
I’ve had a few blogs over the years. When I was younger and before the internet, I kept a diary. I changed from Blogger to WordPress when I decided to consolidate my WoW stuff with my other stuff. Then I tinkered with Tumblr. Then I lost all my files on wordpress – it’s all there in the notes. But most of my old blogs are available – just look here if you are REALLY interested.


I don’t have that many blog followers. Maybe I ramble. Maybe I’m boring. Or maybe I’m just too eclectic or inconsistent for people to follow regularly. Or maybe I don’t follow unwritten community rules. I don’t know. I don’t really mind, although I’m thrilled when people comment.  I really blog for me. Writing has always been a way for me to articulate to myself how I feel about things and how I understand my world (or not as the case may be). Sometimes I need to organize my thoughts to understand my feelings. Sometimes it’s for documenting what’s important in my life. Sometimes it’s to show off. Sometimes it’s a real desire to share something I’ve learned or loved. And I love reading my blogs years later on. So I’ll keep writing and fiddling with layouts and organization. This page was first published as a blog post here.

 

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

A Pseudo Dream House update – or watch this space

n case anyone is hankering after a build update
 
GOOD NEWS first: My mother-in-law reports the port-a-potty and work shed have arrived on our property!! This is wonderful news!
 
I’d like to write a new update on the whole financing process and how muddled and obtuse it is. But I’m just waiting for confirmation that the bank is happy with the official and impartial valuation which was completed on Friday until I can breathe again. The valuation is for way more than we are borrowing, so that should be good, right? 
 
I do plan on writing about it – I am not squeamish about talking about money. It always puzzles me that Americans don’t talk about money. It’s a very real national trait. Occasionally they’ll get close, but as a whole, it’s very rude to ask someone how much they paid for something or how much their raise was. In my experience anyway.
 
I will write once I’m not so on edge. I’m just a bit nervous about something, so holding off till I have t-s crossed and i’s dotted. John says I’m worrying for nothing, which I’m very good at. Hopefully I’ll know soon and John will be right and we can celebrate with Leo.