Sunday 19 May 2013


One of the benefits my gym touts are regular review sessions with a trainer. They're quite insistent about it; I finally scheduled one when the owner cornered me and asked me to make an appointment.

"So," said the trainer. "Let's talk about your goals." She read from my file: "'Increase strength, flexibility. Control exercise induced asthma better.' Are these still your goals?"
I nodded. It was 9am on Sunday, and I was a bit hungover.
"It says here you don't want to be weighed or measured... you're still not interested in keeping track of that?"
She didn't explain how my weight or measurements were related to my asthma, so I declined.
"I know you’re concerned about ‘fitness,’ but have you noticed any changes in your body? Clothes fitting better?"
"I guess?" I said.
"How have you made changes to your diet to support your exersise?"
"I haven't."
"Oh... What about your other goals? Strength, flexibility, controlling asthma?"
Those were all my goals.
"I go on the treadmill, and I still can't run for very far without having an asthma attack, and I'm not sure what to do about that."
"But would you say it's improved?"
"Yeah, a bit, but I still can't go very far without my puffer."
"That's good," she said, circling improved on the sheet. She turned it over. "So... if you don't want to be weighed - are you sure you don't want to be weighed? - we're done here. Yay! It's always good to check in, but remember you can ask us anything any time."

Out on the cross trainer, I got madder and madder. It's a women's only gym, which may go some way to explaining to obsession with numbers and tracking. I tweeted that it was "a good reminder that my value as a human being is in direct, inverse proportion to the number on the scale," but in harsh words like that, it just made me sad.

The real issue was that the trainer was reading off a sheet asking about weight - there’s nothing for strength or asthma control or anything else - weight is the only focus, that any other reasons for going to a gym are invisible.

I like my gym. I like that it's right over the road from my work. I like that it's women only. I like that it's not too fancy, and there are no celebrities, unlike my last gym. I like that it's quiet on Sundays, and that the rowing machine has a fish video game you play by rowing, and there's a stair machine, which is literally a Victorian torture device.

The tricep pulldown machine faces the gym's inspiration board. If I squint, I can read some of the notes people have left.

The notes stuck to the pinboard say GET INSPIRED and WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Please add your goal to the board.

About half of the notes are about beaches and bikini bodies. It would be disingenuous to pretend that there's not a good reason for those goals. Leaving aside vanity, which is a good a reason to do anything as anything else (as someone with a personal blog, I know a thing or two about vanity), there can be real social and career consequences to being the 'wrong' size or shape, and for any individual, it's certainly easier to strive to attain thin privilege than to try and break down the system which perpetuates it. 

The other half of the notes are badass, which makes the review's focus on weight still more bizarre:

To run the New Plymouth marathon.To feel good about myself and now I'm happy as :)

Get more flexibility and tone (me too!!).I want to enter a triathlon so need to get fitter.

 To tip the balance, I decided to add my own:

To be strong enough to open jars.To control my asthma better. Breathe.

To love myself the way I am.

Friday 17 May 2013

Hashtag This

We were lining up for a flu shot at work, when Coworker asked me, in all sincerity, "What is a hashtag?"
"It's the little hash-key in front of a word," I said.
"Hashtag YOLO," said another Coworker. "I heard someone got a flu shot and their arm fell off."
"I know that," said the first, "but why do people use hashtags? What do they do?"
I only had time to say "Hashtags are good for jokes and events mainly," before it was my turn for the flu jab. (My arm didn't fall off, and you should go get immunised too.)

I've been using hashtags for so long that they're as second nature to me as apostrophes. Most regular readers can either skip this post or forward it to your mum, but here's a quick hashtag 101 for Coworker and their ilk who don't know about the Wikipedia.

(Most of the examples in this post are from people I follow, but not all are. As always, retweets are not endorsements!)

Hash Key

A hashtag looks like this: #hashtag. That's simple. But why does it exist at all?

For Searching

Twitter allows you to search all tweets. It's a really powerful tool, but it's off the main page, out of your stream.

When you tag a post, it makes it easier for users to sort tweets, just by clicking on the tag. This makes it easier to follow events and conversations.


Because you can pull up all the Tweets as they occur, it's great for following breaking news and political debates.

Generally, you don't use Twitter like Google. If you were planning a trip, you might be looking up things like "meals in Auckland," and "accommodation in Auckland," when you were still at home. This works well because the information you're looking for is relatively static and unchanging. But Googling [event unfolding right now] kind of doesn't work. You can generally get more information from Twitter. (Yeah, it's not necessarily accurate, but nothing is in the first hour of a breaking news story.)


Users who don't follow one another can have conversations by following an agreed-on tag. For example, I see #WineParty come up in my feed . (It also makes it easier for people to mute these tweets.)


A hashtag joke is one that only works with a hashtag.
"Star Border Dispute" by itself doesn't make any damn sense. But the hashtag explains the joke, and lets you find more on a similar theme:

Emphasis and Expansion

Hashtags can expand on a point in a shorter space of time - compare the character length of #every15minutes vs "Outer Link buses are due every 15 minutes off peak".
Here's an example of emphasis. FML stands for Fuck My Life - yeah, you're having a bad day, but apparently your whole life sucks too.

How are Hashtags Picked?

There are two ways: user-generated, and top-down.

Jokes are user-generated tags that spread because they're funny. News tags can often be user generated too. For example, #eqnz is the tag used to follow news on the Christchurch earthquakes; when there was a wee earthquake in Auckland, the tag #eqakl was used universally because it made sense, is nice and short and is instantly recognisable to everyone who followed #eqnz.

Top-down hashtags are created for events, or by companies. For example, if you attend a conference, it will probably have an official hashtag (or someone will make it one).
The hashtag for my birthday was #RayRayBDay. You probably have opinions about what this says about me.

The Ad Tag

Here's one you won't see much: the ASA guidelines require an #ad hashtag to be included in paid-for tweets. So, if I pay an All Black a hundred dollars to tweet a link to my blog, I could be liable if #ad wasn't included.

The key here is money has to change hands - if an All Black just tweeted about how this blog is totally rad, that's a personal endorsement and doesn't need an #ad.


#Ttrtpt is short for "This Tweet Refers to Previous Tweet."

I've also seen it referred to as "elephant noise". No, really. If it's not referring to a prior tweet, it is used in a way similar to lol.

What is a Good Hashtag?

It's hard to say what's a perfect tag, but they generally share some characteristics:
  • Short. Twitter only gives you 140 characters to play with, so the shorter the better.
  • Recognisable. For example, #eqnz works, because it refers to an earthquake, in New Zealand.
  • Easy to spell. It's annoying when one character is off in some tweets: it messes up the feed.
  • In camel case. That's when you WriteStuffLikeThis.

When should I use a hashtag?

Generally, if you're not sure, then don't. Use them when following an event or an unfolding news story, but try and keep things relevant! Remember you're edging your way into a conversation: contribute something to that conversation, don't clog the feed.

Don't #Tag #Every #Damn #Word. Try and keep it to one, or at the most two, tags per tweet. Hashtags also don't belong on Facebook.

It's generally considered poor form to say "hashtag" in conversation. You could say, "There is an amusing hashtag joke about movies," but if you say "hashtag YOLO," people will role their eyes at you.

That's my understanding of how hashtags work, as of this minute. They'll continue to evolve, and one day we'll all look back on this and laugh.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Over Ruled

The ASA have returned their ruling on the complaints we made: it was not upheld.

They asked that I did not forward their complaint to the media, which I found a little weird I remember having a discussion about whether bloggers constituted "the media" in 2002, and I'd forgotten we never resolved it. (I think that bloggers are media in name, but seldom are in practise.)

Jump back here if you can't remember what I was so het up about or what the complaint was.  The full response follows: click each image to read, all emphasis mine, obviously.


Obviously, I'm annoyed that the complaint I made was not upheld.

What I'm worried about is the Chairman's ruling: "People have the right to express their views and this right should not be unduly or unreasonably restricted by Rules."

You can say whatever you like on your blog (I do!), or to you friends (I do!). But you can't get all up in the traditional media with out-and-out lies. That's why we have an Advertising Standards Authority; it's not some nanny-state job-creation exercise for under-employed English majors.

I am really disappointed that the ASA did not play by their own rules. I am also delighted that we have marriage equality in New Zealand. We won this round, and this inaccurate, offensive advert was a giant waste of money.

Monday 13 May 2013

Talking About It

I've been asked to take part in Women's Talk at the Auckland Women's Centre.

A poster advertising the panel talk. It's at 4 Warnock Street, Grey Lynn, 7pm on 22 May 2013.
I'm really excited about this opportunity, and more than a little nervous. Maybe come along and see me?

Friday 10 May 2013

The decriminalisation of abortion is back on the political agenda, thanks to Young Labour.

Thursday 9 May 2013

A family sit on the grass. They're probably having a fight.Quit the magical thinking about other people's families.

Just "trying" can't fix all issues. It's magical thinking to assume because your family works in such a way, that mine will too.