Tuesday, 25 March 2014

What even are bands? People who like percussioning at the same time? What a weird concept. Mine's a group of amateur ukulele players who meets once a week at the pub. Despite our novelty status, we still have goals as a group, and to meet goals you need organisation. Organising between 6 and 20 grown adults is like herding cats. Anyone who's tried to get more than two people in the same place at the same time can join me here for a moment of wonder that bands even exist at all.

I declared myself Marketing Manager a while ago when I decided we needed buttons for a show. Since then, I've taken on all our digital. Taken on - I created it from the ground up!

A band button that says "Uke the World". There's a picture of a ukulele which is also a mushroom cloud.

There's two parts to how we use tech to work with the group - outwards and inwards facing. The outwards stuff - Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter and so on - doesn't really need explaining any more than our badges do. A lot of it's on my Pinterest, if you're interested, but the inwards stuff, which we use to organise the group, is a little more interesting.

Here's a list of tools which we use, and a little about how we use them. Because we're a ukulele covers group, we have a budget of nothing, so all these tools are free and easy to use. If you have a group to organise, you might find it useful.

Getting it together with Google

  • Google GroupsThis was the one piece which was already in place when I joined. We have lists for the main group, and the subset of the group, so we can be sure no one ever misses an email.
  • Google FormsWe use forms to collect contact information, and song suggestions. Having everyone's contact information seems like a little thing, but when you need to text someone about gaffer tape, you really need to text someone about gaffer tape. And the song suggestions helps too - it forces people to put all the information is in one place, rather than derailing practise with "We should play this cool song I heard on the radio - I think it goes like this - wait no, I'll look on YouTube, what was it called again…"
Screenshot of a google form asking for name, phone number, and email address.

  • Google Docs - Google Docs are used for taking notes on what was covered in each practise - players who missed out can catch themselves up. Docs are nice here because they can be updated by anyone of the three "owners" we nominated, without having to mess around in the back end of our website. We also have a doc containing all the passwords to all these services! 
  • Google Calendar - it's a fact that practises go better if people show up to them. We practise every Sunday, plus a subset of the group practises every other Wednesday, and every other Sunday. Plus we have performances. Um, sorry, when are we next meeting? A calendar keeps it all in one place. Because it's loaded on to our Gmail account, several of us in the group can access it, plus people can sync it to their own calendars. I've embedded it in our website anyway, so there's no excuses.
    Screen cap of a google calendar. Every Sunday is booked out.

  • Gmail - we have a gmail account for the group: it keeps all official correspondence nicely threaded, and while we mostly point people towards the contact form on our website, it's very nice to have. It also holds all our docs, so they're not scattered through personal gmail accounts.
  • YouTube - We upload videos of strumming patterns and so on for songs we're working on. These are unlisted (so no one can stumble over them without the link), and embedded into our website. Again - they're all stored on our shared Gmail account. 

Music and sharing

  • Spotify - We maintain a playlist of all the music we're working on, so people can listen to the melodies in spare moments. It's a collaborative playlist, and we encourage people to drop new music into it. It works pretty well - not quite every band is on Spotify though, so we sometimes end up with covers groups, like "Ohasis." 
  • Dropbox - All our music files are in one place, in alphabetical order, and can be accessed and updated by anyone in the group. Brilliant. 
  • FourDollarsThirty.com - Our website is one of the most important tools we use. It's hosted on Tumblr, so it's easy enough for anyone in the group to use. It's a simple theme, prettied up with the help of our graphic designer, Jon Kay. 

  • As well as an outwards facing website, it's a really valuable repository of information for the group. I've created a handful of pages with easy-to-remember but hidden-from-the-public URLs. The URLs aren't shown on the site, and I turned off robots, which should keep them safe from searches. They contain everything the band needs - notes from practise, links to the Dropbox and Spotify, plus videos of strumming patterns and the harmonies we're working on. It's easier to put all those notes in one place than trying to keep track of emails.

    Some of the pages are designed to be shared around more widely, like fourdollarsthirty.com/images, which contains high-res versions of our logos. How boring does that page look? But I'll never have to attach those logos to an email ever again!

    Creating a page only takes about as long as sending an involved email, so it's worth doing for anything I might have to send out more than once. (There's a non-boring link to our designer's portfolio on the images page, check him out.)

Bonus tech

  • GoodReader. GoodReader's a PDF reader which I use to organise my collection of music on my iPad. I don't read the music files straight from DropBox - that uses too much internet, plus GoodReader lets me scrawl notes all over PDFs and organise them in folders. Not everyone in the group uses it, but it makes my life a whole lot easier.

Scrawly? Yes. But I can read all those notes, and to me they're essential. 

That's it! Is there anything I've missed? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.
The thing about babies is they're not anything yet. I know - what a ridiculous thing to say, but at the beginning, they're nothing by a clump of cells and their parents' hopes and dreams. 

My friend Jenn is expecting. (You've met Jenn here, and here, and here.) She and her husband are massive Doctor Who fans - they're planning a Doctor Who themed nursery, and even did a Doctor Who baby annoucement!  

Of course I had to knit a jumper. 

A little blue hand knit baby jumper, with a colourful striped button band.

Do you get it?

A tiny baby sweater being modelled by a loaf of bread.

The 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, modelling his famous Doctor Who Scarf.

How about now?

Confession time: I've never seen a single episode of Doctor Who, so I asked a couple of self-proclaimed fans if it'd be appropriate and recognisable before I started knitting. 

It's a simple variation of a very simple pattern - Ravelry project is here, for those of you thinking about making your own. The body was knit, and then I picked up stitches to knit the scarf. 

Close up of Dr Who scarf collar, focusing on a short row wedge.

The scarf/collar/button band is shaped with short rows so it sits flat on the shoulder. See that wedge of cream? Those are short rows. I improvised the whole thing until it felt right-ish. All the scarf colours are from my scraps bins. 

Doctor Who inspired Baby cardigan.

Rather then fiddle with buttons, I popped one snap just at the collar. Snaps are better for new mums - and I omitted the scarf's fringe because that just seemed to be asking for trouble. 

It was simple and fun (except for all the ends I had to weave in!!) and is probably the perfect bit of baby knitting for a little Whovian. 

Why is it on bread? That's another story.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

It's now legal and free to share Getty Images on blogs, and other social media. This is a big change, and a good one. People have been using their images illegally anyway: make it free and you remove the temptation to steal while retaining some control.

So how do you use Getty Images in a blog?


Search for the image you want. You're a blogger, so it's late at night, and  your hands move really fast. 

Find a stock image which describes you. Click the image's embed icon (</>) from the search results or image detail page, and paste the code into your blog post. Make sure you do so dynamically.

You can see the embed button in the image above, if you'd like to embed it in your own blog, or share on Twitter or Tumblr, it's just a click away.

Get feedback - Ask your clean looking group of friends what they think

They love it! Hit publish on your blog.

 And there you have it! The perfect blog.


Extra for experts: don't use embedded Getty images in your blog. 

They look all same-y. The iFrame means Getty retains control and the images could disappear at any time and that credit thingy looks dumb. They don't allow for alt text, which is terrible for your SEO, and (much more importantly), makes the web an unfriendly place for people who use an image reader.

Don't steal images from Google. There are a ton of different places where you can get images for free, or, I don't know, take your own.

Try harder. Blog better.

How To Dye Your Hair At Home

  1. Go to the store and look at all the boxes of hair dye. There are approximately 300 different types, but none of them are quite the right shade. 
  2. Pick the second cheapest brand in the closest colour to the right one (it will be on sale three days after you dye your hair. Swallow your anger and buy two boxes. Future you will thank you for it). 
  3. Go into your bathroom and take off all your clothes. Line the sink with newspaper, a plastic bag or the hair dye instructions, and mix part A with part B or whatever it is the instructions say. 
  4. Why is your hair the wrong colour anyway? This is dumb. 
  5. Starting from the roots, apply the mixture to your hair. 
  6. Did you take off your glasses? Hair dye can stain glasses. 
  7. Remember you should have done a patch test to check for allergies. Remember what that hairdresser on Reddit said about how nasty allergies can be, and how the likelihood of them increases each time you dye your hair. 
  8. Panic a bit. Text your best friend casually, "Just dying my hair lol!" and try to monitor your own pulse. 
  9. After 10 minutes, or whatever it is the sheet says, apply the rest of the dye to your hair. Reset the timer on your phone. 
  10. Remember hair dye stains your skin and scrub your face frantically. 
  11. How long was it meant to be? You can't see the sheet without your glasses. Put your glasses back on. Now you have a set of hair dye glasses for next time. 
  12. Hair dye smells nasty. 
  13. Your hair dye towel is at the back of the linen cupboard. Take all the stained things out of the sink, and try and stuff them in the hair dye box (they don't really fit, but close enough). 
  14. Wash your hands and grab that towel. The alarm on your phone's going off. 
  15. In the shower, wet your hair and lather your hair until foamy. Rinse. 
  16. Jesus, it looks like a murder scene in here. 
  17. Keep rinsing. 
  18. You should have checked the water pressure before you moved in. 
  19. After rinsing until the water runs clear/15 minutes, rub in a generous dollop of the special conditioner that comes with the hair dye. It's really good. Why can't you buy it by itself? 
  20. Try and kick all the bloody-looking hair dye water down the drain. Stupid shower. 
  21. Hang out until you're too bored you can't stand it/5 minutes, and rinse your hair. 
  22. Remember that hot water strips hair dye, but you're already out of the shower. 
  23. Your hair's wet so it looks black all over. Panic. 
  24. Rub hair oil through your hair, and comb gently. It feels really soft, but that's just the conditioner. It's brittle and weak. 
  25. Sleep with a towel over your pillow. Stain something anyway. 
  26. Your hair smells nasty for three days and the colour's not quite right. 
  27. Repeat every five weeks for the rest of your life. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Me and Jenn and Emma and Tamsin went to Napier for Art Deco weekend. It's a whole weekend of events and activities, but mostly we just wore our costumes and sort of flopped about looking pretty.

Three girls, in art deco costume and pearls, smiling.

Me, smiling, wearing very round, art deco looking spectacles.

A girl with a blonde, art deco bob and pearls, smiling. Another girl with pink hair and a smile.

Two girls smile and look into a cellphone.

We had a picnic by the soundshell for the opening celebrations. The Royal Navy played a novelty drum song. Do you think - during those long days at sea, they say to each other, "let's play drums for eight hours guys." They marched about, and stepped in line, and threw drumsticks to one another. It really was fantastic.

Four airplanes criss cross in a blue sky.

There were warplanes from the First World War. They pretend-strafed a frigate in the harbour. "It's very boys-own!" said the MC.

An old man looks up.

The trumpets played a sad song for all the fallen in all the wars. They asked for silence to lower the flag to half mast, and someone shouted out, "Stop the war!" I said, they had a point. Jenn said, which war?

The people watching was great. 

A woman wears a blue feather boa. Her son wears a stripped blazer, a straw boater, and a petulant look.

The whole town had dressed up. Even people working in shops were wearing half-hearted headbands and beads. 

An older woman wearing a cloche hat and a feather boa carries ice creams.

The anachronisms made it even better.

An art deco couple sends a text on an iPhone.

I said, "Do you think in a few decades, we'll be dressing up like the 2010s and celebrating in Christchurch?"

An older woman wears a mint green dress and matching hat.

When the sun went down, the soundshell lit up.

A band plays in the Napier Soundshell. It's lit up like a rainbow.

The crowd moved from the lawn to the front of the soundshell and started dancing. Everyone smiled and talked to one another. It was as though that kind of authentic human connection is only allowable in costume. Maybe mufti is too representative of our essential selves to be vulnerable in it. Maybe it's the opposite and wearing street clothes as a shell stops us from connecting. Either way: it seems it's only in costume we can dance.

There were events all weekend, but we didn't do too many. The opening ceremony at the soundshell, that was the first evening we arrived. 

Jenn and I did an art deco walking tour, which was a little naff, but great fun. 

Tamsin entered the costume competition.

It's a red dress with a fan pattern on the fabric - a beautiful handmade art deco costume.

And won best in her class, reproductions. She made her dress! 

We went to all the shops. Jenn bought a parasol. 

Jenn has an art deco dress, lots of pearls, a smile and a parasol.
I bought a ukulele bass, but that has nothing to do with Art Deco Weekend. I also made us go to Opossum World, which has nothing to do with anything.

Jenn and I went to a progressive dinner - entrees in one place, mains in the next, dessert in the last place.
Me in a black flapper's costume, with fringing and a headband. I have fishnets and carry a fur.

We saved our fanciest dresses for it. 

Four girls in art deco flapper costumes pose in front of a vintage car.

Jenn made her dress. Emma borrowed Tamsin's, who refused to take off her prize winning outfit. I wore a halloween costume, but my fur was real. It was too hot to wear it - 32 degrees.

Two women in art deco flapper costume pose in front of a vintage car. One has a cigarette holder.

Everyone had amazing costumes.

Cute kid wearing a beaded flapper headband with feather.
Even the kids.

There was a trolley derby race.
Girl driving a red trolley car.

More for the adults than the kids. 

Man in collared shirt driving a blue trolley car.

The last day, we wandered through the Gatsby Picnic. People had been setting up since 6 in the morning.

Vintage car sits on a beach.

There wasn't a patch of shade anywhere, except under the gazebos - and we didn't have a gazebo.
 Woman in a cloche hat and crocheted shawl carries an enormous cake.

But it was wonderful to see the effort everyone put into everything.

Just before we left town, we met a lady handing out puppy hugs. She was trying to sell the puppies, of course, but we got cuddles for free.
A little girl in a yellow dress hugs an adorable puppy.

The puppies were white, fluffy and very soft.

The puppies had large, soft ears.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The town was rebuilt in the style of the time: art deco. 

Plaque for reconstruction architects, 1931.
These are the signs I saw from the first two years after the earthquake.

Pink art deco building from 1931.

Parker's Chambers art deco style building 1932

The Emporium in Napier, Art Deco building from 1932.

Colourful art deco shop in Napier, from 1932.

Munster Chambers art deco office Napier New Zealand.

Art deco building from 1933 in Napier New Zealand.

Art deco building from 1933.

Opossum World

Opossum World is a taxidermy tourist attraction in Napier, New Zealand.

There's a taxidermied possum peeking out from a hollow in a tree.

It's uniquely decorated with… taxidermied possums.

A taxidermied opossum pulls a funny face. It's neck is at an unnatural angle.

Possums are a nasty pest in New Zealand, so they didn't strike me as grotesque - just as karmic justice.

A small, white possum, rides a larger brown possum. They both look very soft.

Napier is the art deco capital of the world. A taxidermied possum wears a fringed flapper dress.

A taxidermied possum tries to hide on top of a switch box.

A taxidermied opossum wears a nightgown and cap, and carries a candlestick.

A soft looking taxidermied possum munches a plastic leaf.

A creepy taxidermy possum stretches out its tiny dead arms to the viewer.

A taxidermy possum peeks out from behind a net curtain.

A taxidermy opossum stretches out its little arms like a zombie.

Opossum World also sells merino, possum skins and furs. It's right on Marine Parade in Napier - I'd recommend dropping in if you're ever in the neighbourhood.