DIY fermenter and my first attempt at saurkraut


Today I made my own fermenter out of an old olive jar and an airlock I bought at at thrift shop ages ago.

I got a “grommet” from the brew shop, and then came home and drilled a hole in the plastic lid of the olive jar.

I sterilised all the bits and then used this recipe for hot pink jalapeño garlic kraut.  Except I used half regular cabbage and half red cabbage cause that is what I had around.  I ended up using about 2 kgs of cabbage so upped the garlic, chilli and salt accordingly.  I hope even though it’s only 50% red cabbage it will still end up looking awesomely hot pink!

I’m excited to see if my experiment works!  I have always wanted to try fermenting foods but was too worried about doing it all wrong.

Now that I have mastered pickling and preserving (and haven’t died from eating contaminated food) I am getting more adventurous.

I’ll be sure to update this blog with the results.


What I Made Today


Last week the Fabric Store was having a leather sale… I had had my eye on a few pieces but given the fact that I don’t have a walking foot or heavy duty machine I thought I wouldn’t be able to sew it, and resisted the temptation.

But I couldn’t handle the allure of a sale!  I got an amazing piece of bright orange leather and a smaller piece of brown leather at very discounted prices.  So, I decided I needed to sort out my leather sewing situation.

I thought I would try putting it through my Necchi Lydia 3 machine that I got for $20 at a garage sale, which seems fairly heavy duty.

Most beautiful sewing machine ever.

Neck Lydia 3 – Most beautiful sewing machine ever.

Surprisingly, the Necchi sewed through two layers of quite thick leather!

I am so pleased with the results!

My first try turned into an awesome pouch that is exactly the size of my iPad mini, which I put a magnetic snap closure on, and covered it with a bit of wax print fabric.

The leather for the pouch I got from the leather working class I did with the community education centre a few months ago.  When I cut it out I had no particular use in mind, amazingly it is exactly the size of my iPad mini!

Confidence boosted by the initial success with the Necchi, I thought I would try a more challenging project – a lined laptop sleeve.  I had a piece of fabulous gold leather I got at Made on Marion from the scraps bin a few months ago that was somewhat big but a bit irregularly shaped.

I traced the size of my laptop onto it and cut it into a large rectangle, which I folded in half then sewed the sides up. The Necchi handled it, barley skipping a stitch!

I cut out some lining also from a wax print and attached it by sewing around the top edge with the right sides of the leather and lining together.  Then I pulled the whole bag through a hole in the lining and tucked it inside then closed the hole.  I was really nervous the machine would go all wrong but surprisingly I had no trouble.

I’m seriously proud of my first attempts and sewing leather, they look professional.

I also made some very hot sauce today, like 4 litres of it, which I bottled.  I have no idea what to do with all this hot sauce!

I used the last kg or 2 of jalapeños I picked at Penray farm the week before last, and some onion, carrot, and a tin of tomatoes, along with some vinegar, the zest & juice of 1 orange, mustard seeds, ground cloves, and some sugar.

It’s got a nice Caribbean flavour but is really really hot so I have no idea how I will use all of it.


Middle-class and middle-aged


I think I have figured out why I have felt a veil of angst clouding my head recently… I’m old.
And I’m middle-class.
I don’t know when it happened. I don’t remember the most recent specific moment where I remember feeling young, or the earliest specific moment where I felt old, but some how, it’s creeped up on me.
I feel nostalgic for my youth. Things that were important to me and a part of my identity as some one outside the mainstream have now become mainstream. They had Marky Ramone on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. They were talking about Fugazi and straightedge punk kids on the New Yorker podcast.

I listen to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
I read the New Yorker.

I experience daily internal conflict over this.

When did my experiences as an outcast become the cultured middle class intellectual’s experience? How does everyone know about Fugazi and the Ramones now? Is it just because I’m old and as time has passed these things have become part of mainstream Western culture? Or am I imagining this?
I feel like my identity is being co-opted by people who drive Subarus and work for magazines or the government. When once upon a time those were things I held in such contempt!
Why I want so much stuff? When did I get so much stuff? I guess it was when I got old.
I remember looking at this picture of me that my mother took when she came to visit me in 2011 and we went to Queenstown.

Looking at that picture was some kind of ugly duckling experience for me. I thought “Whoa, I look like a pretty, successful, happy person!  I did it!”. I felt like I had put my whole past of being fat and ugly and pale and friendless and unlovable and a failure behind me and some how transformed into one of the people that I secretly wanted to be in high school. One of the people I imagined had perfect lives. I looked like one of them now, rather than a punk or a goth or whatever kind of marginalised group I found to be a part of. I finally felt like a regular person, and not the weirdo I had always thought of myself.

But I just realised that being an outsider and having those non-mainstream experiences during my formative years have become a huge part of my identity, and they play a role in how I relate to the world to this day.

But now my fucked up self-esteem thanks to being relegated into a lower social caste than the beautiful people and my resulting weirdness are being commercialised by the very same rich, privileged, beautiful people that marginalised me as a teenager. Miley Cyrus has a perfect body, perfect husband, millionaire father and promotes an image of herself as “werido”. She has no idea what it’s like to be thought of as weird because you have no other option. She’s co-opting my authentic lived experience and using it to make herself even richer.

I always thought I would die alone. Because I was too fucked up and too unloveable. But now I have this wonderful person in my life who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Like a normal person.

To a certain extent there is a part of me that thinks “I’m 35! I don’t want to live in a squat and work at a cafe part time and never have anything new or nice!”. But I also romanticise the youthful idealism I once had and bohemian freedom of that kind of lifestyle.
I think of people my age that I have known since I was young who lived with 10 people in punk squat when they were 18 and now 17 years later still live in basically a punk squat with 10 people. In comparison, sometimes I feel like I really have my shit together and should be proud of what I have done with my life, and other times I feel like a corporate sell-out middle class consumer and think “wow she’s living the dream!”.

But I was always a bit scared and too uptight to really embrace that lifestyle, and even amongst the weirdos I never felt cool enough. Now I can feel smug about having accomplished more with my life, and navigate these waters of interacting with mainstream middle class people every day, pretending like I’m one of them. Really it’s not me and I’m not one of them, and maybe that’s whats giving me this anxious somber sensation.

I don’t know what’s happened to me but it’s time for a change.

Mid-life or existensial crisis?


The other day I was waiting for the train home from the suburb where I work.

I had just come from a visit to the local mall where a manicure/pedicure chain operated.  I had purchased a discounted voucher for the chain and went in for a “manicure and full-spa pedicure”, a treat I hadn’t indulged in for probably nearly 2 years.

I remembered why I didn’t enjoy those experiences and go so rarely.  Rather than finding it relaxing I just felt awful for the poor non-white people who were slaving away over my manky feet.  They looked tired and grumpy, and clearly did not enjoy their jobs.  There I was, white lady on a throne (massaging pedicure chair) being tended to.  I felt disgusted with myself and left vowing to never get another discount manicure pedicure again.

So I rode my bike off the train station to await a ride into town.  This particular train station sits just parallel to the motorway, and as I was sitting there, waiting for the train, I watched the cars driving by, spewing out exhaust.

I thought of all the people in those cars coming from jobs in the city and going home to the suburbs. I thought of all the people I work with who get in their car and drive to work everyday.  I thought of all the fish and birds drowning in oil spills and people killed in wars over oil disputes so people can drive their cars to some job everyday.

What do they do all day?

What is it for?

I thought about what I do all day. What’s the point of it?  I used to be passionate about libraries and librarianship.  I thought I was doing something meaningful with my life.  I used to love the idea of teaching people to be awesome librarians.  Now I just feel like another cog in a giant wheel producing shit for no reason.  I’m just going to a job every day where I teach other people how to prepare themselves to get jobs that they can go to everyday and all be part of the same giant machine.  But we all keep doing it every day, because what else would we do?  And for some reason we get paid to keep this machine going and we need money to buy things like iPhones and petrol.  So we can’t get out of the machine.

When I look in the mirror I hate myself for becoming a sell out and compromising my values and making polite conversation with bigots and ignorant assholes on a daily basis.

I never wanted a life like this, but now I have I have a fridge that automatically makes ice cubes and I need a way to pay for it.  So I will keep producing good little jobbers and doing all the busy work the corporation puts in front of me so I can feel like I have done something with my day, and at the end of it I see my mother once a year and my partner about 5 waking hours a week, and I am literally destroying my body by sitting at a desk typing all day.  All this for what?  Ice cubes whenever I want them and a phone that will take pictures of them and send them to other people.

Why Laneway is so disappointing


Can’t see anything
Ridiculous queues for toilets
Disorganised staff never responded to my volunteer application
30 C and no shade (and no umbrellas/parasols allowed!)
Most artists only get 30 minute sets
Drunk teenage girls puking everywhere (at one point simultaneously 1 meter away on both my left and right sides)
You can’t bring “branded” food in (wtf?!)

I don’t know why such awesome artists keep agreeing to play because seriously this festival is such shit, I’ve said it before but when you booked Belle and Sebastian AND St. Vincent I couldn’t resist… But seriously, NEVER AGAIN.
It’s become a lowest common denominator/sell as many tickets as possible scenario that self respecting music fans should actively avoid.
Or maybe I’m just old and jaded and full of hate?

The sound of one hand clapping


For the past few months I have been noticing pain in my right hand when I wake up in the morning due to the thumb and first three fingers being numb.  I also have noticed when I bend my arm too sharply for a long period of time those fingers and my thumb will go numb.  I kept hoping the pain would go away, and wondering what was causing it (cycling?  a pinched nerve or muscle pull during BodyPump?).  The pain did get better though… while I was on holiday at Christmas and New Years.  Then, 3 weeks after returning to work, I started waking up with burning pain in my right hand again.

So I put two and two together and realised it must be work related.  Yes I know what you are thinking, “duh”.  But I have everything set up right!  I have a gel wrist pad for my mouse and my workstation has been assessed and deemed ergonomic.

So I booked an appointment with my GP, and went in on Friday.  When I described what I was experiencing he said “You probably have looked this up on the Internet already and know that it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, but don’t panic”.

First of all, amazingly, for some reason, I actually hadn’t looked it up on the Internet.  For most issues Google would be my first diagnostic tool, but for this one, it just seemed to slip my mind.  I guess in my head I just kept thinking “There could be a million reasons why my hands are going numb”.  It was only after I went to see a massage therapist and I describe the pain in my hand she said it was most likely overuse and spent about 20 minutes massaging my forearm, which was then painfully sore for 3 days.

So I booked in to see the GP and he confirmed what I had begin to suspect, and when I heard “carpal tunnel” my first thought was “now I am fucked for the rest of my life.”.

Luckily he informed me that there are a number of treatments and most are very effective, with a simple surgery being a last resort but able to take care of the issue.  He referred me to a hand physiotherapist and asked me if I wanted a shot of cortisone in my hand, which was also an effective treatment that could have benefits lasting up to a year.

I said sure, not thinking it would be a difficult procedure.

Imagine searing pain shooting up the nerve in your hand.  And then, intense sharp pain every time you tried to use that hand for the next 48 hours, slowly subsiding but still recognisiable now, on Sunday evening.

The ridiculous thing is that I have worked on computers my entire adult life, however it was not until I started working at the Open Polytechnic 1.5 years ago, a distance education provider, where I engage in personal email correspondence with my 50+ students 5 days a week, using a standard mouse, that I have started having this pain.

Luckily they have been responsive thus far to the issue and have ordered me an ergonomic mouse and a standing desk.

In the meantime I am gaining appreciation for many things I used to take for granted, having 2 fully functioning hands, that I am no longer able to do with such ease, including:

  • grinding pepper onto my salad
  • slicing vegetables
  • opening a jar of peanut butter
  • getting my knickers off to have a wee
  • hooking/unhooking my bra
  • being able to brake on my bicycle
  • tying my shoelaces
  • clipping the fingernails of my left hand
  • putting earring backs on
  • washing dishes
  • scraping cake batter into a baking dish
  • and so much more..

It’s really surprising how many things you need two hands for, your at least access to your dominant hand.  I won’t even bother trying to knit for a while.

I’m hoping I haven’t permanently damaged myself.  I guess I will find out Tuesday when I see the hand physiotherapist.

Academic job prospecting; or, Why by some total fluke I have an advantage.


It is hard to get an academic job these days.  According to The Professor is In (an academic job consulting service) a PhD holder has something like a 1-in-20 chance of actually getting a job in a university.  Post-docs might make it easier to get an academic position, though they can even be hard to get into.

However, here is my perspective:

I think it depends on your field.  PhDs in the humanities are kind of like a dime a dozen these days. At the Victoria University of Wellington graduation I went to last night somebody in the programme (at a different ceremony) was getting a PhD in Design for studying Tamagotchi Fan Fiction.  Seriously?

PhD in Information Studies are still quite rare – most people in information studies just want to be librarians and quit after the MLIS.  I was the only PhD in Information Studies to graduate in from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Information Management in probably 5 years.
This is mostly because of funding/political reasons – other people do PhDs on LIS topics but because the School of Information Management gets more money for people enrolled in Information Systems, they enrol all the PhD students in Information Systems, regardless of the topic, because really the only thing that matters is the topic of your thesis, the degrees are all PhDs.
So when it comes to graduate you have to be aware of this discrepancy and make sure the graduation office puts “Information Studies” as your degree title rather than “Information Systems”, even though they were all confused and double checked with me several times – “Are you sure your degree is in Information Studies? It says you are enrolled in Information Systems?”.
This was a big issue for me throughout my time at SIM – I think forced enrolment as Information Systems students devalues information & library studies and obfuscates professional identity.     I even raised this issue to an external review of the Information Studies programme, though they didn’t do anything or seem to care and this practice carries on.  So I was sure to advocate for my PhD in Information Studies when the time came.  At yesterday’s graduation one of my colleagues who studied Information Literacy in Malaysian Primary Schools received a PhD in Information Systems.  Am I the only person that sees a big discrepancy there?
/End rant on VUW’s School of Information Management.
My PhD in Information Studies is somewhat less common, as mentioned above, and the Library & Information Science Education market isn’t yet completely oversaturated with PhDs at this stage, unlike some disciplines.  And, I got a full scholarship to do my PhD, and was unemployed at the time, so it was a good choice for me.  I didn’t do it to get rich, no one in academia does.  I got a free degree and spent a few years working on an interesting project.  It was a win/win for me, even if I did end up just working as a librarian after finishing my PhD.  At least with a PhD I could probably get something pretty high up in an academic library if I decide not to try for a faculty position.
But areas like film, history, etc, those PhD are basically useless unfortunately.  I apologise to those of you with PhDs in film or history, and hope you have found happiness in your career, but job prospects are really limited in those areas.
You also have to consider what disciplines are getting lots of students & research funding, which unfortunately seems to follow trends quite a lot of the time.  Data science and human computer interaction seems very popular at the moment as far as faculty recruitment, because there’s big money for undergraduates who come out with degrees in those areas, and therefore big student numbers, and lots of funding to those kinds of programmes.  People doing BAs in art history probably end up as baristas or waitresses, and those departments aren’t hiring. If you are in Chemistry of Physics or something yes you probably have to do a post-doc if you want to get into a research position, but in Information Studies it’s not really necessary, in fact there aren’t many post docs available (though there are a few, mostly in data science type stuff, which I guess would be valuable if you were in that area).
So yeah, I am really glad I have a PhD in Information Studies. Even though my topic was mostly related to culture/sociology/ international development, I have colleagues with PhDs in Human Geography and Sociology who’s research is not very different from mine, but will basically be stuck at a polytechnic forever because there is just such over-saturation of the market for those kinds of degrees. At least I have a slightly more marketable degree.. which was a total fluke because I had no idea going into it! I just got lucky I guess!
But as mentioned above, if you can get a full scholarship to pay for your PhD you might as well do it, even if it doesn’t help you earn more money in the end, at least it’s a cool project you get to work on for a few years and then you can make everyone call you “doctor” :)
enough ranting about academia… I should do some work.
Dr. Nicole