Tuesday, 19 May 2015

'Winter Thaw' by Dean Bradley




Dean Bradley's new painting, 'Winter Thaw', is one of my favourites of the year. The white ice bands are shaped in wood, raised above the painting surface.



Detail of the left side of the painting, showing the braided textures.



Detail of the top of the painting.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Wix or Weebly?

If you're planning to set up a free or low cost website, it's likely that you've come across the Wix and Weebly options, which are both highly recommended in most of the reviews I've read.

Based on this research, my preference is Weebly – it is more adaptable and has a clearer price structure. It is:

  • free with Weebly in the domain name, and with a small advert at the bottom of the website
  • $4 a month to have a custom domain name not referring to Weebly, and no Weebly branding on it.  This $4/month approach would be better, if your budget allows. 
In contrast, a free Wix website would have much more prominent Wix advertising. The website domains are very long in Wix, unless you connect a custom domain. Another disadvantage of Wix is that once a template is chosen in Wix, it can’t be changed. 

However, Wix offers more templates to choose from, and they are generally considered more 'beautiful' than the Weebly ones, which have been described as 'cosy'. So if the purpose of your website is related to design, such as photography or sculpture, this is probably a better option for you.


I like the easy connection to purchasing the domain name directly from Weebly (at a cost of $38 per year), as well as the ability to have a blog, social media integration, and site analytics (to measure visitor numbers). 

I particularly like the ability to upgrade a Weebly website. You could start with the free plan which only provides for five pages, which would be plenty for a brochure style site. Another advantage of Weebly over Wix, is that all the information can be transferred to a different website host in future, if required.

My opinion is based on reading these reviews, as I don't have a Wix or a Weebly website:

Monday, 4 May 2015

How to be Happy

I'm reading a book called 'Engineering Happiness - A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life'. It's written by two engineers (Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin) who have identified six laws related to happiness. While their equations are still a bit of a mystery to me, their six laws of happiness are directly relevant to my own life. I hope they are useful to you as well.

Law 1 - Relative Comparison

Who and how we compare ourselves to others can make us happy or unhappy.

The first thing to do is accept the fact that we do this, and that we won't outgrow the habit. However, we can make choices about how we do it.

The authors say "choose the right pond" - be aware of your capacities and limitations, and choose social groups that are a good fit for you. So, don't beat yourself up for not dressing as well as Barack Obama, or for not being as good at singing as Kiri Te Kanawa ...

Other tips within this category are:

- Develop mental discipline in taking a broader perspective in life and in consciously looking for reasons to be grateful about our own situation.
I live on the Tahunanui flats, and look up at a lot of big houses on the Tahunanui Hills with sea views. But a modest house means I don't have to spend as much of my life working to pay for my accommodation or rates, and I am glad of that.

- Cultivate an attitude of admiration. 
Admiration is an antidote to envy. Everyone has the capacity to enjoy their neighbour's garden without diminishing the joy their own garden brings them.

Law 2 - Motion of Expectation

What you got in the past can determine your expectations for the future.

The authors give the example of people receiving salary changes. Person A who starts with a $10,000 salary who then goes up to $15,000 and then 20,000 will be happier than Person B who starts on $20,000 and remains on $20,000. And Person C who starts on $30,000 and goes down to $20,000 will be the most unhappy.

It seems that gradual improvements in circumstances is the most reliable pathway to steady gains in happiness.

Law 3 - Aversion to Loss

The unhappiness experienced from a loss of ten dollars is significantly more intense than the happiness experienced from a gain of ten dollars.

Budgeting for some losses (such as being overcharged for a taxi while on holiday overseas, car repairs or parking tickets) will make it less painful to have to pay for these costs, provided they are within the budget you have set for these losses.

Law 4 - Diminishing Sensitivity

Doubling the stimulus (for happiness) does not double the intensity of the emotional response. For example, the first bite of an icecream on a hot day tastes delicious, the second bite tastes good but a bit less so, and the third bite even less than the second.

An example in my life is that there is likely to be more happiness to be gained from my husband's paintings selling throughout the year - each sale creating a high level of happiness, than the same number of paintings sold in one exhibition and then a long period without sales.

Law 5 - Satiation

Any kind of pleasure has a limit that makes lasting happiness impossible.

The more frequently a signal is sent to the brain, the less able the brain is to process it as new information, which lowers our potential for satisfaction. A remedy is to have a variety of interests so that we can move from one to another when we begin to feel monotony.

A simple example in my own life is the dog exercise area at Tahunanui Beach. It's a stunning place, it's only two minutes from home, and it's the best walk for Max (our mini-schnauzer) because there are always a number of different of dogs for him to meet. However, it's better for me to mix up where I walk, so that I can see the beach with fresh eyes when I am there.

Law 6 - Presentism

We forecast that future preferences and emotions will be more similar to our current preferences and emotions than they actually will be.

We rely too much on how we are feeling in the moment, when thinking about the future. That's because preferences and emotions change more than we realise - so we don't predict our future happiness or unhappiness particularly well.

One way to counter this effect is, rather than speculating about how much happiness some product or experience will generate, to ask a friend who already owns a product or had an experience that you are considering, how much they enjoyed that experience.

In my own life, it has been great to hear about my sister's experiences of self-employment, before making the jump myself. It's been extremely handy to have an older sister who is always a few steps ahead of me!