How to transform a space when you’re renting

The product provided by 1Wall via Nuffnang was gratis, but the opinions contained within are all mine. See my PR page for more details.
One of the challenges for us as landlords who are also tenants (got to love London property ladders!) is finding ways to make our various spaces unique without drastically changing the structural integrity of the living space. Bookcases are in, bookshelves are out. Focal furniture is in, textured walls are out.
1Wall has created a great collection of wall stickers and wallpaper murals to create dramatic results on a small budget, and without needing specialist tools, knowledge, or a degree in engineering to dismantle it when you move. While the husband has his eye on the NYC Times Square mural…
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I adored the typography collage wallpaper pieces, that allow you to arrange your panels in any configuration you like.
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However, as we were redoing the kid’s room from little-kid nursery to larger-kid bedroom, we thought it only fair to involve him in the decorating process. So he chose a mural of Disney’s Cars.
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SONY DSC SONY DSC The kit comes in two pieces (very handy as I did not feel like having to drag an entire roll of cartoon characters to the wall when adhering), and most kits come with a bag of pre-measured wallpaper paste, so there’s no wasted trip to the hardware store. (Don’t worry, there is a button online to order the pre-measured wallpaper paste on the site if yours doesn’t come pre-equipped for some reason. Just check the item’s description for details).
 
The paper itself is a very nice quality – not so thick that it feels unwieldy when you’re applying paste, but not so thin that you’ll be worried about it disintegrating the second it gets wet. The colours are true to the displays online, and I was impressed by the crispness and detail in such a large panel.
 
SONY DSC SONY DSCThe instructions are very easy to follow, and there is even a QR code that takes you straight to a video walking you through the process. But what if you’re still terrified by the prospect of wallpaper and paste? Well, each bag of wallpaper paste that comes with your kit is good for up to 4 rolls, meaning you can do a tiny test panel of store bought wall paper before you dive in to the 1Wall artwork.
 
And if you’re still terrified, don’t worry – there’s no law that says wallpaper murals have to be applied with wallpaper paste. In fact, right now we’re using blu-tac to arrange the Cars mural around the room, as the kid still hasn’t decided exactly where he wants everything located (he’s becoming quite the mini- Martin Brudnizki!).
As you can see from the current location behind his loft bed, the nice thing about these types of murals is how they aren’t sector-specific; if you need to hide a portion behind a piece of furniture, the overall aesthetic still has impact (and the kid loves laying his head so close to his ‘buddies’ at night!). This is a decorating project that works around your needs, and I like that.

Can you see a distinct theme emerging in the kid's design repertoire? Yeah, we see it as well.
Can you see a distinct theme emerging in the kid’s design repertoire? Yeah, we see it as well.

#Flashfiction in London: “Muse of Fire”

shea wong #microstories #flashfiction #writing globe

“They say all the world’s a stage. Feh.” He’s mopping the hardwood floor. “All the world is a big hunk of metal and stone, fused by heat, and hurtling through space. But it’s true, I’ll say that. And the stage?”

He looks up into the stands.

“The stage is the lie that you all accept for three or so hours, because whatever is going on in your life is so shit, you’d rather have deception than reality.”

He smiles. “It’s not poetry, but you know it’s true. Next show in 10 minutes”

New Post on Writers and Artists for #NaNoWriMo!

My newest post for Writers and Artists and #NaNoWriMo2014 is live, and handles the inevitable 1st week doldrums of #NaNoWriMo, from being waaaaaay behind on word count to what happens when you realize you hate your new novel-to-be. Yay!

#TowerPoppies, Armistice Day

Kid and I visited the Tower of London yesterday to see the penultimate day of the #TowerPoppies exhibit, and while the crowds were at times overwhelming, the atmosphere was very respectful.

Even the rains didn’t keep the thousands, and thousands, and thousands away. And while our day was very very very long, it was worth it to see the magnitude of the poppies in person.

While I’m a firm believer that armed conflict is essentially failing at humanity, as it means leaders couldn’t use their brains to work out a reasoned society and instead had to turn to brawn, I think it’s still important to always remember the sacrifices made by the men and women who, for whatever reason (believed in cause, were conscripted, didn’t have any other option), lost their lives to war. May we honour their memory while striving for a future where war is not an inevitability of disagreement.

“In Flanders Fields”, by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

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#Flashfiction in London: “Passion”

shea wong #microstories #flashfiction #writing painting

 

Every Monday at 8 pm they climbed the steps to his Soho loft, where the artist taught them basic painting. And every Monday they were greeted with the evening’s schedule for class, which always ended with the task
“BE THE ARTIST YOU KNOW YOU ARE.”

The artist always felt hollow writing that task, but…a job was a job.

Till one day, they arrived at the Soho loft, to a woman sweeping an emptied studio. On the board it simply read:

“DON’T WAIT FOR ME
FINALLY DOING LAST TASK MYSELF.”

#Flashfiction in London: “one pill two pill red pill blue pill “

shea wong #microstories #flashfiction #writing cyberdog

 

The worst part of the robot uprising was how little everything changed. Turns out the robots had no plans for human enslavement; we were already utterly dependent on them. This was merely a codification of our uselessness. That was the salt on the wound – we, the formerly top of the food chain, were nothing more than water for their mill. Our actions powered them, nothing more. Insult upon injury, and if everyone weren’t nose deep in their devices, I’d say it to their faces.

I’m dumping my blog review policy in favour of a radical new model. Here’s why.

I’m dumping my blog review policy in favour of a radical new model. Here’s why.

 

My blog review policy has stayed relatively the same for years now. If I’m offered a product and I like the look of it, I’ll agree to review it. If I don’t like the look of it, I’ll pass. If something goes wrong with the product, but the company can fix it, I give them the opportunity to do so, but will mention in the review that I needed assistance to make it right. If the product just outright sucks, I say so. It’s pretty simple, and works for me. Most products I never purchase post-freebie, but there have been about a dozen or so that I’ve become a loyal customer because of the review, and happily sing their praises for years afterwards.  However, I’ve become…increasingly eye-rolly with the concept of blogger reviews, especially after an incident that happened this week.

 

I was invited to a product launch not as a blogger, but as a contributor, so I was just having a great time doing the canapes and tiny froo froo drinks thing. I struck up a conversation with a lovely group of folks who happened to all work for the same PR office in the city, covering everything from major events to social media outreach (bloggers). Considering I’d recently written a piece about the #fairpayforbloggers debate, I asked them what their opinion was of blanket payments for bloggers to review products, and if bloggers should be considered at the same level of the press, who were also covering the event.

rhoa laughing gif jude law laughing no gif shea wong

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I’d like to say it was the free booze that made them laugh so hard, but we both know it wasn’t.

 

It’s clear that PR doesn’t consider ‘reviews’ as anything more than marketing cost, and if you privately asked any blogger who’s been reviewing for a good amount of time what would happen if they gave a truly in depth, objective review, they’d tell you the truth – they’d be dropped from the PR firm they worked with. And while some people still actually believe that bloggers are 1000% true in their online persona (they aren’t, and here’s how they pull it off), what’s the point in doing reviews? If the whole point for a PR company is to have the right mix of anchor text, links, and pictures in a blog, why don’t we as bloggers just start charging commercial space in a post, like you would an old-timey radio commercial?

“Today’s blog post was brought to you by Dr Methusaluh’s Antiquated Butt Ointment. Now with 64% more mentho-lyptus! Hmmm, that smells like mentho-butt!”

Slap in the appropriate SEO tags, and the companies get what they need, while bloggers get paid in whatever mix of cash and product they like.  It would also be much easier come tax time (bloggers, you are itemizing all this stuff, right? Because your nations’ revenue service has very clear rules on self-employed professionals and renumeration policies).

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I only started doing reviews for the past 3-4 years of the 12 of so I’ve been blogging, so maybe I just haven’t become jaded enough, but I want to make it clear:

I’m paid, in product, Paypal, or a combination therein, to like a certain product for a certain amount of time.

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It is contracted that I say certain things about the product, with certain hashtags, and certain anchor text to boost SEO. And while I often go above and beyond when I really legit love a product (I will still sing the praises of BassBoomz and BassBuds forever because they are the best mobile sound devices I’ve ever had), many products are never mentioned again, because I liked them when they were free, but don’t love them enough to continue paying for them. And I am not the exception here in blogger land – we all do this. We may not say it, but we do. It’s how the machine is greased. And let me be crystal clear to the PR companies as well:

When I see a blogger praising a product with perfect anchor text and SEO-ness, I don’t for a second believe they actually like that product.

Unless it’s for a charitable organization, I immediately think “Oh, she’s been paid to review X. This is a commercial”, and respond accordingly. Or to put it another way…

leo dicaprio nice gif

 

So why is this niggling at me all of a sudden? My nieces are old enough to read bloggers now, and start to have favourites that they visit daily, and I’ve noticed they’ve started looking at these bloggers as authority figures. They don’t realize that the gushing purple prose over a new product isn’t because the blogger truly loves it, but because they’re being paid to be a human coat hanger, or makeup canvas, or shoe rack. They don’t notice the barely readable disclosure at the end of the post (if the blogger bothered to put it there at all). They don’t get that when a blogger links to a fab new whatever, it’s more than likely an affiliate link, and regardless of whether or not the blogger uses it, they’ll make money from the click through.  Do I really want to be part of an ‘industry’ that goes to such lengths to seem genuine in an effort to make money off the most impressionable?

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So, I’ll be changing my review policy rather radically in the next few months. I’ll be happy to sell an ad space to approved products, but it will be exceedingly clear that it’s just a commercial, and that I have neither tried, nor personally endorsed the product. And for reviews that are already scheduled and in the pipe for the next 6 months or so, I’ll continue to be very, very clear that this product was provided gratis, and I’m being compensated to tell you all about said product. And of course, if it sucks, I’ll still tell you. This will probably dramatically drop the amount of crap/cash I get, but I can’t keep pretending that blogging reviews aren’t anything more than a cash grab before the PR industry finds a new conduit for their products. If nothing else, my nieces deserve that.

 

So…yeah. Anyways, my next piece on Writers and Artists goes live on Monday, and I thing I wrote will be in the Guardian this weekend, and if you’re in the city, pick up the new issue of the Balance Paper, where I’ve written an article. #NaNoWriMo2014 is still trucking along (I have a cram day tomorrow, hoping for a 5K word day!), and then bonfire fireworks Saturday night with the kid and hubs. Busy, busy, busy. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

#Flashfiction in London: “Terminus”

shea wong #microstories #flashfiction #writing tube

 

She knew she lost him on the train; that much was certain. She wasn’t sure what stop, but she knew, somewhere between the yelling and the crying and the silence was the train, and that’s where she lost him.

That’s the thing with breakups – the ending is never the actual end, it’s always some nebulous moment only discovered after the fact, where you realize you weren’t coming back together again.

She couldn’t pin it down precisely, but she knew she lost him on the train.

#Flashfiction in London: “Odd Vertex Dreams”

odd vertex dreams

 

I once dreamed a ballet of math. Areal Butterflies danced on Rabinowitz Point shoes while a Mobius strip-tease revealed d’Ocagne’s Identity to the crowd. The prima ballerina was past her Prime, but she still had Hour Glass Timing, so why were the Two Men of Tibet having such a Problem with the show?  Fermat’s Little Theorem about the second act proved fruitless; the Self Descriptive Strings sections kept perfect time, and Zollner’s Illusion as a finale brought the House down.

 

 

So help me, I will turn this Internet around.