My iPhone Use

Over the last four months I have been consistently using the Moment app every day to track my phone use and what apps I have been using. The idea is to use this information as leverage to cut down on how much we use our phones, but I have simply been recording the data and not paying much attention to it until now.

The app has to be constantly running in the background in order to record every time the screen is unlocked, recording each unlock as a pickup and every second the screen is active. This is the most automatic aspect of the app. Because of Apple’s sandboxing in iOS the app cannot eavesdrop on how long you use apps directly. Instead it asks you to take a battery use screenshot every week (or daily if you want more accuracy), which is then sent to Moment’s server an parsed to determine how long each app was active. The app designer (Kevin Holesh) acknowledges that this is an imperfect solution, but it is the best currently available on iPhones.

A hiccup I encountered is that sometimes the app records all the time I have been asleep as me using the phone. The FAQ explains that this is caused by using Sleep Cycle which can keep the phone unlocked while asleep. Usually I turn the screen off once I activate Sleep Cycle but obviously forget sometimes. This causes inaccuracies in the total screen time so I exported the data and the anomalies were easy to spot and correct (how often do you use your phone for 550 minutes in one sitting?).

My Screen Time

Average screen time: 1 hr 38 min per day (max 202 minutes; min 7 minutes)

Average pickups: 20 per day (max 49; min 5)

App Use

These are average values for my most frequently used apps.

Safari 19 min per day
Toy blast 13 min per day 10 min per day
Facebook 10 min per day
Mail 6 min per day
Home & lock screen 3 min per day
App store 2 min per day
WordPress 2 min per day
Settings 1 min per day
Waterlogged 1 min per day
Last Pass 1 min per day
Sleep cycle 1 min per day
iMood Journal 1 min per day
Weather 1 min per day


Overall I would like to reduce my phone use to less than an hour per day, which is probably an attainable goal if I refrain from using my phone as a ‘boredom buster’. I have deleted the offending game (Toy Blast) and also the Facebook app. I’m mildly surprised that Facebook got as much screen time as it did because most days I only use it for 2 or 3 minutes. However there were some days when I sat watching stupid videos with the kids and that clocked up over an hour a day then. It remains to be seen whether continues to enjoy as much of my attention as it has recently, the novelty may wear off.

Another interesting consideration is whether I’m even justified in having an iPhone. There are apps that I always use every day but these are generally for logging details of my life which I’ve decided to keep track of for various reasons. This sort of thing could just as easily go in the notebook which is always in my back pocket. I could buy a lot of notebooks for the $20 a month I currently pay for my phone plan. My counter argument for this is that I often use my phone to check my blog and email due to computers being a scarce resource in our home. I would prefer to use a laptop to read blog articles or reply to comments or email but often the kids are using our only functional laptop.


Morning Ritual Cheat Sheet

Today’s PDF is a Cheat Sheet for the Power of a Morning Ritual episode of the Accidental Creative podcast which is hosted by Todd Henry.

Rather than restate what is already a brief document (1 page), I will use it as a spark to give my thoughts on ‘morning routines’.

Get up at the same time each day

I generally manage this on work days and am thankful that this is now the case. Having done shift work in the past it is a blessing to be able to get up at the same time each morning.

Having said this, the wake up time completely goes out the window on weekends. Saturday is my sleep-in day and Sunday is church, so a shorter sleep in. I’ve read that ideally we should get up at the same time on weekends as on week days but I’m always knackered by Friday so the sleep-in is essential catch-up for me. Theoretically I should be going to bed early enough to not need a catch-up, but I live in the real world not ideal-land.

Read (30 minutes)

Oh to have this luxury! I do read, but it is for about 10 minutes (if that) while I eat my breakfast. I’d like to have time to read my bible in the mornings but this habit died out for me 16 years ago when our first child was born. My morning reading generally consists of a couple of poems (if I remembered to toss my current poetry book on the dining table before heading to bed the night before) and scanning the news on my phone to check if Trump and Kim have hurled nukes at each other overnight (I do genuinely fear this).


Spend 15 minutes allowing your mind to wander.

This happens in the shower as I’m in a semi-conscious stupor attempting to wake up while wasting copious amounts of hot water.

Write (10 minutes)

My ‘brain dump’ at best consists of jotting down stuff I need to do in my notebook and I also keep a record of what poems I read for breakfast.


This occurs at the bus stop if I get there in time. I wonder how to cope with a micro-managing boss, rummage through my bag looking for my bus card, and try to remember if I have enough credit on it.

As you may guess, I don’t have much time for fancy morning rituals, though I am not mocking Todd Henry – I have great respect for him. I just think we are quite different people and I am not really his target audience.

I do have a routine because I’m not awake enough in the mornings to actually think about anything, it needs to happen on autopilot. I’m flummoxed if the muesli has run out and I have to eat something different to usual, how could I manage creative thinking and strategic planning until after my third coffee? (You think I’m joking, don’t you?)

Straight Razor Shaving

Adventures Learning to Use a Straight Razor

I first encountered the art of shaving with a straight razor on a blog called The Art of Manliness (which ‘real kiwi blokes’ probably don’t read) in a post called Shave Like Your Great Grandpa: The Ultimate Straight Razor Shaving Guide. I was particularly attracted by the idea of not having to keep buying disposable razor cartridges at $5 each and the inherent waste disposable stuff:

Today’s modern shaving racket creates needless waste. When you’re done with a cartridge, you have to throw it out. When you buy new cartridges, you’re left with a ton of packaging material.

Then there were the promised benefits of a better shave and “You’ll feel like more of a bad ass“.

I ditched the shaving foam in a can many years ago as it is stupidly expensive and results in empty aerosol cans heading to the landfill. So in some ways it made sense to take another step towards reducing cost and waste by using a razor that simply requires re-sharpening rather than throwing plastic cartridges away every week.

Then there is the appeal of using such an ‘old school’ shaving method, a sort of re-establishing of links back how men have shaved for many hundreds of years before the invention of disposable razor blades. In opposition to the hurried, unthinking approach to personal grooming fostered by electric shavers and blister-packed blades with instant foam from a can, everything about using a straight razor forces me to take my time. With a blade sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel placed across your throat comes undivided focus on the task!

Believe or not, there is actually an entire web forum dedicated to straight razor shaving (Straight Razor Place). This is an excellent resource for learning what to look for in a razor, how to strop the razor to fine-tune the cutting edge and tips on how to shave without removing ears, nose or otherwise slicing your face to bits. The folks posting on this site extoll the virtues of straight razor shaving, claiming it to be the closest shave you will ever achieve.

Learning what gear is needed was one thing, getting it in New Zealand meant yet more scouring the internet to find retailers to buy from. Thankfully ordering online enables us to get stuff that would otherwise be difficult to obtain here.

So in mid-March my honed and stropped ‘shave-ready’ razor arrived and I opened it eager to venture into the world of an extraordinarily close shave with no razor burn… and on seeing the blade thought, “this is insane!” The idea of putting anything that sharp near my face freaked me out.

However, money talks – I had already paid for the razor and bought a strop so was committed. I needed learn how to use this gear in order to recoup my costs.

I began with baby steps, shaving my cheeks, the only flattish part of my face, finishing the rest with a regular razor. Over the next week I progressed to being able to shave my whole face without too many cuts. Shaving under the nose is particularly awkward, I can now see why Lord Voldemort got rid of his nose – it must make shaving much easier!

photo of a styptic pencil and small block of alum

After four months using a straight razor most days, I am usually able to do the job without drawing blood. At least when a razor like this does cut it is fine and clean so heals easily. However, a puncture repair kit consisting of an alum block and styptic pencil does come in handy for moments when I’m not concentrating.

Is it a brilliantly close shave? It can be. With care and multiple passes, I can get a very smooth shave, though this carries a risk of nicks by trying too hard to get an ultra smooth shave. To be fair though, if I do the same preparation and take my time with a regular cartridge razor I can also get an equally close shave. Overall though, I like having to take my time and be careful – shaving has become one of life’s little pleasures rather than the chore I previously viewed it as.

Pros & cons of straight razor shaving:

  • Overall cost savings
  • Minimal waste
  • ‘Meditative’ shaving experience
  • Nostalgia
  • Time required for each shave and care of razors
  • Upfront cost
  • Learning curve

For a lighthearted but not overly useful video, see How to Shave With a Straight Razor. For a more useful video, check out one of the recognised experts: Straight Razor Shaving for Beginners

Some NZ retailers for shaving gear:

A useful way to save on razor blades without going to the extreme of a straight razor is to get blades by mail order from Razor Blades NZ for around $12 per month. Another worthwhile approach is to use the old style double-edged ‘safety razor’ which was the predecessor of today’s cartridge blades. By sourcing the double-edged (DE) blades online the cost becomes very reasonable.

photo of a white ceramic shaving bowl with gold rim and a black synthetic badger hair shaving brush in the bowl

When good kids go bad

Over a year ago I first read a blog post written by a pastor who received a letter from a young  woman who grew up in a good Christian home and went to a Christian college. She describes how she ‘went off the rails’ at college despite being ‘a good Christian’ and that this is a common scenario.
Living in a university town and having worked on campus for many years I have seen plenty of students arrive here fresh-faced and reasonably tame, only to deteriorate into a drunken, debauched mess within months. Christian kids can find it especially hard at Otago as their peers party up and throw off parental restraints.

Very few Christians make it through their university years with faith intact. Some do, and they shine strikingly against the secular backdrop surrounding them. But unfortunately the attrition rate is huge. A shallow faith doesn’t last long in the pressure cooker of student life. Even those with deep, robust faith can find themselves stumbling.

There is no ‘easy-fix’ to this situation, it is an unavoidable trial of living in a secular nation and this is where we are called to live as salt and light. However, what has made this letter stick in my mind is what it highlights about the importance of a father’s faith and relationship with his kids:

Here are some excerpts from that letter:

… I found out when I went to college that I am not the only “good kid” who is or has struggled with or is still struggling with serious stuff. We struggle with issues like eating disorders, depression and suicide, cutting, pornography, gender identity, homosexuality, drugs, drinking, immorality, and the list could go on. We listen to “wild” music, we idolize pop culture’s heroes, we watch dirty sitcoms. We have no discrimination in our entertainment, dress, or any aspect of our lifestyle.

… the problems that are supposed to be bad kid’s problems belong to us too. Unfortunately, our parents and youth workers don’t know that we struggle with these things and they don’t know what to do with us when they find out. Quite frankly, I believe that if you grabbed the average Christian school teacher or youth worker and asked them, “What would you do if you found out that one of the kids you work with was a homosexual?” they wouldn’t know what to say.

… Our parents did not spend time teaching us to love God. Our parents put us in Sunday Schools since K4. Our parents took us to church every time the doors opened, and sent us to every youth activity. They made sure we went to good Christian colleges. They had us sing in the choir, help in the nursery, be ushers, go soulwinning. We did teen devotionals, and prayed over every meal. We did everything right. And they made sure that we did.

But they forgot about our hearts. …. Unfortunately, our fathers don’t have time for us. They put us where we are surrounded by the Bible. But they didn’t take time to show us that God was important enough to them to tell us personally about Him…

Many of us struggle with stuff that our parents have no idea about because they hardly know us.
Saddest Letter I’ve Ever Read by Cary Schmidt

My eldest child is not yet a teenager, so there remains time to deepen our relationship such that she can see for herself how my faith in Christ really works. Will I be brave enough to admit when I don’t have answers to her questions? Even tougher, will I allow her to see my struggles when I do not have answers to my own questions?

I’m not at all eager to face tough times, but maybe my children need to see me do so. They need to have seen me wrestle with hard decisions and choose to trust God. They need to see me weak and desperate yet clinging to Christ in all circumstances. As yet they are still a bit too young to understand the world of adults. What I don’t want is for them to be adults and still not understand it or have seen genuine Christian faith in action within the world they find themselves.

I would also like us to trust each other enough to be honest and share where we really are at. How will a child learn such honesty? Perhaps by seeing it in their parents’ relationship and by their father being brave enough to be open to them.

Pastor Schmidt has also posted a couple of responses to the letter, with a very good one addressed to parents here.

And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:6 ESV)

A thousand thousand reasons to live

Last Monday afternoon our little family made the most of all having the day off together on a glorious sunny day and went for a picnic. We have all been hanging out for such times together, this is our favourite way to unwind and relax as a family. The kids loved it, the dogs loved it, and the parents loved it. My heart rejoiced, God is good to me.

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me … (Isaiah 8:18 ESV)

All week I have mulled over what to write with our picnic in mind. Nothing has quite ‘clicked’ so this post has sat simmering in the recesses of my mind. So I’m simply going to leave you with a quote from a novel I read recently:

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.
(Marilynne Robinson, Gilead p227)

Gifts I have noticed recently (#943 – #953):

943) My wife turning our partly renovated cottage into a cosy home.
944) Putting a ‘Thomas’ puzzle back together for a wee boy who is sad at brokenness.
945) Our Queen remaining honourable for 60 years.
946) Family picnic on a glorious sunny winter afternoon.
947) A handful of wild flowers from mum.
948) Wild passionfruit.
949) Squeaky swings.
950) My new reading glasses.
951) John Kirwin being knighted.
952) A frown from my wife reminding me I am being lazy.
953) Warming frozen fingers by the fire.

I trust you because

To Heather,In writing on this topic (‘I trust you because’) it took me a long time to figure out why I trust you – I just do. There are plenty of reasons, here are three:


You made a vow to me in the presence of God. I know you well enough to understand this makes a difference – that it was made before God.

We are both well aware that it was God who brought us together, and know His warning about ripping apart what He made one. So this is the unconditional fence guarding our marriage, but there is much more than obligation holding us together.


I know I can trust you because you have already entrusted so much of yourself to me. You have made yourself exquisitely vulnerable to me, mere words from my mouth could crush you. Having opened your heart to me so deeply as to need me in order to function, I know you are not going to walk away or intentionally injure me.

This goes both ways. My weaknesses are blindingly obvious to you and with this knowledge you could have a powerful weapon. Yet for over a decade you have chosen to unload that gun and lock it away to prevent accidental discharge. Your proven record of trustworthiness.

In some situations vulnerability, even when mutual, can lead to fear. Fortunately we do not have a ‘cold war’ in our marriage.


We like each other. Our idea of a good time is to sit together with a cup of tea in our wonky cottage looking out over the harbour and just chat, passing the time of day with no particular point to the conversation aside from being together.

That you care about me is evident, your smile when I come home always lightens my burdens. There is no doubt in my mind that you like me and want to have me around, and I hope my enjoyment of being around you is also obvious.

Perhaps an indication of our friendship is our mutual desire in life to simply grow old together.

What’s this all about:

A blog I follow is running a series of posts called Marriage Letters in which they write a ‘letter’ to their spouse with the idea that by enriching their own marriages they also enrich the marriages of those around them. I’ve been enjoying the series and had good intentions of joining, this is my first attempt. The topic for this week is ‘I trust you because’. Amber hosts a link-up on her blog where you can check out letters from other bloggers.


If I had to choose a word to describe my life at the moment it would be ‘crepuscular’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines crepuscular as:

1 Resembling the twilight of morning or evening; dim, indistinct; not yet fully enlightened.

2 Of or pertaining to twilight.

Working shift work and with winter closing in it feels as if I live in a perpetual twilight, not only in terms of the light levels I experience but also socially – I am out of sync with the rest of society so my weekends occur at odd times and I have to work during the real weekends.

Then there are other aspects of me that could be described as dim and indistinct, maybe I will tell you about it one day.