Monday, July 30, 2001
Fiona vs Bathroom Fixtures
So Saturday started innocently enough with an expedition to order a few features tiles for the bathroom wall that Fi and Meagan had picked out a couple of weeks earlier. It should be noted that I contributed virtually nothing to this process, which was driven by the arcane art of colour mix-n-matching. I have discovered to my interest that this, like basketball, is a field in which I have a negative capacity. By this I mean that the only contribution I can offer to ensure a positive outcome is to not participate in the process.
No, that's not an excuse to get out of helping. I really do suck at it.
Anyway, we started out at the tile shop, but then we decided that we might as well duck into one or two shops dealing in bathroom fixtures and peruse the wares, now that we have a little better idea of what will and won't work in the pokey little bolthole we have to work with. You understand - the toilet must be set out X millimeters from the wall, according to the plumber, and we need a vanity that protrudes no further than Y millimeters past the wall extrusion, and so on and so on. After finding everything we needed in one place, we finally cracked, and Fi went in all guns blazing for a discount: "We want this and this and this and this and if we buy all of it from here, how good a deal will you do for us?"
This is just one of the many things I love about my darling - her ability to demand discounts. At the risk of publicly emasculating myself, I will cheerfully admit to being genetically incapable of asking for a better deal. I'm one of those people that good salespeople can detect days in advance of my arrival. I couldn't bargain, barter, haggle or scrounge if my life depended on it. And I'm just as bad on the other side of the coin - I've been trying to sell my car for months now, and I still find myself talking about the bad points before I mention what's good about it. Epileptic weasels could negotiate themselves a better deal than me.
Fi, on the other hand, is good at it - about three hundred dollars off the asking price later, we had ourselves a whole bunch of toilet, vanity, mirrored cabinet and shiny fixtures all for our very own. All we need now are the tiles, new floorboards, and some nice people who won't charge us very much money to put all these things together.
Thursday, July 26, 2001
On my own again, naturally*
Fiona's off to Sydney today for some sort of IT course (the sort that puts on an average-to-reasonable lunch and then charges your company $1300, if I were to hazard a guess), though since a) Meagan's still at home and b) I'll be spending the evening playing games at The House at Torrens Heights, consider this blog's headline a lie.
Motorcycled to work this morning, on Fiona's Zephyr ("That's its picture, and some stats for you German fans," said Lexifab, pretending not to notice the abudant evidence of his web-searching indolence). I'm still on my learner's permit, thanks mostly to the broken arm getting in the way of what was otherwise a reasonable improvement curve, but I'm thinking that I will need to take the test before too much longer. At the moment the only holdup is that winter is miserable and cold and it gets dark very early, all of which dull the will to practise. In fact, though, I think the wait has done my riding good, as I have had longer to develop my slow riding techniques and roadcraft in general, so I may have slightly improved my chances of passing the test on the first attempt. I think that the statistic I was quoted was that 70% of first timers in Canberra flunk out of their first test and have to sit a mandatory follow-up safety course. As such courses are boring and potentially expensive (if you keep failing) I'd prefer to avoid the whole rigmarole.
On the other hand, there's no real hurry as I can't afford new riding gear or a bike of my own. Damn bathroom.
* I don't even remember what song that's from, just that one line. I have a vague idea it might have been sung by some popshrimp like Randy Newman or Paul Daniels, but in all honesty I don't care. If you happen to know, tell me, but otherwise consider it a dead subject. Which I know you already do.
Tuesday, July 24, 2001
Yesterday was a day when the human spirit triumphed. Started with a brisk walk to work (knocking 5 minutes off the usual 45 minute time), worked nine straight hours without a break, walked home, finished the day with a fencing lesson where I actually displayed more competence than usual. A karma positive, health positive, felt-like-I-achieved-something day.
That was yesterday.
Today. Ah, today...
Today I discover that my transfer to the Philippines Section could take even longer, due to the office politics machinations of some branch manager who doesn't want her secretary to get a promotion and leave her to fend for herself. Because said secretary would be getting said promotion in order to replace me, I may not be able to go anywhere until said petty dictator is happy that her typing is done. Or some such shit that nevertheless serves to royally shaft me. I'm not one to complain, heavens no, but I am getting pretty sick of the holdups - it seems like every other day another couple of weeks get added to what I am increasingly thinking of as my sentence in Personnel Development.
On the plus side, lunch was an extremely delicious tuna pasta.
Monday, July 23, 2001
Feeling better now
The hacking coughs have subsided, though not abated, so the weekend passed without me feeling too bad. One sore point is that our attempts to sell my car, now into their Sixth Big Month, are still meeting with no success. Fiona in particular is becoming increasingly frustrated - to put it politely - at the seemingly standard practise among Canberra car buyers of phoning up to say they'll be over to see the car at a certain time (necessitating that someone stays at home) and then failing to put in an appearance. Even if we weren't getting increasingly desperate to offload the car before the registration and insurance come due again, I would still call this fantastically rude behaviour, wouldn't you?
So, wanna buy a used car? Nice colour, reliable starter, needs some minor work...oh, and the transmission could potentially explode one of these days, but really, the chances of that happening are...well...sigh...
Friday, July 20, 2001
As those present will be unsurprised to learn, last night's uncontrollable hacking coughs have left me feeling somewhat the worse this morning. I have resolved, though force of will and determination alone, to stay on the couch in front of the heater all day, reading and watching old episodes of Futurama. Pity me, if you can...
Thursday, July 19, 2001
Hmm, maybe this Blogger thing wasn’t such a good idea…
Sorry for the slow updates. Every time I log into Blogger lately, I seem to crash the whole site. Either that, or they close it down for hours and hours of maintenance according to a schedule that is timed roughly to coincide with my attempts to log in. Actually, you know, that isn’t so far-fetched. Someone could have installed a concealed – or invisible – webcam here in my monitor. Or under the phone, or maybe behind the stapler.
I think we can all agree that the strongest possibility is that some sort of sinister anti-Lexifab conspiracy is lurking somewhere at the periphery. Events are obviously being orchestrated at the highest level to prevent you from hearing the Truth! Somewhere, a cadre of shadowy Goons Without Names in the employ of Australia’s Secret Intelligence Overmasters is watching this blog – and the outpourings of a thousand dissidents, fanatics, seditionists and roleplayers – for signs that we Know Too Much.
Small hope of that, but just in case, if you don’t hear from Lexifab personally in the next few days, expect the worst…
Forgot to talk about my weekend
Though you wouldn't know it from my blathering on Monday, I've actually been pretty busy at work the last few days (and the end is looking increasingly distant - it turns out that I now won't be transferring to the Philippines Section until the middle of August. Dammit!). The upshot is that I didn't mention what I did on my weekend, which was actually something rather more interesting than usual.
Despite not having any actual experience in the field (apart from having seen The Princess Bride and Rob Roy a bunch of times) I attended a Historical Fencing conference. Now before you laugh openly, it's nothing to do with the Society for Creative Anachronism or Renaissance Faire enthusiasts; these people are about re-enactment and (I privately suspect) wearing hosiery and quaffing mead and speaking in Ye Olde Anglic, Sirrah! None of that with the historical fencers, by god!
This movement, which I gather is gaining some momentum outside Europe for the first time, involves training in weapon techniques using the manuscripts of the European fencing masters of the 16th through 18th century (including those name-dropped in The Princess Bride, like Ridolpho Capo Ferro and Camillo Agrippa – read all about them here). I went along hoping to see people going at it with rapier, smallsword and quarterstaff, but what I got were serious scholars from a variety of backgrounds - no SCA guys, who are generally disdained by ‘real’ fencers because they use lightweight fake weapons and homemade armour, but there were historical re-enactment types, stage fight directors, Olympic-style fencers and even a tai chi teacher. And there were swords. A very large number of blunt – but still entirely lethal-looking – swords.
Most of the weekend was taken up with talks and demonstrations of particular minutiae of using this technique with that weapon. One of the things you notice when watching these historical techniques revived before your eyes is just how brutal martial combat actually is – most fights historically lasted no more than a second or two after engagement – and how many supremely undignified ways there are to die in an exchange of blades (my favourite piece of dirty fighting was a half-sword technique that involved reversing and grabbing your own long sword blade and using it to capture the opponent’s blade downwards, then driving the pommel of your blade into the opponent’s face/throat/forehead. Or, if they think to use their free hand to block that, then the attacker does a short step past the hand and drives the quillon – the poking-out side guard at the base of the blade – into the side of their head. Like I said, brutal).
The fencing club I am training with at the moment, Finesse, does Olympic and Historical fencing, but sensibly requires participants to have a solid grounding in basic technique before they will let you pick up a quarterstaff. Hopefully in a couple of months I will pass the level 1 test, after which I can start looking at the historical styles. All I need to do in the meantime is develop some semblance of physical fitness and find a lot of money from somewhere. For some reason, authentically reproduced 17th century rapiers cost a bucketload of cash. Go figure.
Wednesday, July 18, 2001
There’s always someone more cynical than you, and they probably work for a tobacco company
Call me anti-multinational, call me a tree-huggin’ benefits-of-globalisation-doubtin’ hippie, call me small and petty, but I love it when the big companies do or say something stupid which demonstrates their depths of social dispassion and moral terpitude.
My big question would have to be – who the hell do they think they are kidding? My follow-up question would relate to costs to the economy of hospitalisation, compensation, loss of working days etc resulting from lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease etc. I wonder if those figures made it into this little study?
Monday, July 16, 2001
Oh wow! WEG are having a fire sale! Torg stuff is being dumped at ridiculously cheap prices! I could rebuy all those gamebooks I left behind in Townsville for practically nothing! "Okay, Homer, don't panic. Just take a deep breath and get all this stuff in the car right now!" I could have the whole line for just on $200 plus shipping and handling, depending on where the Australian dollar is this week. Just think of the Possibilities!
Or I could help pay for the bathroom repairs. Sigh!
In my ideal universe, I have enough money so that I can spend the week reading and gaming instead of working, a nice house with enough space for all different styles of gaming, and scads of disposable income to buy all the games, books and home repairs that I ever need. Oh, and the occasional world tour. (Obviously I'm talking about a very ideal universe here.)
It's cool to know stuff, kids!
How goddamn cool is this? How Stuff Works has the ins and outs of...well, all sorts of stuff. With diagrams and clear explanations and everything. Woah, baby, and they even teach you how to pick locks!
The Internet - educational and a threat to social order!
Friday, July 13, 2001
Raise your hand if you can see this
I'm curious. Are you actually reading this blog? If you are, and you aren't Simon, Andrew, Toad or possibly Fiona, I'm not sure I believe you. Why not hit that Hello Yes? button over there and send me a haiku about how much trouble you're going to be in if your boss catches you reading Lexifabricographer? (Remember, that's 5 syllables, then 7, then 5).
I'm not being pitiful here, by the way. I'm not gasping for adoration or threatening to fade away if you don't clap your hands and say that you believe in me. No, no, no. Well, not much anyway. Where was - oh, yeah, I was going to say that I'm considering installing a popup comment box that creates a sort of mini forum after each blog message. Yet another way to suck up Otherleg's precious bandwidth and give regular readers an even more efficient medium for wasting time when they should be working.
Anyway, it's probably not worth doing (and potentially crashing the site with some poorly-thought-out java scripting) unless there are actually a few people reading Lexifab regularly, so if you think this sounds keen, lemme know.
Never underestimate the Power of the Blog
Woah! Looks like I've uncovered the long-thought-lost Magical Blog that makes wishes come true*. It seems I need only to mention that which I will desire and the Universe will reshape itself to deliver it unto me. Either that, or some friends will come through like champs. Der Simonster, apparently afflicted by altitude sickness after standing on a big pile of money, took my pre-birthday rant about how much I love to have RPG manuals and ran with it to the nearest hobby store. Therefore at some point in the future there will need to be a Hapless-Feds-versus-the-Monsters-from-Beyond-Time Delta Green game (this is a link to the screenplay of a short DG film by one of the game's authors, John Tynes. Check the rest of the site out, too. The short stories are good, especially the one that's rather disturbingly similar in concept to Memento, which by the way is the best film of the year so far, bar none). Thanks Mister Simno!
And this morning I get an email from Andrew "I am the Master and you will obey me!" Shellshear answering my challenge of yesterday with a counter-challenge: co-author this Doctor Who novel with him. I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. Still, I have called his bluff. Expect to see a Shellshear-Versace paperback on the shelves in early 2003. Expect the fatal demise of the Doctor Who novel franchise around about the same time, unless I miss my guess.
* which reminds me of genies (or djinn, if you prefer, you goddamn pedants), which reminds me of being freed from lamps, which reminds me of opening jars. And I only bring that up so that I can mention that I my wrist has almost recovered to the point that I can once again open jars. But not quite. Still, progress. Just thought that you'd like to know.
Thursday, July 12, 2001
First (and this is a couple of years ago, mind) Shellshear drops the bombshell that he's made friends with Jon Blum (a guy - and it frankly sounds and is a little weird to admit it, don't think I don't know it - for whom I developed a slavering fan-like admiration after spending several years reading his intelligent, thoughtful and witty posts on the Usenet rec.arts.drwho newsgroup). Okay, so that makes him a Grade-A Punk in Dave's book, at least for five minutes, and then probably the news came on and Peter Reith said something to wrest back the title.
Where was I? Oh yeah, well now, not only is this Shellshear punk claiming to be prepping an outline for a Doctor Who novel of his own ("Hey, dirtbag! That's my half-arsed dream, dammit!"), he's also getting namechecked in Kate Orman's latest DW outing. And his character's in it just to get killed off! Man, back in the heady days from about '95 - '97, when I was spending every waking minute (including not a small number of supposedly working minutes) scanning those newsgroups and hacking out fanfic and trying to come up with ideas worthy of inclusion in the series, I would have killed to be thoughtlessly slaughtered off in one of those books. Especially one of Kate's, who along with Paul Cornell and Lance Parkin and dozens of others, were producing some of the most interesting and radical takes on Doctor Who ever. Sure, some of the series were absolute goddamn dogs, but on average they were probably better written than the vast majority of the TV series. And if you know me, you know my opinion on the TV series.
I think I'll probably have more to say about Doctor Who, now that it's come bubbling to the surface, but in the meantime, know this, Shellshear. You and me are gonna settle this - TIME RAM STYLE! It's nothing personal, but you done trampled on this man's dreams.
By the way, that Doctor Who version of Once Upon A Time sounds good. We'll play next time I come up your way.
By the way, Linda, that "Wesley-Gunn" theory of yours?
"Do you even work here any more?"/"I think it's pretty obvious that I don't!"
It is as nearly official as it's likely to get - my days as a drone in field of human resources are drawing to an end!
That's right, soon I will metamorphose (in the strictly bureaucratic sense) a drone in the far more stimulating field of aid delivery to the Philippines! My replacement is more or less secured and my transfer more or less approved, which means I finally get to fly the personnel development coop in which I have been ensconsed these past two years. No idea what I will be doing yet, except for some daunting-sounding project involving land titling regulations (ask me about my legal qualifications one day!) and another one that involves delivering malaria kits to overworked district nurses in the troubled southern provinces. Whatever, it's got to be better than another complaint about how confusing the application forms for study support* are.
Yay! Career development! And it's curving up! I should stress that it isn't a promotion, though, just a transfer (so there's no point trying to hit me up for a fiver). On the other hand, it's not in an AusAID career backwater either, so there's a chance I can actually develop some of the skills that they promote around here. Woah, my future's so bright I gotta adjust the contrast...
* to select an entirely non-random example that I spent four hours working on last Monday...
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Lyrical Phraseology of Ineluctable Confundity
I have of late been reading the works of Jack Vance, or more specifically, his Dying Earth series, a fantasy not-quite-series set in a dim future Earth where the sun is about to go out. I have to admit my interest was piqued not so much by the novels' reputed quality as by the fact that a new roleplaying game of the setting is about to come out. The Dying Earth is written by Robin D Laws, one of my favourite game designers, whose work is always worth checking out (for those that care, his other recent credits include Feng Shui, Hero Wars and Rune, amongst swathes of cool stuff).
While I can't exactly claim to be loving these books, they are at least fascinating; the characters, when they have discernably discrete personalities at all (and very few do), are largely amoral, self interested monsters, but all of them speak as though they've swallowed a thesaurus. Declarations like "The Law of Equivalences has been disturbed; and I must contrive a reciprocity" and "I am forced to believe you guilty of impertinence, impiety, disregard and impudicity" go hand in hand with prose like "He had known many vicissitudes, gaining therefrom a suppleness, a fine disposition, a mastery of both bravado and stealth". I get the distinct impression Vance woke up one day and decided to single-handedly inflate by an order of magnitude the vocabulary of the entire science fiction reading community. (Incidentally, that's precisely the effect he had on the roleplaying community back in its formative years when Gary Gygax was at his most influential. Gygax clearly swiped as much from Vance as he did from Tolkien, including his habit of never using one syllable when four will do. Since I got into this hobby, I've met more than a few people who share Gygax's aped tendency toward inimicable verbosity*).
The roleplaying game seems to have devised several neat methods for encouraging this sort of nonsense, including a "combat" system for verbal sparring based on your character's conversational inclination (eg Glib, Obstinate etc), "tag lines" which are typically pompous Vancian quotes (along the lines of "I do not care to listen; obloquy injures my self-esteem and I am skeptical of praise!") which a player is rewarded for contriving some means of announcing during the course of a game, and my favourite, The Overarching Rule of Efficacious Blandishment, which basically means the player can bluff the GM into allowing them to succeed as long as they stay within the (Baroquely anarchic) spirit of the game.
It's a pity I've just become officially poor, thanks to that damn bathroom. This looks like yet another thing for my "I want, I want, I want" list. Thus and so.
* Yes, that was irony.
Well what do you know?
Der Simonster has helpfully pointed out that any alleged spazcrackery is mine alone. Something to do with using 69 quotemarks out of wedlock, or something. I dunno - any powers of comprehension I may possess were murderously scorched from my brain when I endured a pre-lunch presentation on leadership development and corporate culture delivered by someone that used the expressions "paradigm shift", "emotional intelligence" and "aggressive receptivity" frequently and with a straight face.
But I fixed the zombie link, so that was good.
We are- bzzt -iencing techni- fzzzPOPfzzz -culties!
Yes, I know there was something wrong with most of that last blog's links. No, I can't work out what the problem is. I can only assume that Blogger's ongoing spazcrackery is in some way responsible and the failure has nothing to do with my total lack of basic HTML skill.
Monday, July 09, 2001
Okay, so I got a bit slack while I was away. Whaddaya want me to do, I was on holiday! Keeping up a weblog is too much like hard work when I could just spend the entire time getting flogged at golf, Scrabble and Settlers of Catan by my brothers and demonstrating certifiable incompetence as the Zerg in Starcraft. But, because despite appearances to the contrary the central purpose of Lexifabricographer is to provide my haemorrhagic memory with helpful prompts as it continues its decline in my later years, I will attempt to summarise the highlights of the week:
Set off at an incredibly chilly 3 am, drove for 13 or so hours, arrived at Gold Coast, surprised Ian with presence, slept...
Fiona and I drove up to the Sunshine Coast to visit Craig, Fiona's brother, and his family. Fiona's most recent nephew Doohan (yes, you can probably guess who the motorbike-mad Craig and Collette named their baby after) is only 13 months old, but he already looks like a hulking, surly three year old, complete with an evil grin. Monster baby. After lunch and a detailed discussion of the narcotic habits of adolescents in the Glasshouse Mountain region, we were off an an adventurous foray into the heart of Brisbane to visit Evan at his father's pad overlooking the river (nice, that). Spent a great evening catching up with him, as well as Chris Fellows, who was in town for an international chemistry convention, and David Astley, who was basking in the glory of his latest brush with the Hollywood jet set. David's just spent four months on the set of the forthcoming Scooby Doo movie as a stand-in for reportedly-quite-the-gentleman Matthew Lillard, who has the dubious distinction of playing Shaggy. Still, he's the only person I know that has met Sarah Michelle Gellar, which must count for something, and Freddy Prinze Jr, which probably doesn't.
Spent the morning window shopping at the sales in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall. Given subsequent events, I'm kind of glad that Fiona eventually decided against picking up the half-price-but-still-$400 leather jacket she was thinking about. Got back to the Gold Coast that afternoon and slumped into absolute bludge mode. Found out more than I ever wanted to know about the Big Brother phenomenon.
Total holiday day. Played board games all morning (lost at everything, including a 150-point drubbing at Scrabble by Ian, who is supposed to be the thick brother!) then spent the afternoon failing to distinguish myself at the Banora Point golf course. In spite of my ineptitude, it was a pleasant afternoon's walk, right up until the ninth hole, which we were forced to complete with undignified haste when the stormfront moved in and drenched us. Appropriately, it was the only hole of the afternoon that I managed to beat both my brothers (I play better the less I think about it).
Before we left, Sonia instructructed us to bring something decent to wear as she was planning a mystery outing. Amusingly, it turns out that the surprise destination was Palazzo Versace, one of the Gold Coast's many exercises in opulent excess. We spent a very pleasant if ridiculously expensive afternoon taking tea and scones on the terrace, after which we gawked at the yachts and poked through the chintzy, snobbish tack-o-rama Versace shop (which can be summarised by observing that the glass in which Ian's latte was served had a $195 price tag on it). Unfortunately we could not, despite our best efforts, come up with a way to casually mention our surname to the bar staff in the hopes of receiving free stuff, but it would undoubtedly have served only to further darken the family name so it’s probably just as well we left when we did. And I finally got to see Unbreakable which is a far better film than I was led to expect by reviewers who seemed to be expecting another Sixth Sense from the director. Quite superb.
Evan arrived for a few days reciprocal visit. He, Fi and I went to see Swordfish, a movie that begins with the line “The problem with Hollywood is that they make shit” and then proceeds to deliver on this unwise assertion. See it on rental DVD next year, if only for the explosion sequence at the start, the ludicrousness of computer hacking scenes and the gratuitous appearance of Halle Barry’s flesh (which is far funnier than it is titillating).
Jimbo’s birthday! Maintaining the enduring tradition of buying him zombie-related gifts, I gave him All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Fiona distanced herself from this dubious present (wise girl) and proposed that we would at some future point buy him a suit for his “real” present. This is all very practical, though I would protest that it does not in any way involve bringing shotgun justice to undead cadavers. The rest of the morning was given over to shopping and cooking, after which we spent the afternoon in a park by the beach at Currumbin. Needlessly indulging in beers, steaks and potato salads while watching the full moon come up over the surf and the thunderheads glowing with lightning on the horizon was pretty hard to take, let me tell you.
Going home. Drove all day, tried to find somewhere inexpensive to stop for the night, failed, decided just to keep on going. Arriving at about 1 am, we were greeted by meagan with the news that something in the bathroom was leaking and had deposited liters of water on the floor below. Yay, and just when we we feeling rich, too!
After an early morning conference, we decided the bathroom might as well be refurbished completely, and we set off to Fyshwick on an expedition to visit specialists in the field. Unfortunately, it being Sunday, the only one that was open was Harvey Norman. Still the guy we talked to there was very helpful and reminded us that there may be some recourse with the house insurance company, which had occurred to none of us. No doubt more home maintenance fun is to follow.
Made several unsuccessful attempts to post this blog. Blogger had numerous psychotic episodes, losing various chunks of text and generally forcing me to waste time rewriting everything. Hope you found the redraft worthwhile.
Tuesday, July 03, 2001
Holidays aren't just for wealthy millionaires, y'know!
It's faintly conceivable that you've sent me an email in the last couple of days and even more remotely possibly you are now starting to wonder why I haven't written back. The reason for this impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounding my activities can now be revealed! Fiona, Jimbo and I have taken off from the frozen climes of Canberra and departed for the sunny Gold Coast, where Ian and Sonia live! Yes, that's right, Southerners have fled north for the winter, unbelievable as that may seem. Most of the journey consisted of passing Victoria cars headed roughly the same way, give or take a complete misapprehension of road laws and any sense of direction.
Anyway, having achieved our modest goal of not blowing the surprise to Ian before departing on the epic twelve hour trip, we got up at three o'clock on Saturday morning and tumbled out of the car sometime in the afternoon. Ian, of course, was out fishing, so we had to hide the car around the corner so we could still do the surprise thing. Oh well, at least he had the good grace to look a bit bemused when we all popped out from behind the kitchen wall...
Well, since then I've caught up with old friends, played golf and watched Pitch Black. It's Dave's American Film Made in Australia and Starring a Bunch of B-Grade Oz Actors Recommendation of the Day (it's certainly better than Red Planet, which didn't even have the Australians...). Tomorrow, Unbreakable, I hope.
But probably no emails, blogs, or any other things that require any effort...