Friday, August 31, 2001
Heeding the desperate cry for help cunningly concealed in Wednesday’s blog, ChrisT has scoured the net on my behalf and come up with the following good advice. And you know, I think there’s something in that for all of us. Well, perhaps not you, but certainly all of me.
More bathroom follies
Work was allegedly to begin on the bathroom yesterday, but there was no sign of any work having been done when we got home. Not that we mind, particularly, it means one more day that we can actually take a shower in the morning. Next week, when work will presumably begin, we will have to come to work early and shower here, which I imagine will get pretty damn old after a day or two. Still I assume it will be worth it when we have a shiny new blue-green-yellow BathZone2001 to brush our teeth in.
The End Times are here
Today is my long-awaited last day in Personnel Development, a field of human endeavour for which I have no particular aptitude or affection (the job itself is administrative, at which I am sad to discover I am extremely able, but unfortunately not at all affectionate). If two-and-a-third years of training and development have taught me anything (and I think it’s pretty obvious that they haven’t), it’s that you should really try to find paid employment that you will enjoy, rather than just the stuff you know you’re good at.
Or you could do what I do, and just bumble from one job to another, going where people tell you to and trying not to sneeze on anyone who might one day give you something interesting to do. Clear career goals and the ambition and drive to achieve them may be all very well for some people, but using zen navigation to chart one’s career is, I think, equally valid.
Whatever. On Monday I’m starting work in a job that will involve international travel and providing actual Help to the Helpless. That is, if I may say so, so cool.
Wednesday, August 29, 2001
It’s hard work being a gamer
Our regular Tuesday game went slightly by the wayside last night after reaching an unspoken consensus that we should abandon my nascent Seekers for the Great Library D&D campaign. It was on its last legs after too many missed sessions and widespread apathy. I probably should have felt more hurt that it didn’t get a decent run, but to be honest once the momentum was gone - we played the last session nearly five weeks ago, I think – the spark was gone for me too. It’s a shame, as I had some pretty entertaining plots in mind, but they were nothing I couldn’t easily cannibalise for something else.
Since we were all agreed that we really do want to play something each week, I tried to steer the conversation towards working out what we would all be able to get behind. We’ve done this as a group before and I am always struck by how reticent we all seem to be to question our own preferences. I had the definite feeling that everyone was holding back from expressing what they really wanted, possibly to avoid upsetting anyone else. Unfortunately I was struggling as much as anyone to get out what I really wanted to say – at one point Simon called me on it in a transparent attempt to shift the spotlight away from himself – and I’m a little dismayed by my failure to really get a constructive discussion going. As usual, tiredness was an issue – Simon didn’t get home from work until nearly 8 pm and obviously the last thing he wanted to do was attend what amounted to another meeting, especially one that called for some real focus and a certain amount of soul-searching, and Linda’s been maintaining a high sleep-deprivation lifestyle (she euphemises it as a “busy social calendar”) as well.
Here’s what I should have been attempting to articulate: I place a very high value on roleplaying. To me it is among the most important things in my life – only the basic necessities, family and (most) friends take a higher priority for me. It’s my most treasured leisure time activity, it’s what I spend an awful lot of what I should not refer to as my disposable income on, it’s what I spend a lot of time analysing, discussing and contemplating. To the greatest extent possible, I organise the rest of my life around games, gaming and my friends who play games. To say that I have an emotional investment in getting the best from my roleplaying is rather to understate the case. Important as it is to me, I naturally want to derive as great a sense of satisfaction as I am able from my hobby. My point being this: over the past few years, I have been noticing that I am finding that sense of satisfaction fulfilled by tiny increments less. I’m never really disappointed (well, unless it’s one of those games where everyone turns up late and half-interested and even if the dice do come out nothing really happens), rather I am not quite full. And I want to try to find new ways to enjoy my hobby before it goes sour on me. I want to have fun roleplaying, but I don’t want to keep having the same experience time after time. It gets stale after a while, in a way that has nothing to do with genre or system or whatever, and everything to do with enthusiasm, involvement, whatever. Attitude, I guess. And even that is an almost meaningless description of what I really want to say. Damn my inelegant powers of self-expression!
We eventually sort of developed a vague picture of what we wanted, but by the end I think we were all still talking at cross-purposes. The solution we eventually came to – to revisit Torg – was something we could all live with, and I’m keen to give it a go as Jimbo has agreed to take on the GM’ing responsibilities, but I was still vaguely dissatisfied and I’m not sure anyone else was 100% enthusiastic either except insofar as it was a relief to be able to agree to that rather than continue to pursue a frustrating and aimless search for some undefinable gaming ideal.
It will be interesting to see whether the advantages of Torg – familiar system and setting, fairly action-oriented gameplay, the card system which encourages player interaction – will be what it takes to inspire a revitalisation in our games. My suspicion is that we need to work on this a bit more, at a level above the question “What game will we play next?” before we can address what ails us.
Or possibly just me. Maybe I just need to get a hobby.
Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Birthdays I have failed to acknowledge in a timely fashion lately
Werner, ChrisT, probably several dozen others.
Sorry everyone, I suck at this lately. It turns out my pride in remembering your birthdates has been entirely misplaced unless I happened to either be a blood relative or go through high school with you (and even then, chances are I will have mixed you up with someone else). I resolve to write this stuff down somewhere and get better at remembering next year, so if you have a birthday and can read, send me an email and let me know the date so I can look slightly less like a forgetful bastard in future.
Escalation of violence
Interesting experience at my fencing class last night. Our small group was joined by a new woman who has probably been attending classes about as long as I have. Now, normally our classes are very deliberate, thoughtful affairs – we slowly step our way through the techniques being practised and try to think each movement out carefully. Nobody’s too concerned about beating parries or scoring hits or whatever, we just want to make sure we understand what we’re doing.
All of a sudden this new person comes in with a flurry of sudden lunges, flailing attacks and unsteady footwork, whatever it takes to get a hit. I instantly recognised the style – a coiled bundle of basic fencing techniques and ferocious competitiveness – as being exactly the phase that we all passed through back in the old JCU Musketeers Club days. I can’t fault it exactly – it was a lot of fun and it taught us to really watch our opponent and use their weaknesses against them – but I found it incredibly shocking to be facing it again in the formal context that Finesse prefers.
Actually, I think it might prove to be a good thing, once I get over the mental gear change. Fencing had been starting to get a little slow with all the minute focus on step-by-step learning – I needed something to shake up my interest again. I’ve suddenly realised that for the first time in probably months, I’m really looking forward to next week’s lesson. Allons!
Monday, August 27, 2001
Dispatches from the weekend
Pending my final week as a participant in that ignoblest field of endeavour, human resources, I spent most of Saturday in at work doing overtime. As usual with such exercises, I got more done in 6 hours than I did in most of the previous week, confirming my suspicion that I am generally overpaid to underperform the rest of the time. Of course, it helps that I am now highly motivated to do everything and leave my personnel job in a pristine state, so that the unfortunate dolt who they promoted to replace me doesn’t have to spend every day calling me to chase things up. He will anyway, but I’m trying to minimise my exposure to it.
Mister Toad made a surprise visit to Canberra on the weekend, so our quiet dinner of Saturday night metamorphosed into a Dinner Party with Guests. Fortunately Fi already had a gigantic moussaka underway, so we had most of the catering covered, except for Linda who only eats veggie. Un-fortunately I chose that particular occasion to experiment with my standard vegetarian staple dish, the Vege Lasagna, and it kind of fell flat, all slushy and tasteless. D’oh! Personally I never eat the damn thing, it’s all mushrooms and spinach – bleh - but I take this as a sign that it is now high time I added some alternative dishes to my repertoire. Apologies to everyone who had to suffer through it just one time too many (Linda for one is probably pretty sick of it by now) and I promise to have something different on offer next time we do the dinner thing. If it’s any consolation, I (obviously) drank too much wine during the evening, and I felt quite ordinary most of the next day, so there was suffering on both sides. You can’t say fairer than that.
Fiona’s Grandmother turns seventy-something this week, so yesterday was one of those traditional big family gatherings, with a gaggle of Urquharts present. It was planned as a backyard barbie sort of affair, but winter’s arrived late in Canberra this year, so yesterday was cold, windy and wet and it was ceremonially relocated inside where it was warm. As usual it was fascinating to spend time with Fiona’s collection of uncles and aunts, listening to them eloquently holding court on all manner of subjects. A lot of the opinions they collectively express make me quite uncomfortable (being a Democrat-voting small-l-liberal) and as usual I was biting my tongue a lot (Fiona too, I’d imagine), but I expect there’ll be time for blazing differences of ideology after I’m married into the family and they can’t get rid of me .
Today is more cold, windy and wet than yesterday. But apparently it is snowing up on the Brindabellas, which makes a trip to Corrin Forest (where they have oodles of snow to play with, toboggans to hire and trees to crash into) next weekend look pretty good at this point. It’s a poor substitute for a trip to the ski fields, but until after next year’s honeymoon is paid for, I’ll take what I can get.
Oh, and commiserations to fellow Otherlegger Andrew, who got canned – er, I mean, accepted a redundancy offer last week. Actually, he really doesn’t sound that broken up about it, and as he will probably be able to take the opportunity to go skiing during his hiatus from paid employment, I feel more jealous than anything else. And it sounds like his party was a big success as well, so it’s good to see that he’s taking it on the chin.
Thursday, August 23, 2001
Ever so slightly woozy
Commenced the morning with a bracing motorcycle journey to the Deep South of Woden to have my essential juices extracted at the Blood Bank. I am one of those odd people who, above and beyond any sense of social responsibility and duty, actually kind of enjoys the whole vampiric process.
Obviously I’m not particularly afflicted by the inclination towards body horror that a lot of people have about sharp metal things sliding about under their skin (and voila, I probably just nauseated at least two or three people). For another thing, the low frequency of visits (donors are required to allow at least ten weeks to fully recover after a visit) means that it’s never that much of an imposition.
Mainly though, I keep going back because the equation is tipped in my favour. Man, all you have to do is lie on a couch for fifteen minutes and chat with a nurse, and they’ll give you biscuits and bring you a cuppa and tell you you’re a boon to civil society! I cannot recommend highly enough the euphoric sensation that comes of a combination of slightly smug self-satisfaction, gratification through positive reinforcement, and blood loss.
Tuesday, August 21, 2001
Was today the inspired and grateful recipient – along with several hundred colleagues – of a visit from our illustrious Minister for Clarifying Australia’s Position. How fortunate that I remembered to wear pants.
About the most I can say for this year’s Address to the Increasingly Small, Frustrated and Overworked Employee Body of AusAID is that staying up late to watch the cricket last night allowed me to tiredly screen out most of what was said. I did manage to catch one bit though: in what is increasingly becoming a theme, Mr Downer was again asked a pointed question about the hilarious Public Service Efficiency Dividend (an innovative little scheme whereby the annual budget of every PS agency is cut by 1% each year, supposedly as increasingly efficient processes for doing the actual work are developed. This scheme, originally introduced as a once-off revenue-saving measure during that Recession Nobody Really Needed to Have, is now in its 12th big year. It does not, I submit, take a genius to observe the fundamental flaw in this idea…). He responded with surprising glibness that he did not see a lack of resources and staff causing problems in getting things done, therefore nothing would, in all likelihood, be done to change the situation.
The only logical interpretation to this response is to assume that resources will continue to dwindle until something Really Big and Important falls over because there wasn’t sufficient time or money or people to handle it. Unfortunately, when that happens – and it’s utterly inevitable, especially given the often crisis-driven nature of aid delivery – I’m guessing that neither the Minister or anyone else in the Government will be owning up to the blame.
I am moved to observe, not for the first time, that politicians suck.
Monday, August 20, 2001
And again, Lexifab goes a solid week without an update. And still the repairs to the site that I have been planning for three months haven’t quite been done yet, either. But enough of my numerous shortcomings.
This was actually a pretty busy week in the middle of a storm of busy weeks (the one that’s just started as I type this is shaping up to be more so). Mostly the elevated chaos levels are due to the fact that I finally have a definite starting date for the Philippines Section (3 September, just one short fortnight away) and I have to commit to a working frenzy in order to get my work affairs in a fit state to hand over to my Appointed Successor. Idly pushing paper around while thinking about roleplaying as usually do all day isn’t really an option at the moment: depending on whether my new job is actually engaging and stimulating, it may never be an option again. I’m not holding my breath, though.
Thursday: Anyway, the multitude of minor things that need accomplishing before I can move on with a (relatively) clear conscience was not helped on Thursday by our Section planning day. This was one of those affairs routinely lampooned in Dilbert, complete with Facilitator Fluent Only in Management Babble and a CD compilation of uplifting classical pieces (The 1812 Overture, Spring from the Four Seasons, Pachabel’s Canon, nothing remotely surprising…) and Deep Forest. Endless repetition of the words “strategic” and “paradigm” and exhortations to “think outside the box”. Normally, my tolerance threshold for this sort of gibbering banality is pretty high, but for some reason this time I was in no mood for it. I may have inadvertently conveyed the impression that I was possessed of a negative disposition, I think. The inference I would have preferred everyone to make is that they should sit the fuck down and get on with some sodding planning, but I must have been too subtle or something.
Friday: Or “party until you literally drop” day, notable chiefly for our after-work attendance at a cocktail party (compliments of Fiona’s dad, who left his business card in the bottle at the recently-refurbished next door pub and won a booze up), dinner at our favourite Chinese restaurant (try the Shantung Chicken!) and then on to a farewell party for Jeremy and Beth, who are headed off to PNG at the end of the week. Jeremy’s won a Posting in the Great AusAID Lottery and will spend the next three years in Port Moresby’s sunny climes. It was fun catching up with quite a few people who don’t work for AusAID any more (honestly, this place gives GBRMPA a run for its money in pissing staff off until they leave…) but Fi and I were both nearly dead by the end of the evening. I miss the stamina of my youth...
An aside: Jeremy and Beth’s departure, combined with the recent defection to Perth of Adam and Elissa (not mentioned heretofore in these electronic pages because – er, well, I keep forgetting), has dealt a serious blow to the future of the Moscow Mules, our social dinner-and-cocktails club. At the moment we’re down to four regulars, some distance short of the requisite eight. If you think you have what it takes to be a witty and erudite dinner companion, are able to produce meals to fit an increasingly stretched range of themes and can consume garishly-hued vodka-based beverages with impunity, let us know.
Saturday: After an afternoon coffee or two at Tilley’s (Canberra's premiere candidate venue for any hypothetical “Friends in Australia” specials), we had another farewell dinner on Saturday night, this time for Meagan. She and Frances are heading down to Hobart on Friday for a six-month trial, and this was the last chance for most of her friends to see her. It was a great night, and we had a whip-around that raised more than $500 towards the “Buy Meagan a Decent Helmet” fund, which was beyond all expectations. She really does surround herself with the most loving and generous people. She’s gone on a shopping expedition today – I’m looking forward to seeing the results (and hopefully I will soon have a copy of the photo of her new head tattoo that Rob took – it looks great!)
Today: Rob's off to Sydney and Newcastle today, bumming around and visiting Brother Nathaniel-nee-Noel (apparently Noel's changed his name, but the explanation I got doesn't make too much sense to me, so you're probably better confirming the facts for yourself if you're interested). Sayonara, Gaijin Rob! I promise to try and crash your place in Tokyo sometime in the future!
And now I must work. Hurrah!
Monday, August 13, 2001
More words about bathrooms
No, no, I swear it’s not an unhealthy obsession, me talking about bathroom fixtures and renovations and such all the time. Well, okay, it probably is, but every week or so, something new develops in the saga, so at least it’s something to talk about. We got in the long-awaited two quotes required to try to wring some money out of the insurance company, so we’re now hopeful that they will cough up the cost of repairs to the floorboards and tiles ruined by the leaking toilet cistern and ground-floor ceiling. And yes, we are eternally grateful to the Powers That Be that it was just the cistern that was leaking insidiously for months on end into a Arrakis-style subsurface lake, and not anything else.
On the weekend we went back to Harvey Norman, changed our minds about some of the wall fittings we’d selected, added a bath to the list, and then carted home all of the things that had already arrived. Oh, and spent nearly three grand, so yet another Negative Earning Day in the big cash account book of life. I am reliably informed that most house-owning days are much the same.
Our man in Nippon Tech
Rob Small got in yesterday. It was only just yesterday, mind – his train from Sydney, due at twenty past ten, was delayed about an hour and a half. It was just as well that the train terminal had a TV on, playing the “Making of the Planet of the Apes” special. It was funny watching Michael Clarke Duncan stiffly and unconvincingly delivering some of the worst “cheerful off-the-cuff patter” I have ever witnessed. Of course, he was recording the special during the daily four-hours-starting-at-five-in-the-morning makeup ritual, so you couldn’t have expected him to be at his best. Of course, neither was I - it was after 11 at night and I was alone at a train station except for about thirty taxi drivers who arrived with three minutes of each other. Like extras in the Car Park of the Damned, they were all just standing out there in the cold smoking cigarettes and barely making eye contact with each other. Odd. Creepy.
Anyway, Rob, who’s been in Japan for the last two or so years (if I recall correctly, he left Townsville shortly after I did) is back in the country for a visit and to catch up. I had been under the mistaken impression that he was bringing his girlfriend Sumii (oh, yeah, I just know I spelled that wrong) but she wasn't there. At least, I hope she wasn’t. Oh well.
I dropped Rob off at my ex-house in Torrens, but it was too late to hang around and catch up with him as I had planned (lousy trains!) so I will have to wait until we go see the Apes after work tomorrow. And I’m taking Wednesday off, possibly so that we can sappily reminisce about our roleplaying glory days* with a quick game of Torg!
* That’s a pun, son. Enjoy, I say enjoy it.
Wednesday, August 08, 2001
Back due to Public Demand!
Okay, okay, so Lexifab has not been updated in a week, hypothetically generating a rumourstorm of concern about the state of my health. Whereas in fact as anyone could have guessed I have just been totally slack. No mystery here, move along please.
Down four wheels
After some six months of trying on and off to sell my car and get a decent price for it, we finally cracked this week and took it to a car yard. In the beginning of the process back in February, Fiona’s uncle - who owns a secondhand dealership - assured us that no reputable dealer would take a Hyundai Excel more than 5 years old. He was right; we were forced to go to the second tier of reputability, also known as the Arfur Daley Level, before we found someone that would take my (more or less) beloved motor.
Naturally, we got a price about two grand less than we should theoretically have been able to charge through a private sale. But after so many months of people promising that they would come around at a certain time, then showing up on a different day if they showed up at all, then not even bothering to haggle much less buy the thing, in the end we just surrendered and flogged it for what we could get. I might add that I would have gotten roughly four times as much if I’d just written the car off in traffic, but apparently insurance fraud is considered poor form in some circles. It's a burden, being so virtuous
Wednesday, August 01, 2001
was the name of last night's Buffy finale*, and I am really not sure how I feel about it. (This will be spoiler-free, in case anyone who's reading this somehow missed it last night). On the one hand, the acting was top-notch, especially from Sarah Misery Gellar and Alyson Best in Show Hannigan (and even Clare Everybody Wishes My Character Wasn't The Annual Villain Because I Suck So Hard Kramer managed not to irritate the hell out of me for the first time all season). It had some beautifully-timed larfs - especially the last two seconds - and some pretty good fu, and it dovetailed the themes and character development of the season nicely...
It was like being served a meal just big enough to keep you from being hungry, but not really substantial enough to satisfy. Like getting an excellent fresh salad when what you really wanted was an okay burger with the lot. Then again, maybe I just don't know what I want, but I do know that this more or less wasn't it. Or was it?
Anyway, it pretty much had it all over the fair-but-undistinguished wrap episode of Angel. Except for the last two seconds of that, which was just magnificent. I'll say this for the Whedon School of Television Production, they really know their endings: a joke, an exchange of glances, a Startling Revelation and then BANG! Cut to credits. I love that shit.
* and not sodding "final" as the Prime Television announcer, whom we have dubbed Inflection Girl, keeps bloody calling it.
Ghastly State of Anticipation
Have been feeling oddly out of sorts these past couple of weeks, and I think I've finally managed to put my finger on what's up in my brain. I'm at one of those sort-of-troughs in life when nothing is happening right now but things are About To Happen. I'm a few weeks away from starting a new job, bathroom renovations can start when we have some money from selling the car, Meagan is about to leave...but right at the moment is that slightly uncomfortable period of anticipation before things change. As I type this I'm reminded (as is my fanboy wont) of the great monologue at the end of Season 3 of Babylon 5:
It was the end of the Earth year 2260, and the war had paused, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.
G'Quon wrote: There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities; it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope. The death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always paved in pain.
Well, it sounds better than it reads, but it does sort of sum things up for me right now: mired down in a big-arsed Moment of Transition.
Or I could just be really, really tired. That's probably it.