Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Because, of course, you meet the most interesting people on public transport…
It took me an hour to complete the ten-minute bus ride home yesterday afternoon, due to an outburst by the mental patient with a Russian accent (I'm not being mean there – she really was and it really was) in the seat across the aisle from me. It was one of those wonderfully uncomfortable public scenes where you really want to say something to calm things down, but you just know whatever you do you'll make things worse. In the end the driver handled it well, making himself the focus of her attention and finally talking her into leaving (it didn't much look like she was ever going to calm down).
I should have walked.
Had my interview for a round of promotions first thing this morning. Half written test, half amiable chat that occasionally strayed onto the topic of international development, it went pretty much as well as could be expected. I always figure it's a good sign when you don't walk out of an interview and immediately think of three or four things you should have said. I could have done with another ten minutes on the written exercise, but when I mentioned that in the interview the response was "Everyone says that", so I guess that will be okay as well.
I feel pretty non-committal about this whole deal though. I really do want to be paid more, because I have a wedding, honeymoon and mortgage all demanding that huge wads of cash be thrown at them. On the other hand, I'm pretty happy doing what I'm doing, and AusAID has this astonishingly counterproductive attitude towards people it promotes which boils down to "You will go where we tell you to go or quit". If I do end up getting up in the round, I could end up getting dumped in some program I have less than zero interest in. Meh. Well, there's still the obstacle of the other 27 people they interviewed to clear yet, so it may never become an issue, and even if it does I probably won't hear anything until January or February.
John informed me this afternoon that he's begun organising a roleplaying/wargaming convention at Questacon over the weekend of 22-23 June next year. He mentioned this as if it were some casual undertaking and not a mindbending administrative nightmare that would fibrillate the sanity of the hardiest Canberra PA. He apparently suffers from acute dauntlessness. As if that weren't enough, the names of convention guests he's looking to invite would be familiar even outside gaming circles. (Since none of them have responded yet, I'll refrain from naming names. Suffice to say my jaw did some major dropping).
I don't have any details yet, but if you're interested in coming down to Canberra around that time (my birthday's the following week, so come on down and we'll make a party of it) let me know and I'll make sure you're kept up to date.It'll be huge!
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Took Friday off to catch up on housework and the Hobart test match, but ended up not spending too much time in front of the TV (I didn't miss much, though, since rain interrupted play yet again). Went to a Thai restaurant for a co-worker's farewell lunch at noon, then gadded about Woden with Linda and Simon buying her a birthday present (Peter F. Hamilton's latest monster paperback, Fallen Dragon), then picked up Fi and went to dinner at Rama's for Linda's birthday. Ate a lot, drank a fair bit, felt quite stuffed, in other words.
Saturday was interesting. Our regular Sunday afternoon gaming group formed a team to "compete" in the regular RPGA Canberra Games Day event. As a new of seven new members with established ties, I suspect we may have intimidated the organisers a bit. John, who did most of the talking to them, got the impression we were looking to take over the club or whatever. Actually, I just wanted a good game, to meet some new gamers and then go out to the pub with my friends, but it's in the nature of cliques to be paranoid, I guess. Perhaps as a snub or perhaps because they couldn't get anyone else, our DM turned out to be relatively new to gaming and very much a novice moderator who had not yet had a chance to read the adventure. Not a promising start. Despite that, and the fact that the adventure was (a) a sequel to another one that we had not played and (b) designed for more experienced characters, we nevertheless got through it without losing anyone or reducing the DM to quivering bloody sushi.
My impressions of the D&D 3rd Edition system was not improved much, although I have fewer quibbles with it than "old school" John. I'd like to give it a few more sessions, preferably with a more experienced moderator who knows the rules better (it will help once we know them better as well). Our next chance to do the RPGA thang will be at thePhenomenon con in mid-December, so I guess we'll know when we know.
After dinner and a quick trip with the rest of the gang to my favourite pub, the Wig & Pen, Fiona and I went to dinner with Jackie and Bruce at the Australian Pizza Kitchen. My verdict? If you must eat pizza (and I agree that in today's topsy-turvy world, sometimes you must) then eat it there. They make unbelievably good pizzas.
Sunday, I'd been eating all weekend and didn't feel up to another marathon roleplaying session, so I ducked out on the games and slobbed about the house. Yay for slobbing! Got out The Mexican, starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Mini review: Good without being great, though James Gandolfini puts in a good performance and it's fantastic to see Bob Balaban's still working. Two questions: (a) why bill it as a Pitt and Roberts "together for the first time" when they're only in two scenes together, and (b) why doesn't anyone get in trouble for all the murders that take place? Here's a what the Brunching Shuttlecocks critic had to say about it, anyway.
Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Oh, and the soccer...
Just wanted to note that I actually watched the Socceroos' qualifying match against Uruguay last night. This is either an instance of my growing sense of national pride in our sporting accomplishments or once-and-for-all-indisputable evidence that Tuesday night TV really sucks outside ratings season.
More on RPGA
Apparently our roleplaying group (still no web page to link to, Master Abernethy? What's that all about, eh?) will be attending a monthly RPGA event, the Canberra Games Day, this weekend, although I still don't quite know where or when. Seeing as RPGA events are semi-competitive (fun and laughs being all very good in their place but of a necessity taking a back seat to success in the fields of financial acquisition and bloodletting) we've been coordinating to ensure that we have as lethal and effective a group of characters as the rules will allow. Thankfully, John has done the right thing by the rest of us and taken the cleric. This is usually a thankless role that invariably involves doling out healing spells to one's companions while delivering sanctimonious sermons about the dangers of recklessness or impiousness or whatever, while everyone else gets to hit monsters and explode things with magic.
From what I've been able to determine, the campaign world that the RPGA runs is a fairly low-powered, lethal sort of affair, so we will have to be on our toes to avoid getting our characters killed. Our strategy for coping with that is to leave all the thinking to Trudi, who has quite remarkably good listening and analysis skills (thanks to years of gaming with John, is my guess) and puts the rest of us, with our half-arsed "instincts" in the shade. The way I figure it, we keep her character alive and the rest of us stand a much better chance of walking out in one piece. We just have to keep Greg from doing too much of the talking...(This first quote from Futurama applies. Go on, prove me wrong).
Hmm, looks like I haven't updated Lexifab in over a week. Clearly I must have been kidnapped by UFOs and replaced with a less-conscientious simulacrum sometime around last Monday. That's the only credible explanation.
It's just shame that Robot Me can't play a better game of cricket. Our third match and our third defeat for the season, this time at the hands of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Yet another batting collapse left us with an undefendable score to defend. For a while it actually looked like we were going to win, with a very aggressive bowling and fielding attack that left them in tatters, but in the end they just didn't have to get that many runs and they did it easily. It was all over with two hours to spare. I didn't bowl and I lasted three very underwhelming balls at the crease, but I did contribute at least once, with a very fast return from the boundary straight over the stumps that ended in a run out. Unfortunately the victim was not the danger batsman, but it was still a very satisfying moment in an otherwise pretty ordinary match.
I don't think this result quite means that we're out of semi-finals contention, but if not we're on wood – one more loss will cut our season short by two weeks next year. We have one more match before Christmas, and after that I'll be missing a couple of games when I head north to visit Ian and Sonia and the new baby, so my season is already all but finished. I think I'd better try to raise some interest in a season of indoor over winter. I need the batting practise!
Imminent occasion alert!
Tomorrow is Linda's 30th birthday, huzzah! Say goodbye to those reckless, careless fancy-free twenties of your youth, Mizlinda! Say hello to responsibility, propriety and – who am I kidding? She's just rediscovered her inner thirteen year old, to judge by recent alarming developments in her musical preferences! (Google Master Dave demonstrates his mastery of Google Fu by returning over 30,000 sites with the words N'Sync and hate in them, including this one and this one. Gosh, aren't they illiterate?). Happy birthday Mizlinda!
Monday, November 12, 2001
Weekend Blues: Blue 1 – Rally
The motorcycle rally wasn't quite the success that the club had hoped for. In spite of the gloriously clear and warm weather, numbers were seriously down. In fact it was the worst attended year in the Caves Rally's 13-year history. In the somewhat forlorn analysis sessions (i.e. Saturday night, when we would ordinarily be frenetically barbequing for upwards of a hundred hungry bikers, but this time around had fed them all in about twenty minutes) we ascribed the low attendance to the spectacularly inaccurate weather forecasts of rain and storms, to last year's rally when the weather really was rain and storms, to John-bloody-Howard calling the election when we already had the weekend booked.
On a positive personal note, I had a very relaxing weekend away. It doesn't quite make up for WIMA ACT's financial bludgeoning, but it made a nice change for me.
Weekend Blues: Blue 2 – Election
Goddamn! I really, really dislike the current Australian government. I find them spiritless, mean, unimaginative and representative of the most uncomfortably regressive aspects of the Australian character, the grinches of our better nature wrought large and grey. Imagine my joy, tuning in the radio to catch the (rained out) fourth day of the Test against New Zealand only to be informed that I would be able to enjoy the democratic privilege of disliking them for another three years. Big thanks to the slack-jawed yokel population of Australia for permitting Honest John and that foaming mongrel dog Ruddock to persuade them that a few thousand economic refugees (admittedly not necessarily the neediest asylum-seekers in the world) constitute an immediate threat to our way of life necessitating a fiery media beatup. Especially when roughly 60,000 tourists who have arrived in the country legally and just not left again apparently do not.
Not that this is the only matter over which I take issue with the blandly conservative, blithely ignorant Australian populace and their smug, intolerant, dissembling government*. It's just the one that's pissing me off this week.
(Could you tell?)
* which ironically employs me.
Friday, November 09, 2001
Motorbikes and mud and lots of both
This weekend is the annual ACT WIMA (Women's International Motorcycle Association) Caves Rally at Wee Jasper, out back o' Yass. Fiona's one of the leading lights of the club (Meagan used to be, but she moved to Tassie, presumably to get out of helping set up the tents), so it's become an annual event for us. Last year was an absolute washout – it rained all weekend, and everything was liberally covered in mud by the end. This year doesn't look like being any less inclement. Fortunately bad weather doesn't seem to bother most of the regulars, who rock up in their dozens (70-80 in a bad year, more if there's actually some sunshine on offer) to participate in such enlightened activities as the handbag toss, the condom-filled-with-water-throwing competition and, well, drinkin'. Mostly the latter. Oddly enough, in spite of all the work I end up getting put to, I usually have quite a good time…
So, I've sent off my application to join the Roleplaying Gamers Association, at the encouragement of Johnathon, the GM of our regular Sunday game. This will allow our gaming group – we recently voted ourselves the inoffensively vanilla name of Knights Below because our previous preference, the Authority-inspired Extinction Level Threat was deemed to be potentially upsetting in the leadup to a global war - to become an official affiliate of said association. I remain somewhat skeptical as to the benefits of such an association, but I have to admit that the Knights of the Dinner Table-esque twinkiness of competitive roleplaying occasionally appeals to me (though more often than not, I find it repellent in the extreme). And it might actually force me to go out and meet other people who like roleplaying, which is good.
For those who are counting…
…our bathroom work is still not finished. The shower still leaks. Need I add that we are wholly underwhelmed?
Oops! I accidentally agreed to do the cover art for the upcoming release of the fourth Spit album (entitled Nobody Likes a Smartarse, which as usual was a joke that everyone else took seriously, which I admit has a kind of thematic resonance for Spit). Since I have no ideas, I was hoping someone out there is Lexifab land would. Anyone sufficiently bored to make a few suggestions?
Thursday, November 08, 2001
It's payday today, but not for me, because I forgot my wallet. Strangely, I remembered my watch, my keys and my sunglasses, all of which sit in the same spot as my wallet.
There's probably a medical name for this condition.
Alms for Bats and Balls
AusAID's cricket team is having a bit of an equipment crisis after recently discovering that the majority of the bats in our kit belonged to our ex-captain, who left last month. The rest of our gear's looking pretty shabby as well. The casual cynic would probably observe that decent gear is wasted on us, given our string of losses to date, but the casual cynic can get knotted. Our fundraising efforts began today. Along with a couple of other team stalwarts (who all had convenient meetings to go to halfway through) I pushed a trolley laden with cakes about the place for a couple of hours this morning. Made about $200, which exceeded expectations by a nice margin but unfortunately still only equals about one bat. We may have our work cut out for us here…
Not feeling all that good since my trolley-pushing exercise. Might be something to do with not having eaten yet - "Yeah, yeah, tell it to five million Afghans, you wuss!" - or possibly the fact that about three of my work colleagues are grunting, hacking and coughing their way through the day. Either way, I think I might go home.
Wednesday, November 07, 2001
Slow Talkin’ Blog
There'd be a reason why I have updated Lexifab in about a week, and if you just give me a minute to think about it, I'll tell you what it is. Oh, who am I kidding? No I won't.
My latest roleplaying impulse buy is the new 1920's pulp-action game from White Wolf, Adventure! (Yes, the exclamation mark is included. Why wouldn't it be?) I'd never bought a White Wolf product before, despite quite liking aspects of the early versions of Vampire, Werewolf, Mage and Wraith (never even looked at Changeling). I always hated the "roll buckets of d10's and count the successes" system that much, but they've cleaned it up in recent years and now it's almost functional. It's a bit too early to tell whether I like Adventure! yet – it's a meaty tome, with a hell of a word count, which is sufficiently unusual these days to be a pleasant surprise – but so far I've liked what I've seen. And it doesn't hurt to have a bonus story by Warren Ellis (although it's not as good as either of the shorts by Greg Stolze, in my view). But let's face it, I can't get enough two-fisted action in exotic locations in my gaming diet, so I reckon it's time for Professor Electrode to unleash his Mechanical Apes on an unsuspecting Cinnamon City!
Weekend of the Damned
My future father-in-law had his 50th birthday on the weekend. All very crowded and enjoyable, except for some inter-sibling nastiness that got out of hand. As is to be expected the rest of the family (and me) got to play referee instead of having fun. The family get-together at Christmas looks like being not quite as much fun as a result. I'm just glad my brothers and I hardly ever fight like that any more (and that when we do we're at least able to apologise later). Life's too short to be fighting battles with family – that's what the rest of the world is for.
And on that note
Speaking of fighting with the rest of the world, I've been becoming increasingly pissed off with the blatant hypocrisy of the US in the last couple of months. They've managed to turn their national tragedy and justified grievance into yet another excuse to exercise mindless brutality, while ignoring their own government's culpability in the state of the world (I mean, hell, if an inarticulate meathead like Anthony Mundine can make the connection, surely anyone can). This essay does quite a nice job of articulating my problems with the current campaign, as well as detailing a few interesting points that I notice haven't made it into the mainstream media. Sadly, I doubt there'll be too much action on the author's "Domestic Chores" list, not while Shooty and Bang Bang Rumsfeld are livin' da vida loca.
Played the Foreign Affairs and Trade team, who can bat and bowl. Were comprehensively flogged. I was clubbed for 32 from three overs (including one where they took me for 16, including a four and six on successive balls), and only managed to knock 2 off a loose no ball before their very quick left-arm opener got my middle and leg stumps with a ball I barely even saw. Luckily, the two teams we've been beaten by now are usually the toughest competitors, so most of the rest of the games should be well within our capability. With a bit of luck and a lot more practise (Note to Self: Stop bowling accidental full tosses!) we should make it through to the semis in February.
…is starting to annoy me. They must have some sort of regular maintenance on Monday nights (Tuesdays here) which means that whenever I try to upload my rambling thoughts on a Tuesday, it always crashes and takes the text with it. Like yesterday. Fortunately I've learned to compose Lexifab offline, and to save my intellectual gems for when Blogger isn't suffering a grand mal seizure.
Melbourne Cup Update
My randomly-selected horse did not win. Go figure. Actually come to think of it, I don't remember hearing my randomly-selected horse mentioned even once in the entire race. Still, I did eat a lot of free chicken and drink wine at work all afternoon, so there is something to be said for the observation of cultural events.
Lexifab officially official!
The kind folks at PseudoDictionary.Com have conferred all the legitimacy of the internet upon my modest little word. Check it out and be amazed!