Monday, December 24, 2001
Oh, is that the time?
Obviously I have once again slumped into a miasma of dereliction, which I will now correct with the following explosively important updates.
Did you know it's Christmas?
Well, nearly, anyway. We will once again be doing the lunch thing with Fiona's family, followed by a get-together with Linda and the boys (and Audrey, Linda's mum) afterwards. Looking forwards more to the latter, although there's no particular reason for thinking that the former will be all that bad.
Did you get that card from me?
I'd be surprised if you did, on account of how this year I've been slacker than ever observing the rituals of the festive season. No cards, practically no presents bought. Don't feel slighted if I've done absolutely nothing for you. You're far from being the only one. I don't remember ever being this non-committal about Christmas, even in my grinchiest moods.I think it might be to do with the fact that all of the things I'm really looking forward to – The Lord of the Rings, our trip to the Gold Coast, the WIMA AGM – are all happening after Christmas this year. On top of that, I've volunteered to be at work for the duration of the break (from now until the end of next week, the public service is effectively dead as a doornail, not counting silly masochistic buggers like myself) so it really doesn't feel that much like the holiday season at all. Mind you, this past weekend, when Fiona and I did just enough work to make sitting around eating ice cream and watching old episodes of Now and Again
seem acceptable, was better than most holidays I've had, so maybe I should forget about the yuletide season and just concentrate on having good weekends. Eh, whatever.
So what are my feelings at the end of 2001? Well, some stuff happened that I could have done without, and some other stuff happened that went pretty well, all things considered. Whattaya want for a single mouse click, profundity? Dear oh dear, you'd be better off looking here, home of the most laughable quote on the internet.
Monday, December 17, 2001
Office Christmas party
It's that time of the year again. Friday was the annual AusAID variety show booze-up. In spite of a couple of very good satirical acts directed at unsurprising targets (the so-called "Pacific solution"*, our much-vaunted Strategic Plan etc etc), I just couldn't be bothered getting into the mood of it all. I have a few good friends at work, and quite a few more people who I'll happily stand around chatting to, but somehow the effort required for sociable behaviour towards everyone else I came across just wouldn't come, so I bailed. Besides, Jacqui and Bruce were coming over for dinner, so I had an excuse. Jacks is leaving for a month of spiritual sightseeing in India and Nepal today, so this was our last chance to catch up with her before she disappears.
Saturday I spent at ANU trying (again, unsuccessfully) to get into the spirit of fraternity with the Canberra roleplaying community at the annual Phenomenon gaming convention. Even with relatively low numbers – I didn't ask, but it didn't look as though there were any more than a hundred or so people there tops – the organisation managed to be chaotic and the organisers befuddled by the simplest requests. I didn't go on Friday night, but apparently some of the others got landed with a crap DM who didn't really know the rules or the adventure, and so an unfun time was had by all. I went to two sessions on Saturday, one moderated by a decent DM but with a mediocre adventure, the other by a fervent but rather inattentive DM running a frustrating and pointless adventure. It certainly seemed a far cry from the heady days of Cancons we came all the way from Townsville for in the mid-90's. Not entirely a waste of time, but not that remarkable either.
The games I joined were part of the RPGA Living Greyhawk campaign , a worldwide D&D game broken up into regional clubs which allows participants to engage in competitive – or at least comparable – roleplaying experiences. Comparable in that if you compare two characters of roughly similar experience levels, they're most likely both going to have playing through many of the same adventure modules. However, even allowing for the small sample size to which I have so far been witness, most of these modules appear to have been written by cretins and edited by chimps. I have almost (but not quite) resolved to write one myself, just because I can't possibly do any worse of a job than the ones I've seen to date. I have only my own laziness - and the fact that I should really be pouring what creative enegies I have into producing a cover for the Spit album – stopping me.
In a vague, hand-waving attempt to take advantage of Canberra's bounteous cultural resources, Fiona and I went to the National Library yesterday to see the Treasures exhibit. If you live here, go see it. It has the most amazing pieces, from a tattered scrap of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to a Sumerian (or was it Babylonian?) cuneiform tablet, a 3000 year old page from the Book of the Dead – and that's just the ancient stuff. There's Mozart's original notation for his Requiem, Einstein's relativity essay (he has surprisingly neat handwriting for someone whose hair always seemed dishevelled), Jane Austen's manuscript for Persuasion. The list goes on and on.
Did I tell you to go see it already? Well, again – go see it. It's free, for one thing.
* Is it just me, or does this have the air of "Final Solution" about it. Unintentional, I'm sure.
Thursday, December 13, 2001
Reports from Planet Sydney
I haven't updated Lexifab in a while, in breathless anticipation of all the things I would be able to talk about after my exciting road trip to Sydney. And good golly, stuff actually happen, sometimes even while I was there to see it… But first, a quick update from the weekend's cricket: we lost again. Luckily, you needn't worry about getting any more of these depressingly consistent reports again for a while. The competition goes on hiatus over Christmas, and by the time the games resume I will be on the Gold Coast at Ian and Sonia's place. I won't get to play again until late February, and that will be the last one of the season (unless the nigh-impossible happens and the team manages to squirm into the semis somehow). I think I'll be rather happy to put this season behind me – looking back through the scorebook from last year, I was getting a few wickets with the ball and a few runs with the bat, which is more than I can say for the four matches I've had since October…
The peerless moderator of the sublime online space-horror game Cryptic Drifter and host of Otherleg.com had a birthday this week. Sadly, though I was making one of my infrequent visits to Sydney, I failed miserably to catch up with her at the time, and so must pass on my regards for Tuesday's celebrations with digital remoteness. Damn the tyranny of distance, especially where Sydney traffic is involved. Sorry, Amanda. Hope you had a good day!
They Might Be Goddamn Huge!
Der Simonster, Lindorr and I joined Mister Toad and Andrew (who doesn't have a funny nickname) at the Metro on Tuesday night for what turned out to be an absolutely fantastic They Might Be Giants concert. The beers were overpriced and The Titanics, who were one of the warm up acts (the other one was just missing altogether), were a little disappointing*, but all of that was swept away the second the Johns took to the stage. Without going into excrutiating detail, allow me to mention the following highlights:
- They played Fingertips, beggaring my supposition that this song from Apollo 18 is irreproducable outside a studio (it's twenty-odd separate song fragments strung together). Andrew was especially pleased, since it was his pick for "song you'd most like them to play which they probably won't". Mine was Mammal, which they didn't play, but they made up for it with Birdhouse in Your Soul and a completely rocked-out version of The Guitar. Oh, and the song about the worm.
- They had a great bit where they tuned into the local radio and tried to play along with whatever happened to be on. One of the first things they got was Radio National, where the announcer was saying "…and that was a selection from Cosi fan tutti - at which point the guitarist began playing the main theme. Next up they actual managed to get something recognisable – Teenage Dirtbag , by someone or other that I couldn't care less about - which they could actually play along to, to loud applause. And then they got something that was maybe Indonesian or Indian…which they accompanied to the tune of Teenage Dirtbag.
- Three encores! They left Istanbul until the final one. From the crowd reaction, they'd have had a riot if they didn't play it somewhere in there.
I had a great time. We had a great spot, up on a balcony back and to the left of the stage, with a full view of the band and the audience, and about five metres from the bar. The Johns have tremendous charisma and a great stage presence, and for a geek band that features piano-accordian in about half their songs, they really know how to rock out. No, really.
Wandered about Darling Harbour with Simon for most of the morning while Linda went off to meet with an internet buddy, then headed down to Newtown where They Might Be Giants were making a store appearance and signing "crumpled up bits of paper until they're all gone". Simon and I got there an hour before they were due to start, then made the mistake of wandering around the shops for a while rather than grab a spot and wait. By the time we got back we were pretty much too far from the back of the store to see the two Johns. They must have managed to pack like a hundred plus nerds in that place. Caught the occasional glimpse and could hear everything, so it wasn't that bad. We decided to take off rather than line up for a signature though. Simon said he saw some guy in line with a toaster for the band to sign, which I thought was a halfway cool idea. If I'd remembered to bring my toaster, I'd have wanted TMBG to sign it.
Laid off at last
When we finally got back to Andrew and Anna's place to pick up our gear, Anna was taking delivery of a couple of pretty cool bookshelves. I only mention that because the furniture was delivered in a truck that the driver/owner claims made an appearance in The Matrix. I have yet to rewatch it to verify this claim.
Just before we were about to leave, Andrew called through to let Anna know that he finally got his one month's notice from Baltimore, the IT company he works for. He's been waiting for the axe to fall for quite a few weeks, so it's come as a distinct relief to know he won't be there after mid-January. He's anxious to be over and done with the deadline stress he's been under and apparently he has lots of stuff planned for the five or so months he's scheduled for unemployment. I'd be jealous of his free time, but he'll undoubtedly fill it with a staggering amount of film production and writing and God only knows what else, because he is so inhumanly energetic I get tired even thinking about it.
* Emma Tom was nowhere to be seen, damnit! What did I pay good money for?**
** Oh, right, TMBG. And Dave from Custard plays a pretty mean power guitar solo, so it wasn't a complete loss.
Wednesday, December 05, 2001
Oh yeah, here's a present
Anyone looking for that perfect good-taste festive season gift need look no further than the bottom of Atlas Games' homepage. Hail Mary, full of grace.
Once was lost, but two days later am found
Well, I've managed to get over my not-quite-annual fit of anti-work paranoid depression. I'm still not greatly enthusiastic for my chosen profession but fortunately I at least seem to have gotten past my crippling attack of the don't-wannas*. Thanks to Mistah Dean and ChrisT** for their sage advice, and to my beloved for putting up with my self-pitying shit.
However, I still think it would be keen to be a chef or work in a vineyard.
Worship the comic
Andrew already mentioned it over at Lexifab's sibling column Otherblog, but I thought it worthwhile to echo his endorsement of Sluggy Freelance as the greatest of all web comics***. Sure, Pete Abrams isn't really that great an artist, and the individual gags are often pretty corny or lame or forced, but his characters are beautifully designed and his storylines smoke some serious crack.**** Just make sure you start with the archives and work your way forward. There's four or so years of backstory and it's worth following from the beginning rather than trying to jump in on the current strip.
This is, by the way, exactly what I would be aiming to achieve if I ever get around to drawing a regular comic strip (although knowing me it would have more words and smaller pictures, to disguise my own sub-Abrams artistic abilities). Fear the future.
* AKA Star Wars Episode 3
** Who would probably really appreciate one of those T-shirts I mentioned a second ago.
*** Or if not, then at least one of the longest lived. And probably the only one in which anyone regularly turns into a camel.
**** In a good way.
Monday, December 03, 2001
Wanted: alternate career
Well, the gloss is off the new job after only ten or so weeks and already I'm starting to think that I should be doing something else with my life. I've noticed myself going through the doldrums at work before, of course – days and weeks when I've just felt listless and unenthusiastic and like I really just couldn't be bothered doing even the simplest tasks – but never so soon after starting a new position. And it's not as if it's even bad work. There should be plenty about it to keep me interested and motivated, but instead I just seem to spend the bulk of my days lately staring off blankly into space, writing emails to people and generally not achieving much. And then when I think about how much I'm not doing, I make myself feel almost physically ill. It doesn't feel like stress, I'm not really under any particular pressure, but with each passing day I find myself becoming less and less engaged in what I'm doing. Strangely, I think it started becoming more acute just after I got out of the interview last week which, although it went well, seems to have triggered off a serious case of "What do you want to do with your life?"
The trouble is, I still don't have an answer. I really feel like I ought to by now.
True crime stories
Somebody broke into the house about midnight on Friday night. Somewhat embarrassingly, I was awake at the time and heard noises coming from downstairs, but didn't get up in time to interrupt them. Sure, the noises were suspicious, but we live in half of a duplex, and it's often difficult to tell exactly where a noise is coming from. By the time I'd decided that there was definitely movement on our side of the wall, I dragged my sorry arse out of bed and heard the door swing shut just as I made it to the stairs. Nobody in sight of course. Checked around and saw that they'd pushed out the insect screen and unlatched the security door through the mesh, which is difficult but not impossible to do if you've locked the latched manually instead of using the key, as we had. D'oh!
They didn't take much, if anything. My wallet was on the table downstairs and may or may not have had $20 in it, but apart from that one hypothetical note everything was there. My $200+ engagement watch was still sitting next to it on the table, so obviously they were only interested in cash. Which is just as well, because I'd have been very upset if it had gone missing.
We didn't bother calling the police, on the grounds that there was absolutely nothing they could have done and anyway I wasn't certain that anything had been taken and besides I wanted to go to sleep. But we have taken it as a sign to be a bit more security-conscious with the locks and not leave valuable lying about downstairs. Fiona's actually not too unhappy because Dickson is supposed to have one of the higher crime rates in Canberra, and this is the first time that anyone's tried to break in*.
* Except for the time Lou smashed in a window because she was too drunk to work out where she'd dropped her keys, but that's another story.