Friday, August 30, 2002
Revised estimate for the mathematically pedantic
Okay, so I can't count. I have four working weeks after this week. Fortunately, that looks just about do-able. Or to be more precise, I believe I can get everything sufficiently organised so that whoever gets landed with all my work will have the faintest hope of following what's going on.
Reality intrudes bizarrely
As I began to type in this blog (at my desk at work), Elvis came up and serenaded me with a medley of his greatest hits until I agreed to buy tickets to the staff happy hour raffle this afternoon.
I swear I have had no drugs stronger than soy sauce today.
If this happens again, though, I may have to.
Riddle me this, sword guy
My order for a new small-press roleplaying game called The Riddle of Steel just came in. It's billed as a sort of narrative-intensive low-fantasy game of the sort that 7th Sea might have been had the designers not gone the "wacky swashbuckling heroism" route. One of the interesting selling points is that it claims to have a realistic (and realistically deadly) combat system based on research of actual historical Western European fighting techniques. Since this sort of applied archaeological research is something I am passably acquainted with through the fencing club, I'm interested to see this game's take on it. I note that it bears the seal of approval of the respectable-for-Americans Association of Renaissance Martial Arts, for whatever that may be worth.
I'll believe it's a realistic combat system if I can have one character kill another one with a single blow from a quarterstaff. Any game that doesn't allow that - which includes nearly all of them, to date - can't claim to be realistic. Willy Garvin says so, and I believe him.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Work like a Navvy
I've never been too sure what that meant, although I recently gather from discussion about Ken Loach's recent depressing but brave movie about the pitiless and dispiriting life of the English working class The Navigators* (as opposed to all his other movies) that it's something to do with railway workers. Presumably at one time they were hard workers or something.
Where the hell was I? Oh yes, work. It's busy. We just worked out this morning that after this week Fi and I have just three working weeks left before we start the wedding/honeymoon break. Counting tomorrow, that's sixteen working days.
Allow me to pause here to reflect on just how boned I am.
There is so much work that I should be doing rather than writing this blog. In those sixteen days, I have to organise a team of consultants into the far wilds of a mountainous island in the southern Philippines, I have to amend three contracts, I have to draft an agreement between two governments outlining their respective responsibilities for a project I don't really understand, I have to implement the recommendations of that report to greatly expand another project and get the Departmental Secretary to sign off on it, and I have to buy a new pair of shoes.
None of this should concern you. I just find it easier to work off a list.
Frances and Meagan arrived from Tasmania last night and Meagie's back in her old room. Considering it's been just Fiona and I in the house for nearly a year, it's surprising just how easy and comfortable it was to have her back with us. It shouldn't be that surprising, obviously. Even at her crankiest ever, Meagan has always been pretty easy to get along with. But I expected to be more jealous of the space and privacy that we've become used to and to have to work through niggling little resentments that I would never admit to out loud. Ahem.
Instead it was the opposite. Admittedly it's only been one night and the next morning so far, but I've been constantly surprised by just how right it feels to have her back in the house. Not better or worse, but right.
Oh, and louder. But not in a bad way.
Game Over Man. Game Over.
I've finally bitten the bullet and decided to drop out of the Sunday D&D game. I've thought about it on and off for a long time, wrestling with a variety of concerns - the fact that sessions are twelve hours long, the fact that my preferred style of gaming clashes pretty comprehensively with the massive complexity of the setting and system and the emphasis on problem-solving over characterisation, the fact that the sessions are twelve hours long, the occasionally annoying way that spotlight time is treated as something to be competed for rather than shared equitably, the endless twelve hour fucking marathon sessions...
In the end it was that last one that killed it. I've been aware for a long while that Fiona is unhappy about never being able to plan to do things with the full weekend because I disappear for most of the second half of it. She didn't want to force the issue because she doesn't feel it's fair that I should give up something I want to do just to be with her. I didn't force the issue because in spite of the niggling problems I have always had with the style of the game, I've enjoyed playing a lot and have been resistant to the idea of abandoning a group that interacts so well together. Basically, why give up something that's working when it's so hard to find the right people to play with?
Well, because sooner or later, it's going to start affecting my marriage-to-be. I don't want Fiona to start feeling resentment about the fact that I am doing something fun and, by implication, that if she doesn't want to feel left out she should either join in or find something to occupy her. The former's not an option, because I know fundamentally that even if I can get her interested in roleplaying as a pastime (and I will, sooner or later) I know that she would never be interested in devoting the amount of time and energy that John's game takes. It took me two years before I had fully grasped how all the rules work (leaving aside the handful of additional rules that I know exist but have never had to directly learn). I still don't have more than a barely functional comprehension of the setting. I'd never encourage Fiona to put herself through that. Hell, if I'd know what to expect, I probably wouldn't have bothered to put in the effort myself.
Now she admits herself that she could find another hobby, but it's obvious to me that she does not have the same mindset as me with respect to hobbies. She likes to curl up and read a book or watch a movie or potter around the house. None of those things (to me) qualify as a hobby. The things that she does want to do, outside of work and home, involve long holidays and world travel, and equally can't be done every Sunday from lunch though to dinner time. Sports and other hobby-ish activities don't really hold her interest for a long time. She said it herself yesterday, she's not so much lazy as just conditioned to be "off" or "on". And when she's off, then bugger it, she's not going anywhere or doing anything. Hobbies aren't a diversion for her. They're just another thing that she has to be "on" for.
I'm different. My hobbies are pretty much the things that I value most in life (once all the basic necessities - including a stable relationship - are out of the way). I'm a dilettante. I like to dabble in a lot of things and have no real interest in becoming an expert in anything. I'm easily distracted and become jaded with new toys fairly quickly. I'm not so much "off" or "on" as "always running". Or "ambling", at any rate. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, my focus is never away from my hobby interests for very long.
What that means, on the flip side, is that I can pretty much away walk away from just about any interest without so much as a backward glance, if it's no longer fresh and shiny and new, or if something more important comes up. I recently stopped playing commercial PBM, probably forever, because I realised that I'd been going through the (fairly costly) motions for a while. And while I'm going through one of those phases of being really into the Sunday D&D game, I think now that I've actually made the decision, I can go through with it without any regrets.
Well, not many, anyway. It would have been sweet to actually *use* that magical super-lantern my character just got. Ah well. Them's the breaks.
Monday, August 26, 2002
To celebrate having been joined at the hip three years ago this month, Fi and I went to see George at the Canberra Theatre on Saturday night. They were, as you'd expect, absolutely fantastic. Apart from having a beautiful voice with a staggering range, Katie Noonan also appears to be a virtuoso pianist as well. For their encore, she came on and did a solo piece on the grand piano that was amazingly complex and gorgeous. Then the rest of the band came back on and invited the entire audience up on stage. They probably had about two hundred takers, which made the last couple of numbers fun. Especially when they realised that they couldn't see each other, and had to keep playing while they parted the crowd, so that they all knew when to stop playing. Another highlight was the acoustic "sitting around the campfire" schtick, featuring a hooter, a faux-Pogues shanty about Dublin (complete with crap Scots-Irish accents) and a version of The Church's "Under the Milky Way" that was might very well have been better than the original had they not made an unfortunate stab at audience participation during the chorus. (Well, at least I knew the words to that one, unlike most of their songs...)
Anyway, like I said, they were great and we had a fab time (it was a surprise for Fiona, and unlike many of my previous attempts to come up with thoughtful, personal surprise gifts, this one was actually both pleasing and a surprise. So that's it: I'm officially older and wiser. I'm as astonished as you are). but they would have been even better in a smaller, more intimate venue. They mentioned that they usually play in Tilley's about six time - which must have pissed off the theatre management - so if they come back next year and play there, we'll probably go and see them again.
The warmup act was interesting too. This guy named Shane Nicholson, who (a Google search reveals) used to be or still is the front man for Pretty Violet Stain, does a pretty mean Neil Finn impersonation, albeit probably not on purpose. He was really good, but I couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed that he only did original material, when it was obvious that what he really wanted to do was "Four Seasons in One Day".
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Dig the funk, baby
Just because I haven't stumbled across an insane and stunning website in a while. Say it with me - Awwww yeah! Shut yo' mouth.
You're older than you've ever been
ChrisT, who is now a resident of Canberra, turned a grey and withered 34 yesterday. He is now the proud recipient of a new scarf, though sadly he is still without nearly all of his other worldly possessions, which remain in a shed in Townsville somewhere, persistently uncollected by the movers. Quelle surprise.
He also got a DVD of Remembrance of the Daleks*, which is cool, because I'd really like to watch it again...
Yipe! Where did this workload come from?
Well, the last few weeks of daytime apathy and ennui have caught up with me. I discovered yesterday that instead of the two weeks I thought I had to get some contracts arrangements made, I actually should have made them a week ago. D'oh! Oh well, at least now I'm way too busy to be bored at work.
* How much pinker could this page get? Answer - none. None more pink.
Friday, August 16, 2002
They’ve paved paradise and put up a pergola
Well, not quite, but Phase 1 (aka tearing up the entire backyard with a bobcat and then laying down several slab of concrete) is now complete. In an attempt to increase the amount of living area in the house, we’re slowly converting the vast tracts of lawny wasteland out the back into an Outdoor Living Concept, complete with pergola and a garden of some sort (our planning process isn’t exactly holistic here). So far we’ve accomplished two slabs of patterned concrete (one for the pergola, one for the new clothesline) and one very big pile of dirt. And another very big pile of leaves, our yard being some sort of natural catchment basin for every leaf in Dickson.
Fiona’s hard at work on the next phase, building the pergola. In recent weeks, when we haven’t been haunting hardware stores getting arcane concepts like dynabolts and anti-squeak roofing tape explained to us, she’s been hunched over increasingly complex diagrams and columns of numbers. We’d have gone for a prefabricated kit, but they don’t quite come in the right shape or under the minimum specifications for requiring council approval (which any sane person tries to avoid, we’ve gathered from the horror stories).
The big test, of course, will be when we come to build it. Sure, we have access to all the necessary power tools, and a gang of highly trained relatives with extensive deck/pergola/gazebo building experience…but I still feel like this will kind of be the phase where the whole thing goes wrong. Really wrong, I mean. Amityville Horror wrong. But I’m always kind of pessimistic at the outset of major undertakings that involve careful measurement and beams of wood. It’s probably something I’ll need counselling on one of these days.
You want some science with that fiction?
So Mum’s doing some sort of writing degree or diploma by correspondence, and doing sickeningly well in the way that made me really come to hate all mature age students back when I was at Uni. But the latest essay topic has got her really stumped:
From Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein (1818) to the recent films Jurassic Park (1996), Gattaca (1997) and Godzilla (1998), science fiction writers have warned against, or played upon fears, of scientific meddling with life, or nature. What cultural anxieties do these films draw upon or invoke? How do you see cultural anxieties being played out in popular culture in other recent science fiction?
Naturally I immediately saw this for the trick question it was – Godzilla (1998) was clearly playing upon the cultural anxiety that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin had not put out a bloated, effects-driven dog of a movie, bereft of credible characters or anything resembling a script, for nearly two years. Fortunately I was able to run off five or six thousand words exposing this flaw in the question, which must have come as a great relief to Mum.
Just in case she needs a bit more material though, anyone who can actually think of any other recent movies or thoughts about them that might be faintly relevant (I considered and dismissed Minority Report, though I’d be interested in debating it), pass them on to Mum. But bear in mind that she hasn’t watched any science fiction (or anything, really) since the last time she was forced to sit through eight or nine successive viewings of Aliens in 89 or so.
It’s Gold! Gold! Gold! for AusAID!
I haven’t done an indoor cricket report for a while, mostly because nothing much ever changes (except for the nature of the injuries that I pick up). Last night was grand final night, however, so I thought it was worth mentioning in light of the fact that we were total and absolute winners! In your face, South Pacific Rugby Club: 119 to 114!
Actually, while it was nice to be on the winning side for once (and we deserved it – we played a bloody brilliant defensive game to protect a fairly mediocre effort with the bat), what I really wanted to raise was the fabulous polar fleece jumper I won for being in the winning team. Man, but it’s so much warmer and cuddlier than the tangle of chintzy trophies I picked up over the years playing in Townsville. Pity it’s about eight sizes too big for me (and about ten sizes too big for Fiona, who makes the argument that she should get to wear it too because she came along and watched the game) but it’s still pretty sweet.
Though it was perhaps not quite as cool as the jumper that one of my team mates picked up for the MVP award, which was bright yellow, and promptly got him nicknamed ‘Lance Armstrong’ (not very patriotic, but there you go. “Robbie McEwen” just doesn’t roll off the tongue when you’re on your fifth half-price jug).
ChrisT arrives tomorrow (Today now. Friggin' Blogger). Yay! Now I have one more person I can call as a sub if we’re short for indoor cricket…Oh, and of course it’ll be lovely to see him again. Ahem.
I still haven’t heard anything about getting the promotion I have supposedly been found suitable for, but then again I haven’t heard about anyone else getting one either. If my guess is right, I won’t hear anything before I go off on my honeymoon, and then there will be a run of placements while I’m out of contact. And of course, my absence will either stall the entire process, or they’ll just skip me and move on down the line to fulfil operational requirements. Or I’ll get back and find out that I’ve “won” a job in Contracts or Finance. It’s funny how little optimism I have that this promotion will mean anything positive apart from the salary increase.
Oh, wait. No, it isn’t.
Update - I heard yesterday that the queue was only about five or six people long, now, and that there was a pretty good chance of me getting something before the end of the year. Hmmm. Still doesn't eliminate the "transferred to somewhere shit" scenario, but at least I may be getting paid more sometime soon.
I've been trying to get a blog I wrote on Wednesday up since, and it hasn't been working. So this is a test to see whether it's just some bad code in the entry, or if Blogger just doesn't want to take my calls.
(Later) - Hmm, it worked. Looks like it was bad code. Bugger.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Well, the verdict came back from Staffing yesterday. I got the APS 5 promotion. Apparently I am capable of doing the job I'm already doing. Go figure.
I probably won't know for several months whether this means that I will be staying on in the Philippines Section or be pushed sideways to some other randomly-selected area. Somehow I find myself not caring, since it seems while I have been away that matters have progressed in the breakup of my work team. By the end of the year it's likely that only two of the ten people who started 2002 in the section will still be there, thanks to overseas postings and ideologically-motivated deckchair shuffling.
Some agencies merely lose corporate memory. AusAID actively reaches up its own nose with a piece of hooked wire and yanks it out.
Still, at some point in the not-too-distant future it's likely I will be paid more, so what do I care what they do? They've done the best job possible to ensure that I have no professional pride in anything I do or any opportunity to build a solid working relationship with any of my colleagues, so I am resolved to take their money and start checking the classified ads as soon as I get back from the honeymoon in November.
There. That ought to teach them not to promote me.
ChrisT, is it that time already?
Chris Thomas appears finally to have broken through the layers of insulation that have heretofore protected him from job satisfaction and the opportunity to move to Canberra. He's going to be here at the end of next fucking week! All right! He and Emily the demonic hairball will be moving in with Lindor and Doctor Mysterioso and he'll be starting his new job in Belconnen somewhere on the 19th. Read all about it!
Skiing's done, dude
Since this will likely be the last Lexifab entry about skiing for some time, let me just summarise by saying that it fucking rocked and leave it there. I feel sorry for everyone who wasn't there. Sucked in.
Latest slogan: Queenstown in 2003