Lexifabricographer - Where good concepts go to die
Words that go together, although not necessarily terribly well
Sometimes I like to pretend to be other, better people
Stands for Play By Mail, or possibly Postal Brutality Mongers
Yes, of course I have one. Doesn't mean I'm not prepared to trade for yours, though.
This is where the bodies are buried
Talk to me
Get me the hell out of here!


Thursday, January 30, 2003

Universalis

My copy of Universalis showed up on Tuesday. This game, in a nutshell, rocks.

It's kind of a successor to Once Upon A Time, in that the goal is for players to compete in the telling of a story (any story, not restricted as is the case in OUAT to fairy tales). However where OUAT relies upon a certain amount of inter-player cooperation in the midst of competitiveness, Universalis uses a mechanically rigourous ruleset that enforces both competition and cooperation. Each Component - which can be anything from a character, an object, a location or any other story fact - is paid for with Coins, and in deciding how to commit their limited resource of Coins, players must continually make decisions as to whether a Component serves the story that they are interested in telling. It's a very elegant means of avoiding the frequent incoherent story turns that I've experienced in OUAT, which arise as a result of players trying to get rid of a random assortment of cards rather than tell an internally-logical and satisfying story.

I can't wait to give it a try. I think Andrew, in particular, would enjoy it.


Battlemat

Hmm, a parcel just showed up for me from the States. "Another one?" thinks I. "But I haven't ordered anything else from the internet..." Turns out that as part of a big promotion or whatever, Wizards of the Coast gave away about a billion Battlemats to registered RPGA members who asked for them. I seem vaguely to remember sending an email a few months ago, so I guess I asked for it.

And what is a Battlemat, I hear you ask? Apparently a soft, leathery, benzine-smelling mat with an inch-square grid marked on one side. Useful, I gather, for drawing scenery on and moving small miniatures around while playing tactical, wargamey RPGs like D&D. What will I use it for? I dunno, but it was free, so I got one. Suggestions are welcome.


IT Skills Assessment

This afternoon after work I am going to Flexible Learning Centre at the Reid campus of the Canberra Institute of Technology for an IT Skills Assessment test. Passing this will allow me, as I understand the not-always-clear registration instructions with which I have been furnished, to bypass the Certificate II in Information Technology, which is chump-easy, and cut straight to the Graduate Diploma of IT (Software Development).

[Phone rings]. Excuse me a second. I have to take this...

Oh. They're closing the Centre early today, due to the forty degree heat and the likelihood of more fires. Oh well. One more week of not having to make any major study undertakings. I guess I'm going to cricket practice or the pub instead.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

That was the Australia Day weekend that was

The long weekend passed somewhat undemandingly. As ever, the Australia Day weekend is the traditional home of Cancon, the formerly-premier Australian roleplaying convention. It probably is still first amongst wargaming and collectible card gaming get-togethers, but the roleplaying side of things isn't what it used to be. Nothing in this year's lineup appealed to me, so I just decided to go along to look around the vendors' hall, and forget about the scheduled gaming.

Picked up some very nice bargains too. I collected all three books for Ron Edwards' Sorceror, which, despite the rather overwrought by-line, is a very fine independant game. Edwards is a great advocate - nay evangelist for expanding roleplaying beyond kits traditional hack-and-slash ghettoes, and his essays on methods for creating more satisfying gaming experiences are always interesting. I spend a lot of time checking out his indie gaming website, The Forge, and highly recommend it, in spite of the occasionally daunting level of discourse. Most people will never need to think this hard about the art and science of roleplaying, but I feel obscurely glad that someone out there takes it this seriously.

Simon and I also picked up Central Casting: Heroes for Tomorrow , a random character background generation system. John uses the Heroic Fantasy version for making up new characters for his AD&D game, but this is the science fiction version. It's been out of print for more than 10 years, so it was quite a lucky find, and we got it pretty cheap too.. Since Simon, Chris, Linda, Jimbo and I had concluded at a Friday night beer-and-chatting session that we were going to try a science fiction setting (in the end, kind of a Firefly-meets-Final Fantasy setting) for our next game, we decided to roll up characters using the system and see what we got. What we got was the eclectic mess that you would expect, which we promptly converted to the Hero Wars system (because that's the system I want to use), but I think we can make a functional and fun game out of it. The only hitch is that Jimbo is about to leave on a three week trip, which traditionally kills the momentum for our game startups, but hopefully we can take measures to sustain the interest until he gets back and we can meet regularly.

On Monday afternoon, Simon, Chris and I went back to Cancon for the traditional MilSims auction, where they dump bundles of obsolete, out-of-print and otherwise unpopular stuff. I picked up a box of random RPG stuff that contained a copy of Talislanta Fourth Edition, UnderWorld - basically a cross between Neverwhere, the old Beauty and the Beast TV series and Clive Barker's Nightbreed - and a goodly chunk of White Wolf stuff, for a price which I will describe as "pretty good". Lotsa good stuff to add to my library: Talislanta alone is easily the single fattest game product I've ever seen, let alone owned.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

All Quiet on the Northwestern Front

Turns out after yesterday's "state of heightened awareness" that the winds did absolutely nothing, so it all came to naught. We went home early (well, it's not as if I was getting anything done, what with checking the radio and trading fire stories) but ended up scoffing M&M's and Cheezels in front of the cricket. Meagan was fine, by the way. She was helping some friends with lots of animals to get their place fire-ready. One curious side-benefit of this whole affair is that in general people's houses and yards are tending to come out of the whole process much tidier and better-organised. Not ours, of course. I speak in general terms.

Today it's a cool (-ish) 30 degrees, and that should hold until Saturday, when the nasty wind-and-heat blast furnace conditions are expected to return. So we could see another repeat of the Exciting Weekend Syndrome then. Oh, and just in time for Australia Day. Oddly appropriate.


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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Uh...

The most recent fire warning update has started including suburbs directly to the north of Dickson in the list of those whose residents should be on alert (return to homes, pack up, clear flammable debris etc). What worries me about this is not so much the direct threat, but the possibility that any flare-up in the outer northern suburbs may deposit embers on Mount Ainslie. Mount Ainslie is not all that far away, and like all of this area, is covered in dry grass and toasty flammable trees. The wind direction would theoretically direct any fires in the opposite direction to us, but fires have kind of funny habits where prevailing winds are concerned, I've noticed.

Meagan is house-sitting in Melba at the moment. Fiona and Frances have both been trying to get through to her all day and she hasn't been answering the phone. Angie's stopping in and checking up on her on her way home. This is the curse of modern living: miss a couple of calls and suddenly everyone thinks you've fallen down a well or been kidnapped by Algerian terrorists.

As a precautionary measure, I've forfeited tonight's indoor cricket game. Not like that's any loss: we were two players short and up against the best team. Zero points for a forfeit is pretty much the same as zero points for a floor-wiping massacre...

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Random melancholy, weary thoughts.

Considering I've had two good nights' sleep since Saturday, I can't quite get over how drained and wrecked I feel. It's hard to relax. Every few minutes there's some sort of reminder that we're still in a state of crisis.

  • Yesterday at work we had an impromptu morning tea to talk through the war stories. One of the deputy directors-general here at work was hospitalised with smoke inhalation, but he managed to save his house. Someone else lost their horse when it was hit by a car.

  • The weather forecast for today isn't promising - more of the hot and windy conditions that made Saturday so dangerous. Most of Belconnen is on alert. We know a lot of people who live in Belconnen. It's disconcerting to think that within an hour or two I could be helping someone pack up their belongings.

  • Brenda and Soozie came over last night to have showers. Their house is still there, but they don't have electricity or gas yet. They're still shell-shocked.

  • Sim (who works with Fiona) and his partner Victoria were house-sitting for some friends in Chapman. They tried to keep the house safe, but fire got into the roof, which collapsed. They escaped, but they weren't able to save three of their five kittens. They lost everything except the car they escaped in, including two motorcycles. The owners' contents insurance only covered their personal belongings, not those of their houseguests.

  • My supervisor Jeff took off early on Friday to be with his partner Kirsty for the birth of their second kid. Hugo James Prime, which I think is a fantastic name (and much better than the suggestions that were floating about on Friday, such as Maximilian, Sejanus and Optimus), was born on Saturday morning at ten to three. So at least something worthwhile happened over the weekend.

  • My director Gillian, who is almost entirely responsible for my not having quit this job in disgust in recent weeks - her cheerful, positive attitude is virulently infectious - has given us the news this morning that she has accepted a post with UNICEF in Fiji and will be heading to Suva by the end of February. By that time, I will know whether I will be offered a promotion, but either way I doubt that I will want to continue in my current job.

  • I rather stupidly allowed my motorcycle learner's permit to expire without actually taking the test. I had thought that I had until the end of January, but in fact it expired on the first. So on Thursday I have to endure a full day of basic rider training again, before I can take the test and get a provisional license. The small, manoeuverable bike that I was planning to use to take the test was Victoria's, which was trashed on Saturday.


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Monday, January 20, 2003

Canberra Fires (An Epic)

Well, that weekend didn't go quite as expected.

Saturday: we start by spending a bit of time tidying up after Friday night's dinner party with Fiona's grandmother, her dad and his fiance. So far, so normal, although there's a lot more smoke around than there has been all week, and the winds are quite strong. A bit before lunchtime we gave Jimbo a call and asked whether he could see any of the fires. He says they're just visible along the ridge, about five or six kilometres away. He's not too worried at this point and tells us he'll give us a call if he wants any help. So we shrug and plug Enemy of the State into the DVD, because Fiona hasn't seen it yet [1], even though we got it for free with our DVD player.

A couple of hours later and the movie is done, the winds have picked up and it's getting pretty dark overhead. We call Jimbo back and he's packing up the computers and starting to think about unplugging the media shrine and finding the cats. The smoke is apparently quite thick and he can see from the reflected glow that the flames are starting to get closer. Okay, we tell him, we'll come down and bring an extra car and an extra driver down so that we can pack more stuff up and get Simon's car out as well. Nobody's really expecting that we will have to evacuate completely, but this is a bushfire, with which you do not fuck.

So we kit up in sensible clothing and jump in the car and head south, by now just a bit tense because we can see that the sky up ahead is really dark. We call Brenda and Soozie, who live in the now-rather-famous suburb of Duffy, and Soozie's voice is not far from panic. "We're getting out right now," she says. In the background is the sound of a household that's just been told by a passing emergency services worker that it has ten minutes to pack up and leave. "I don't think we should stop to grab lunch," I say, and Fiona agrees. We switch the radio to the ABC and hear just in time that the Tuggeranong Parkway - the main highway connecting the northern and southern suburbs - is closed, so we take the alternate route, down through the eastern side of the valley. It's getting seriously dark and there's a lot of traffic about but only half the cars have their headlights on [2]. Idiots. Up past the hospital and over the ridge and - oh, shit.

Dark as pitch. The sky is glowing an angry dark red. At ground level it is clear, but the banks of ash are sitting low and thick as sin. Up ahead, in the Tuggeranong valley, there's a jagging line of orange silhouetting an otherwise-invisible mountain range. You can't buy special effects this good. The whole scene is literally hellish.

By the time we get to Jimbo's we can tell the fire is not that far away, although we can't see it directly. We start bundling the TV and Simon's vast, uninsured CD collection into the car and rounding up the cats. Meagan arrives soon after us, so we load her car up as well. The neighbours are up on their roofs with hoses (the radio said you should do this, for the obvious reasons, but then the radio provided a lot of advice and not all of it was good). Jimbo and I decide to stay behind for as long as possible to keep the house in one piece if we can. Fiona and Meagan head off before the roads are all closed. As Jimbo gets up on the roof with the hose and stuffs the gutters with wet towels, I'm on the phone finding out what state everyone else is in. Greg's mother's house down in Gordon or wherever is right in the line of fire; John and Trudi's place is in another suburb on the endangered list. John offers their place as a safe haven if needed, but we let him know that we're planning to relocate to my place in Dickson (and just quietly, I suspect that his place in Kambah would not really have been any safer than Jimbo's in Bonython, if push were to come to shove).

Fiona calls to say that Mount Taylor, which overlooks the area in which both her father and grandmother live (and ChrisT's mum, I just realised), is flaring up and may spread to nearby houses. Also, they're at Linda's, who knows nothing about any of this. Chris is away for the weekend and Linda doesn't want to leave. We express some doubts as to the wisdom of this decision, especially as there is now news of fires on the mountain behind Isaacs, the next suburb over from her place ie potential for fires from two directions.

Jimbo continues his waterbombing campaign, and observes that the fires, while still not visible behind the three of four houses between us and the nearest nature reserve, are clearly getting closer and fiercer. I sneak down to the end of the complex for a look. There's a wall of flame down there, about sixty metres away from me and maybe twenty or so from the end of the complex, as well as several people charging about with hoses. Halfway through my excursion a couple of fire units appear around the corner, and someone tells me that the fireys were the ones that started the nearest conflagration, as a backburn to keep it away from the houses. My immediate doubts about this are redoubled when a four metre tall pine tree explodes - really, explodes, with burning shards and leaves everywhere and no visible tree remains - somewhere near the firefront. Across the lake that runs alongside the complex, the hill is on fire in a few different places. I head back to the house. "I think it's about time to leave," I tell Jimbo.

Glowing embers are starting to drop on us. Jimbo is having a suspiciously good time trying to hose them out of the sky (he's not the first person I've seen doing this). As we ponder whether to bug out, some of the other neighbours come across to inform us that the fire couldn't jump the dirt road and that it's burned itself out. Evacuation cancelled, I guess.

I let the cats out of their cages and release them into the wilds of Jimbo's bedroom. They're pretty pissed at me, and fair enough too. I do another scouting trip and nearly get knocked down by a fleeing kangaroo that comes up to my chin and probably weighs more than I do. I talk to a few people, who are all looking a lot more relaxed now. I'm a little perturbed to see the fire units have disappeared and there's still a pretty decent grass fire going on underneath a stand of pine trees by the lake. If they take hold, I imagine, it wouldn't take much of a wind change to blow the flames back onto the nearest house. But then that one burns itself out too, more or less, and people start making jokes and brewing up coffees and assembling sandwiches and planning to maybe have a neighbourhood barbecue. Transition time between moment of greatest "Fuck, we could be in serious trouble here" tension and instance of first blackly humourous remark: about five minutes [3].

Jimbo gets down off the roof and we grab the camera to do some well-earned rubbernecking. At the end of the houses, the last little grass fires are dying out. All of the sparse trees are dead, some of them are just stumps. The fire apparently came through quickly and burned white hot, but we obviously got lucky with the winds and the fact that the few trees were so spread out that the fire was restricted to ground level. There was apparently a hairy moment when the flames jumped across the road and lit up someone's garden wall. It was extinguished by a neighbour who - knowing that the owners had bugged out at the first sign of smoke - was keeping an eye on the house. Lucky, lucky amateurs.

As we stand talking to that guy, on the other side of the pond the fire comes across the hill to meet the backburn line. And it moves: it starts slowly, swirling around and twisting into little tornadoes, and then it suddenly washes across like a wave, covering maybe sixty or so metres in ten seconds. Ten metre tall gum trees are bent half over in the wind, capped in fireballs as the leaves flare up. We're pretty glad to be hundreds of yards away, on the other side of a wide expanse of water. We can see kangaroos that aren't quite so lucky. We heard later that the fire over there had nearly broken through the backburn lines and jumped across into an area filled with apartment blocks.

After things settle down, by which time it's getting on past six and it's becoming legitimately dark, we decide the house is safe and we head off to see how other people are doing. On the way to John and Trudi's we head past the Urambi Hills, which have been laid utterly to waste. Nearly all of the trees are glowing furiously red, everything else is black. Amazingly, none of the houses that back onto this area are damaged (at least, not from what we could see from the road). Everything is intact. John and Trudi's place has no power but they're fine. Greg calls through on the mobile to say that he's had an exciting time too, but that it's under control now. Jimbo and I cruise around Tuggeranong looking unsuccessfully for an open service station, otherwise Jimbo's car won't have the fuel to get me back to Dickson (which might be a moot point, because as near as we can figure from the radio virtually all of the north-south roads are closed).

After the third failure we give up and just stop to get some food: the Erindale shops are open, and the Woolies, liquor store and Chinese takeaway are all doing a roaring trade. Then we head back to Jimbo's house for some sleep. I have a phone conversation with Linda where I try to convince her that, if the fire does reach her (a fact about which she finally appears to be nervous), hiding in the downstairs garage might not be a more effective survival strategy than simple getting the hell out of Dodge. I am not convinced my attempts at persuasion have been successful, especially after I agree to continue monitoring the radio for further updates. This lasts until midnight, when they cross to reports on the Tamworth Country Music Festival, at which time I give up and go to sleep on the couch.

Sunday: is much quieter. I wake up to news of hundreds of houses destroyed and sleepily head outside to see whether anything new has happened. Nope. There's no sign of fires in the vicinity beyond the high smoke layer that's been hazing over the city all week. Fiona eventually arrives and we unpack all the gear back into the house. Suzie and Brenda and the two girls spent the night at our place and have had to wait until the all-clear came for Duffy residents to return home. At this point they still don't know if they even have one. Fiona and I head home. I am scheduled to play cricket at noon, but am correct in assuming that the game has been called off. I am not ungrateful for the reprieve.

The rest of the day is spent in a sort of post-exhaustion daze, in my case in front of one of the most boring games of cricket ever played. News comes and goes. Four dead; a different number of hundreds of houses destroyed; Mount Stromlo observatory wiped out; sewerage treatment plant disabled and sewage overflow threatening to poison the Molonglo River; Brenda's place untouched but just down the street houses completely devastated; the Birragai Camp, where WIMA was planning to stage its AGM for something like 100 visiting women motorcyclists, completely razed; weather conditions not expected to improve for days; fire threat to continue etc.

It's been a pretty long weekend.

  1. Note to self - must get that soundtrack. It's got some pretty good music of the "tense and urgent stuff is happening" inclination.
  2. The local police commissioner-equivalent has been congratulating Canberra-ites on their sensible driving through the crisis, but all I could see were the usual pack of road-retards who were driving too fast and not at all defensively and demonstrating a breathtaking lack of knowledge of what to do when the traffic lights are out. To be fair, though, I did only see one accident, and that was the day after the crisis. But it did happen at an intersection without functioning traffic lights...
  3. Give or take an hour for that weird stress-induced time dilation effect thingy.


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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Can't type. Smarting.

This is gonna be a short Lexifab entry because the third finger on my right hand is refusing to play well with others this morning. I copped a low quick ball - just one of many that I didn't catch throughout the game - that hit the tip and somehow contrived to bend the finger sideways. Now it refuses to move laterally and complains painfully whenever one of the other fingers gets all uppity and tries to do anything. Strapping it to the middle finger didn't help, because it hurts to close it sideways. I should put ice on it, but I don't have any handy. And I just looked, and it has a spectacular black bruise coming up at the end (where, ironically, it doesn't hurt at all).

But on the plus side, I don't think it's broken. Mind you, I'm not sure I shouldn't get a medical opinion on that.


In other ironic cricket news...

Yesterday afternoon I traded most of the money in my coin jar (about $250, which goes to prove the power of positive hoarding, or something) for a shiny new cricket bat. The bad news is I now have to spend at leave six hours hitting gently with a mallet before I can use it. The good news is that I probably won't be able to grip it properly until my finger is better anyway. The bad news is that I won't be able to grip the mallet either...

And yes, I am well aware of the irony of spending more than a hundred bucks on something I'll get to use for maybe an hour every season, thank you.


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Friday, January 10, 2003

The Two Towers: a late review

This extract from an email to Evan pretty much sums it up for me:

...ents kick arse. And Legolas and Aragorn and Gimli kick arse. Wargs look silly, but they sure know how to kick arse, don't they? And Liv Tyler looks good, but I'm still all "meh". And doesn't Aragorn kick some serious arse? And thank god they started killing off some of those chubby elves. Elves should be thin, and willowy, and able to kick arse from horseback. And Gollum rocks, and sometimes that mean old Sam Gamgee is just a big poop-head. But at other times he sure kicks arse. Oliphaunts! They kick arse too. Being a dick seems to run in the "-mir" family, doesn't it? But then, so does kicking arse. And fuck me! How much arse does Gandalf kick? Man, he's all like falling and falling and falling and he still has time to grab some sword and kick serious Balrog arse.

Actual criticism isn't really an option. I've only seen it the once, and I was all hyped up on coffee and Boxing day excitedness, and it would really have to have sucked for me not to think that it kicked arse. Which it did.


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Thursday, January 09, 2003

Still working at AusAID. Damn it.

I've adopted a cunning "have so much work to do that you don't have time to think about how much you don't like doing it" stratagem for coping with AusAID. It's working surprisingly well, thanks to a short-staffed section and an avalanche of impending deadlines. I'm still not really any more interested in what I'm doing, but at least it's easier not to resent it when I'm too busy to be bored.

Gillian, my director, pulled the carpet out from under me yesterday, congratulating me on my enthusiasm and hard work, telling me that I was a pleasure to work with and otherwise being flattering and all positive-reinforcey. Damn her. This means that either I have her completely fooled or - more likely, since she doesn't seem to be anyone's fool - she's marked me as a competent malcontent who might be redeemable. At this stage I doubt that she can really change my mind about wanting to get out of AusAID, but I am puppy-like in my responsiveness when it comes to praise and encouragement, so who knows?

If the promotion comes through (which seems iffy at best) I will probably be asked to stay in the Philippines Section. So: more money, but continuing in the job I don't really want to do. If I do go ahead with the IT course, it would be better to have a familiar routine during the day so that I don't have the added burden of coping with two new things at once, but on the other hand, is having to work all day at a job I don't want to know about going to sour all enthusiasm I may have for going to classes, tutorials and homework in my "spare" time? You'd have to think that it probably would. Hmm, dilemmic...


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Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Test

Made a change. Seeing if this works.

...So far so good. See anything different? Hint: it's something I've been meaning to do for about...oh, two years, and only just realised I can do without lots of fiddly messing about with my home PC.

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Monday, January 06, 2003

Listen up, Western Society:

They know what you're thinking, and hey - Spidey!Or, to a lesser extent, that Shakira person. I've always been fascinated by the weird subculture that has emerged thanks to the internet. I'm not exactly sure what this says about it, but it's fascinating nevetheless. Thanks to Andrea for the SMH article that set off a flurry of Google Fu in my work area. For some reason, I now have an overpowering urge to visit Mountain View, California.


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Saturday, January 04, 2003

Ouch! My brain!

So Jimbo has entered the wonderful (which is to say, overcrowded) world of online publishing, having compiled a collection of some of his finest works from over the years and added a commentary to each piece. He calls it (for reasons beyond the immediately obvious) "Ouch! My Eye!", and it’s available for download for a measly 5 yank bucks from here at RPG.Now. There’s a bit of administrative rigmarole to go through to get an account, and I recommend that you use the PayPal payment option if you’re going to go through with a purchase (I’ve never had any problems with them, although again, there’s the whole administrative rigmarole phase…). Take a look, make a purchase, con him into thinking he can make a few bucks out of cartooning and we might see some more stuff from him….


Resolution

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but what the hell, lots of things are changing this year. So I have resolved to stop eating cheap, fatty, salty, and generally disgusting fried chicken. That’s right. No more Bacon and Cheese Zinger Burgers. No more Kingsley’s Amazing Chicken. No more…well, whatever that stuff is that they put in chicken burgers at highway cafes. I’m on the wagon.

The reasons are twofold: 1: Frankly, I know how chicken is handled in fast food joints, and I think it’s about time my stomach stopped ignoring the hideous lack of sanitation and extreme risk of being served salmonella, botulism or rat rather than what I asked for. 2: I’m never going to achieve last year’s resolution of getting rid of my gut if I don’t stop putting that garbage in it…


New look

Fiona had half of her hair chopped of yesterday. It now comes down to the top of her shoulder blades. It looks good. This is just as well. Her big fear was that, if it turned out to look ghastly, it would take another ten years to get it back the way it was on Wednesday.

But instead it looks gorgeous. Take my word for it.


Dinner Party – The Return

The Summer Season of the Dinner Party continues. Tonight we have Jacqui and Bruce and Erika and Chey over. We’re trying out a new vegetarian recipe book (mmm, peppercorn brie tagliatelle with mushrooms) and drinking lots of wine out of our new glassware. Should be fun, but we do have to spend the entire day cleaning and setting up and cooking, and then will have to spend all of tomorrow washing up and rearranging the furniture again. I’ll be glad when this one’s over and we can take a little time off from playing host. I’ll be even gladder when we have a bigger house – one that we can actually seat eight people in comfortably…


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Friday, January 03, 2003
Is this the plan?

Well, Andrew got back to me with some useful advice, to whit: "[be] a computer programmer. As Ev may attest, it's the kind of area you'd be good at, the work can be extremely rewarding and creative, and it's well-paid." I choose to call it useful advice, mainly because it's really the direction I was thinking already.

There's some catches though. The first, as he points out, is that it takes a long time to become qualified, which doesn't exactly help me with my current "if I have to do this job for one more day I'm gonna choke some son of a bitch" crisis. The second is the current slump in the industry, but again, Andrew sagely observes that this might not be so by the time I get a diploma, or whatever.

Possibly the biggest impediment is my track record. While I think I am reasonably convinced I have an aptitude for it, the fact is that I have already taken a shot at academic computer studies and..well: Attempts at Comp Sci 2 at JCU: 2. Failing grades: 1. Withdrawals from subject when imminent failure became apparent: 1. So the big question is, will this time be any different?

The answer is provisionally yes. I'm certainly more motivated this time. I would be investing my own money and leisure time to my studies. I have a better overall grasp of some of the trickier concepts this time around, not to mention more practical and broad-based user skills. And I will be doing a curriculum that includes none of the computer engineering, mathematical theory or obsolete languages that made the JCU course such a waste of time (for me). So in theory, I shouldn't have the same problems that forced me to resort to a philosophy course to get my science degree [1]. Still, that's the main fear.

A secondary fear is that my inherent laziness and poorly-developed sense of self-discipline (not to be confused with my boundlessly energetic, calisthenicised and buffed sense of self-recrimination), which played a lesser but still significant role in the aforementioned academic collapse, will once again rear its ugly head and undermine my good intentions. On the plus side, this time around I have Fiona, who has little in the way of actual programming credentials herself, and would probably be quite keen to do a ghost diploma, studying over my shoulder. Every external motivator helps, I always say.

So anyway, I'm looking at this course at CIT. Since most of you who read this blog have a computer qualification of one sort or another, I'd be intensely gratified if you could take a look at the proposed curriculum and tell me what you think about it. This is a big deal for me at the moment, and I need all the (frank, forceful, even brutal) encouragement I can get. Suggested alternatives are welcome too.

  1. Not that there was anything wrong with that course. It was the only subject in which I ever got an overall HD mark.

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