Monday, June 30, 2003
Fiona and I took Friday off and had a very nice weekend at home, doing not much more than absolutely nothing. On Friday itself I woke up early so that I could drop Jimbo off at the train station. He's headed up to Tweed to Ian and Sonia's for a naming celebration for Flynn this coming Sunday (Jimbo's birthday, coincidentally). Fiona and I wanted to make it up there as well, but we would have to have taken a plane, and the fares were a bit steeper than we'd have liked. It must be school holidays or something. Hopefully we'll be able to see them at Christmas, though probably not much sooner than that.
The rest of Friday, which was Fiona's birthday, we spent watching downloaded copies of the last few episodes of Buffy and Angel. Since they won't screen here for at least a few more weeks, all I will say is that I enjoyed them a lot, especially the paradigm shift that sets up the next season of Angel. Whatever, it was fun just to kick back and do nothing but soak up some cheap, disposable pop culture for the day. (Although come to think of it, I say "disposable", but plan to make a liar of myself by eventually buying the entirety of both series on DVD. Sigh. Stupid consumerist impulses!)
After that we picked Simon up and went to a local "Indo-Lankan" restaurant for dinner. I ate too much and was extremely happy to have done so. I like Indian (or Indo-Lankan, whatever). Yum!
On Saturday we went shopping. Apart from some not-so-much-gifts-as-impulse-purchases like a miniatures painting kit and the new Harry Potter book, we completed our planned mission by buying some clothes. I am now the proud owner of a pair of cords for the first time ever. Hmm. Fiona tragically failed to find any new casual pants that satisfied, but she will have another chance this weekend in Sydney. All is not lost.
Saturday night we went to dinner again, this time just the two of us, to a recently refurbished Italian place in the Dickson Street Full of Restaurants (TM). It was so good, we went back for breakfast the next morning. Sunday was mostly just food shopping, pottering around the house (I reacquainted myself with the fine art of making a small sculpted blob of lead look like a small sculpted blob of lead with paint incompetently splattered all over it) and generally being incredibly relaxed.
This morning I woke up and actually felt enthusiastic about getting a week's work done. That lasted right up until the moment I opened my email and found that several things I spent hours on last week must now be completely redone, but nevertheless I felt it was quite a positive sign.
Blogger appears to be "fully" functional again, so here's a test to see if everything is working as it ought, without all the weird formatting errors in Friday's entry (which I absolutely cannot be arsed fixing, sorry).
Friday, June 27, 2003
I finally have a date for transferring to the Aidworks team. I will be
here until next Thursday, will have a handover day with the new team on
Friday, then will take me week off and start properly when I get back on
the 14th. In the meantime, I have about a billion notes and things to
type so that He or She Who Will Follow in my Footsteps won't end up
cursing my name and swearing some sort of blood vendetta.
It could happen.
I'm glad I have tomorrow off. It's been a genuinely exhausting week, and
I really need to vegetate for a few days. Fiona's even more stressed as
her launch date grows near (looking forward to that a year from now,
except that by all accounts the official launch date for Aidworks is
utterly unmeetable. Groan) so we are planning to spend our birthday long
weekend doing Not Much.
(Birthdays - Fiona's is tomorrow, on the 27th, mine's on Sunday the
29th. Hence the long weekend).
Which is not to say we are shutting ourselves off from all human
contact, of course. Tonight Jimbo is staying over so that we can drop
him off at the train station at some hellish hour of the morning, so
Chris and Linda are also coming over to play D&D. Tomorrow night we're
going to pick Simon up from the airport in the afternoon - he's just
back from his brother's wedding in Townsville - and then heading out to
an Indian restaurant with Meag, Chris and Linda. And on Saturday night
we're going to dinner again, somewhere swanky, and on Sunday, it'll be
brunch at a cafe. Yay for dining out!
Birthday cards and Breakups and Lena Lamont
Jill sent me a birthday card (thanks Jill) with the surprising and
delightful news that Tiff's got the part of Lena Lamont in the local
production of Singing in the Rain in Townsville. As Jill says,
this is the part Tiff's been waiting her whole life to play, source of
the immortal line: "People! I ain't people!. I'm a....a shimmering,
glowing star in the cinema firmament. It says so right there!"
And dammit, I just realised as I was typing that that I forgot Tiff's
birthday was last week. Doh! Sorry Tiff. If you're reading this (and
sure, I know you're not, but it helps salve my conscience, so bear with
me okay?): Happy Birthday Tiffany!
Unfortunately Jill's news isn't so good. She's recently broken up with
Corey, her partner of the last eight or nine years, which is a hell of a
long time to be together with someone when you're our age. I wasn't sure
how to feel about it. I don't know Corey at all well, but I never really
warmed to him on the few occasions that we met, which I found strangely
disappointing. I really don't like not getting along with my very close
friends' partners (possibly caused by a very childish instinct of not
wishing them to come between me and the friend) and, like now, am
usually relieved when they break up with someone I just can't come to
like. Pretty selfish, I know, but it's hard not to think "Thank God I
don't have to put up with him/her for the rest of our lives just to stay
friends with my friend".
I'm much happier when my friends bring home partners of whom I approve.
I forgot to mention that I got an email from Alix a couple of weeks ago
telling me that she's getting married to Kiwi Dave in August. The
wedding's on a beach in Townsville (mind the bindis) and the reception
is a week later in Wellington (mind the...um, wind, I guess). Still not
sure I'll be able to make either of those dates - money's going to be an
issue, and I doubt I'll be getting any extra time off once I get started
in the new section - but at least I can wish them both well here on the
internet, where it counts. Wooh!
(I probably should have structured this blog better so that I could
segue into this from the bit about Singing in the Rain. But I
Meagan's back from her trip to Queensland, which means that whenever we
get in the car now, there's usually a cassette in the stereo (because
she can't stand to listen to the radio). Yesterday's was the soundtrack
from the Buffy musical episode, "Once More, with Feeling", which
I love, and watched again last night, but that's not where I'm going
Listening to how the songs were used to reveal character and drive the
story along reminded me that music can be used as an amazingly effective
storytelling tool, and one that I want to try my hand at. I'd almost
forgotten that I once told Evan that one of these days I want to write
and produce a musical (not on stage, but perhaps on film or in some sort
of web/cartoon form). I don't see that an absence of knowledge or
experience of the art form or any real musical talent on my part should
be bigger obstacles than my inherent laziness, so in that sense I still
think it's a good idea.
I've just resolved to use some of the Spit Recording Week downtime to
think the idea through a bit further and do a bit of brainstorming with
Andrew, Evan, Chris and whoever else happens to show up (are you still
First things first - I should really decide what it's going to be about,
Blogger's down for upgrades
Or so they say. Which means that instead of just uploading this and
getting on with the rest of my day (like, doing some actual work)
I'm tempted to just keep adding bits and pieces to this entry. So be it.
Sometimes you just need to get it all out of your system.
To the Dot Points, Robin!
- IT course
- Technically I am still enrolled in the CIT course, but as the
deadline for submitting my final assignments for assessment is the 12th
July (when I'll be away) and that I haven't done them anyway, it's
looking a bit grim. Having written that reminds me that I should really
find out whether I can re-enroll later. If I can, I will wait to see
whether I am sufficiently motivated by the new job (certainly my
supervisor-to-be seems to be enthusiastic and sincere in his support,
which is usually the minimum jollying-along that I need to maintain
interest in something for my own good).
- The course work
- Oddly, I have actually done most of the course work, including a
revision of this web page. It's not finished yet, and won't be while I
only have the sucky PC upstairs to work on, because it's a crashy piece
of crap that frustrates me a lot of the time (but see below). If I do
enroll in the course again, I should be able to complete the HTML
component in about a week, including taking the test.
- Reading: The Passing of the Technomages
- Picked up a copy of one of the post-Babylon 5 novel trilogies
at a second hand store a few weeks ago. These deal with the Technomages,
whose single appearance in the series proper (a second-season episode
called "The Geometry of Shadows") would have been pretty goofy had it
not been for the superb final scene in which Elric, a technomage leader,
tells Londo what he sees of his future. It was a lovely little bit of
overt, unselfconscious foreshadowing that signals a complete change in
Londo's character arc. The TMs later reappeared in the spinoff series
Crusade, which was unfortunately cancelled before all the secrets
could be revealed. Edward Woodward's son played the technomage in that
one. Man. I liked that series...What? The novels?...They're all right, I
guess. Nothing special.
- Thanks for all the suggestions. Actually, ever since we added a bit
of extra lattice to cover the end of the fence where the Momma Dog gets
out, thus entrapping her in her own personal circle of hell with her puppies,
things have been oddly quiet. The variety of mutt dissuasion measures
suggested by our correspondents remain in reserve in case of a rally on
the part of the enemy.
- The game is spinning its wheels a bit at the moment while various
participants are away (first Simon, then Jimbo, then me), but the
frustrated novelist in me can't help but keep trying to push ahead. I
keep filling in the blanks in the game world, writing (amongst other
as-yet-undisclosed things) a fragment of a play written by one of the
NPCs in the future, several prop letters and a cut scene featuring one
of the villains. Last night, at 2:30, when I realised I was (a) not
going to get back to sleep and (b) not going to get Giles' "Standing"
song out of my head, I snuck downstairs and jotted out 20 years' worth
of backstory for several critical NPCs. I didn't go to the effort of
working out their game stats, since there's a good chance the player
characters won't meet all of them, but what they've been up to is still
critically important, so I needed to make sure I got it all down. It's
well melodramatic, so I probably won't be able to do it justice in the
actual game, so in one sense the effort is completely wasted. but in
another sense, it's very satisfying to make something up and have it
make sense in and of itself, even if that doesn't end up translating
across in the game. After all, I'm doing this at least as much for my
own entertainment as for the players, right?
- Blogger still out
- Two hours later, and Blogger is still not taking calls from users.
This may not end up going up on the page until I get a chance to log on
from home over the weekend (which, considering my plans for
Olympic-class indolence, may end up being Monday). Oh well, I'll just
keep randomly and incoherently adding chunks here and there to the list.
- The Incredible Hulk
- First I was really looking forward to this. Then I saw some
screenshots and read some pretty negative reviews and I wasn't so sure I
would hurry into it. And then on The Movie Show last night, David
and Margaret seemed to quite like it, or at least didn't diss it as bad
as the other reviews I've read. That now leads me to think that many of
the pissy reviews may have been the result of Burned Fanboy Syndrome,
along the lines of bitching about how they changed the costumes in
X-Men or how Spidey's webs are organic rather than clip-ons, or
any one of dozens of apocryphal changes from the source material that
movie directors make because the source material is often incoherent or
would look stupid in the real world. So now I am thinking that maybe I
want to see it after all. And, hey, Jennifer Connelly is in it, so I
suspect I'm under some sort of contractual obligation to go see it. Must
go check the conditions of membership for the JC Drooling Stalkers Club
(Official Member since whenever
The Rocketeer came out ).
- Blogger still out
- It's nearly time to go home (4:00 pm Thursday) and Blogger is still
dead to me. I guess I'll email this to myself and then post it up
tomorrow, in which case I should add:
- Happy Birthday My Darling Sweetheart
- Do you want your coffee in bed or would you rather get up and watch
trashy videos all day?
Well, as part of their so-called "upgrade", Blogger seem to have stripped out all the useful functionality and made other irritating changes that I may have to refuse to come to grips with. I may also have to repost yesterday's huge entry a piece at a time...Stupid Blogger.
Monday, June 23, 2003
More catching up
Not that much really happened in the last week, but it still managed to leave me feeling exhausted. In between meetings to finalise my transfer to Aidworks (that's the name of the IT development I'll be working on), I was completely immersed in the compelling and dull world of financial management. Somehow the very tiresome responsibility of making sure that the section's books balance at the end of the financial year fell to me (probably because I am the only one that knows how the financial management system works, which is just one more reason I am transferring to the project that is intended to replace it).
By the Friday deadline my head was completely fried from the remarkably aggravating iterative process of: Step One - Compare and balance estimated vs actual expenditure for thirty or so activities; Step Two - Berate activity managers for failing to correctly update estimates; and Step Three - Goto Step One. Fun.
Happily the finances have now been shut down to allow our Budget section to make the final tallies before the end of FY at the end of the week. That frees my work time up for attending to the approximately ten million things that got put off last week and earlier, all of which have to be done and carefully documented before I finish up work on the Philippines program.
Not that I know exactly when that will be. My new and old Directors are supposed to be negotiating a date for me to be handed over from one section to the next, but I don't think that they have spoken yet. To be honest, now that the actual decision's made, I don't care when the actual transfer happens. While I remain in the old section, I'm being paid a little bit of higher duties allowance, and I have enough time to get my affairs in order and effect a proper handover (complete with detailed instructions and no impending disasters, if my successor is unusually lucky).
The only thing that worries me is the small but persistent possibility that I may not be able to take a week off in early July. I think I've got deals stitched up either way, but there's always that nagging possibility that something will come up and for the oft-cited reason of "operational requirements" I will not be given leave to go. Since this entire week has been paid for by working longer than standard hours over the past four or five months, that would piss me off no end.
Readying some Spit
That week has, of course, been earmarked for work up in Sydney on the next Spit album. In keeping with traditional Spit album pre-album preparation, I have failed to contribute what I think are decent lyrics and have devoted massive procrastinative efforts to not practising the piano. My voice is weak and tremulous, and I have an erratic and unreliable sense of musical timing. And the cartoon sketches I've done for the album liner notes are crappy and don't look much like who they're meant to look like.
Radiohead, eat your heart out.
Dig puppies dig
Our stupid, irresponsible, shouldn't-have-pets neighbours' dog had her puppies four or five weeks ago. Most were promptly given away (or eaten or drowned or [fill in your own animal-abuse conspiracy theory here]), leaving her with one, but now it seems that she's back up to two. One could have come back, or they could be minding it, or they could have raised it from the dead. I don't know. It doesn't matter. Where was I?
Oh, yeah, so the neighbours have taken this dog for like maybe three walks in her entire life, and the rest of the time they ignore her or scream at her to shut up. So on the rare occasions when she isn't barking her stupid learning-challenged brains out at some largely imaginary threat, she jumps the fence and makes a run for it.
So the puppies, being puppies, try to follow, by digging under the fence. Our fence. The fence that we've recently planted about $200 worth of young and fragile jasmine vines along. Gah!
So far, no jasmine has been hurt in their attempts to recreate the tunnelling scene from The Great Escape, but it's only a matter of time. The puppies sure aren't going to learn any lessons on garden maintenance from their mother, whose fence-jumping exploits have pretty much trashed one of the shrubs up in the corner.
I've tried spreading some stuff we bought that is supposed to repel dogs. It's basically sawdust soaked with camphor oil, the scent of which dogs allegedly find unpleasant and choose not to be near, but so far the puppies don't seem put off. I've put rocks down in front of all their favourite digging spots, but of course they just try somewhere else. I daresay I will run out of rocks before the puppies run out of patience for digging.
Anyone with a useful dog-dissuading techniques (that don't involve houndicide or obedience training, the latter of which they will certainly never receive), get in touch with me. Please.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
I've made my decision. I'm taking the IT job.
It was by no means an easy decision to make. First of all, I have the overwhelming weight of guilt attached with a decision to abandon the Philippines Section at about the same time as two other people and just as I have about five different major project design jobs to oversee. But fortunately for me, enough sane people were on hand to remind me that making career development decisions on the basis of the operational convenience of AusAID is a short track to major job dissatisfaction. You'd think I'd have taken that lesson to heart by now...
Another stumbling block was that the project to which I'm transferring is complex, high profile and has a long history of being mishandled to the point of gross incompetence. And if approval for funding increases does not come through, it will be impossible to deliver on time. It promises long hours, no possibility of a pay increase and ongoing stress. Sigh. Still, I figure it will be a valid introduction to the wonderful world of IT development...
In the end, I had to make the change, though. I don't really like my current job and the main thing that was keeping me here (apart from the vague and unfulfilled promise of more overseas trips) was the prospect of actually getting paid more. Since the chances of that ever happening were 50-50 at best (and in reality I think we were a long way from "at best"), the drive to excel wasn't exactly powering me on. Best to make a change to something new which, okay, might leave me just as stressed and overworked and deranged and irritable, but just might also be something I'll actually be interested enough to pursue.
Andrew, Chris, Evan - I don't know what this is going to do to my chances of getting up to Andrew's place for a week to record the new Spit album. While this news may come as a relief for those of you with a (justifiable) gnawing fear of receiving yet another cheap and terrible Christmas gift, it's kind of a pain for everyone actually involved. Hopefully I can negotiate something, but I'm worried that between being pulled between familiarising myself with the new work and handing over the old stuff, I may not be able to get away. Will keep you all posted as events unfold.
Hey, does that web site mean you're a pirate?
Oh wow. Honey, this is why I need to get a computer upgrade. Aar! I say again, aaarrrrr! Also, check out this fan site (for a game that won't even be out until next year, what's more) that whispers to me It must be mine! My preciousssss. Or something. whatever, as long as I can run out the guns and send those French dogs to Davy Jones' locker. Or become the bloated, corrupt governor of Port Royale, maybe.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
I should be working harder today, but for some reason I just can't get into it. I have about a dozen reports to read, none of them especially interesting, and various other things to be doing, none of which I can concentrate on. The coffee, it does nothing.
Ironically, my director has just pushed through the forms that mean I will be getting paid more (albeit not much more and only for six weeks) from next Monday. This tips the scales of which job I want to do - from a choice between the new-but-underpaid one in IT or a continuation of my current one - slightly back in favour of staying put. I'm getting a distinct scent of Office Politics from the IT one (it's been shuffled to a new division, which is not usually a good sign), but on the other hand if nothing can be done to break the staffing deadlock I'm going to end up back in the overworked-and-underpaid rut I've been in for the last nine months or so.
Oddly enough, I am actually optimistic at this point. Unreasonably so, to be sure, but I don't care because I am now about to join my wife across the road at the pub.
Late update - I did, after a while, start working harder.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Since my last update...
- Thursday - Took the day off, did some shopping and pottering about the place, generally chilled out, visited John's newly-opened comic shop (and bought some comics) and ran some D&D. Generally had a good day, even if we didn't manage to find the right kinds of buttons for Fiona's jacket. Well, I didn't say it was an exciting day.
- Friday - Back at work, had The Conversation with my director, explaining that I was being courted by the IT area (which I was, although I later learned that this particular project is being shuffled out of the IT section and will now reside with the branch responsible for monitoring of quality, which makes more sense, I guess) and that I would accept a transfer to that job if offered unless my current branch could do something about upgrading my position and paying me more, in which case I would stay. We worked through a few scenarios, some of which had me staying and others that had me leave the section. I felt pretty good about the whole process, oddly enough. Normally I am loath to come on all mercenary and demand to be paid what I'm worth, but in this case I just had nothing to lose, and it would be stupid not to give my branch the opportunity to make it worth my while to stay. I don't hate the job that much, and there's every likelihood that the IT development job will suck appallingly, for all that it will be a useful experience.
I don't have great hopes of them being able to make me a better offer (there's a lots of complicated public service appointments procedures standing in my way, not to mention the strong possibility that my branch will decide that they can do without me after all), but it's my only chance for a pay increase for the next four-five months, so it would certainly be nice if things worked out.
- Saturday - I received a letter earlier in the week letting me know that there was yet another suit sale on at Exhibition Park, so Fiona, Meagan and I trooped out there to kick off our long weekend. I ended up buying a blue suit with a faint red thread through it, with a few more shirts and ties. About a thousand bucks worth of stuff for just under $500. I'm wearing some of the new stuff now (not the suit, I need to have it adjusted first) and I look pretty sweet, let me tell you.
After the warehouse sale, we went on a wine-tasting expedition, trying out a couple of the local vineyards. Unfortunately the day went from cold to cold, blustery and a little rainy, and by the third vineyard or so we were pretty much over it. It was kind of cool to get around and see where some of the back roads on the north side of the city led to (there's some fantastic country out there, all rolling hills and picturesque rocky outcrops and gambolling sheep and what-have-you) but the wines weren't really good enough to keep us interested. Still felt obliged to buy a bottle or two whenever we stopped in at a cellar door though. I think in future we'll have to keep such expeditions to guided tours, where there's enough other people around that you don't feel guilty if you don't want to buy anything. Especially when cellar door prices tend to be just a little bit over what we're usually willing to pay for wine. That said, we've got a few interesting drops that might well taste even better in a couple of years...
- Sunday - Spent virtually the entire day around at Brenda and Soozie's place watching the next three or four episodes each of Buffy and Angel. Very exciting. I say no more.
- Monday - Public holiday for the Queen's birthday, marked by lots of fireworks going off in the ACT, dogs barking at fireworks until they collapse in exhaustion and trembling insanity, and Dave and Fiona working in the garden. Least it wasn't bitterly cold again. And in the afternoon we went to afternoon tea with Ange and Michelle, which was nice.
Wot no WMD?
So they've admitted that they've run out of places to look for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Colour me surprised. This article pretty much sums up the invasion of Iraq for me, except that it doesn't discuss the ignorance or complicity of Australian and other governments participating in the Coalition, and it doesn't mention the utter failure of planning for the post-war reconstruction. It would be nice to think that the consequences of at least one of his administration's coughcriminalcough policies might finally stick to Bush. (That website kind of overstates its case and is obviously one-sided, but it is well researched and occasionally quite amusing).
Omigod! Crime and punishment in the City of Sim!
I love human nature. It's so deliciously insane.
Blogger is currently down so that we can perform maintenance on the site. It will be back up within the hour (Message that came up the first three times I tried to post this blog entry).
Yeah, yeah. A likely story. More like three.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
We had our annual Eurovision Song Contest party at Jo's on Sunday. The aim is to dress up in as hideous and gaudy a costume as possible, drink a lot, and rate the sheer unadulterated awfulness of the entrants. Fun though it was, I have been regretting it ever since, as I now cannot get that dreadful "Let's be happy and let's be gay" song by the German entrant out of my head. Or the ghastly multicoloured-Pan's-People outfits of her backing singers. Eww.
It shouldn't be this hard
Well, as if all my whinging about being underpaid and undervalued by my employers wasn't bad enough, now it looks as if Fiona's being screwed over as well. After having promised her that her position would be upgraded to the level it should be (most other people doing her sort of web development job in the public service are EL1's or Directors), she has learned second-hand that her branch head is not going to go ahead with it. Fiona's take on it is that it's a combination of a complete lack of comprehension of the complexity of her job and petty office politics, based on the fact that she has said "no" too many times to the wrong people in order to maintain the integrity of the system. To that I would add that it doesn't sound to me like the two key managers involved know how to do their jobs (ie manage their staff), but it's not as if that's an uncommon complaint in the public service.
So she's going to finish the project, which will take another two or three months, and then she's going to look for another job. And that pisses her off, because she likes her work, she knows that she's delivered an excellent system with not enough resources and in spite of a number of setbacks, and she wants to see her efforts all come together. But like me, she's damned if she is going to work for an organisation that lacks the professionalism and common courtesy to acknowledge her skills and reward her efforts.
To hell with the gutlessness of a public service that won't stand up to the government bean counters and demand that it receive enough resources to do its job. To hell with a government that wrings the throat of its own public service until it gets a pack of subservient yes-men with no managerial skills.
I'm feeling a little pissed off today. This is the perfect time to talk to my director about upgrading me if she wants me to keep working for her. This should be fun.