Thursday, December 30, 2004
So this is Chaos
Or do I mean Christmas? Nah, actually, I'm pretty sure I was right the first time. Now is probably a good time to take stock, now that the house is relatively quiet for a few hours and the Boxing Day Test has been comprehensively sewn up (why exactly is it that Pakistan can't seem to string together two good innings in the same game? I suspect the dead-rubber Brisbane Test is not going to shed any new light on this mystery).
So, jumping into the Wayback Machine and flinging myself up time's stream like a chronistically challenge salmon (probably one with a long scarf and a cute but stupid guppy companion), I'll attempt to reconstruct the blur of the past couple of weeks and make some sort of sense of what's been going on.
The holidays more or less started on the 17th with the arrival of Mum, Dad and Evan all on the same Friday afternoon (and Sonnie came back from New Zealand, but as she'd only been away for a week and was not staying with us, she now exits our narrative for a time). Immediately the house went from being kind of busy to a state of constant buzziness, with people Ė usually bleary-eyed Ė flitting about doing things Ė or not Ė everywhere. To make things more interesting, we had a couple of separate going-away celebrations over the weekend so that everyone could say goodbye to Meagan before she headed back to Tasmania.
As an aside, sometime during that week we'd made the first of what turned into a series of holiday commitments, agreeing to spend next Christmas having a motorbiking tour of Tasmania. Which should be cool, and at least won't involve several days of washing up afterwards.
Andrew also engineered a flying visit on the Sunday. Hearing about it, Fiona instructed him to bring the footage of our wedding reception (specifically the best man's speech and song) which we've never seen. He was also to bring a guitar and his video camera, because if the sound quality was not good enough, they could then re-record their piece. Fortunately, it turned out to be fine, if a little dark. I loved watching it again Ė their double act was one of the real highlights of what had been a pretty much perfect day, right down to the song they obviously cobbled together in an hour or so.
For some reason, Andrew subjected us to a ďnot Doctor Who nosireebobĒ fan film - with which he was tangentially involved through Job Blum (who was also tangentially involved, lest I go on to ruinously smear his good name as a film editor) Ė of which I have happily forgotten the exact name, which was about the least successful, most excruciatingly inept, most inadvertantly psychologically revealing fan film I have ever seen. The sound was bad, the effects were gratuitous and bad, the story made no sense, the acting was of a distinct we-don't-rehease-or-read-the-script-because-it-would-ruin-the-spontaneity-and-might-ensure-that-we-don't-suck quality, and worst of all it was quite obvious that the auteur-as-not-the-Doctor really wanted to get together with his female lead, who was equally obviously not remotely interested.
Fortunately, I've not seen too many of these, but Andrew assures me that this one is of lower than standard quality. His explanations of the gala premiere in Sydney, complete with expensive cinema hire, hapless guests and the complete failure on the part of the auteur to recognise his shortcomings behind and before the camera were utterly cringworthy.
We also recorded (in about five takes) a video of me and Ev singing a particular Spit song, which I believe was a request from Chris. I won't mention its name in case it was supposed to be a surprise which he hasn't gotten around to finishing yet. It was one of the ones that is harder to sing than your think it should be, though. Especially after four beers.
Day by day, it crept closer...
Okay, so project at work was due to be finished on the 15th, but that deadline was missed, so I had to delay my holidays and go back in on the Monday for the wrapup meeting. That was a busrt, because that deadline was missed as well. D'oh! But by that time it had become obvious that nobody except the development team was going to be able to play any part in actually meeting any of the new extended deadlines, so my supervisor decided not to ask me to come back again for another demoralising meeting. On holiday at last!
Pretty much the rest of that week leading up to Christmas is now a blur, consisting of the following events:
- Renovations - Fiona was insistent that certain things be done by Christmas, such as making the dining room fit for human occupation. This was a little trickier than it sounds. The new timber doors needed to be stained, sanded, lacquered, sanded again, lacquered again and then, in the case of a couple of them, replaced (necessitating the repetition of steps 1 through 5). The plasterer spent most of Wednesday morning putting up the cornice. Watching him slickly applying, smoothing and manipulating cornice cement, with the calm deftness of decades of experience, convinced us that we should not attempt it ourselves, so we'll be getting him back for the other bits that still need doing. Staining the doors took five of us more or less all day (and got walnut-coloured stains under my fingernails that are still there more than a week later). There were about two tonnes of garbage left over from the door installations that needed dumping. Dad ripped out two trees and about six miles of ivy. We made the Christmas deadline Ė barely Ė but it just about broke us. We haven't touched the renovations since then.
- Shopping - We did a lot of it, as you do. Managed to buy gifts for everyone except ourselves - we were going to get the boxed set of The Lord of the Rings trilogy extended versions, but they were completely sold out in Canberra. I was also going to buy World of Warcraft, but it was sold out as well. And can you believe that it doesn't seem to be possible to find copies of either Notting Hill or Four Weddings and a Funeral anywhere in this town? Ridiculous. I also spent the better part of a week on eBay shopping for Jimbo's present, which arrived just in the nick of time.
- Drinking - What can I say? Jimbo was here a lot. Much beer was consumed.
- Entertaining - I've completely lost track of how many people were here for Christmas, or Boxing Day, or Meags' farewell, or just dropping in for drinks or dinner, but it was a lot. Colour me frazzled.
- Touring - We also made a day trip to Bowral with Mum and Dad and Evan so that Fiona could test ride a motorbike that she'd heard might be suitable for her. It turned out to be too high in the seat (a problem se was with a lot of bikes, being on the shortish side) so that was kind of a waste of a two-hour drive, but fortunately the southern highlands are very pretty, and there were many touristy places to visit. Unfortunately, it rained all day and at one point a pea-soup fog descended on us and stopped us from doing the (twisty, turny) drive to Kangaroo Valley. On the plus side, we had a very nice lunch in Mossvale and cleared up the remainder of our Christmas gift list.
- Dining - We had Christmas Eve dinner with Ian, Sonia, Flynn and Son's mother, sister and niece at a restaurant improbably named the Green Herring at Gold Creek. Tania had broken up with her partner Geoff a few days before, so she was probably not having her best week ever, but it was a lovely evening nonetheless. Jimbo was declared the winner for selecting the beef (most of us had fish on the grounds that we never eat it otherwise, and it was very good, but we all cast jealous sideways glances at Jimbo's meal).
- Presents! - Before repairing to the restaurant we did the opening of presents at Ian's place. Nephew Flynn's haul was spectacular (as you'd expect Ė we all dote on him, probably to the point of spoiling him rotten). I was particularly proud of his reaction to the air-propelled nerf rocket we got him Ė the highest accolade you can get from Flynn is the constant refrain of ďAgain!Ē. Luckily, he's a bright kid, and soon worked out how to attach the rockets himself, so we didn't have to keep doing it for him. He can keep himself entertained for hours with that thing...
Then, Christmas attacked!
The day itself was madness, of course. Lots of people, including half a dozen Urquharts, lots of food (homemade sushi by Master Chef Linda! prawns in a dill-lime mayo dip! apricot-stuffed chicken a la Jimbo! summer fruits marinated in expensive wine! more incredibly rich food than was good for us!), lots of drink (Fiona's uncle Geoff supplying a vast quantity of high quality booze, which I must say we made a very poor show of consuming), lots of presents (the highlight being Chris's T-shirt for Simon which reads ďI bring nothing to the tableĒ.) Lots of wearying fun. Most dubiously, Simon bought a Playstation karaoke attachment which proved to be a surprising hit (thanks in no small part to the aforementioned quality booze). Turns out that Spandau Ballet's Gold is really hard to sing, and even harder when the screen is showing a graphic displaying noting precisely how badly you're missing the notes, and giving you a line by line rating suggesting that you are Bad! or Awful!. Which we were, for the most part, although most of us got a bit better throughout the day. Or at least we thought we did.
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We've been lazing. Ev's gone home, Mum and Dad have spent a few days at Ian and Sonnie's, the shambles has been slowly cleaned up and gradually we've started to crawl out of the post-Christmas torpor. Our Boxing Day movie this year was going to be The Incredibles, but Ev wanted to see that with Sarah-Jane, so instead we decided to see I -Heart- Huckabees, but then the newspaper got the times wrong, so we ended up seeing The Incredibles after all. And it was great, but now I really want to see I -Heart- Huckabees.
And to get just a little bit more sleep before I have to go back to work on Monday. No, wait, Tuesday. Oh thank goodness for that. But before that, today I'm joining a large expedition to the botanical gardens (it will be nice to get out of the house and get some exercise) and after that Jimbo and Linda are bringing their computers over for some LAN gaming all night. And then tomorrow night is New Year's Eve, which i understand will be held at our place as well. Yikes! It looks like this is just the lull between storms...
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Hmm, I must have been slightly busy in the past week or so, since it looks like I havenít done a bleeding thing with Lexifab - at least according to the two blunt reminders from people I didnít know read this (hi Son, hi Probes!). So this is going to be more along the lines of a memory exercise than a diary entry.
The settlement on the Dickson house finally went through last Wednesday, five days after it was originally scheduled and after two further deferrals. Financially that doesnít really hurt us, since the line of credit account is only charged interest once a month. It was pretty irritating, though, since weíre pretty sure the delays were all down to the buyerís complete lack of organisation. Not that I should be too critical Ė if it had been me buying a house, I probably would have dithered indecisively and put things off as well. Anyway, itís done now, and we are the proud owner of a single house and a single mortgage.
The renovations have continued, albeit with a greater failure rate than weíve previously achieved. On Sunday Meagan and I attempted to teach ourselves the art of cutting and attaching sculpted ceiling cornice. It can be said that this effort did not result in historyís finest hour. Or rather four hours, which is about how long it took us to realise that we were just wasting some pretty expensive cornice and were not going to achieve even our most basic objective i.e. cut a length of cornice to the correct length and angle. We did cut rather a lot of pieces to incorrect lengths and angles, and I like to think that by the end of it we were actually getting pretty good at that, but by that time weíd given up in disgust and secured Fionaís agreement to just fork out the money for a professional to come and do it.
Ironically, a few minutes later, I worked out what it was we had been doing wrong this whole time, and went on to cut a very satisfactory length for the piece of ceiling intersected by the chimney. Thatís when we discovered that the chimney is not square, and thus our perfected technique for achieving precision 45 degree cuts were of no practical use. And thatís when we gave up for good.
The work stuff
These are the final days of the project Iíve been working on since July Ė today is the day that the business is scheduled to accept the final milestones Ė and things are frantically busy. Except that really theyíre super-frantic because Iím also trying to get the wheels turning on the next project, which is the one I will be managing. Gah! On top of this, it looks like Mike - who took over as the IT boss after that positionís previous occupant departed for his home hell dimension Ė might decide to take a job offer elsewhere, even if they offer him the job permanently. This would be a bit of a blow for me, since not only is his leadership the main reason I decided to stay in IT, but itís also the reason that the other two guys I work with also stayed. And if things with Mikeís hypothetical replacement donít work out, theyíre much better positioned to up stakes and leave than I am. I fear the loss of my mentor-crutches!
Departures, arrivals Ė welcome to the transit lounge
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Meaganís staying with other friends for the remainder of her holiday, Simonís away in Queensland for a week to attend a wedding, and I heard for the first time this week that Alastairís moving out in mid-January. In the meantime Mum and Dad arrive mid-afternoon on Friday, followed shortly thereafter by Evan (actually Sonia gets back from New Zealand on the same day, but she wonít be staying with us, so I just mention it in passing. Jimboís suggestion that we should just camp out at the airport all day seems like a pretty good one). Anyway, the point seems to be that the natural state of our new house is cHa0s, which I guess I should just learn to get used to. On the plus side, Iím starting to get the hang of the plethora or remote controls commanding Simonís terrifying array of audiovisual equipment, so at least I can watch DVDs when I want toÖ
Christmas is going to be a production of operatic proportions. I think weíll have something like fifteen people (possibly more) around for lunch. Again with the chaos (but in a good way). Thatís a whole lotta potato salad, king! (Ancient Sesame Street reference Ė donít worry if you donít get it)
Monday, December 06, 2004
Argh. Itch to play getting under skin!
Iím thoroughly distracted today by thoughts of tricking the house out with an ADSL connection, firing up World of Warcraft and beating orcs senseless. In between snatches of work and meetings, Iím obsessing over what kind of character I can make for a game I donít even own yet and couldnít play even if I did.
Gah. Even the hobbies I donít have yet are distracting me!
Chris sheds rep
Played our first session of the Meetup.com D&D groupís game on Saturday, with Mister ChrisT making a welcome return to the DMís chair. He has a long-standing rep, does olí Chris, of being a stone-cold killer DM, albeit unintentionally so. Most of our previous games (with the exclusion of his odd rockíníroll high school Project A-Ko game) have ended prematurely with the wholesale extermination of the entire cast of characters at the hands of some monster or situation they should have overcome with ease. In his hands, a shallow pit is no mere inconvenience but a lethal deathtrap, kobolds are not yipping hack-fodder but bloodthirsty agents of retribution, and even a simple door is likely to take out an eye.
On Saturday, he just about managed to maintain his consistent form, with just a handful of bandits. My character got his lame arse smoked on about the second round, having drawn no blood despite a wealth of opportunities. The other two players were immediately reduced to ďWeíre in some pretty serious trouble hereĒ health levels. The situation was so dire that when I took off to the loo for a minute, I fully expected to return to a scene of unmitigated disaster and the rolling-up of replacement characters.
Surprisingly, some good play and improved luck on the part of my two colleagues pulled the situation back from the brink, after which things came together a bit more, but for a while it looked virtually certain that Chris was going to retain the title. It was a great session, full of solid situations and amusing scenes (like the maths puzzle that Chris set up and had us working on feverishly, until it occurred to us that we could undercut the whole situation by just using a simple magic spell, laughing uncontrollably while we cut the Gordian Knot).
About the only downside was that I rolled such lousy stats for my character that I couldnít go ahead with my pre-planned concept of making a sort of underworld trickster priest/spy-type. He would have sucked too much to do justice to the idea. Iíll save that one for later.
Blessed be the children
Went to a christening for some friendsí little baby girl yesterday. Nothing terribly remarkable in that, I suppose Ė though I probably havenít been to a christening ceremony for something like 20 years Ė except that the friends in question are a lesbian couple. No doubt Iím severely prejudiced, but I was rather surprised that the church permitted the ceremony, even if the priest himself was sympathetic. Happily, whatever dire expectations I nursed (what, did I think he was suddenly going to turn around and denounce them as witches or something?) the ceremony was quite simple and uneventful. Baby Hannah was completely untroubled by the half-dozen or so people thumbing water on her forehead, and the whole thing was over in ten minutes or so. It took longer to wrap our gift (a collection of soft plastic power tools, a present Fiona insists on buying for baby girls lately!).
After that was the barbecue, and the afternoon lazing in front of the cricket with a beer. I ask you, is there anything better than summer?
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Friday, December 03, 2004
Okay, this Dork Tower is probably only funny if a) you know anything about (the king of games for the Xbox) Halo 2 and b) sing along to it, but I got a laugh out of it.
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I'm blogging a lot today, aren't I? But I am getting a lot done at work. Really!
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The BBC website has a teaser for the new series of Doctor Who, but I can't watch it at work because my machine doesn't recognise a RealPlayer file. Also, I should be working, but dammit, that's beside the point! I want mild spoilers to ramp up my space-time anticipation levels!
Woe! Woe! I am undone!
Stu, did you see this?
Space:1889 radio plays. Ohhhh, baby.
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You want me to do what?
Itís dawning on me slowly Ė some would say staggeringly so Ė that I will actually need to take a bit of responsibility if Iím going to be a project manager. Be proactive and stuff, I guess. Get other people to do stuff, rather than just do it myself or wait for someone else to tell me what to do. Itís a bit of an alien framework, especially where work is concerned, so it may take a little time to adjust.
The hardest part so far is trying to get my head in a space where I can see the big picture, rather than focusing on the details of one or two elements. Thatís pretty new to me. I donít think itís helping that I keep seeing this project in terms of a large, complicated roleplaying game for a few too many bitchy, fractious players, that needs to be finished to everyoneís satisfaction by July. Then again, maybe thatís exactly the way to look at it, except that I donít get to retaliate with lightning bolts against the idiots who are ruining everyone elseís fun, which is a pity.
Some stuff I like
This weekís Order of the Stick is a perfect example of gaming humour, for anyone that needs some. The rest of itís pretty good, too.
We stayed up way too late last night watching the pilot of the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. Itís good, and the space battles are spectacular (though the Cylon Basestars look way too much like Shadow ships). I love the reimagining of the traitor Baltar, though (plus the evil terminator Ė er, sorry, I mean human form replicator Ė no, wait, cylon sexbot or whatever. Anyway, sheís pretty hot).
I spent rather a lot of time yesterday researching costs of getting a broadband connection to the house. Because I want to go to a nice place where even when you die it looks pretty cool.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2004
A more positive me
I am currently completely snowed under with work, so as usual I am avoiding it by writing blog entries. This is a dilemma recognisably characteristic of the forthcoming century, Iíve no doubt. Iíve just arrived at work after what I suspect will be my session with the counsellor/shrink who has been helping me work through my work avoidance/procrastination issues. With mixed success, obviously. Ahem
The main thing Iíve been needing to sort through is my trepidation about the project Iíll be working on, which I shall now dub Operation Pacifica. Iíve never been a project manager before, thereís a lot of expectation surrounding this thing (particularly with regard to unrealistic deadlines) and Iím not sure I really understand the scope of the job. The Shrink, whom I shall call Jackie (her actual name, though perhaps not the correct spelling), made a pretty good fist of convincing me that a) everybody has a first time that they do stuff like this, b) my supervisors think I can do it and I trust their judgment in most other respects, and c) I canít control everything. Oh, and d) shouldnít I be looking at this as a fun challenge?
Well, yeah, obviously I should. Operation Pacifica has a bit of history, and itís been mishandled a lot in the past, and it involves a lot of people with different ideas about what is involvedÖbut hey, I might actually be able to make it work. Itís not, technically speaking, all that hard and Iím surrounded by experienced people who are generous with advice and guidance, so thereís no real reason why I shouldnít be able to pull it off. It just thatÖwell, Iíve never done it before.
Then again, before last month Iíd never resheeted a ceiling before, and that turned out to be not all that hard. So perhaps I should just shut up and get on with it, yeah?
Which is short for World of Warcraft, the new and utterly gorgeous-looking (and Ėplaying, I hear) online RPG. Just looking at the screenshots makes me weep with frustration that Iím not playing it now. Just the mere thought of it makes me want not only to buy a broadband connection, a zippy new computer and a copy of the game, but also to do the same for everyone I know and love, that they may join me in the game, where we can live out our happy, quillboar-slaughtering lives in sheer contentment.
BTW, if you are someone I know and love, be advised that I am skint and therefore am not likely to buy you either a copy of this or any other game, any kind of computer nor indeed a broadband connection. Sorry.
Anyway, I think I can afford the broadband connection, so what it comes down to is whether I can afford the game, the online account fee and the time to play it. Hmm. Well, if I give up eatingÖ
Shiny new headwear
One of the things I canít give up is riding the motorbike. Despite the horrid warmth of summer specifically, global warming generally and the requisite thick protective clothing as an added bonus, Iím expecting to increase rather than reduce the amount of riding Iím doing. One reason is that Iím now the proud owner of a full, open motorcycle license, which allows me to ride anything I want (except a dinosaur. Dammit). Another reason is that I just bought a sweet new Shark helmet (I wonít link to their website Ė it has an unnecessarily annoying level of Flash animation) with a Ďblue iridiumí visor (to replace the sunglasses you canít wear with this helmet, and also for enhanced blueness). It has some great features, like the fact that it cuts out virtually all bike noise, and the fact that, as with all new helmets, it feels like Iím receiving depressed fractures of the cheeks every time I put it on. Iím assured it with mould itself to my face shape before too longÖ
Now all I need is a better bike to go with it!
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