Friday, May 27, 2005
On not staying upright
See, the thing about motorbikes is that, when they’re moving, they’re really quite phenomenally stable, presumably owing to one of those physical laws with ‘angular’ in the name (or possibly not). But as they approach a non-moving state, such as screeching to a halt to avoid colliding with a larger, whiter, hatch-backed object, they are increasingly less stable. In such a state, they become exponentially more likely to fall over, taking their hapless rider with them.
All of which is a roundabout explanation for me yet again involving myself in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident on Wednesday afternoon. Actually, you know, I’m not going to assume any more of the blame than I have to: there was another car involved, operated by a dingbat who was clearly oblivious to my presence when he or she pulled straight in front of me. That this situation did not escalate from Incident to Accident Involving Two or More Vehicles is only I panic-stopped in time to avoid hitting Vehicle Two, which blithely continued off on its merry way, narrowly missing the car in front of it as it changed back into the lane it recently departed.
Meanwhile, I picked myself up off the road with unseemly haste, just in case the cars behind me had failed to noticed the loud banging or skidding excitement ahead of them. Bad enough to fall off the bike without the added indignity of getting run over. Made it to the side of the road, and some construction workers from across the road came and helped push the bike out of the way (ironically running over my sore toe at the same time)
Anyway, I’m fine (apart from some bruises), the bike is okay (apart from some deep scratches and a missing gear lever) and no, I didn’t get the license plate. I can’t even be 100% sure the car was white. Whatever. Any crash you walk away from etc.
And in other bad news
Went to TJ’s, the motorbike repair shop we frequent, to see about replacing the gear lever, and it turned out that Hal (the owner) was having a worse day than me. Thieves had broken into his shop overnight and ripped off various items (helmets, jackets etc) as well as an uninsured Ducati ST2 worth twenty grand. It’s just possible that, if the police don’t recover the bike in one piece, it will cost him his business (or rather, make it unsustainable for him to carry on on basically no profit for the next 9-12 months). Which sucks.
About the only ray of hope here is that, despite some pretty cunning organisation on the part of the thieves (they broke in through a ceiling, of all places, and they put a replacement padlock on the security gate to fool the patrol), they left behind all their break-in paraphernalia (crowbars, saws, gloves, masks etc) on their way out. And the AFP takes commercial break-ins seriously enough to do full crime scene forensics. And they caught someone already with some of the stolen gear. All of this adds up to likely arrests, which is good, but not necessarily the safe return of the bike, which is less good. Fingers are crossed for Hal.
7 smartarse remarks
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Pulled nine straight hours without a break yesterday and barely noticed the time passing. I realise that this is normal operating procedure for some people and nothing especially remarkable. But still, it really highlights the difference between my work-brain-now and my work-brain-then.
Meagie – The Tour
Now that the cat is officially out of the bag, I’m free to mention that, through the conspiratorial offices of Linda and Fiona, we’re flying Meagan up to stay with us for a month! Highlights of her tour will be: marvelling at how little renovation has been done since she was here at Christmas, catching up on all the trashy TV we’ve been watching, and, of course, the 2005 Eurovision Party.
This year it looks like it will be bigger than ever, with guests from all over the country (i.e. Meags in Tassie and Emma in Buladelah), vaguely-birthday-related cakes (thanks to Jo) and, of course, the costumes. The hideous, hideous costumes. The goal is to dress up ‘Eurovision style’, which is to say, with an abundance of flair and complete want of taste. I believe my Big Hair/70’s Sunglasses/Lycra Bike Shorts power combo of a few years ago set the standard in sartorial glory or horror, as you will.
It has to be done, you understand. And no, it doesn’t matter much that Eurovision was on last Sunday night and nearly everybody already knows who won. That’s not the point.
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Two of my cousins have just moved to Canberra to work. Jen's a curator at the National Museum, and Elizabeth's...um, something to do with the Australian Institute of Sport, I think. But how slack am I? I haven't even seen or spoken to either of them yet. Meanwhile Gaz has been visiting heaps and even helped them find a house!
I have to do something fast, before I get official Bad Cousin accreditation...
Saturday, May 21, 2005
The Emma Strikes Back
Okay, so that was a pretty awful gag, but since the delightful Miss Emma is back in town this weekend at least in part to see George Lucas' latest act of self-desecration, I figured I'd get away with it. Probably I'm wrong about that, but what can you do?
She and Lindor and Fi are hitting the town for a spot of shopping this morning, after Lindor's salary finally served out its sentence and was released into her custody (there's a very fishy story there about her pimp paying her money launderer who then didn't pass on her cut, but it's a bit confusing what with all the veiled references).
In the meantime, I shall consider going to work and writing up a couple of contracts, and then valiantly decide to play World of Warcraft instead.
Mis Kate's Party
It was Katie's birthday yesterday, which was celebrated at what I regard as Canberra's least appealing drinking establishment, the Old Canberra Inn. Now I say that in the full realisation that there are, in fact, much worse places to go for a chat and a drink, but I have not personally visited them. Oh sure, I've been into the South Pacific Rugby Club, which is full of large, drunk Fijian footy players, and I've been to the Phoenix, which is dark and kind of sinister. But even those pubs are not without their charms. The OCI is resolutely and permanently stuck in 1976, in terms of decor, music and quality of food and service. Not wishing to sound like an utter snob, but it's a bit out of place in a city renowned for its latte-sipping tendencies.
Still it was a fun evening. Most of the population were folks from the D&D meetup group (which was where we first met Emma), and they're a fun crowd. I'm pretty glad that there was no karaoke at the OCI last night though, because I dread to think how it would have turned out. There was literally not enough (drinkable) beer for that to seem like a good idea.
And some of the boys clubbed together and bought Katie a DVD player, which was fantastically thoughtful of them. For one thing, it means that we can now make up for the fact that we didn't get her anything by giving her the perfect gift...
For the record, it is now officially getting bloody cold in Canberra. The visibility through this morning's fog was probably about fifteen metres, and it's 10:00 am now and it's still flipping freezing. Time to break out the long coats and gloves, people.
More alcohol-soaked dining
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We're going to Fiona's uncle Geoff's 50th birthday tonight. Geoff's a mad wine buff, so that makes the general identification of a suitable present for him easy. However, he's also quite particular in his tastes, so actually picking out something that he'll be very happy with is a bit harder. Fortunately, we're getting on good terms with the manager of the grog shop at the markets, who himself has a somewhat fanatical appreciation for a good bottle of plonk. He'll no doubt have a few good ideas.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Okay,enough of the work stories
After this morning's arduous strategy meeting to work out how we're going to manage the impact of internal politics on our work schedules, and coming to the realisation that i can't really talk about any of it without detailing the pointy legal parts, I've decided that I'm going to stop blogging about work altogether. Suffice to say that I'm keeping busy.
In fact, on that point...
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The work/home relationship is a bit weird lately. Not uncomfortable or anything, just...unusual. New to me. Whatever.
Basically I'm getting up, having a quick shower and getting to work, staying hugely busy with meetings and interviews and the churning of paper all day, then coming home and either logging into WoW or watching TV or cooking dinner, and then going to bed. Repeat until Saturday. Almost nothing else gets a look-in. But the odd part is how accelarated life feels. I'm turning around, and Evan's been gone three weeks, and it's been three months since the motorcycle trip to Queensland and it's five months since Christmas. Suddenly the New Zealand ski trip in August is looming awfully large. Which means that the routine has to be modified and soon, at least to include a more rigorous exercise program, or six days of skiing is Going To Kill Me.
Plus, I should really get out and go to a pub or a movie once in a while.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
That was another day that beat me up. You know, somewhere in there I'm pretty sure I must have achieved something useful, but I just can't think what it would have been. The rest of the time, I was madly running in circles just trying to stop things from going backwards.
The whole of last week was like that. The rest of this week is almost certainly going to be like that. Next week's solidly booked with...um, stuff like that.
What really irritates me is that I can't even be specific when I bitch about my troubles because there are, like, laws involved. Suffice to say that I think you'd be annoyed to. Yes, even you, the patient one.
Umm, RSS feeds?
Linda: I looked at my control panel thingummy and I can't see the address for the RSS feed. You may need to use slightly fewer syllables (or acronyms, maybe) for me to catch up. I have only the barest notion of what you're talking about and absolutely no idea where to find it or create it or whatever.
Something else I suck at
In World of Warcraft, there's the regular style of play, where you wander around killing monsters and doing quests for strangers (most of which involve killing monsters) - that's called PvE, for 'Player versus Environment'. The other kind of play is 'Player vs Player', or PvP. This is where you deliberately find and kill player characters of the opposing faction, gaining glory, bragging rights and extremely minor in-game rewards.
I totally suck at PvP. It doesn't matter that I'm not at maximum level, or that I don't have especially flashy equipment. It doesn't even matter that my character is from a class universally regarded as one of the two or three worst classes for PvP'ing in the game. Even if I had James Bond wearing a Green-friggin'-Lantern ring, I'd still be getting arse handed to me.
I lack some form of elemental, primal instinct for the death of my enemies, no matter how artificial. There is clearly some dysfunctional gene in my biodata impeding my ascension to an evolutionary winner's podium.
Or, I could just be a total spazz.
I'll get back to you on that.
6 smartarse remarks
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Not progress, but progress towards progress
The past few days of work have been an ever-thickening morass of red tape, idiotic arse-covering and decisivelessness. Progress is at a virtual standstill. I'm running in circles trying to get Project Porkpie moving and it's just not happening. I ought to be out of my tiny little mind with frustration. Instead, today felt oddly satisfying. Oh, not because I actually got anything done, but I did end up with the feeling that I can actually cope in what appear to be extremely trying circumstances.
As an added bonus Trial, I didn't get the promotion I've been waiting for. No big surprise really - the agency doesn't really have a system for encouraging people with administrative skills. It's a problem the place has had for years and there's no real likelihood that it can change. Basically, since I have no real interest in the kind of work that is smiled upon, I've gone pretty much as far as I can go without some kind of special dispensation. Too bad, but apart from the money side of things it doesn't much bother me. I've always said this is as far as I expect to go in my current workplace. I'm much more comfortable about ditching the place and doing something else when the IT project management stops being fun.
But at the moment it's still...well, fun. Damn. Who woulda thunk it?
3 smartarse remarks
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Hacker hacks self
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Clive Thompson is a science- and geek-culture writer for Wired. His blog Collision Detection is compelling viewing for a fan of really batshit crazy stuff from the frontiers of science like me. This entry, about a hilarious exchange between a forum moderator and a l33t h4XX0r do0d (a term not easily translated into humanspeak) is hilarious, but Clive’s collection of esoterica is always worth looking at.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Back to Sanity? Hardly.
Well, new projects seem to keep appearing at work and the possibility that things will settle down and we’ll actually have some idea of what we’re doing soon are somewhere between slim and “you’re kidding, right?”. But about the only thing to do about it is show up and deal with whatever crises emerge from one minute to the next. It’s sort of comforting, once you accept that you have absolutely no control over how you will be spending any given day.
Having been pleased to see that Phil and Kaja Foglio’s excellent Girl Genius comic has now become a daily webstrip, imagine my delight upon discovering that the sorely-missed Australian classic Platinum Grit is also enjoying a web comeback.
I haven’t read the latter yet, because I’m at work and there’s a "this is rude" warning on the front page. But it was, when it was being published, simply brilliant, so I am quite looking forward to checking it out when I get home.
And I haven’t mentioned Doctor Who today…
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…but I will say that Episode 6 (aka "The One with the Giveaway Title") is the best yet. And that it’s starting on the ABC on Saturday 21st May. Watch it.
Back from Fiji
Been back in-country for more than a week now but it's been a hell of a busy week, so here are the highlights of the trip, edited for brevity to avoid sucking up too much of my now-increasingly-precious World of Warcraft time. After I finish this, I have to eat dinner, hang out the washing and review a dozen CV's before I'm can allow myself some play time, so this is going to be brief:
What I done in Fiji - an essay in dot points
- Monday morning. Caught a thank-god-it's-not-six-o'lock flight to Sydney. Waited in an emigration queue with approximately two thousand other people for over an hour to get out of Sydney airport. Read two entire newspapers.
- Flew to Suva, business class thanks to being on government travel. Sat next to a guy who turned out to work at the Australian High Comm for Foreign Affairs. He gave me the drum on raising Australian kids in Suva (his conclusion: don't let them mix with other diplomat's kids, because they're all spoiled brats. Hmm.)
- Arrived on small, short, badly lit Suva airstrip in pitch darkness, owing to horrific monsoonal downpour. Note that monsoon weather does not typically occur in Western Pacific. Note also that common knowledge contends that it is always bloody raining in Suva. Empirical evidence supports contention. Taxi ride from airport to Suva is long, smelly and slow – this last part is fortunate because roads are in bad repair, rain is getting heavier, dim headlights are only source of light and there are pedestrians wandering at the sides of entire length of road. Terrified, though not so much for self as the many endangered by my thoughtless need for transport. Collapse exhausted at hotel, discover that Fiji television sucks worse than you might imagine.
- Tuesday morning. First day of three day conference. Everyone in the room introduces themselves. When I announce that I'm managing the project to develop a system to replace the manual processes they have been following for ten years, I get a round of applause. Oh no, no pressure there.
- Rest of the day goes well. Hits a highlight when I discover that the program for which we will be writing the application has a set of process guidelines. Six months I've been preparing for this project, and this is the firest time anyone has mentioned that there are guidelines. Bonus.
- Tuesday evening. Delightful little soiree at Stacey's place. Stacey is the Suva Posted Canberrite working on the Pacific scholarships program. She's a friend of Fi's friend Jo. I haven't seen Stacey for a couple of years (the Posting to Suva, obviously) so it's fun to catch up and meet her partner Dmitri. They have a beautiful, enormous house ('inherited' from the previous Postee, who had five or six kids and needed a mansion, apparently) which is infested with overly friendly cats and millions of cane toads. Apparently the wild mongoose are smart enough to ignore the todas, so they're out of control there as well. With the insanely heavy rain and the steamy temperature, it was just like being back in Townsville in summer.
- Late Tuesday evening. Get back to the hotel and realise that I am not now feeling ill because I am quite drunk on some very good New Zealand sauvignon blancs and gin (though I am) but because I am, in fact, bloody sick. Commence a spectacular purging marathon that continues through a sleepless night and into the next morning.
- (I like travelling. That doesn't mean that I'm any good at it.)
- Wednesday. I miss the second day of the conference. As the only item on the agenda is a discussion of how closer ties can be forged with our Kiwi counterparts – a subject that fills my IT masters with horror for a variety of technical reasons – I am not missing out on anything important. This is just as well, because the intestinal hilarity is not over yet.
- By the afternoon, my worried conference colleagues have checked up on me about six times to make sure I'm still alive. Since by this time I am convinced that I must be dead, my tone is undoubtedly less than reassuring. Finally they drag me to a medical centre, but by then I'm actually feeling better. Eeventually my stomach is prodded (hurts), my blood is taken (doesn't hurt – not bad for a doctor) and I am prescribed panadeine and mylanta. I crawl back to bed and fail to get more than two hours' sleep due to lingering discomfort and raging cyclonic weather.
- Thursday morning. Not feeling great, but it's the last day of the conference and I have a presentation to make. Naturally I haven't had the chance to revise what I'd prepared before the trip started, so I just kind of winged it and answered questions. Managed to stay standing through the entire hour or so. Have no idea whether anyone got anything out of it, but I think I came off as at least coherent. Of course, I may not have been the best judge of that. At any rate, the rest of the conference passes without incident or further requirement for my contributions.
- Thursday night. So by this point I have been in a foreign country for three days and, apart from one house and one medical centre, I haven't seen anything outside the hotel. The rain has actually been dyinf off during the day, so I take the opportunity to go for a walk. Wander down the streets, looking at people, buildings etc. Look like total tourist, except that I don't carry a camera. My overwhelming impression of Suva is that everything is permeated of diesel fumes. The whole place reeks of it. Suva's basically just a port with a national administration tacked on. The CBD is within five minutes' walk of a mountain of shipyards and container lots. Everything is grimy and streaked with rust. The whole place looks worn out and painted over with bright colours. I'm sorry to say it's really a bit of a hole. Chris Flynn probably warned me about this at some point.
- I ate at a small bar run by an Italian ex-pat with an Oxbridge accent. Was served and chatted at by about half a dozen extremely gorgeous Fijian women. Came to assume that I had accidentally wandered somewhere with a dubious character, but was offered neither illicit substances nor inappropriate services, so I may well be doing the place a disservice. At any rate, the food was excellent, so I'd definitely go back there if I'm ever forced back to Suva.
- Having walked up and down several streets and realised that Suva night life consists of karaoke and dodgy bars, I decided to go and watch Sin City, which isn't going to play in Australian cinemas until August or so. It's good. It may actually be great, depending on how you feel about the violence. It is, however, literally true that the only difference between this film and the comics on which it is based are that the former has movement and sounds. And Mickey Rourke with an outrageous prosthetic chin, easily worth the price of admission alone. See it, whenever it makes an appearance.
- When I emerged from the cinema, it was raining again. I walked back to the hotel. Despite the soaking, it was rather pleasant. I think the rain might have suppressed the smell a bit.
- Spend another night having difficulty sleeping. At some ungodly hour of the morning, I arrive at the stupendous insight that midnight in Suva is only 10 pm according to my Canberra-synchronised body clock. Likewise, a 6 am wakeup call is physiologically a 4 am start. These and many other intellectual contemplations keep me awake most of the night. Interestingly, the stunningly crap TV lineup does not have a soporific effect of any kind. Not even the local advertising.
- Friday morning. At breakfast, I stumble across two people I know through work – one of them my director from my time in the Philippines section – who no longer work for the government. I find the smallness of Earth freakish and oddly reassuring.
- After a brief stop at the High Commission, I spend an awful lot of the day tramping around the grounds of a Suva university, hunting aimlessly for their IT department. None of the students I ask have any idea where it is. Turns out that it is Graduation Day. Fortunately I eventually meet the guy I'm looking for and spend a couple of hours chatting about databases like I know what I'm talking about. I'm able to get out of there before I see anyone wearing a mortarboard. The rain's stopped, it's an extremely hot day and I pity anyone that has to spend it in academic robes and a stupid flat hat.
- At the High Commission, I join a very awkward lunch where the head of the department tries to get her charges to open up and discuss the recent suicide of one of their colleagues. Everybody clams up. I get the distinct impression that none of the staff like her very much and are not particularly inclined to share their feelings with an intruder. That was a fun meal, you betcha.
- My flight doesn't leave until late that afternoon, so I have a lot of time to kill. Read and reread the guidelines and am just starting to get bored and wonder what else I can do with my time when the fire alarm goes off. Assembling in the designated area outside, after a comically non-hasty evacuation, I catch up with the guy I met on the plane. Just as the fire engines arrive and declare it a false alarm, the rain comes back. In about two minutes, it's impossible to see more than about ten metres. Luckily by that time we're allowed back in the building.
- In my whole time in Suva, I saw fewer dogs than mongoose. The locals see nothing exotic about this, and why would they?
- I realised sometime during Friday evening, as I took a cramped, vomit-inducingly diesel-smelling light plane from Suva to Nadi, that I missed both Jill and Alan's birthdays again. Well, at least this year I actually had a valid excuse. I am making this exceedingly unpleasant flight because Suva airport doesn't do international flights on the weekend, and if I want to go home before the following Monday – and I do, very much – then I need to go from the other side of the island. I assume the logic of this is that the tourists tend to travel on weekends, and Nadi is far more likely to be a destination for tourists than Suva is. I spend Friday night being kept awake to all hours by a screeching pack of graduate nurses on some sort of bender (pretty sure it was that and not some sort of epic mongoose war in the room next door). I found this less amusing than it probably sounds.
- Saturday afternoon. Home again. Smooth flight back to Sydney, though you would never know it from the passenger seated next to me, for whom every minor bump and jolt was a premonition of certain fiery death. As she was making a connection to Dubai and then London from Sydney, and therefore had the better part of another day aboard aircraft, I tried to be as confident and cheerful as I could manage in my semi-vegetative state. May not have worked, to judge from the deathgrip she had first on the armrest and then on my hand as we landed. I'm glad I like flying. The alternative appears to be completely horrible.
And since then...?
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The rest of the week since then has been a complete blur. Evan was here, attending Conflux (a local spec fiction writer's con – I'd put in a link to it but the internet seems to have vanished as I write this). I hardly got a chance to see him though. Work was mayhem, so I didn't get any time off, and he disappeared for a couple of days to go sightseeing with his writer friends (or possibly just one writer friend, who is smart and attractive and who can blame him?). Listen to that, I'm too tired to even gossip properly. Damn.
Ev went home this morning, so I assume things will start to get back to something resembling normality here. I probably won't notice, though. There's still too much work to do. Got to get to work on those CV's. Can't even post this up to Lexifab before I do, due to the aforementioned distressing lack of internet.
In fact, no, bugger it, I'm going to bed. Sleep's more important.