Sunday, July 31, 2005
In honour of Ginge's birthday, we've pretty much done nothing at all, since we went over to his place last weekend for a birthday get-together. He and Son are thinking about getting another house before too long – they're finding the one they have now is a bit cramped, I think. Can't happen for a little while yet, I gather, but that didn't stop Ian spending his birthday surfing the net for possible bargains. As Fi said, house hunting becomes a bit of an obsession once you start at it.
One house is not enough
We've got to get back into the search for decent investment properties again pretty soon. It's tax time, so presumably before long we'll have a (no doubt modest) return to put on the mortgage. It's getting towards being comfortably manageable now, which according to the Plan means we can start looking at taking on more exciting levels of debt.
At this stage there are no plans for long term investment in valuable research and development, sorry, Doctor Clam.
While World of Warcraft continues to form the backbone of my diversions from reality, I am also reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Almost Everything - just finished actually, and it's an excellent work for someone like me who is deeply fascinated by all things scientific except the maths and the intellectual discipline – as well as the new Harry Potter (with which I am deliberately torturing Lindor by reading no more than a couple of pages a day), the first of the new Doctor Who novels (serviceable, and rewatching the televised episode Boom Town again last night, I noticed a subtle piece of cross-promotion which is common enough but somehow seems a little vulgar coming from the BBC) and Coldheart Canyon, which is by-the-numbers Clive Barker, inasmuch as it's slightly predictable, elegantly written, occasionally moving and somewhat decadent. All good diversions, though.
Speaking of Doctor Who, ChrisT, Si, Lindor and I went to the theatre on Tuesday night to see Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Katy Manning doing a stage show called Inside the TARDIS. Mostly it was entertaining, though the choice of the least-best ex-Doug Anthony Allstar Tim Ferguson as host was, I think, an unfortunate one. Oh, sure, he had a few good lines and was on rare occasions able to deliver them with adequate comic timing. But he also fluffed just as many, had his usual high opinion of himself and, least forgiveably, often stifled the stars he was supposed to be supporting. Disappointing, though more or less as expected.
Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant back in the early seventies, was hyper and shrieked a lot (much of it a deliberate sendup of her original performance, but mostly obviously natural ebullience turned up to 11). Colin Baker was the epitome of a “real British actor who takes his craft seriously”, but fortunately tempered it with a sense of humour. Sylvester McCoy was, no doubt about it, utterly mad. He spluttered and raved and hammed up for the audience outrageously. I liked him the best.
Anyway, good show, though I rather suspect I'd enjoying seeing them more in a more casual and relaxed setting. (Maybe I should go to one of them huge conventions thingies one of these days. I think I'm a big enough geek to qualify). Oh, and Kate and Jon would have been much better as hosts – I guess it probably wasn't an option for all sorts of reasons – than disappointing ol' Timbo.
Speaking of being a big enough geek
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It appears that the Trogdor the Burninator T-shirt that Simon got me for my birthday has left my other geek-culturally sensitive colleagues mystified. This is one of those memes that briefly achieved near-total saturation on the net for about one week (see also: “All your base are belong to us”, the kung-fu salmon-loving brown bear and more recently the Carlton Draught “Very Big Ad”). It also rated a mention in the final episode of Buffy, if that helps at all. As to what it actually means, I'm not really sure I can help you with that. It's all a bit odd.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Pictures from the coal face
Giles, technical team leader of Project Porkpie, managed to snatch a few seconds in our busy Fiji schedule to take a few photos and get them up on his corner of the intertronic web. Check out the indelible evidence of our dedication to the Good of Our Nation.
These are the same ones that he linked to in the Comments earlier, yes.
Rugose humour. Or possibly cyclopean.
Found on Neil Gaiman’s website: H.P. Lovecraft fanfic. Highly amusing.
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The empty lot next door suddenly commenced conversion into a house this week. Various warmly-dressed chaps with theodolites tramped about in mud churned up by enthusiastic bobcats, trenches suddenly appeared like ebola lesions and were just as suddenly patched up with reinforced concrete sutures, bricks commenced to be stacked, unstacked and restacked. It looks rather like the entire block will soon be full of a very large, very expensive house.
My greedy materialistic heart notes that this will be a big shot in the arm for our land values, but at the same time I suspect that the house plans we took a look at back in December failed to adequately convey just how much of our view of the neighbourhood is about to be subsumed by concrete.
In eight months or so, I mean.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Resume cautious blogging
After Ms Lindor comprehensively outed the existence of Lexifab to my work colleagues last week, I have been too busy at work and lazy at home to do any updates. But now I’m forcing myself, on the grounds that I don’t want to seem like I’ve got something to hide. Giles did manage to find an old oblique reference to himself in which I dubbed him The Young Punk, but in context it was not intended as a term of abuse, so I reckon I got away with that. I presume he’ll let me know if not.
The week in Suva was productive and a little more entertaining than my first visit. Apart from the fact that Giles and Wendy were much better company than monsoonal rains and horrific bouts of flu-based impairment, I did actually get out and see some bits of the city. I can report that it’s still pretty dingy, but we did discover a couple of acceptable bars and a reliance source of extremely good curry. We also stayed at a large bed and breakfast which had a fabulous pool and a glorious view of a serene valley, the bay and some mountains to the south. This all made me happy.
Less pleasing elements of the trip included the woeful performance of Queensland in the State of Origin final (which is huge in Fiji, by all accounts), getting hustled into buying crappy “genuine” folk art by fast talking scammers with “genuine” Fiji Tourist Board accreditation (wish I’d read the Lonely Planet Guide warning about that before the incident in question) and the rubbish tip fire that burned out of control all week and pumped vast quantities of probably highly toxic smoke into the aforementioned serene valley (and the lungs of the several hundred residents therein, who were advised to leave the area after about three days of said poisoning).
Anyway, we got out of it what we went for, and Project Porkpie is poised to leap into actual action. Giles and the developers will actually start coding (or preparing to code, or whatever) next Monday, which means we’ll have informally moved past the point of no return. It’s probably time I told the business owners they’re up for more money than previously advised, I suppose…
Neil Gaiman did a guest presentation at the ANU last night, so Si, ChrisT (newly returned from the wilds of the Orient), Ms Lindor and I went along. Lie probably a lot of authors, he didn’t seem all that comfortable in front of an audience – by his own admission, his preferred convention style is one where he sits in the vicinity of a bar for three days chatting to anyone that comes past and occasionally dashing off to be funny at a panel for an hour before resuming his place – but he did have his moments. Without careful reference to his incredibly popular web page, he seems mostly to be touring to promote Mirrormask, a semi-animated film written by Neil and directed by long-time collaborator Dave McKean. McKean, certain of you may recall, produced the gorgeous, eclectic and occasionally quite disturbing cover images for every issue of Gaiman’s Sandman series. From the couple of short clips shown, Mirrormask is gloomily beautiful, deeply strange and unmistakably a McKean production. The pick of the clips almost defies description – a collection of tailors’ mannequin/robot/jack-in-the-boxes dress the heroine in goth stylings while singing The Carpenters’ Close to You - but is utterly compelling. I would say “Don’t miss it”, but Neil was pretty pessimistic about the schedule for its theatrical release in Australia, so perhaps “Don’t hold your breath” is a bit more on the money.
He also did a reading from his nearly-released new book Anansi Boys, which is one of the more fun fantasy titles in recent memory. The scene he read was very reminiscent of Douglas Adams (in fact sounded a lot like the interplay between Ford and Arthur in Hitchhiker’s but I have absolutely no complaints about that. He also mentioned that he and Roger Avary’s version of Beowulf now seems likely to be made, and that Terry Gilliam’s version of Good Omens is as likely to be made as it ever was (which is to say, who knows?). He did mention that Gilliam’s script includes a scene with Gilliam and William Shatner, so I really do want to see it myself now.
I didn’t feel like standing in line for probably more than an hour for an autograph (and in any case I forgot to bring my copy of Good Omens, or for that matter any of my favourite issues of Sandman) and nor did Simon, but I would love to have asked him if he ever thought his script for one of the Modesty Blaise movies would be made. Trouble is, it would have been a rhetorical question…
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Seem to be packing more and more into each day at work, which is strange and satisfying, but why exactly is it that the more work you do, the more work you seem to have left to do? I feel like I used to have time to ponder deep philosophical insights like these, once upon a time…
Fiona’s been away in Adelaide doing training all this week, but she’s back tonight. Normality soon to be reinstituted, and not before time.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Off againI'm getting up at some appalling hour tomorrow to get on a plane for Suva. I'll be there for a week again. In many ways, I expect it to be a relaxing week, because I will basically be able to focus on one thing rather than the thousand or so problems I dealt with this week. Yay for no phones! (It's not that there are no phones, of course - it's just that it's highly unlikely that anyone will try to call me on one of them).
I'll get back to town on Saturday afternoon, just in time for another elaborate dinner party of fine wine, rich food and staying up too late. I hope by then I've learned how to sleep on a plane.