Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

March 8, 2011

My Happiness

Filed under: family,friends,geekery,joey,news of the day,wombat,workin for the man — lexifab @ 2:53 pm

I didn’t mean for this resumption of posting to become a weekly affair, but oh well. I don’t mean a lot of things that end up happening anyway.

I promised that I would be relentlessly positive with this next entry, and so I shall be – within reasonable limits of tolerance for the terms ‘relentlessly’ and ‘positive’, that is. This is all stuff that is on my mind at the moment that is making me feel good about life

Family – I have a wonderful wife and two adorable children. How cool is that? I have to start with the family, because the last thing I would want is to take them for granted. How can I not appreciate the frankly astonishing fact that I have a loving, supportive and stable marriage with a wonderful woman whose only apparent flaw is her dubious taste in husbands? On top of that are two healthy, adorable little people who love me unconditionally and suffuse me with joy every day. Sometimes even when they are voiding their bowels in some nefarious and inconvenient way.

Work – Work is going well. I have a meaty project to get on with that has a vertiginous learning curve, fearsome deadlines and a broad menagerie of overworked colleagues who have too many other things on their plate. I’m loving it. Every morning I get to work and look at the mountain of stuff that needs doing and I can’t wait to get stuck into it. It has been a while since that’s happened. I suppose it’s possible (inevitable?) that sooner or later the goalposts will shift and some new direction from upper management will force me off into some other project – although I kind of hope not, since my work is one of those critical business processes that functional organisations do well and that everyone points at and laughs when an enterprise goes belly- and/or tits-up – but while it’s still flavour of the month I intend to make as much of it as possible. Possibly up to and including a trip to Sydney for a seminar!

Gaming – After the Wombat was born I took a break from gaming to do my share of baby-wrangling and to keep the house from falling apart or smelling too bad. But since she has started sleeping a little more reliably in recent weeks, I’ve started easing back into previous schedule. Seeing as there are four separate games involved (one weekly, the rest fortnightly) I am not sure whether I will be able to sustain all of them without either running myself ragged or (more likely) jeopardising harmonious relations with my long-suffering wife. I suspect that I’m at least one commitment overbooked, but I will see how it goes. I do know that as long as it lasts, I am enjoying getting together with friends and rolling dice and telling cool stories in bad accents.

Minecraft – It’s more or less my default state that my attention will have been seized by one or two computer games at any given time, and that I will spend as much time as I can spare shooting this or climbing that in some colour-saturated virtual environment. For the past few weeks I have been utterly arrested by Minecraft, a game which has astonishly clunky graphics, no plot or characters, repetitive plinky-plonky music, no instructions and no specific point. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve come across in years. It’s essentially a mining survival game. Your blocky little avatar appears in the middle of a large randomly generated environment and must immediately begin the work of securing (some of) the essentials of life, in particular shelter, before night falls and the monsters come out.

You achieve this in any number of ways, including chopping down trees, digging up dirt, sand or stone to build a shelter, or burrowing into the side of a mountain and fashioning a safety cave for yourself. The first time you play you will probably fail in some way and be quickly killed. But you soon realise (especially if you avail yourself of online help like the Minecraft wiki) that within these and a few other constraints, you are free to do absolutely anything in this game. You can hunt monsters (though the tools to do so are primitive), you can explore, or you can mine up various materials from which to craft great works of art and architecture.

I’m taking great pleasure in carving out a vast underground network of tunnels, dredging various materials back to the surface and shaping them into sprawling fortresses and civic infrastructure that nobody else will ever use. Even better, in the past week or so some friends have started a multiplayer server so that we can collaborate on mighty civil engineering masterpieces like the towering replica of Perdido Street Station currently underway.

It’s probably not immediately obvious what the appeal could be – graphically and audially the game looks like a refugee from the earliest days of the Commodore 64, it’s not actually finished yet and if you didn’t know any better it would doubtless look upon first inspection as though all it offers is the opportunity to punch blocks of colour schemes vaguely suggestive of trees, pigs or chickens, while not falling off a cliff or drowning in a lake. Here’s what the lightbulb moment was for me – when I realised that Minecraft is just a very, very big Lego set. If like me you have ever played with Legos and thought even for a second about what kinds of cool stuff you could make if only you had an unlimited supply of blocks, then Minecraft is a perfect answer.

Lost – At any given time, while I’m not chewing up all my leisure time with gaming of some sort or another, there will usually be at least one TV show that I am following with minute, slavish attention. Lost was the most recent example for me, and since it sadly finished last year nothing has stepped forward to fill that void. [1] I loved Lost – it had sharp writing, a fascinating story and compelling characters, but the really ingenious thing about it was its structure. How the story was told was its most impressive feature for me.

But as much as I admired it and would defend it against criticisms that the producers were making the whole thing up as they went along and that it descended into utter gibberish around Season Two, Three, Four, Five or absolutely definitely Six, it is fair to say that it was on occasions a bit confusing. Which is why I was so happy to come across the Lost Answers blog, in which a self-declared Scientist has taken it upon himself to answer his readers’ questions about any aspect of the show. [2]  It’s right up my alley, deeply nerdy analysis coupled with self-deprecating humour and not-unwarranted sarcasm.

What’s fascinating about his analysis, which is independent of the show’s producers and based entirely off his own observations of the show, is that his completely-plausible answers make it pretty obvious that, far from being a loose agglomeration of sweaty jungle shootouts and random mysticism, in fact Lost was an amazingly tight construction with few unintentional loose ends. Go and check out his explanation of why babies couldn’t be born on the Island, a fact that was introduced in the third season, was critically important to several characters (Juliet, Sun, Claire and Kate, mainly) and was seemingly forgotten in the final year. Warning: obviously, the whole Lost Answers site contains spoilers for the ending, so don’t go looking if you are still working your way through it.

If nothing else this (and my started-twice-and-never-quite-finished essay on the final episode) it has inspired me to start a Lost writing project. [3] I’ll talk about it soonish.

World Affairs – I wanted to say something about how the collapse of Middle Eastern dictatorships and the hilarious disintegration of the mind and career of one of the world’s most overpaid serial abusers of women are keeping me entertained these days, but this is running a little on the long side. Maybe later.

1  – Doctor Who doesn’t count, because it goes without saying that my devotion to Who sets it apart and above all other forms of televised entertainment. Also – woo! New DW coming in a month or so!

2 – Except Walt, the kid who seemed mysterious and important for the first couple of seasons, until a very rapid growth spurt completely out of sync with the show’s compressed time frame forced the producers to drop whatever plans they had for the character.

3 – No, it isn’t John Locke fan fic, you will be relieved to hear.

August 23, 2010

The Monday after the weekend before

Filed under: fitter/happier,friends,joey,political sniping,the renovated life — lexifab @ 10:47 pm

NEW BABY

Dear friends Andrew and Veronica have just announced the birth of their beautiful baby girl Jade. Mother and baby both doing well, and father sounding exhausted and smug when I spoke to him this afternoon. I expect there will be an avalanche of photos available on the interwebs shortly.

HOUSE IN RUINS

So late last week we started to notice that there was water appearing on the floor in the kitchen. Naturally everyone – including me – made the reasonable assumption that I was responsible, spilling too much and cleaning up too little when washing up. It soon became apparent that in fact there was something else going on, that the water was seeping up between the seams of the floating floor slats and presumably up through the floorboards themselves. The floating floor boards are just a laminate, so any water that gets into them for any length of time causes them to swell and start to disintegrate. These ones may have had moisture in them for several weeks, which means at least half the boards in the kitchen are probably screwed beyond repair. And while we have some spares set aside for emergencies, we are pretty sure that we don’t have enough to replace the number that have probably been affected by this incident. And we’re damned sure that, with a two year old in the house and another on the way, we can’t face having to seal off the kitchen while we rip the ruined ones up and replace them.

An expedition to the underworld (played this week by the dusty, cat-faeces-choked subfloor crevice) revealed that…something was leaking in the laundry cabinet off to the side of the kitchen. Last night we turned various taps off (not the right ones, as it turned out, but in my defense there was no obvious visible evidence to suggest what was actually causing the leak) and hoped that the problem would start to fix itself overnight. Not so much. When I looked again this morning the drips were, if anything, more frequent than they were yesterday. Calls to the insurance company followed. Looks like they will cover part of the replacement but not all of it – the floorboards cover the dining room and the hallway that leads to the bathroom and study as well, so if we replace anything we more or less have to replace the lot.At the moment we are considering tiles or another form of timber covering (the floorboards themselves were in a pretty ordinary state, which is one of the reasons we covered them with the floating floor in the first place). There is also the possibility that the underlying floorboards and even the beams will have been damaged by the water leakage, so this could get quite expensive in the end. We think that insurance (or “gambling for pessimists”, as I like to think of it) will cover anything serious like that, but we allow room for the company to disappoint us on that score.

SICKENED

I crashed early last night with aches and pains and then spent most of the night awake with horrible wracking muscle spasms. Yet another frigging flu, I presume. That must be the third or fourth minor flu for the season – more than I managed last year, for certain. I daresay the change factor this year is the Joey’s childcare attendance, where he is undoubtedly exposed to every foul pestilence known to man, including the ones he himself is only too happy to share with the violent sneezes he inherited from his father and the occasional lapse in mouth covering discipline, which he also may have picked up from the paternal side. Have gradually recovered during the day, to the point now where I am wide awake and in only mild discomfort. Despite drinking litres of water, i still feel dehydrated, which is going to be just peachy during the night, I’ll warrant.

POLITICS

I was a bit too ill to spend much time to day catching up on the machinations of the independents and the musings of the polly-watchers, but I am quite keen to get back into that as soon as I can. A hung parliament is likely to be an exercise in protracted horror, certainly, but at least it is interesting. A friend cautions me not to get too optimistic about the prospect of general improvement in the conduct of the parliament as a result of the changed balance of power. Nevertheless it looks a lot like independent Rob Oakeshott is going to lead the charge for parliamentary reform and try to get some much needed quality control back into the procedures for the House of Reps. I like his moxie too, in putting his foot down and saying that if the big parties can’t do that, at least, then it’s back to the polls for the lot of you. Myself, I hope a minority government forms and he and the other two to three to four non-party members kick some common decency into the House.

I notice that he has a surprisingly non-annoying web site, for an Australian politician.

August 20, 2010

An update, absent political commentary

Filed under: fitter/happier,joey,wordsmithery,workin for the man — lexifab @ 12:42 am

If there is anything that validates me more as a human being with utter mastery of his individual destiny than spending an entire day working with excel spreadsheets, I am sure that I don’t know what it is.

I would like to find out however.

Man, I am sick of fucking Excel spreadsheets. First of all there was the “quick win” job that my boss’ boss handed me about eight weeks ago, which has changed scope, shape and content about three times a week since. As a result I have been working on the damned thing constantly for that entire period. I am (give or take a day or two) eight weeks behind on the deadline-driven task which I am nominally employed to complete. Not to worry though, because the possible change of government on Saturday could mean the installation of a new minister, who might not want the information I’ve been working on at all (“That was all the baggage of the previous government. We’ll throw that lot out and come up with a program of our own!”) or, worse, will want it in yet another completely different format.

(You’ll notice that the problem I have is not with Excel per se, which these days is actually beginning to approach being an excellent product, much as it pains me to admit it. Excel is merely the scapegoat for my railing against the pointlessness of my recent career. It’s also excellent for that purpose).

The second set of spreadsheets was the trickier but potentially far more satisfying completion (still pending actually, because I gave up when my eyes started to go square) of the household books that  we will soon hand over to the accountants so that they can work out our taxes. It’s still baffling to me how much work we have to do just to get our accounts into shape to hand over to someone else to do the actual tax application but, as the accountants pointed out, their couple-of-hundred-bucks-an-hour-if-we-waste-their-time fee schedule is a compelling argument for me to sort the invoices and receipts into an orderly state and run up a couple of summary tables. It’s more complicated than that, of course, what with having to guesstimate which investment property expenses were repairs and which ones were improvements and where assets fit into all of this. I figure in about five or six years of doing the preparations for tax returns i might actually have some idea of what I’m doing.

Unless there is a financial apocalypse before then, but I’m not going to lose sleep over that one.

Other than that the rest of this week has been a bit of a blur. The Joey spent a couple more days with a sniffle, which meant that more or less since Rob left on Saturday I have had interrupted nights of sleep and very dozey days. I also haven’t (quite) managed to force myself to resume my exercise schedule, which was on hold while Rob was visiting as I thought it might be a bit inhospitable to trundle out the treadmill at 5 am every day and watch ‘The Wire’ on the TV while I pretend to be a power walker for an hour, across the room from where he was sleeping.

(By the way, is it just me or does everyone have problems running treadmills? Maybe it’s something about the shape or orientation of the one we’ve bought, but for the life of me I cannot get a fast running rhythm going on that thing without seriously threatening grief. I like to think of myself as reasonably coordinated – I can’t dance but I can run in a straight line – but damn I suck at treadmills).

Anyway, hopefully tomorrow morning the motivation will come back. Until the interruption I was actually making decent progress towards my ‘fitness goal’ – the somewhat unscientific but highly motivated “Make that gut smaller, mister” – which I hope to achieve before I have to appear in front of a crowd at Evan and Sara-Jane’s wedding in about six weeks. For about the first time in my life I was actually completing sets of situps and thinking with some seriousness about moving up to crunches. I daresay that my efforts to date will have gone to waste, or rather returned to waist. Ha ha kill me now.

I’m also doing some writing. I’m about a third of the way through a short story that I suspect will bloat out to a novella thanks to the writing technique I’m employing. Writing in chunks of 750-100 words at a time means that I tend to pad, and of course when you’re typing as fast as your fingers can think a lot of redundancy creeps into the prose. By the time I’m finished it it will probably be 40 to 50,000 words. At the moment I’m not convinced there’s enough meat to the story to justify that length, but we’ll see where it goes. Either I will need to pare it back a bit so that it’s a tighter novella-length piece, or I will have to rewrite it from the ground up as the short story it was intended as, which means a lot of footage is going to end up on the cutting room floor, as the misapplied and technologically obsolete expression goes.

November 13, 2009

Various things

Filed under: fitter/happier,geekery,joey — lexifab @ 11:20 pm
  • The Joey is perfectly happy being abandoned at childcare. I’m torn between relief that it’s not a drama and mild offense that he isn’t more traumatised by my absence. Nah, not really. It was nice to have a quiet cup of coffee this morning. When I picked him up, he was cheerfully sitting at a table with the other boys and girls, eating lunch and neither crying nor gibbering nor beating his neighbour with a sippy cup. I’d call the experiment an unmitigated success so far.
  • I got the doctor’s verdict on my cholesterol tests today. To my utter lack of surprise I am just over the safe zone for the bad* cholesterol and I could stand to lose about five kilos. This having been true for probably the last fifteen years, I was less than flabbergasted. Still, I suppose it means I should abandon my recent experiments in choux manufacturing and stop lusting after the perfect chocolate eclair (but the miserable failures are so yummy!)
  • Games – a couple of my favourite game designers teamed up a while ago for a secret collaboration codenamed Project Donut, which has recently been revealed as Freemarket, a game about social network dynamics in a transhumanist utopia – or maybe it’s actually about growing really big pumpkins**. I mention this because Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen are really smart, and make games that I really like, and because for a limited time they have made a beta version of the rules available for download. They are planning a similarly limited print run of the finished product (which I believe will be a box set with rulebooks and cards sets). I’ve been quietly socking money away all year to make sure I have the cash handy when it goes on sale. I’m giddy with excitement.
  • A couple of weeks ago I actually set foot inside a video store and reactivated my account. The amused guy at the counter said I hadn’t been in for 65 weeks, which sounds about right. I have decided it’s probably time I caught up on a few of those movies that I’ve been meaning to see for, you know, ages and ages. So far I’ve ploughed through Die Hard 4.0 (verdict: has ridiculous moments but overall was entertaining, and oddly beautifully shot; but should have been released under its US title of Live Free or Die Hard, because four-point-oh is bland and crappy), The Bourne Ultimatum (verdict: Matt Damon has almost no lines in this film, and the fight scenes are edited for maximum chaos and inducement of nausea, but it was fun) and Wall-E (verdict: dunno, the disc wouldn’t play properly). Now I’m going to cheer myself up for the weekend with that feel-good classic, Children of Men (life-affirming tag line: “No children. No future. No hope.” Should be good for a few belly-laughs).

* Whichever one that is – trans fats, maybe? Can’t remember. This paragraph could really have stood a few minutes’ research, huh?

** Not only can you do this in the game, it’s actually used throughout the rules as an extended example of how the game works. It succeeds not only in explaining the systems, but also subtly asserts that this game is so much fun that even small-scale agriculture is an exciting goal. I admire that.

November 12, 2009

Nervous Parent Day

Filed under: joey — lexifab @ 10:00 am

The Joey is spending the morning having orientation at the childcare centre (or “playschool”, as we dubbed it for the sake of convenience).

There were some hints of tears as we departed, but I think we mostly managed to comport ourselves with dignity. Meanwhile, he played with a box full of toy trucks.

On the advice of the centre manager he’s only going to be there an hour this first day (so I will just have time to write this before I go and pick him up again). We will gradually increase it to full days over the next few weeks, so that hopefully he will be fully acclimatised by the time I…ugh…go back to work in mid-December. I daresay he will adjust better than I do.

October 24, 2009

By gor, it’s been a while

I’m playing catch up on another month of missed posts but not for the usual reasons of boredom and/or relentless procrastination. Since that last post it’s just been sort of relentless, and even though the last week has seen things settle more or less back to routine, finding the time to sit down and write about it hasn’t been easy. It’s only the fact that it is now the middle of the night and I’m up to watch the start of the 20-20 cricket final live from India that I’ve got some free space.

I expect that this will be even more random, rambling and out of sequence than usual, for which I’d be stupid to make any sort of apology. I certainly won’t be going back to edit. You’ve been warned.

(more…)

September 15, 2009

Sick of being sick

Filed under: fitter/happier,joey — lexifab @ 10:25 am

I’m still sick. Fiona’s still sick. The Joey’s fine, but he’s pretty bored of having to hang around the house with a bunch of old sickies. I’m so sick of being sick that I’m ready to try Jenny’s probably-not-as-horrific-as-it-sounds cure (see comments from the previous post).

Probably among the worse things about being sick is that my tolerance for repetition of Wiggles songs is drastically reduced. I am listening to “Big Red Car” for probably the thirtieth time in the past fortnight, and I really don’t want to hear it again.

Might be time to start trying to engage the little feller’s interest in Pixar productions. I’m getting Monsters Inc off the shelf.

July 8, 2009

Summer in July

Filed under: cricket,friends,joey — lexifab @ 11:39 pm

It’s lunch after the first session of the first Ashes Test in Cardiff, with the Australians pretty much on top despite missing Binga and Stuey C from the attack. Probably too early to call the series a whitewash to Australia, I suppose, but the Poms aren’t looking too flash at this point, with three wickets. We’ll see, I guess.

Evan, Andrew and Von will be here for a visit in a couple of days (him for a week, them for just the weekend). It won’t quite be a substitute for our sort-of tradition of shared holidays, but still a terrific break from the current day to day routine. If I have any trepidation about the visit, it’s in wondering how the presence of my little boy will affect how we all get along together. For that matter it will be interesting to see how the Joey reacts to having someone different hanging around the house all day. It might be an interesting juggling act to make sure that I can give everyone the attention they deserve.

Especially if I’m up all night every night watching the Ashes.

July 7, 2009

The narrow window of proud parentage

Filed under: joey — lexifab @ 12:12 am

For purposes that I’m sure are in no way related to being competitive about her child’s achievements, Fi started idly documenting the list of comprehensible, contextually-appropriate words in the Joey’s vocabulary this week, to compare with the 20 or so that a typical 18-or-so month old would be expected to have under his command. His tally’s over 90 words at the moment, already nearly double the number that he should know in six months time. Woah!

The thrill of knowing that our little boy is a precocious speaker is more than tempered by the fact that two of the words in question are not ones that we hope he will use in polite company. Oops. Stupid parents forgot the old adage “Swear in haste and apply careful remedial action for several months subsequently in leisure”, or however it goes.

(Another distinct equalising effect – he trips over his own feet a *lot*. Neither Tony-award winning tap star nor Man U striker are shaping up as career options at this stage).

June 27, 2009

Happy birthday beloved!

Filed under: fitter/happier,friends,joey,political sniping — lexifab @ 1:36 pm

It’s my girl’s birthday today (kicking off the Big Weekend of Birthdays which will end after the weekend is finished with my birthday on Monday) and she is celebrating it as one should, by spending it relaxing about the house wearing her jammies.

Thankfully, the Joey-related drama of the last week or so seems done with. First of all we had the ghastly night-time screaming episodes that at their peak lasted a couple of hours at a time, then we had that plus a cold for a few nights, and then we had just the cold. In retrospect I guess the first few nights could also have been cold-related, perhaps an earache or something, but there were no telltale signs, so it could also have just been an old-fashioned random incidence of extreme toddlerism.

The important part is that normal sleeping patterns have returned, which means that today I don’t feel like a snarling cur. Hooray!

In other happy news, Mz Lindor is now out of hospital, with nothing to show for it but a series of painful tests leading to an anticlimactic diagnosis of…something or other. As she noted, it wasn’t anything she did or didn’t do nor anything she could do anything about and it was not necessarily likely to come back. One can only offer a cautious “hooray” to such ambiguous news, but she seems relatively satisfied with it. She is certainly happy to be out of the hospital, though, which is understandable.

I’ve been a bit out of it all week, which is a shame, because I’ve been dying to write about the contretemps that has raged for the past eight days in Federal parliament, a delicious stew of accusations of corrupt dealings, red-faced righteous indignation, fraudulent evidence and startling reversals of political fortune. Now that the winter break has started and the pollies have all slunk off back home, the heat has drained from the story, but I do want to sound on note of congratulations to the ABC and SBS for steadfastly sticking to their labelling of the whole business as the “OzCar Affair” in the ubiquitous face of the commercial networks’ and tabloids’ ludicrously pedestrian effort “UteGate”. I am moved to suggest that simply suffixing “-gate” to some random reference to any scandal involving political corruption or the suggestion thereof is the lowest common denominator of journalistic sub-editing, from which the self-respecting should automatically retreat.

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