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

August 6, 2013

You had one job to do

Filed under: geekery,news of the day,property magnatism — Tags: , , , , — lexifab @ 2:57 pm

This is the 600th post on this iteration of Lexifabricographer [1]. For reasons I am not well equipped to examine at the moment, I have had this idea that I should mark the occasion with a special post. Yes, despite the fact that this could not possibly be a more meaningless milestone. All week I’ve been trying to think of a suitably worthy discussion topic. Each time I’ve failed, then gone off and found something else to do.

Obviously, what I should be doing is a classic Lexifab post of context-free observations and underdeveloped comments about two or three unrelated topics that occur to me as I type them. because everyone loves those, don’t they?

(Well, they might, but until I do a few and then examine the new analytical tools, how will I know?)

The Next of the Doctors

So they announced that <spoiler>Peter Capaldi</spoiler> will be taking the part of the twelfth-or-thirteenth Doctor when Matt Smith departs at the end of the year. So, the Doctor will continue to be a white bloke for the next three to five years. Once again my desperately unrealistic hopes of a Helen Mirren, Chiwetel Ejiofor or Sophie Okenedo Doctor will have to be shelved, as such hopes ever are. I find that this time around I am too tired of making the argument for a female Doctor, much less the surely-not-all-that-controversial possibility of casting a non-white actor, to even bother engaging in the discussion much.

That said, I like Peter Capaldi very much as an actor and I am sure he will be just as marvellous in the role as everyone else who ever got the job. He has an expressive face with the capacity to do both “angry” and “concerned” and his comic timing appears sound. What’s of more interest – and I have to say concern – is whether the hyper-fluid, breathless and often incoherent storytelling that has marked the Moffatt era so far, will continue after Matt Smith’s departure. That style of drama has its positive points but seems to favour being clever over being smart a little too often for my tastes. [2]

If it were me – and let us be honest it never will or should be me in charge of Doctor Who – I’d take the opportunity of casting a slightly less spritely-appearing actor (Capaldi is 55, which is OMG as old as William Hartnell was when he took the role) to extend the metaphor into the meta a bit. I think it would make a nice change to enjoy a period of slightly less rushed and deliberately confusing storytelling, where the exploration of character has a bit of space to happen naturally in amongst the exploding space-skyscrapers and timey-wimey shenanigans.


Deadlines whoosh by

I still haven’t finished my novel manuscript. July was almost a complete washout, thanks to sleepiness and, I’ll be honest, a solid spoonful of disenchantment with both the story and my ability to tell it. In the last week or so some of the wind has returned to my sails and the manuscript-so-far, while undoubtedly riddled with structural defects and rookie errors, doesn’t look all that bad. I’ll put a fair chunk of the blame on the tiredness for that one.

My novel critiquing group is owed a finished manuscript in eight days. They’re not going to get one. Even if I took the next week off work I doubt I could get to the finish line on that one. Lucky for me, they’ve all been extraordinarily patient and have generously agreed to read whatever I have done at that point. It would have been good to be able to hand over something with THE END typed on the last page. I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it (and sometime soon I’ll need to take a much closer look at everything from my approach to outlining, my writing session discipline and the reasonableness of my self-expectations to see where improvements can be made in future).

But the crit group have been ruthless in their dissection of each others’ work over the course of this year. Weak characters, inconsistent settings and rambling plots have been unearthed in even the most polished of manuscripts. (Not by me, I might add – I fear I was among the softer, less helpful critics in the group. Most of the time I couldn’t spot an error in plot logic even if you explained it slowly with flowcharts). They are going to have a field day with mine – but the crucial part is that they will probably identify problems that I don’t already know about. And they might very well come up with ideas that are better than mine.

So I have one week to go through what I’ve written so far and at least fix all the typos so they don’t have to deal with those…

Tax time

Back in real life, however, what I have to spend the rest of this week and probably some part of the weekend doing is getting my tax documents and spreadsheets together. While we have highly paid accountants to work out the intricate tax details of our investment property empire (such as it is), we can’t really afford to just throw all our receipts at them and let them do all the work. Which means that around this time every year I have to pull together a ten-page spreadsheet of itemised income and expenditure statements, together with the usual huge bundles of invoices, bank statements and income summaries.

So far the only fun thing about preparing this  year’s spreadsheet has been adding a line item in my income statement for income from writing. First step on the long and probably neverending journey to a professional career in writing! If nothing else, it gives me a target to aim at for next year.



[1] The previous iteration still exists, mostly unlinked-to, like a confused and irritable ghost meandering about the halls of an orange-hued gothic manor. Do not attempt to engage it, for its ill-focused ennui is both parasitic and contagious, a bit like all the comment spam that has nestled in it for warmth and nutrients.

[2] That said, I found more to like than dislike in the eight stories of Season 7B than in any previous stretch of the Twelfth Doctor run, even though those very qualities have been wound up to Ramming Speed.

December 19, 2011

State of the blog: Lex in Decs

Filed under: administraviata,joey,property magnatism,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:14 pm

I have no idea what that title means. Let’s pretend that never happened.

The past couple of weeks have been quiet, at least from the external point of view. From where I’m sitting it’s been a bit more frenetic than that. The Joey turned four last weekend, for which there was a party to prepare, on top of the usual routine. That was exhausting, but it went well. The rain paused long enough for us to wrangle eight or so kids through some games, a sausage sizzle and some cake, and then we all got out of there before the drenching could begin. We counted it as a success that the only kid to fall off something and hurt themselves was the Joey himself (he was fine).

I’ve taken a week off from writing the novel in the evenings – and I think I’ll take another this week. It’s going to blow my chances of finishing it before the end of the year out of the water, but there’s a couple of good reasons why it’s necessary. First of all, Xmas. It’s kind of a time hog. Doubly so, I suspect, on whatever evening this week I decide to gird my loins and teach myself the ancient parental duty of assembling a bike. But this week there will also be wrapping, cooking and packing for a whirlwind post-Xmas road trip to do.

Second – and this one is the real time hog – I am five months behind on my property investment monthly accounts. On average, it takes me about one whole day per month to reconcile the accounts against income and expenditure statements, classify bank transactions as property-related for tax purposes, and update various records and spreadsheets. It’s laborious and very easy to neglect. Having decided that I really can’t afford to neglect it any more than I already have, something else has had to give.

Third, there’s the novel itself. It’s not quite working. The characters are not quite gelling with the situation, so I am in the annoying position of not knowing what should happen next. The outline I prepared earlier is no help, since I’ve discovered that it either no longer makes sense, having not survived contact with the rigours of expansion, or it was simply illogical gibberish to start with. Most likely it’s both. I know that the only viable solution is to write through the roadblocks to hammer out something quick and dirty. It won’t hang together. It probably won’t actually make any sense at all. But I hope that it will give me all the pieces I need to build the (for want of a better world) ‘right’ version of the story in the next draft. But a couple of weeks away from fretting about it probably won’t hurt the eventual product. Well, no more so than its premise, at any rate…

April 12, 2011

Backlogs will kill you if you let them

Filed under: property magnatism,workin for the man — lexifab @ 4:52 pm

There was no Lost review yesterday because I didn’t get a chance to sit down at the computer until about twenty to twelve at night. That’s no time to be doing an editing read-through of anything, believe me. I’ll get it out there tonight or tomorrow and resume the standard Friday-Monday release schedule later.

It’s nice to have built up a buffer of spare reviews so that I can actually absorb the odd busy period, but I am suddenly awfully conscious that a twice-weekly schedule does not leave a lot of slack. I might try to do two reviews in my next writing stint.

I have just spent all day at work doing forensic accounting on a contract to work out why and how errors crept in. When it comes to tracking down mistakes in a spreadsheet I am usually very reluctant to start, precisely because I know that once I do I won’t be able to let it go until I have either found the erroneous data, missing money or procedural misstep. Until I have convinced myself that I can reconstruct the exact chain of events that led to the initial mistake and consequent problems, I keep going.

I am by nature an accountant. Or possibly one of those small dogs that will not stop until every particle of newspaper has been shredded into its smallest possible fragment (and dispersed over the widest possible area, not unlike my paper-strewn desk).

The thing is, even though I’m well-suited to this kind of work in one respect – let’s charitably call this quality tenacity rather than resort to slinging around mental health conditions like OCD as epithets – it sits very uncomfortably next to my bad temper and paper-thin tolerance for frustration. The longer I go without working things out, the more I get cross and irritable and the louder I spew invectives. And correspondingly the less likely it becomes that I will take a break and a deep breath before I return to the problem.

Fortunately for me and everyone around me I am not an actual accountant. Because if I had to do this kind of tedious number-crunching bullshit every day I would go stark-staring mad and commence murdering.

(All this reminds me that I have a backlog of monthly property investment accounts to catch up on. I am taking the day off work on Friday so that I can attend to them, thus nicely bookending my working week with the unremitting tedium of bookkeeping. Yay).

November 26, 2009

Notes from the start of the summer

Filed under: cricket,property magnatism,the renovated life — lexifab @ 11:50 am

Thursdays and Fridays are ‘playschool’ day for the Joey, so for the next couple of weeks until I go back to work (sigh), I have a bit of time to get some work done around the place. Of course, today is also the start of the first Test against the Windies from the Gabba, so I am in a quandary.

For the moment I have resolved it by slapping some plaster over the cracks on the front wall. Now I have to wait for an hour or so while it dries before I can paint on the undercoat, so I have little choice but to sit down and take in the action from the first session. Shane Watson’s already done his best to make that seem like a very poor use of my time by getting out without scoring or offering a shot, but I will perservere here for a bit.

My resolution to get the patio finished before the start of summer is on pretty brittle footing at this point. I have, what, another four days to get several more layers of paint applied, erect a climbing frame for the plants, dig out the garden and get the roofing back on. Don’t think it’s going to happen somehow – especially not if the predicted all-weekend storms actually eventuate. But they won’t, so I should be able to make a fair fist of it.

The other major distraction at the moment is the return of the house-buying rigmarole. Fiona has found a little place in Western Australia and had an offer accepted, so now comes the march of inspections, finance applications, quantity surveys, interviewing property managers and the million other little jobs that need doing to get the purchase across the line. We’ve made life difficult for ourselves as usual, this time by timing the deadline for our finance approval at 25 December. Oops, that could be a little awkward – hope we can get it done early. But from my point of view the timing is excellent – it would be very difficult to get all the fiddly little jobs done once I returned to work.

This will be the last property purchase for a while, probably at least a year. We’ve leveraged all the equity that we’ve built up in our own place, so now we need to sit back and wait for some capital growth to take effect. That will probably take a while (that’s sort of the point) and I can imagine a certain amount of impatience creeping in during the lull. Fiona has thrown herself into the research quite aggressively this year – getting us some very good deals into the bargain – and I am anticipating some withdrawal pangs gnawing away while we’re not in a position to do any shopping. For my part, I get to do the monthly reconciliations and property management, so nothing will change for me – I still get to pore over bank statements, credit card bills and scads of invoices for several hair-pulling hours every month…

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.


August 31, 2009

Oh hello, it’s a milestone.

Filed under: family,fitter/happier,property magnatism — lexifab @ 11:10 am

Todays marks ten years to the days since Fiona and I first went out.Since that night, we’ve spent barely a day apart (other than when one or the other of us has been out of town). Not to mention that together we’ve bought and renovated a house, done a smattering of world travel and a reasonable amount of swanning about in this country, eaten a lot of fine food and drunk a lot of fine wine, invested in property and – oh yeah, had a beautiful baby boy. Still can’t quite believe that last bit.

It’s been the best ten years of my adult life, no doubt about it. This wonderful woman has kept me sane, helped me grow up (a bit) and given me an appreciation for some of the finer things in life*. In return I’ve given her – well, god knows what she sees in me, really. But I know when I’m on a good thing. We’re still very much in love and planning to stay that way.

Forever, preferably, though I’m a little disappointed in the slower than expected march of technology. Where’s our immortality serum, again?

In what on any other day would not be second banana news, today is also the day we settle on our fourth investment property purchase, a block of flats in Albury. Hopefully we are edging closer to the breed of fantastic super-wealth that will allows to be early adopters of the aforementioned immortality technology, while it’s still cool and edgy. Or something.

* No chance of instilling any fashion sense though. I still dress like a teenage hobo.

July 10, 2009

Further Magnatery

Filed under: property magnatism,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 1:36 am

We put in an offer on some flats in southern NSW this week, thus kicking off the tedious and terrifying property buying circus yet again. Assuming these ones aren’t crawling with rats or about to collapse, this buy will chew up the remainder of our equity, making it our last investment property for some time. We won’t be in a position to buy again until either we pay down a considerable amount on our home mortgage (you pay that one out first because interest charges on one’s ‘principle place of residence’ are not tax deductible) or something we own appreciates in value, or – preferably, and in accordance with ‘The Plan’ – a little of both.

That’s a bit of a relief actually, because predictably the places we have bought already have not been miraculously cheap to own and maintain. Quite the opposite, of course – they’ve all required numerous small fixes, and a couple have called for rather more expensive interventions. Nothing has exceeded our budgets yet – we were pretty careful and quite conservative in working out what we could comfortably afford to maintain – but all the same each new invoice provokes a reaction somewhere between a resigned sigh and an acutely pained wince. I have to keep reminding myself, over and over, to chant the ‘short term pain for long term gain’ mantra, and picture myself some day in the not-quite-unforseeable future sitting in a cafe somewhere writing the Next Great American Novel* unencumbered by a need to do something more financially reliable for a living. It’s a nice dream, and it helps control the tooth-grinding.

* Fi insists that it has to be an American novel because she is not convinced that sales of the Next Great Australian Novel would keep her in the manner to which she would prefer to become accustomed.

March 20, 2009

Currently in recovery (from not blogging)

Spent yesterday in bed with a book and Lost DVDs, trying very hard not to cough in order to avoid hideous back spasms. Was surprised by how well the supposedly-meandering third season of Lost holds up when the episodes are viewed back to back. Yes, there are some dodgy elements (chiefly Nikki and Paolo, the very short-lived experiment in showing us some of the other crash survivors) but the narrative is tighter than I remembered. I suspect the middle to late season may sag a little though.

Anyway, I feel better today.

Now that I have spent a week on Facebook, I suspect that it really demands a lot more time than I will be prepared to afford it. It’s good to have an easy means of occasionally touching base with my various cousins and rarely-seen old school buddies, but I daresay that it will not supplant blogging as my preferred medium for contact with the outside world.

In a related topic, while being exposed to near-lethal doses of daytime television of late, I’ve had the chance to observe Twitter’s transition from “kind of cool thing that only teenagers and hipster geeks have heard of” to mainstream penetration. In the last four weeks virtually every daily news/entertainment/variety show in Australian television has suddenly realised that they can create the illusion of audience participation by letting you know that their co-anchors are”currently in makeup” or “changing shirts after being peed on by that koala”. You know that when the morning newsertainment shows have a Twitter feed that it is officially no longer cool. Notch up one more geek meme that passed me by without interference. I’ll catch the next one when I can be bothered getting a mobile telephony device that can keep up (my current one has a monochrome LCD display and no camera, to give you some idea of its vintage).

Having completed all outstanding property purchases a couple of weeks ago, we have now entered the “paying all the problems that were not previously apparent” stage of property ownership. Apparently at one of our places the tenants have nailed boards across several doors in order to prevent the kids from getting through. If that were the worst of it it probably won’t bother us (the place was cheap for a reason) but I suspect that more improvised renovations are waiting to be discovered. Hopefully they haven’t been arseing about with anything electrical. We are bracing ourselves for this initial period of landlord operations, which is likely to prove a little on the expensive side. We’ll just grit our teeth and remind ourselves that this is a long term investment project. Over and over again, probably.

I’m not writing anything at the moment, by the way. Quelle surprise, eh what? But I have been reading John “He Died with a Felafel in his Hand” Birmingham’s latest post-Tom Clancy technoporn thriller Without Warning, which could easily have been written in response to the loudmouth assertions of some arsehole in a pub (not the least credible motive ever for a novel by any means). It starts with the premise that the world would be better off without the United States (a view that I, in the somewhat distant past, was known to assert in my more pompous moments) and then proceeds to systematically dismantle that assertion with a plausible progression of increasingly horrible events. It’s interesting that, aside from the occasional deliberate jingoistic note and the obligatory hypercompetent spy, for me the most compelling sequences were the speculations about shifts in the global political landscape. And his conclusion, that despite its flaws we’re kind of screwed without the damned Yankees, is pretty hard to refute.

My only real complaint is that it wasn’t long enough – most of Africa and Asia are scarcely mentioned, and Europe and South America only in key patches. If Birmingham had churned out a book twice as long, I’d have eaten it up twice as happily. He writes well, that lad. I knew he’d go far. Never thought he’d go where he has, but more power to him.

So, what have you been up to then?

January 18, 2009

Days go by

Well crap, that blogless week and a half disappeared flew by pretty quickly. Wish I could report that I have something to show for it, apart from the increasingly irresponsible tan caused by taking the bub for a couple of walks a day during the height of an overachieving summer. Well, actually the same regular walks also appear to be consuming all the flesh off my hips – none of my shorts seem to fit very well any more – but alas there is little corresponding progress towards the disappearance of my moderately pudgy gut. Either way I should probably start packing some sunscreen in the back compartment of the baby’s pram, huh?

Strange weight issues aside, um, hot, isn’t it? Actually, I have no idea what it’s like where you are – parts of the Old Country Up North appear to have been underwater for the past week or so – but it sure is too frickin’ hot here. Right now we’re going through a more acceptable phase, where it at least it gets cool at night, but last week was just deeply unpleasant. The baby was not amused, as you might imagine.

There were some good points though – Mum’s visit was a good couple of weeks, shared between the Nerdfarm and my brother Gazza’s place on the other side of town. She and Dad are hoping to sell their place and move soon (this year, we hope) and they intend to find somewhere a bit closer to Canberra to live, so with any luck this will be the last time that Mum has to make the long haul just to get a look at the grandkids. Dad prefers not to fly due to his health, so we rarely get to see him at all. Now that Mum’s home, we really should see about getting some regular videoskype calls – but somehow I doubt that their computer is up to it, so there may be some intermediate steps to address.

Another sort of big event was the conclusion of the nine-month Burning Empires game I had been playing. Sadly, it drew to its inevitable climax as the alien brainworms slaughtered or converted all the player characters and overthrew the planet we had een so desperate to defend. Actually, no, I think it fell because we kind of sucked at staying focused on the main goal and because we dropped the ball a lot, but nevertheless we had a very cool time getting there. If you care at all, the details of the campaign are recorded with meticulous and only occasionally overdetailed care at our local gaming collective’s website. My character threw himself and a guy he was trying to recruit off a cliff about four sessions before the end of the campaign. It was awesome (even if I did have to limp across the finish line using a backup character).

Next up for gaming is a somewhat ambitious Burning Wheel campaign about the aftermath of a successful war of imperial conquest, in which the player characters are the lieutenants and trusted advisors of an increasingly erratic and possibly insane emperor. Should be fun, although potentially no less apocalyptic than the Burning Empires game.

Other projects? Well, the front patio beams are nearly all sanded, though that little job has been on hiatus for a week or so while other stuff (including cricket! Yay!) took priority. That really needs to get done so that as soon as the weather outside starts to become bearable again we can actually turn it into a usable living space. Fi and her landscape designer brother have come up with an elaborate and expensive idea for sealing the cement verandah part off so that small boys can’t accidentally tumble off the edge face first into the driveway. Unfortunately implementing this plan seems like it will involve a fair amount of hard work for me, but this is nothing terribly new.

The other primary occupation has been property stuff. We *still* don’t actually own anything other than (half of) our own place, though unless something unforeseen happens we will exchange contracts on the flats in Tamworth tomorrow or the next day. Huzzah! We will officially be proto-magnates! (And no, Clam, we still haven’t been up to see them, or we would have come and visited Casa del Yourplace). After that we are negotiating offers on two separate deals in Adelaide, which look like they will probably go ahead. It sounds sudden, but really there has been a terrific amount of too-ing and fro-ing (and steep-learning-curve traversal) involved over the past four weeks or so. I have personally been developing my ability to pretend to listen attentively to real estate agents through a wall of high-pitched caterwauling that could shatter glass. It’s not been easy, but luckily I have had plenty of practise.

Okay, I need more of something cold, and I fear that beer may well be the only viable option at this stage. I’ll let you know how that goes.

December 16, 2008

Building an empire

Filed under: property magnatism — lexifab @ 8:31 pm

The property investment malarkey continues to present the expected challenges. We have had offers accepted on two places (or sets of places – one’s the apartment block in Tamowrth, the other is a duplex in Adelaide), and as expected nothing much is going smoothly. There’s no chance we’ll have settled anything by the end of the year, though probably we will have exchanged contracts by that stage (after which it’s all over barring acts of God or quantum interference). Also, it turns out that some of the minor problems with one of the properties are not, perhaps, quite as minor as we might have been led to believe, but that’s why you get property and pest  inspections done before too much money exchanges hands.

At this point we are not quite as far along in the empire-building process as we would have liked. It would have been preferable to get a couple of contracts signed by now, so that we could relax a bit over the Xmas break and focus on the renovations (the transparent roofing over the patio and shed needs replacing due to excessive holefulness). Instead it looks like we may have to spend a bit more time doing research, albeit not likely at the expense of the renovations. (This blog, on the other hand…)

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