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l'enfer du North Island

  the problem with the review system Monday 30 June 2008 link

So on Saturday, I took the chance during a brief hiatus in the horizontal rain to take the kids out to the library. Walking back along the waterfront, I passed a group of adolescents. "Sir!", one called out. "Sir! Sir!" Unsure as to whether he meant me, I half-turned and saw him addressing me. "Excuse me, sir, but what mil are your ears at?" "Um... 12mm" I replied. He flashed me a big grin, lifted his hair up a bit and said "Mine are 14!" Unsure how to reply, I said "Well, there you go." He grinned again and turned to catch up with his friends. The youth of today, eh?

And for those of you who are wondering what a pubescent youth (I'd have put his age around 12-14) was doing with stretched earlobes, I'd just like to point out that he was extremely respectful and polite. So that for your declining community standards!

And we've definitely come a long way since my having 12mm earlobes was enough to get my picture posted on a gay German piercing fetish website.

Earlier in the same trip, Rebecca met a guide dog for the first time. This was her first face-to-muzzle encounter with a guide dog (previously, it had turned out that my careful explanations had led her to believe that they were "guide dogs for the blonde", and she'd filed that away under "odd things that adults say that may be jokes but I'll have to find out later"). Slightly embarassing moment when I told Rebecca that the dog was being trained to help a blind person, and the owner turned to me and politely said "No, she's my guide dog." It was a sunny day, I'd assumed that the owner was wearing the dark glasses for the wrong reason. Whoops. She was very nice, though. Rebecca did me proud: walked up to the lady and said "Excuse me, do you mind if I pat your dog?" She's a good girl. Good dog, too; golden lab, clearly very used to kids. I wouldn't normally let the girls play with a guide dog, as the dog needs to concentrate on its owner, but in this case the owner was quite happy and the dog was quite used to it so it was all good.

And then on sunday, it rained horizontally the whole day. And Campagnolo announced that not only are they fucking going to 11-speed rear cassettes, they're killing off the Xenon and Mirage groupsets. Great: no entry level groupsets. Am I even going to be able to get a bloody 9-speed casette in a year or two? It's this sort of persistant ignoring of actual grassroots cyclists that's making me think seriously about just buying a bike with a hub gear.

  worst. commute. ever. Friday 27 June 2008 link

Sometimes, at 4:55pm, I look out the window at the driving rain and wind and ask myself "Why do I ride a bike again?"

Wednesday night, we had gale force northerlies. I rode home from work in driving rain and wind fierce enough for the Met Service to issue a severe weather warning. It took me 80 minutes to get home. I arrived wet and exhausted.

Tonight, it was raining. For various reasons, I had to take the bus home from work. It took me 100 minutes to get home, including 40 of those minutes standing at bus stops grinding my teeth. I arrived home wet, exhausted, and frustrated enough to chew nails. And it cost me $7.

And that's why I ride a bike.

  into the unknown, with temerity Monday 23 June 2008 link

Righto. So I've been at Weta for a week now, and it's been very interesting. I've got one hell of a learning curve to run up: I have absolutely no background in CG, so suddenly having to learn huge amounts about how the damn stuff works is quite a challenge. So that's keeping me busy/amused for the moment. And on the whole, Weta is surprisingly like how a company would be if I ran it - slightly shambolic, lots of cool stuff, and a refreshing "You're all grownups now get on with it" attitude that encourages a good work environment. Of course, if I could get an office with natural light I'd be a bit happier, but we can't have everything.

But there's an obvious issue with the working at Weta schtick. Namely, the commute. I'm not quite going entirely across the city (I'd need to be leaving from Tawa to do that), but it's not too far off. So how do I get from point A, home, to point B, on the southern half of the Miramar peninsula?

Well, I could take the bus. Ha ha, nice one! Taking a bus into Wellington from an outer suburb is certainly possible. Then taking another bus out to another outer suburb, less so. I've taken the bus a couple of times, and it's averaging around 75 minutes door to door. Oy vey.

I've also driven in. On a wet Monday morning, from the outside of Newlands Childcare Inc, it was about 40 minutes. Rush hour traffic, kids! Actually, once I cleared the Basin Reserve it was pretty straightforward. And of course, driving around by meself in the morning means I can get the bangin' choons going and rack up the thud thud action. Or at least, listen to National Radio on the way in. I may even subscribe to a podcast or two if I end up having to drive in regularly.

But of course you can see where this is going. So yes, I have mainly been riding in. On my first day, I went around the bays and into the teeth of a Southerly. It took about 55 minutes for 18k on the bike (yes, it was a very windy day). Later days came through a little more and I've got it averaging about 40 minutes door to door on the way in, 55 minutes on the way back. That's mainly by going through the Mt Vic tunnel (cuts about 2k off), which isn't particularly pleasant but does the job. So the ride in is comparable to driving, and ludicrously better than the bus.

But it's looking like I'll be driving in a day or two a week (at least), just so I can do the drop off/pick-up for the kids at creche. And that's OK - I'll just have to increase my mileage at weekends to make up for it. I'm sure we can work something out.

I'm getting to grips with Linux, too. Half the time is spent trying to configure the damn thing. Particularly annoying is the default autocompletion in OpenOffice, where someone didn't seem to realise that it's actually really annoying for a touch-typist to have to stop and think about what word is appearing in the autocomplete and whether to press return to select it, rather than just typing the rest of the damn word. Anyway, that's a minor niggle and I'm currently going through and making OpenOffice my bitch: mainly it's a rip-off of Word, but there's enough difference to make it interesting.

On the headphones: 2 many djs live sets and DJ Socalled. I think I'm worrying my officemate with how much I'm getting into the vibes. The intersection between Yiddish chanted music and hip-hop works so well it's astonishing that it hasn't happened before.

Today's hilarious cycling link: photos from the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade. Totally NSFW; lots of nudity and bodypaint. And cycling! It's all good. Worth seeing, though probably not at work.

  rollin steady Monday 9 June 2008 link

So the other day, flush with leftover holiday pay (I had about a week to cash out when I left ACC), I crossed a barrier that I had hitherto left undisturbed. I bought an iPod. Until now, I haven't owned an MP3 player; I basically objected to throwing huge amounts of cash at something that was likely to date stupid fast. But now the entry level has dropped acceptably - a 4GB iPod Nano for $200, so I'm not too worried about the potential for being out of date in three years. And hey, 4GB is a reasonable size. So I've spent the last few days playing around with it. It's great fun. Of course, since most of our car trips are under 70 minutes, there's not actually any particular advantage to having an iPod instead of just burning up CDs - but heck, it's getting my play data loaded up to, and I'm enough of a metadata geek to really like that. Though I do now have a strange urge to download cover data, so the cover browse view works correctly.

I'm on a week off at the moment. And we're getting to zoosh around and just, y'know, chill out and stuff. Today, we took a quiet walk to Red Rocks and Sinclair Head. It was a ludicrously nice day: clear, bright, little wind. As it's winter, it was still pretty frigging cold, and there were medium heavy seas. The walk around to the headland is great: first, we passed a headless seal. Woo hoo! That'd be evidence of that pod of orca that was hanging around a week or so ago, then. A bit further on, were passed by a van. Around the next corner, we found the same van, firmly stuck in the loose shingle and now realising that gosh, maybe the council had actually meant all those big signs that said "4WD ONLY". Ten minutes trying to push the increasingly enmired van out before someone in a hilux came past and towed them out. So we walked on a bit further, and reached the seals. Lovely beasts: you don't see them until you get to the sign saying "Warning, seals, stay at least 20m away at all times" and then you realise that the lump five feet behind the sign has whiskers and has just yawned. Whoops! And then you realise that you've just walked past at least a dozen other seals that you hadn't noticed. And then someone else in a hilux comes past and manifestly fails to clear the carefully marked "EXTREME HAZARD" on the track. I've never seen so much smoke from something that still worked afterwards - tyres and diesel exhaust smoking away like a flare. Then turn around and wander back, passing various protagonists on the way, including a number of American tourists who stopped us to check whether there really were seals a bit further along. Note several goats high up on the sort of vertiginous terrain usually described as mountain goat territory, which just goes to show that sometimes these phrases have a basis in truth (how the buggers can stand up on those 70 degree slopes I'll never know). And then we wombled back for late lunch at The Bach in Island Bay and to pick up a new chain at Burkes Cycles in Kilbirnie. It's all good.

  cos it's time to shine Friday 6 June 2008 link

Fun things to find out at your leaving do: I stood out at the interview for my current job not just for my many and varied personal competancies, but also because they remembered my long hair and big earrings. So there you are - my piercings made me more memorable, and helped me a get a job. Who says body modification leads to diminished career progression?

Lines from coworkers that wouldn't have made sense until very recently: "My kids' iPods are playing hell with my scrobbling."

  demob happy, again Thursday 5 June 2008 link

Day 5 back on the booze: I am very relaxed. Last day at work tomorrow: I'm counting the hours. Roll on somewhere around 3pm, is all I can say.

A couple of people have commented to me or Heather that they're surprised that I stayed so long at ACC, as they have a reputation for being bad employers and pushing people too hard. I'd have to say, my experience has been quite the opposite. Obviously, there were a few things at ACC that made me want to leave, but it wasn't my general working environment. One of the things that kept me at ACC - apart from the as-it-turned-out-forlorn hope that someone would start listening to me and we'd get some kind of document management system - was the fact that they're really family friendly employers. I am perfectly confident that if I'd asked to drop down to 4 or even 3 day weeks, they'd have been amenable and would have worked with me to get it sorted. So the idea was that when Heather wanted to get back to work, I could drop my days back, and we could both work part-time and look after the kids. Given that my manager's immediate response to hearing that Heather was pregnant was "congratulations - would it be helpful if we set you up to work from home?", and from talking to other people, I wouldn't expect any problems. ACC as a whole is a very good employer, and is making big steps towards being an employer of choice. The flexible working hours and the fringe benefits are all good. If you're looking for a job in the health policy region, I'd heartily recommend having a shufti at the ACC careers site.

Unintended consequences: now, whenever I play Spiritualized's "I Think I'm in Love", Heather starts singing the Yeti Magic song from The Mighty Boosh. I'd be annoyed if it wasn't bang on.

How old am I? I'm so old I can remember when PJ O'Rourke was a funny cultural commentator, rather than a whining blowhard. Reading his review of a trip to the museum, I wasn't so much insulted, piqued, or amused, as just left feeling meh. He rails at such concessions to our squeamish modern tastes as renaming the Brontosaurus - sneering that offence may have been taking from "Chicago's Bronto-American community" (gosh, those terrible PC museum people, even trying not to offend nonexistent groups - fear my razor-sharp sarcastic wit!). Or that the aforementioned skeleton is no longer posed in combat with a Tyrannosaurus skeleton - "Modern kids are too loving and caring about dinosaurs to be exposed to such scenes of domestic violence."

Or maybe modern kids have actually read up on dinosaurs and might think it incongruous that the museum would pose an Apatosaurus (from the late Jurassic period) with a Tyrannosaurus (from the Cretaceous period); after all, there's about 70 million years between the two. It'd be just as accurate to show the Tyrannosaurus in single combat with, say, you. Or that the name Apatosaurus is used rather than Brontosaurus because of, gosh, tediously following the actual rules for scientific naming of species. But hey! Let's not let facts distract us from the important business of castigating the museum! Reading through, this descends into a standard catalogue of aging conservative whingeing: people dress too informally! Hippies are annoying! That Barack Obama, eh? And don't get me started on that Hillary Clinton, never mind that neither of them have the least little remotest bit to do with what I'm talking about! And - particularly surprising - he starts banging on about how great Christianity is. Is it just me, but since when did PJ O'Rourke start saying that certain types of religious beliefs are the difference "between civilisation and savagery" (conveniently forgetting some of the more savage acts of a number of monotheistic religions and states - the Inquisition, the slave trade, and Belgium's colonial history, to pick three examples out of the air)? And that religious conversion was "the only decent thing .... that Europeans brought to America's Indigenous peoples"?

It's a shame, to see the firebrand writer we once knew brought so low. That the man who wrote "How to drive fast on drugs while getting your wing-wang squeezed and not spill your drink" is now reduced to complaining that young people today, they don't have any respect. I could forgive his change of subject matter if he could make with the prose of fire; sadly, he cannot.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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