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l'enfer du North Island

  you wish you'd thought of it first Thursday, 18 June 2009 link

Ever used a torque wrench? It's a fairly simple device. You set it to a certain amount of torque (rotational force - which in this context, means "how tightly you can do up a bolt"), then use it to tighten a bolt. When you've applied the specific amount of torque (i.e. the bolt is precisely as tight as you want it - no more, no less) the head of the wrench starts to slip. So you can only apply up to a certain, appropriate amount of force when doing up a sensitive component.

Here's my solution to the anti-smacking debate.

One of the problems is that many people support the right of parents to administer mild smacks to their kids - these are probably the people who support the repeal of the "anti-smacking" law. Now, in point of fact the "anti-smacking" law just removes a particular legal defence from people accused of assaulting their children. That legal defence had previously been used by people who had beaten their kids with horsewhips, metal implements, and the like. Hence the cross-party initiative to remove this defence in cases where parents had clearly overstepped a line.

But the problem that a lot of people have with this is, where is that line? The examples touted by the pro-smacking crowd refer to parents giving children smacks across the back of the hand, of perhaps bent over for a spanking after particularly egregious cheek. A substantial proportion of the population wouldn't disagree with mild physical discipline of a child, but would have a problem with more serious assaults. But leaving it up to the individual parents has an obvious problem: people very seldom do things they regard as morally wrong, but someone's idea of what's reasonable may be drastically out of kilter (as in the case of the woman who regarded horsewhipping her son as a reasonably means of correction).

I propose a simple means of setting the "acceptable" line.

Just as a torque wrench lets you apply a certain amount of force (and no more!) to a bolt, we need a set of official Infant Punishment Sticks that are calibrated to break when struck with a particular force. Then we make it legal to beat your children with the appropriate stick. For example, you could have the Level 1 Chastiser, suitable for children under 2. This would allow a modicum of force, but would harmlessly snap as soon as you really get your arm moving. Thus, a parent could admonister the appropriate, legally sanctioned level of loving physical correction, secure in the knowledge that they weren't going over any lines. The level 2 chastiser could cover up to age 5, but be set to snap just as you started to breathe hard from the effort of the beating. And of course, for older and more impudent children, you'd need level 3, calibrated to last up until you start to produce little flecks of white foam at the corners of your mouth.

All sticks would be no thicker than your thumb, of course.

Think about it: we save $9 million from a pointless referendum, the youth of the nation becomes instantly more thoughtful and less cheeky, and we've created a valuable new industry making correction sticks. Plus, there's a flow-on effect in about 20 years when NZ becomes a worldwide centre of S&M porn. Win-win.

Reading: Max Brooks' World War Z. Apparently there's a movie of this in production, which is a bit of a shame. What it really needs is a TV miniseries of 6-12 episodes. Basically, the book itself is written in a fauxcumentary style, as postwar survivor testimonials. This leads to some clumsy and disconnected moments: the text is supposedly told in the voice of a disparate group of survivors, but they often end up sounding the same. The voices of some of the survivors end up almost cliched (I found the sole English survivor very annoying and unrealistic, and the non-American speakers skirt dangerously close to ethnic stereotyping). But that's an artefact of the narrative technique: the only way to tell people what was happening is to have the survivors describe it. Putting this onscreen solves that, and would give you more latitude to differentiate the testmonies. What it's really crying out for is a Band of Brother-style presentation: a mock version of the "surivor testimony re-enacted" docutainment genre. That would work very, very well and look excellent. My worry about converting this to a movie is that a lot of what makes this worthwhile is the little details and bits around the side, where Brooks puts a lot of thought into the consequences of a zombie holocaust- descriptions of undersea combat with legions of zombies walking along the bottom of the harbour, having zombies freeze solid during winter and then defrost and lurch forth in spring, sly asides about people's reaction to the initial news - and this is the sort of thing that would probably be dropped first for time reasons. Basically, this uses the book format to expand and explore around the limited window available for a 2-hour movie; you'd have a hard time keeping it all in, and not just ending up with the big action sequences. While the big splatterfests are fun, there really isn't much there that we haven't already seen on screen a few times (well, except for the scale of it, which would be pretty awesome in its own right).

Of course, no matter how good the movie is, the question is: will it be as awesome as Dead Snow?

Also finally got around to reading Watchmen. There really isn't much that I can say that hasn't already been said several times before; to be honest, I'm surprised that I'd managed to get to this point without reading it. Anyway, I decided that I should probably get around to reading it before I see the movie. Glad I did. It is, as all the media agree, excellent. It's always slightly odd viewing these breakthrough works in retrospect: you've already seen all the derivatives and everything affected by it, but not the work itself. Many times, it's anticlimactic when you actually read the original thing. Not in this case. Well worth the effort if you've not read it yet.

  it's fucking sore, OK? Sunday, 14 June 2009 link

There are many interesting ways to injure yourself that combine "risible cause" with "surprisingly painful/debilitating". For example, cutting yourself while trying to prise the stone out of an avocado: sounds dumb, but I know a number of people who've done it and managed to seriously injure themselves. Slight mishaps while vacuuming in the nude. That sort of thing.

To this list we must add one more entry.

My mother has recently adopted a greyhound. Then, even more recently, another. This is great; they're good dogs, the kids love them, and I get to take them for walks. One of the consequences of my childhood is that I find walking dogs very calming. So this morning, I was out for a walk with a brace of greyhounds. At one point, they saw a freerange bichon friese. And they tried to run over and say hello. Now, these greyhounds are 30kg each. They're also trained athletes; one has a career total of 13 wins, 33 places, for a total of around $24,000 in prize money. So when they decide to run somewhere, there's a lot of force going through that leash. I restrained them, the bichon friese booked it, and then I realised that I had blood freely flowing from the end of my left little finger. The combination of the dogs effort and my restraining them gave me a rope burn that took a surprising amount of skin off the end of my finger.

So the dogs have drawn blood, but not in the traditional way. I wonder if this is a typical greyhound injury? Anyway, it's bloody painful, and it makes typing surprisingly hard. I hadn't realised quite how much you use the side of your little finger when typing; this is the disadvantage of being a touch-typist. Notably it's really painful using capital letters. Expect me to go all e e cummings for a bit.

Still, it's distracting me from the residual pain/itching of the healing tattoo on my right arm. Mostly it's good, except the black stripe running along the top of my forearm. Since that goes across the articulation point of the elbow, the scab keeps breaking whenever I bend my arm. This is slowing the healing, and bloody hurts. Still, the rest of the ink looks to be healing pretty well - still a lot of healing skin sitting on top of it, but it'll look pretty nice in a week or two. Just in time for the final session, at the end of the month.

  that hurt redux Friday, 5 June 2009 link

Another day, another tattoo session. Got most of the rest of the sleeve at least mapped out, though we didn't complete some of the fill. There's just a wee bit left to figure out what to put in, and a reasonable amount of fill to complete. Looks good though. Still the abstract b/w Pacifica theme, with a bonus cycling tribute section. Pics are available on Flickr as usual.

  it's a tricky balance Wednesday, 3 June 2009 link

The company I work for has around 700, 800 employees. Two of us are called Jack. When I first started, they put us in the same room and gave us only one phone extension. We both work on the same project. You can imagine the hilarity. The other week, I conducted a user satisfaction survey (why do you only ever "conduct" surveys? You never just "do" them), and among the returned sheets of results was a single post-it note with "JACK IS SO SEXY" written on it.

Yes - but WHICH ONE? Aargh.

Anyway, it cheered me up on a cold Friday morning, so it's all good.

My Friday morning:

9am: Accountant.
10am: Tattooist.

Got another text from my tattooist this morning. We're all go for Friday. 9am I meet my accountant to work out my tax for last year; 10am, I'm being inked in Pakekakariki. Plan for this session is to work on the infill between the wristband and my existing armband. We're going with the geometric-but-flowing stuff, and trying to work in at least one round design on the forearm. So that should be good fun. On the plus side, the last session healed up quite nicely - one or two minor touch-ups necessary, but mostly very nice new flesh. So, knock on wood, we won't need to spend much time on touch-ups, and can just get stuck in with the new design. I have another appointment booked for the end of the month. Between these two sessions, we should manage to finish the sleeve off nicely.

And this should be obvious, but I can highly recommend Tim Hunt out at Pacific Tattoo out in Paekakariki. Excellent abstract/Pacific work, and a good needleside manner.

Mind you, immediately after spending 7 hours being tattooed, I'm going to a matariki party at Maggie's creche. Mmm. Fresh blood and childcare.

Had a very annoying commute in this morning. Or rather, an annoying kick-off; came down the Ngauranga Gorge right behind a VERY NERVOUS cyclist. As in, riding the brakes the whole way, 25kph descent. I (and most other cyclists) normally take this at about 50. Fair play to the guy, ride within your comfort zone and all that; I'm a nervous descender myself, so I can't call him a bastard for that. But that doesn't mean I can't find it annoying. I don't think it helped that although he was riding a fairly decent road bike, with Look pedals, he was actually wearing jeans and sneakers (so wasn't clipped into the pedals). Still, good on him for riding, I just hope I'm not behind him again tomorrow.

With Rebecca at school, I'm only riding in 2 days per week. On the plus side, I'm definitely riding those days. If I've only got two good ride days in the week, it would have to be biblically bad weather for me to give riding a swerve. So I'm getting a lot of practice at riding in the rain. But I've got to say, it's very nice to not have drenching rain and 100kph winds for a change. Not that I've gone soft, you understand; just that I really prefer to not do the squelch-squelch-squelch-socks walk of doom when I get home soaked to the skin.

H: Is the Kings of Leon anything to do with Leon the god?
Me: The Kings of Leon are a rhythm combo popular with the youth of today. Leon the god is a mate of Morgue's.

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