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l'enfer du North Island

  yes yes i said yes Friday, 10 December 2010 link

I used to live in Japan when I was a teenager. One thing you'd often see was people singing and declaiming loudly in public parks. In many countries, this would simply be evidence of a "care in the community/cardboard box" approach to mental health. But in Japan, at the time, this was a big part of management training. Faced with the contradiction between a culture that valued self-effacement and not offending people, with the requirement that managers must, inevitably, be a prick to some degree, the big trend in training was: burn the shame out of them. Make the proto-leaders do Dumb Stuff in Public, Loudly. So you'd be walking through a park at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and some 22-year old management trainee from Toyota with a fixed expression of deathly embarassment would be singing old Elvis numbers while two middle-aged people with clipboards watched her intently, and a small group of her compatriots waited pale-faced for their turns.

Allowing for the time gap, this is the generation now running the world's third largest economy, by the way.

There may be something in it, though. Getting to the point where you have no shame is quite handy. Personally, I have my own methodology: I cycle to work three days a week. Which means that - allowing for the time to wait for the showers to be free, checking email, etc - I'm normally spending a couple of hours a week walking around the office in skintight lycra. At first, it's disconcerting, having your coworkers able to see every incipient varicose vein on your finely-striated calves. Then you get used to it. And it's a terribly freeing feeling once you stop caring quite so much about what your coworkers think about how you look.

Riding home around the bays in the afternoon is beautiful. One thing I love about cycling is how you're immersed in the world, rather than cut off from it as you are in a car or bus. You feel the differences in the road surface, coming up from your tyres. You hear the croak of the seagulls. You feel the wind as a physical presence, helping or hindering. And recently I've been noticing a lot of the smells as I ride home. At the end of the day, people are relaxing, walking home, cooking dinner; the tarmac, sunwarmed through the day, reeks gently. On Cobham Drive, a big hit of fuel fumes from the airport. At Evans Bay, the smoke from a barbecue. At Weka Bay, the overperfumed mother loading her kids into an SUV outside the childcare centre. At Oriental Parade, a sudden whiff of marijuana from people dakking up in the sunshine, then fish and chips. Going up the Ngauranga Gorge, the smell of shit and fear as a truck full of sheep passes on the way to the abbatoir.

Actually, the first I know about trucks full of sheep on the gorge is normally quite different. I'll be riding up there at 10kph or so. A truck full of sheep rumbles up the hill past me. Many cattle trucks have small kennels mounted on the side - underneath the main section, between the two sets of wheels - for the sheepdogs. These kennels have holes in the door so the dogs can put their heads out. This means that the dogs' heads are at around my head level. So the first I know about it is I vaguely register that a truck is about to pass me, then suddenly a gigantic burst of barking happens two feet from my right ear. My speed suddenly hits 20kph, I start shouting obscenities, and the sheepdogs loll back in the secure knowledge of a job well done.

At age 6, Rebecca has started reading Alan Moore. No, she hasn't found my copy of Watchmen: she's found my copy of DR & Quinch. "Daddy, what does 'Eat plutonium death, you disgusting alien wierdoes!' mean?". We could be in trouble.

8 Wired Brewing in Marlborough now have a beer called "Tall Poppy". I'm seeing if I can work out some form of sponsorship deal.

I'm not going to particularly go into the whole Wikileaks saga, except to note that Julian Assange's website from 2006 is available on I can remember the mid 90s, back when the entire internet sounded like this, plus two theoretical physicists having an argument in the corner. Reading this was like flashing back to a time when I used to read a lot of dodgy techno-libertarian nutbars on miscellaneous usenet groups; copies of Hakim Bey downloaded to txt file from user-only BBS systems. Ah, the memories.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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