June 29, 2003

mountains are the best exercise

I'm currently in Napier :) Which is good cause it means I get to see me Mum and her Mum. (They both appear to be well.)

On the way over the Rimutakas, I stopped near the top to try the "Trig Walk". I've loved the sub alpine style vegetation up on the mountains, and keep meaning to stop and have a closer look, and the walk seemed like a good idea. Especially as I really love sub alpine plants (did I actually mention that before, or was it just implied) and they are sodding difficult to get to without long, long walking up things. In this case I was promised a 45 minute round trip for the whole experience.

Typically, it was windy. Not quite the Use All Limbs And Possibly Some Other Appendages force wind that is not uncommon in the Welly region, but certainly enough to make me overtly respectful of the mountains. The walk was suitably pretty, and the view at the top was well worth the effort. I couldn't see the Welly side (on account of clouds, rain, etc.) but the Wairarapa looked excellent, complete with shower clouds that were actively raining (they look a lot like the elastic in their undies had died). I could see as far as the sea.

The whole effect was wonderful and so invigorating I ran down the track (well, jogged in places, crawled in places and walked slowly in others - it *felt* fast). I hardly ever run anywhere these days just for the joy of it and it was a lovely feeling.

I don't do as much of this stuff as I'd like to. This is largely because I usually have a lot of high priority reading and eating and lying around to do first which I never seem to get to get to the end of. The mountains have something I can't seem to find anywhere else (aside from anything else, there were these very cool plants that looked like they had feathers instead of leaves, and were a vibrant shade of mid to dark green with dark orange branches - groovy). Just special.

Posted by carla at 10:40 PM

June 28, 2003

i have a cold, no wait my cold has me

I've been coming down with this cold all week. Yesterday I had definitely reached the point where I had a cold. Today, the cold has me. I hope and trust it will be gentle and considerate, but I fear that it has an alternative motivation over which I have no control.

Consequently I am thinking v e r y slowly, and am prone to making odd statements (due to my mouth getting bored and saying something before my brain is really aware that anything is going on). I hope and trust this makes me querky and interesting, but I fear it just makes me hard work.

Thank god for patient girlfriends.

Posted by carla at 11:15 AM

June 26, 2003

free entertainment in wellington

Well, prostitution becomes legal on Monday. Presumably it will be the first thing on the Governor General's desk on Monday morning. Nothing like the royal assent to improve the rights of prostitutes.

Largely due to a friend of mine suggesting it, I went down to Parliament to watch the debate and voting. Not exactly an inspiring experience, but strangely comforting.

The debate was extremely civil. I actually think that Georgina's speech tipped the balance simply because it shook MPs out of inertia. She made it abundantly clear that not voting for a law change wasn't just a passive activity, it was actually an activity with life and death consequences. It was an excellent speach to hear in full, and I was moved that our House of Representatives could contain it and allow it to be heard.

The speech also raised the stakes for the other MPs. To their credit, they (whether for or against) were really respectful of each other. There was almost no comment on each other's speeches, and there was no denegration of either the prostitutes, their clients, nor the other politicians or lobbyists.

And Lockwood Smith (I was on the side where I could only see the Nat MPs) was a facinating study. He came in for the last speech and voted yes. Then returned to his seat for a minute or two and wandered off to do something else. All with this strange smile on his face like he was doing something with peculiarly satisfying personal reasons. I definitely got the impression he was playing some strange game with someone who wasn't in the audience.

Neither the Prime Minister nor Bill English were there - which I thought was odd for such an interesting issue. Perhaps the Nats are working exceptionally hard on the recent Maori land decisions.

Donna Awatere Huata didn't really need the surgery for loosing weight, she looked like she was about to get uncomfortably pointy. All the Greens were in attendance, and Nandor was wearing a Jesus loves hookers t-shirt.

I'm used to our politicians being reasonably accessible (I once bumped into Jenny Shipley PM doing the family Christmas shopping at Thorndon New World), but I love how there are some examples of MPs who are not from the dominant demographic. I think it made the debate much, much more meaningful as a process of creating law to have someone who had actually been a prostitute speaking in the debate. There is something important about those experiences not being filtered through the educated people who generally lobby and express these issues. That said, I was pleased to see Jan Jordan there. She's responsible for a large amount of research that genuinely brings the reality of these areas of our society into a sphere where it can be digested by the organs of power (I'm tired, sorry about that sentence, but there is nothing I can do about it now).

It was also really warm, and the seats were comfortable. I now plan to get very old, and very odd, and save on heating bills by attending Parliament more than the MPs.


Posted by carla at 10:46 PM

June 25, 2003

television channels i want to see

Okay this concept may pass some of you by completely, and (if so) I hope you're never in a position to understand it.

I was sitting around with a good friend of mine one day (we were both feeling unusually depressed and anxious and so forth) and we got to talking about how modern media is all about situations of high emotion. When your mental apparatus is normally calibrated, this is all well and good. The baddies nearly kill the hero, all the news stories involve current or imminent disasters, love affairs invariably involve some inspired level of complication (just get up there and uncross those stars already!). All is interesting, titilating, moving, whatever.

But not so much when you're anxious (and depressed). In this case telly tends to start occuring like an overgrown teenager with uberangst. Right there, in your own head! Which is anoying (or further depressing) cause what you'd love to do is settle down in front of the telly and have a quiet night in. And you can't, because uberangsty telly is busy making a right mess of the internal furniture. :P So you end up reading Georgette Heyer instead, or wandering around wondering why your life is so disfunctional.

As a beleagured minority, we figured it was unfair to be ignored by the mainstream media, and we wanted an alternative. Then inspiration struck, and we invented "Mello Media". This would be a telly station where the stories told were quiet happy stories about nice things happening. I don't mean Lassie, or similar (way too traumatic). I don't even mean uplifting stories about wonderful things. I mean stories about people who finish up their day at work, catch a bus that turns up on time (which they were not late for), go home, change into really comfortable yet not frumpy clothes and eat really yummy food (that is pleasingly nutritious). Something like soup. And then they sit down with the pet of their choice (who is reassuringly healthy and seems to have had a good day), and then they do something nice like listen to quiet music and perhaps meditate (successfully). A sort of anti Sex In the City.

The news would involve carefully thought out stories about people who had had satisfying successes (perhaps things like they worked on a project that was unstressful and came in on time and within budget). There would be programmes about things that might be helpful (like meditation or undemanding, nutritious and yummy recipies). There would be soaps that followed a collection of friends through their largely uneventful lives where they were pretty much satisfied with things.

On account of being substantially better than I was (yay!), the idea is less gripping than it was at the time. But I do remember it made us laugh (which was reasonably impressive at the time) and started us thinking about how being depressed and anxious could be made less depressing.

I still want the funding.


Posted by carla at 03:22 PM

Bill Gates declares war on IIS!

I am dumbfounded. I have faithfully turned up at www.microsoft.com to find out information about the new version of their web server software (IIS6). I have gone to the product listings, and (despite listing Microsoft® MSN™ House and Home as something I might want to purchase) there no mention *anywhere* of IIS. Any version.

Also, the links don't change colour if you've been to the content behind them. Thus making it impossible to tell whether or not I'm going around in circles.


Okay, found it. It was hiding under technet. Cause no one would actually want to purchase it?!? Nice to see they are making more of an attempt to use config files. Wonder if they will make it possible to use.

And they appear to have reinstated the fullstop. :)

Posted by carla at 10:25 AM

June 24, 2003

new job

Hi all, in case you didn't know, I've got a new job. In Newlands (of all places). Well, actually on the bit of newlands right by the top of the Ngauranga Gorge. The pay is better, the dress code is mmore flexible, they provide beer and pizza to the staff on Friday afternoons. Company is eservglobal. Has offices in England, NZ and Australia. Appears to have sort of started in NZ, and still does most of the software development here. I went out there for a look and liked the place okay. They have a very open plan approach, and a nice level of chat. Most people seemed to be reasonably adult, but tollerably playful *yay!*.

The actual work is writing technical manuals for Intelligent Networks software. As far as I know, Intelligent Networks are bits of software that direct calls around the country and then charge you for it. Clients may include people in Indonesia and Poland, with possbility of travel to see how they use the manuals (user testing and feedback - all good). I'll be working in something called the Media Team with 3 other people. The team leader has a training background, and the other two have around 23 years worth of technical writing experience between them. I scored higher on the geek test than any of them.

The company is pretty heavy tech (there was a huge competition about who got the highest geek score) but the two people who hired me seem to be less naturally techy than I am, so I'm kinda assuming that I'll appear reasonably light tech, but still be acceptable. I'm mostly nervous that I'll fall into the 'documenters aren't real people, and they don't add real value' trap with the developers. Okay, I'm also nervous that my OOS will get worse, and that teh subject matter will be so boring I spiral into complete unproductivity.

No doubt the things that are actually problems will be completely different.

I had a poke around Johnsonville (which is actually the nearest centre) and discovered a pleasing bakery (NADA) and a mall with something that appeared to be decent coffee. Also ASB have a branch, so I will actually be closer to most necessary facilities than I have been at Vic. And I get to commute against the traffic again . And walking around Newlands on a weekday has the unmistakable feel of being out of school when no one else is.

I'll probably have a work email, but I've migrated my personal life to carla@stonesoup.co.nz (thanks Iona and Kim), so future correspondance should probably be sent there...

Hee! I can wear jeans again!

Posted by carla at 03:55 PM

June 23, 2003

Mid winter

Well, yesterday was fun. Given that the current season is pretty much about saying good-bye to the old year and hoping very much that the sun will come back to us after this, me and my significant other thought we'd celebrate.

This mostly involved cleaning the house (including under the bed!), going through piles of clothes to get rid of some, and eating and drinking (at the end of it all).

I loved it. The odd thing was I liked the cleaning better than the eating (odd!). Especially as the eating involved mulled wine (yum!) stew (yum! yum!) and mashed kumara (very yum!).

I'm finally old enough to find the seasons changing to be something that feels like it is actually happening in real time. Rather than as particular points I can only find with the aid of a calendar that are mostly significant for conceptual reasons. I like this bit of ageing. I can totally see why the elders in ancient times had seasonal ceremonies. I don't think I could have *not* this year.

Given that this is also my last week at my current job, I'm feeling reasonably like things are appropariately new-ish.

I must also say at this point how much I'm enjoying my wanderings in stonesoup. From what I've seen so far, it is the blog community I'd rather inhabit, and I like moveable type as an admin interface. Doors close, doors open. I just hope my new job won't such all my words out before I get to express my own ideas...

many happy sunny days to look forward to. .carla

Posted by carla at 02:56 PM

June 22, 2003

notes on technical writing - no 1 of occasional series

Last night my mother out law complained that she'd installed her new scanner while it was locked, and it now didn't work.

As she and her husband reread the instructions they found a large bit at the beginning (in a box, by itself) that explained that one really, really should unlock the scanner before you tried installing it, or it was likely to break. These are the sort of people who actually read instructions, so missing this important piece of information was unlikely to be due to lack of care on their part.

I was bitten by the same "Anything in a box shouldn't be read" phenomenon in a law exam. The exam typesetting people indicated a 20%-of-final-mark important piece of information by pulling it completely out of the main text and putting a large box around it.

When I finally found the instructions (5 minutes before the end of the exam) I was confused as to why I hadn't seen it earlier.

I used to think it was just weirdness on my part, but now I have evidence that other rational, instruction following friendly people have the same problem.

Conclusion: If you have something really important to say, include it in a separate box (if you must) but also include it in a sensible place in the body of the instructions. In the case of the scanner, a removable sticker on the lid would also have been helpful.

I am thinking of writing a strongly worded letter to The Times.

.carla (who is interested in distressingly obscure things occasionally)

Posted by carla at 11:59 AM

June 21, 2003

many mothers, many birthdays

In case any of you were wondering, yesterday was my mother's mother's birthday. Today is Ceri's mother's birthday, tomorrow is my mother's birthday. While this is kinda tidy, I think it is also pushing the boundaries of 'just a coincidence' into high inconvenience.

If it was a paternal thing I'd stand absolutely no chance of succeeding in present purchasing at all. As it is, I seem to have managed to get through tonight with a small increase to my 'offspring's partner brownie points' account. Eventually I hope to cash in the brownie points for a wedding ('Please, Mr Roberts, can I marry your daughter?').

Though I'd probably settle for additional babysitting.

However, unless I discover the parental impressment equivalent of a better mouse trap, they'll be well gone by the time I get a chance to cash anything in. Rather like a strange form of familial Fly Buys. Somehow I doubt my trip to the Carribean will ever be within reach.

However (in a similar fashion to flybuys) I'm happy enough with my initial purchase that the presence of a good added value campaign is negligible.


Posted by carla at 10:26 PM

June 19, 2003

i cut my hair therefore i am a geek

what? you say. cuts own hair! in what way is that geeky?


I've been exposed to a lot of 'geek' definitions recently (see especially www.innergeek.us) and I Want a Man.

Alongside realising that I love geeks *best* (how can you not love people who get so interested in things, and have a compulsion to engage in them - often right up to the elbows?), I've started to notice distinctive geek spoor in my own life. Right up to and including ability to pay more attention to a weird technical thing more than people.

Okay, *that* bit is a little less endearing (and due apologies to any co relationship creator people who have had to endure it).

cutting one's own hair (well) indicates:

* willingness to try things, even if they make you look silly

* determination to try to learn how to do things (or how they work), even if that makes you look silly and takes 5 times longer when you do it yourself

* weirdly arrogant conviction that you can do it better than the professionals (even if you end up with non existant service for 20 years)

* delight in self-sufficiency, particularly in an odd area ("Hey look! I can refine my own oil!")

* enjoyment of the functionality of getting to have a hair cut at 2.30am while drunk (even if you end up looking silly).



Posted by carla at 05:13 PM

June 17, 2003

Wellington - features galore!

Last night was very excellent beginning of new roleplaying game. Big ups to other players and Holyhock God (and assistant). I've always loved epic, story-based roleplaying, and I'm looking forward to a subtle, funny, and complicated campaign.

and more jelly babies.

(or were they jelly gorrilas? i couldn't tell.)


Perhaps the best thing about the evening was getting to the place tho. Wellington must have some of the most intrepid buses in the western world! I caught the Kilbirnie via Roseneath (no 14). This trip (for $2.50 NZ, which won't even buy you a bag of jelly beans anywhere in the western world) was doing nicely enough as we wended our way around Oriental Bay and I got to look back at the city lights across the water.

Then we started up the hill. I am constantly suprised by how often people from other cities don't understand what a Wellingtonian means by 'hill'. This innocuous description somehow fails to reflect the effect 3 major fault lines and a couple of million years of bending, twisting and wrenching had on most of our geography. It always feels a little like the sort of unconcious bending of the truth often displayed by the zoo keeper who thinks of a huge, pissed-off adolescent lion as 'a bit frisky today'.

Anyhow, our intrepid bus driver takes however many tons of metal, and 20-odd passengers up this 'hill', managing to navigate cyclists, oncoming traffic, parked cars, intersections, and right-angle turns on a steep uphill slant, and in a space that I'd wonder about taking an off-road motorbyke through. I was left grinning quietly to myself (fortunately I was down the back of the bus).

Then (as we proceeded around to the Evans Bay side of the hill) the moon rose over the Rimutakas in a deep yellow haze surrounded by blue-black and grey clouds.

Sometimes I worry that I should have done more traveling in order to grow up. But today, somehow, I just don't give a shit.


Posted by carla at 06:31 PM

Opinionated Comments by White People

Just reading about Bill English and his determination that we should all have one standard of citizenship. (Mr James has so far failed to publish the column on website, so I've reproduced it here under more). It got me thinking...

It appears to me that we all have the same standard of citizenship, modified to suit our individual situation. Children can't vote, Justices of the Peace get special priviledges about witnessing things, Members of Parliament get all sorts of extras, including the ability to speak under Parliamentary priviledge. And don't even get me started on police officers.

In all these circumstances, someone in power has decided that the distinct circumstances of that person should mean that the law applies to them differently and that they have different rights and obligations.

Admitedly, who your parents are and a 160 year old bit of paper may or may not be something that is worth making a distinction about. But it bothers me that we continue with the fiction that British justice applies to all equally and that we all have the same rights and obligations as citizens.

British justice has a laudible aim in attempting to treat all people equally, but it has been massively adjusted in favour of equity. It appears to me that the debate should be whether or not race and Treaty considerations *should* be included in the factors that adjust the law. Instead we have people claiming that one-size-fits-all is the correct standard.

And nothing annoys me like people who haven't bothered to think beneath the surface of their slogans.


Colin James's NZ Herald column for 17 June 2003

Ethnicity and the Treaty:
no simple matter

Bill English was at it again on Thursday on the Treaty of Waitangi: "one standard of citizenship for a nation of mongrels" might be a loose translation.

"We must," he told a party fund-raising dinner in deeply conservative Matamata, "break out of the paralysing ideology of the Treaty and the arrogant attitudes that go with it.

"Every New Zealand [I presume he meant New Zealander but it could be read the other way] has a sense of what this [one standard of] citizenship means. No leftwing elite has the right to claim it exclusively."

"Paralysing ideology", "arrogant attitudes", "leftwing elite" and, earlier in the speech, "political correctness": those are loaded, emotive phrases.

There was more. "We have a history people don't know," he said, "because they don't want to know it and because that history is so loaded up with political correctness and blame. Sure, there are other positive stories that go along with it but they are not about the heart of the nation."

Really? The "heart of the nation" is that black? There was a time English was more positive.

Anyway, he wants to "change that". He wants people to be proud of "what we have made of this country".

So by "citizenship" he now means "people who love their country, who recognise that New Zealand represents rights of legislative privileges and opportunities that are unique, people who treasure our national values of fairness, equality, opportunity and our environment; the intimacy and tolerance, the determination and hopes of our small, distant nation."

And this requires that "the sense of our nation has to be stronger than the sense of our different races" and that "the state would recognise citizens' rights and democratic processes as paramount over whakapapa and rangatiratanga".

The Treaty, by implication if you put all that together, is getting in the way of a unified, positive nation. It represents a "left-elite political correctness" and a flawed history. New Zealand risks "becoming a Fiji, a Sri Lanka, a Bosnia", he said. More emotive tags: military coups, a bloody war of secession and ethnic cleansing.

English's alternative is "a mixture of peoples... more of a mixed-race nation over the next generation" ... a "browning and whitening".

This is what people used to say 40 years ago. Ethnic difference was supposed to disappear into a blend. It didn't.

But there is support for English's "browning and whitening". Associate Maori Affairs Minister John Tamihere, also Minister of Statistics, has talked of the nation being reformulated in the bedrooms.

And a careful analysis of recent censuses by Paul Callister, a respected social researcher, found "single ethnic identities" to be "increasingly outdated concepts".

"More helpful is the concept of a complex emerging society where a significant number of people claim to have dual or multi-ethnic ancestry," Callister told a social research conference in late April.

A multi-ethnic New Zealand "provides a major challenge for the design of social policy aimed at helping overcome disadvantage among particular groups.

"It is increasingly likely that ethnicity, whether based on single or multi-ethnic affiliations [in the census], will become a relatively poor predictor of social outcomes." Intermarriage "raises some difficult issues when social policies use ethnicity as a means of targeting".

Moreover, Callister said, "the Human Rights Commission's education programme ... tends to perpetuate myths of pure ethnic/racial groups".

The commission is already in the National party's sights for "left-elite political correctness".

And now the commission has plunged into the Treaty argument with the issue last week of a "draft discussion document".

For the most part this carefully presents alternative perspectives for discussion and there is a useful section on what self-determination might mean in a Treaty context. But there are also some contentious parts. Among them:

* It touches on the so-called "article 4" of the Treaty (though it does not call it that), asserting that, as a result of Captain Hobson's verbal promise of freedom of religion, "Maori have a specific right to practise the religion of their choice". Really? A different right from our general right?

* It notes that "some believe that prior to [a tapu lifting ceremony] only men should be allowed to work" on a public building. The government dismissed this flatly earlier this year in a controversial case which the local Maori majority also rejected. It does, however, add that others believe tikanga Maori requires equality in men's and women's roles!

* It asserts that indigenous peoples have a human right in their status as first inhabitants.

On his current form we might expect English, when he comes across the document, to label it "left-elite political correctness".

Which would do this usually thoughtful man no justice. Yes, ethnicity is more complex than Treaty slogans allow. But are emotive tags any more constructive than the slogans?

Posted by carla at 02:00 PM

June 16, 2003

Bill Gates Declares War on The Full Stop

I've just been chasing my 'pending bad news' reading list and came across this article http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/itcommunity/chats/trans/ie/ie0507.asp. Most of you will not care one whit about the content (though it is a good example about why I am not sad about leaving an organisation that has moved to M$).
But I don't understand why they'd choose to randomly drop full stops out of the text. Or sprinkle apostrophes around with quite that lack of care either.
I've read some clangers in open source documentation, but somehow the way that these people are doing it without pay in the second language makes it slightly less offensive.
Perhaps it is a reasonable reflection of the approach M$ takes to documentation in general. Most of the time I get the impression that they are so busy being cautious about what they don't want to admit to, that they end up saying very little that is actually helpful.

Maybe they don't pay them enough, maybe there is a weak culture of documentation in M$, who knows? I'd just like to keep working with technology that is supported by people who understand the value of communicating.

Here follows a short rant about why I'm interested in the open source community as a production/economic model.

I've always been especially interested in occasions where natural human behaviour produces results - without that behaviour being about conflict or control. Essentially, competition, control and subterfuge seem to be inherantly expensive patterns of behaviour. If two people are constantly trying to beat each other, you may achieve improvements at a faster pace, but it would seem to me, that the higher pace would be more expensive than a peaceful or collaborative process.
Now, don't get me wrong, I've seen fine examples of 'nice' processes such as consensus produce fantastic loss of productive time and energy.
But if people (happily) have found common ground to work on, they can be hugely productive, *and* remain responsible and responsive to the rest of their lives.
The logical example of this that i tend to use is to compare two otherwise perfectly similar worlds. But in one world people gain utility by getting the better of someone else, and in the other world, they gain utility by helping other people out.
By definition, the second world is more efficient. The first world is inherantly playing a zero sum game (the benefit to the winner matches the detriment to the looser), the second world will tend to produce win-win situations, thus doubling the utility available to the inhabitants. Fundamentally, if I give someone something and we both gain utility from them having it, the total utility will be higher than if one of us has to feel ripped of by the transfer.
Generally, in production, there are some significant difficulties in being generous with what you produce. We all produce a certain level of things that we give away (even if it is just our opinions about how other people could live their lives better :) ). For some reason, the process of producing valuable things tends to make people happy. You couldn't stop New Zealander's from gardening if you tried. The material difference for the computing world is that making your produce available to others is very, very cheap (or may even have no additional cost, after you have already purchased the infrastructure for creating it). It is also easy to build on the work of others. The corrolary in gardening terms would be if you could provide your veggie garden to everyone with a hose, space and a bit of earth to put it in. A couple of people then weed the garden (and find another variety of carrot that is happier in those conditions) and provide it back to the group (and everyone's garden improves).
In a very short amount of time most people with an interest in gardening are producing respectable amounts of veggies for the same amount of work.

Posted by carla at 02:06 PM

June 15, 2003

correction already

that should probably have been spelt "new person on the blogk", or something.
thanks for the welcome people, pleased to be here (and the interior decorating is starting to come together too. .c

Posted by carla at 11:45 PM


hello. new person on block.
this blog is entirely Ed's fault. i gave him clockworkfish for his company and he declined to use it. i consequently decided the name had to be used for *something* and reached for the nearest publishing medium.
mostly interested in writing up various ideas and thinkings. hopefully in interesting reading style. likely to suffer from lack of obsessiveness, and will consequently be occassional and periodic.
but hopefully worth the effort.
this post is mostly an attempt to provide content for going over the look and feel (i could have lorem ipsited but cannot be bothered)...
much love, carla

Posted by carla at 04:59 PM