August 31, 2003

50th blog entry

which calls for a small celebration.

(for some reason this brings to mind girlfriendlyiness - there is some joy in there which is incomparable, if prone to being tied to its own timetable).

& % @ ( ! # * * (well, how *do* you express happy celebration of things in characters?)

I was thinking about ordering items the other day. And (in discussion with S) I realised that some people are good at ordering like objects into a framework. But other people can be given a pile of random items and figure out ways of ordering them.

So, for example, one person can organise files into chronological order, but another person will be able to look through them and create an indiginous ordering system (e.g. major clients, minor clients, suppliers, - all by month). As a technical writer, I think one of the ways I add value to information, is creating an order which makes the it more accessible to the people who will read it. A sort of ergonometry of data.

Posted by carla at 10:46 PM

August 29, 2003

magic disappearing culture

So, the IRB thinks that Waltzing Matilda isn't culturally significant.

On what planet! I might think that it is a daft song, but it is patently obvious that WM is of huge cultural significance to almost all Australians.

Or is it only indigenous cultures which can have non-national-anthem items of cultural significance. Is the IRB attempting some strange type of biculturalism?

Posted by carla at 05:04 PM

August 26, 2003

one flag, in need of a nation

One day I was sitting at my desk, and I thought up a flag. Then I realised that it might make a good replacement for the current New Zealand one. So I drew it up and it looked pretty good to me.


So there it is.

Why do I think it would make a good NZ flag?

1. It has that oh-so-flag-like quality of three horizontal stripes.
2. It is pretty much comprised of a koru - one of two singularly recognisable symbols (the other being a silver fern).
3. It isn't black (which is a colour of mourning, the national anthem may be a dirge, but the flag doesn't have to echo that sentiment).
4. The three parts of the flag represent important elements about New Zealand and the New Zealand experience.
The green represents the land. The blue represents the sea, and the sky (depending on how you look at it). The white (or silver) koru represents the long white cloud, or the people of New Zealand. Yes, that does mean the people of New Zealand are white, but you could interpret it as the spirit of the people if you felt inclined to.
5. The koru represents new life unfolding (that's a gross generalisation, but I'm prepared to stand by it for now).
6. The koru (being a Maori symbol) balances the inherant westerness of the flag, and the tranditional western approach of three horizontal stripes. Taking an indigenous symbol for a western purpose recognises a fair amount of NZ history.
7. It is a visually simple image which is easily recognisable out of your average lineup of flags.
8. (continuing in the trademark NZ vein) the blue, green and white support the clean, green NZ image.

And I'm starting to repeat myself, so I'll stop.

Note: I'm sad to loose the southern cross from the flag, but it just doesn't fit into an available corner somehow.

Other note: I'm not in a hurry to replace the current flag. But when the time comes for a change, I'd rather it was something that represents some of the things I value in NZ, and is not painful on the eye.

Yet another note: I'm quite happy to keep it for my own if something else turns out to get chosen.

And yet another note: Of course a person can have a flag. My granddad sailed his ocean going yacht under his own flag during world war two (he objected to the swastika, which is what he was legally supposed to use).

Posted by carla at 11:26 PM

August 24, 2003

perceptions of size

When I was about 5 I used to think that the UK was the same size as the USA. I also thought that London was a country (in turn the same size as either the USA or the UK). Eventually I discovered that actually the UK was rather small.

Now I have discovered that London is rather small. I was thinking that if you started at one end and drove to the other you'd cover enough distance to get from Wellington to Palmerston North (say 150 kms?).

But now I discover that Moa Point to Waikanae is the same as the distance across London. This means that Wellington covers a comprable area (so long as you measure from top to bottom and don't count the rather large uninhabited areas). How on earth do they fit an international city into something that small!?! They have something like 20 times the people!

Well, okay, actually I *can* imagine us fitting anther 19 people in for every Wellingtonian. But it ain't pretty. Which sums up London I suppose.

Posted by carla at 11:46 PM

August 20, 2003

fish? eating fish helps with depression?

Well, I saw it on the tv, and I read about it on the web. I wondering if this is one of those news items which is effectively about pushing our "I *like* the idea of something so simple actually working" nerve.

Certainly better news than the UN headquarters in Bagdad being bombed. I'm genuinely sad that the best effort so far to rehabilitate Iraq is being brought down by the opposition to the US presence. I wonder if it was caused by people who were acting as an expression of political principle, religious principle, or insane lashing out.

I am at a loss to think which would be worse.

Posted by carla at 06:39 PM

August 19, 2003

what would you risk?

I'm busy watching the really cool "The Secret Life of Us". Very good Australian drama about 20somethings with too much creative energy.

Anyhow there is currently one character who is embarking on a relationship with a married man. Well, okay, she's just backed out, but that's not the point. The guy in question had just explained the things that he had to loose if he pursued anything with her (wife, job, family, basically everything). She asked him if he was prepared to risk all that and he said he would.

It makes me wonder about the way people think when they're right in the middle of being attracted to someone. My memories of the beginning of things is about the BIGness of everything. It takes up mental space and looms large on the internal horizons, pulling everything else out of orbit.

Personally I don't have a moral opinion on whether or not people should avoid new relationships while they are still in an existing one (unless they've made particular promises not to). I think sometimes a new attraction needs to pass a point of no return before the people in question are prepared to take the leap across to it. I also think that sometimes people meet someone who they really want to/should be with.

I doubt that many people do leave an existing thing because of the worth of the new one. Just because the perspective is always so marginalised. That makes me sad somehow. All those beautiful and excellent intentions traded in for novelty. And justified by romance and the ubermotivation of desire.

Posted by carla at 11:59 PM

August 18, 2003

GPL copyright, you can't even *give* it away... (and some product placement)

GPL ****###****###****###****###****###****###****

Apparently copyright only allows you to make one copy of anything. Ever. *giggle* this is not my understanding at all. But nevermind, I'm sure they have their reasons.

PRODUCTS ####***####***####***####***####***####***####

The people who make CRC appear to also make a Marine flavour. I'm hoping this means it is sea salt strong, as I don't want US army in-a-can. Either way, it aided me in my recent attempts to make my bycyle chain behave like a snaky thing instead of a small, recalcitrant structural component. If someone could also make a product which would complete the hour's work I did in my driveway manipulating each rusted joint so the lubricant could get to work, I'd be embarrasingly grateful. Or not. It was a fabulous day to be outside near the sea doing something mindless.

One of the effects of being a reasonably small and not very strong person, is you get horribly canny when it comes to completing strength-based tasks. Pliers are the way to go. The lovely people who make Vice-Grip wrench/plier type things have enabled me to pry apart a range of otherwise connected things, and even (on occasion) put them back together again. Tho they are horribly expensive. Consequently I didn't actually get to use one and had to make do with two sets from my girlfriend's tool kit (*shhhh*).

Big ups also to the people who make Shamino bycycle parts. After 7 years use (and 3 of just being left in the rain) all the parts still worked, and the screws and bolts were all managible. Pure magic.

In fact the only problem with the bicycle restoring project so far has been my hands. My nails now look like I am a carrier of a new sort of black death, as they have a really effective rust-plus-oil blackening mousse under the fingernails.

Posted by carla at 11:19 PM

August 14, 2003

my left hand doesn't know what my right hand is doing

I can throw pretty well with my right hand. At least half way down the bit of beach I am slowly clearing of concrete. But my left hand. Well, not so much.

I've tried using my right hand throwing action to demostrate to my left hand what it should be doing - but it just turfs the rock somewhere near my feat (and once at my head!). I've thought about how my shoudlers move. I've remembered the original throwing advice which got my right arm to where it is now. But no progress.

It is excessively odd. I'm usually reasonably ambidexterous. If I can do it with my right hand, I know how it should feel if I reversed the movements. And if I know how something should feel, I can make a good fist of making it happen. But not with this throwing thing. It is as close as I can imagine to what having a stroke must feel like. I *know* what should happen, but my body is point blank refusing to obey me.

And all the while I was waving my arms around and looking like an idiot, a little, old dog was politely wandering around. Most little dogs are excitable. This one was the calmest being I've seen in years. It even sat down and watched the sunset over the water. And it had no apparent owner. I've never felt humbled by a dog before. But this one, yes.

Posted by carla at 11:25 PM

August 13, 2003

compensation expectations in Iraq

It is going to be interesting to see what impact Iraqi impatience with the freedom forces has on their long term plans. As an Iraqi said on National Radio today, how come they can't organise water and petrol [which we had under Saddam], when they won the war so convincingly?

For an insight into why, check out this bizzare page from the us military about how good they are at getting supplies to their "warfighters" in Iraq. They now have infrared tags for each load so people know exactly where all their supplies are. Note the manditory reference to 7-11 (or is that 9-11, I can never tell. It was 12-09 where I was.).

Apparently they sent some aid to refugees as well.

Given the cost of occupying Iraq, and the payouts in civil law suits in America, isn't I'm facinated that the US government is largely refusing to pay compensation to most of the civilians injured or killed in the current Iraq war?

V. double standard. No?

I wonder what the cost benefit analysis of this war was. How much is it going to have to cost the US government before it was a poor financial decision?

And did they really believe it would be *easy*? I remember hearing someone defending the US actions by saying they did a good job of reconstructing Japan. Why on earth did they think it would be the same?


Meanwhile, the iceman from the Alps wasn't liked by his neighbours any more than most immigrants.

Posted by carla at 11:51 PM


Wow. I've tasted bad coffee, but never anything that actually tasted of turps. If this is my last post, you'll know why.


Posted by carla at 05:41 PM

August 12, 2003

it was horrible, I loved it

You know, the only possible way to actually get out there and have fun is to completely forget how horrid it is until too late. No really. I just had an excellent walk on the beach. In the rain. I'd spent all day meaning to go for a walk, and wimping out (despite wearing the uberjacket). And when I finally make it out of the safe warm places, on account of forgetting about the weather - all was loveliness. I ended up not even using the uberjacket much.

It is difficult when you don't even make sense to yourself.

Posted by carla at 10:20 PM

August 11, 2003

more on media morals

following on from Hard Cases Make Bad Law, I've been thinking about the uninformed American with regards to the Iraq war.

Given that they have a market-driven news media, and markets respond to market signals, surely the American public is getting told what it wants to hear? Advertisers spend the money, yes, but to secure an audience wooed by programming.

And yes, there are piles of other influences on a market other than consumer requirements (government regulation and production cost structures would be two examples). And there are plenty of learned articles about the corruptness of the American media bosses, and the influence they have on journalistic integrity.

But there are two sets of people on the demand side of this market, the consumers and the advertisers. The consumers will gravitate to the news they most want to hear. The advertisers will gravitate to the news media which maximises two things: 1. number of people, and 2. receptiveness to the advertising. So news media have 2 motivating factors for creating news that audiences watch. But they also have a motivating factor for setting that audience up to be feeling good about themselves (or bad about something they can fix with a product).

So you have an entire industry set up to not tell Americans what they want to hear about why the President was going to war. Making your audience feel uncomforable, cynical, confused, and/or scared is neither a good way to get an audience nor a good way to sell advertising space.

The other issue is that a democracy only works if there is a reasonably full and accurate set of information in the minds of voters. If you don't know that your MP is accepting bribes you may vote in a different way from how you would if you did know. Having some accurate information about the situation in Iraq would have been helpful for the populace so they could decide whether or not they approved of what the President was getting them into.

No, I have no comment on how you fix the news media so it supports democracy. I'm only commenting that a free market for news has the potential to badly impact the legitimacy and efficacy of a democratic system.

Posted by carla at 09:33 PM

August 09, 2003

fishing for comments...

No, really. Why do we have sex?

There are some obvious answers:

* intimacy
* libido
* cause that is what we do on Saturdays (or Wednesdays or whenever)
* procreation
* to make someone feel better (many variants, including getting to do something one is good at, and indulgence)
* the joy of it (whether that be art, relationship or whatever)
* religion (a minority in this readership I'm guessing)
* boredom
* to take a walk on the wild side
* to make someone else jealous
* to express fantasy
* for exercise
* for somewhere to sleep

but I assume everyone has their own reasons...

I'm curious about motive in sex. When is sex selfish (when isn't it!). When is it unethically selfish? When is it more about generosity than anything else. When is it for tactical reasons (money, to cement a relationship, to have children)?

How do you check in on the ethics of someone else, and is that any part of your business if you don't mind the behaviour?

Is ethical sex any better than unethical sex?

My only conclusion so far is that the interplay between people is the most important thing. That these are fluid decisions and woefully difficult to navigate. Which leads me to conclude (this late on a Friday) that knowing your own relationship to sex and your own morals, desires and motivations is desparately important. In a negotiated situation, you need to have faith in your position (though that can put you at risk if you loose the negotiation).

Apologies in advance for askign questions rather than providing content, but Meh! and my cat would say.

Posted by carla at 01:16 AM

August 05, 2003

hard cases make bad law

I've been thinking about the common legal phrase "Hard cases make bad law". It basically means that there is a strong temptation to help out the underdog in the interests of justice. There is an extensive forum post about it here. Trouble is, you end up making a rule that is then exploited by, ... um, I think the term would have to be the "overdog"? There are entire areas of law with horrible anomalies due to hard cases. :)

Regardless, that isn't the point of writing. I've always been bothered that discussions around social policy often get overenthusiastic about success stories. The people who turned their lives around by finding God, or going back to school, or counselling, or a job, or a new haircut... They are often trotted out by someone who is running our prisons or social welfare to prove that their new colour scheme or Mozart will fix everyone. (They often also seem to be inferring that anyone who isn't fixed by their cure deserves the crap in their life.)

I finally summed it up with "Easy cases make bad policy".

(I do actually know someone who got over reasonably long term depression with a new haircut. There may have been some other factors, but my memory indicates that popular vote wen to the haircut. It was damn cute).

Posted by carla at 02:29 PM

August 04, 2003

altruism caused racism

Driving along the other day listening to the radio, I found I was listening to a scientist who was also a Christian talking about why he believed in God (the oddness and joy of public radio). He claimed that God existed because people seemed to have an inherant desire to do/be good, and that goodness had a certain similarity across cultures. He argued that there was no evolutionary reason why people would help a drowning person out of a river, or that they would widely agree that that was the action of a good person. Hense there must be a moral or spiritual power which had created us to be moral beings.
I think that you can explain altruism in evolutionary terms (tho I'm by no means an evolitionary psychologist). Firstly, there is an evolutionary benefit from altruism and empathy if the group in question is a small related group (a family or tribe). All other things being equal, you'd expect people who develop the ability to empathise and act altruistically to live longer and procreate more often. Aside from the obvious benefits of taking care of people who are temporarily sick, it is helpful if you can predict what will upset or piss off the people around you. Also you are more likely to get laid if you are not a selfish and self interested person (well, I like to think so).
So there are good reasons for humans to be naturally disposed to empathy and altruism. However, by their nature, these qualities are easy to exploit. Once you start to empathise, you are on a slippery slope to empathising with all people or even animals (e.g. kittens and dolphins), and getting ripped off. So there needed to be a counterveilling force which could control the otherwise rampant desire to help other people.
So humans needed to develop a way of fine-tuning their altruistic urges so they benefitted the right people (and the right genes).
In general, it seems to be very easy to create racism and hatred of the other in groups of otherwise nice people. The classic experiment was with school kids. The teachers singled out the blue eyed children as different, and pretty soon the blue eyed kids were being abused by the majority. The conclusion I once saw drawn from this was that human beings seemed to have a reasonably hair trigger xenophobic reaction. Very easy to turn on, and difficult to retract.
If this is true, it would appear that our evolution has left us with a general moral sense, and a xenophobic filter to control it.
The only nice thought out of this lot, is that we do at least have the moral sense, and we are also developing the ability to see that the xenophobia is unnecessary.

Posted by carla at 09:37 PM

August 03, 2003

i am a rock n roll star, no really...

or possibly not. but a lot of my friends seem to be. unlike a number of years ago, they seem to be taking over the mic and having fun. judging by extensive investigative babble, they still doubt their right to own the forum and speak thier mind in their own words. but they are now over their microphone envy and are putting on their ritz in a public space.
it is important to hear and see your own experience in the public eye, and I am greatful that I get to exprience it.

Posted by carla at 04:43 AM