July 2007

While I’m all for Web2.0 and social media, my foray into Facebook has proven a little boring. It was only three or four days before I was no longer interesting in constantly updating my profile, my status, my friends list, my movies, my TV habits (none), my music, my opinions, my photos, my blahdy-frickin-blah.

If you’re not familiar with it, Facebook is a web application that allows you to publish a profile of yourself and share it with friends. It’s hugely popular with ‘the youth’ and is essentially the same type of application as the MySpace you might have heard about.

While I can see why people find it great, staying in near-constant touch with your friends for example, they way everyone does with SMS, personally I’m not sold on the idea.

What the social networking revolution offers is these great and fantastic ways of communicating to each other. It also offers us the chance to connect more closely to people over great distances. But in Facebooks case? It offers the chance to data mine like a mthrfkcer.

Facebook itself seems to offer a small guarantee that it’s not using your personal information for business purposes, according to Wikipedia that is, but apparently this is not the case for the third-party applications everyone enjoys using. Got the “Favourite Movies” app? Someone is tracking that. Got the “Places Visited” app? Someone knows about the typical travel habits of someone in your demographic.

It’s entirely possible that this is a flight of fancy, and there’s no need to up my dose of anti-paranoia drugs. On the other hand, it’s entirely reasonable to think they’d be data mining. And why the hell not? And what’s actually wrong with that? Well, nothing. It just kind of pisses me off.

I think what my gripe really runs to is that the site doesn’t seem to offer much more than a sense of connectivity I’m not really needing right now, and a faint whiff of things to come in the continual commercialisation of teh interweb. All yr datas r belong 2 us.

Oh… and be warned. You can’t delete your account. Once that thing is up you can only suspend your membership. If you want to delete the content you’ll have to make several hundred clicks to remove everything off the site. Unless you go through all that drama, everyone in the world will be able to access everything they need to know about you, for eternity.

I think I’ll happily admit to struggling with this one. Pynchon has a particular style that I like, but find difficult. His meandering into long descriptive passages is fascinating, but has a tendency to cause me to daydream about the things he’s writing. I consequently lose track of the narration and have to constantly backtrack.

That said, The Crying was more accessible that Gravity’s Rainbow, which I had to put down after a 5-page sentence completely defeated me.

The book centres on a woman named Oedipa Mass, who, while undertaking to become an executor for a lovers will, becomes embroiled in a shadowy underworld. A shadowy underworld of postal workers… (more…)

Forever is set in the Pere Lachaise in Paris, a cemetery probably best known as the burial place of Jim Morrison. Which is a pity, because there’s plenty of actual musicians buried there who are worth giving a damn about.

Thus far, Forever is the best film of the festival for me. It’s slow moving, but the slightly ponderous pace lends itself well to what is after all a film about the afterlife.

The interest in the film is the people who occupy the gradually decaying space of the cemetery, spending time with loved ones, tending the graves and tombs of long-deceased artists, or pondering life itself amid a sea of stone and gardens.

The documentary maker is extremely clever in her selection of persons to interview, and gives us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of a number of occupants both dead and alive. The main theme seemed to be the artistic lives of Parisians, with the deceased and their followers alike immersed in the world of painting, music and writing.

A great little film that made me wish to be in a city with even more life.

Ah well.

Well, I’ll admit to being a little disappointed with this one.

Amazing Grace is the tale of one William Wilberforce, an English gentleman opposed to the C18thslave trade. Being a rational humanist evangelical Christian, Wilberforce works tirelessly to have slavery abolished within the British Empire. Now, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that, in the end, he wins.

What was disappointing about Amazing Grace is that the story emphasises narrative over dramatic tension. In fact, there’s almost a complete absence of any dramatic tension whatsoever. We’re talking about one of the most turbulent periods in British history, where revolution was on their very doorstep, and while Wilberforce suffers setback and ridicule, the events transpiring outside his life are muted.

I’m thinking that this was probably deliberate. There is a lot of emphasis on the personal sacrifices made by Wilberforce, and an equal amount on his redemption after a near total collapse brought about by the French revolution and consequent viewing of dissent as ‘sedition’ (the parallels to post-twin towers USA being obvious). But the energy of the film is put into telling the story as honestly and clearly as possible.

I suppose that isn’t entirely a bad thing. It’s probably the youth in me that wanted to see more duels and less debate in Parliament… but you don’t always get what you want.


In the spirit of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori we here at Dropkicks thought we’d bring you a little Te Reo.

A really little Te Reo.

In fact, a little, gingery, squeaky Te Reo.


I figure I’d better come clean and admit that this isn’t my only blogsite…

The shame of it all! I’ve been posting to other sites!!

Here’s today’s installment at Lively, the NZLive blog. Other Cross Posts will be accordingly marked, and will take you away from this site.


When my television looked like it was going to pack up last year, I did the respectable thing and sold it to someone on TradeMe. It was a 68cm behemoth that perched on a slab on the corner of the room and fed me a constant stream of bull-pucky interspersed with the occasional gem. It took two people to lift and move it. It consumed a huge amount of electricity. And I loved it to bits.


i joined facebook </blush>

Perelandra continues the interplanetary adventures of Elwin Ransom, our hero from Out of the Silent Planet, as he is sent to Perelandra (Venus) on missions unknown.

I’ll be honest. I’ve struggled with this book somewhat, despite the relatively interesting content. Mostly this is because of Lewis’ rather dated writing style, which is as stated in relation to Silent Planet is ponderous and slightly pompous. Despite this, I persevered because Lewis once again displays a impressive imagination.


Despite the pre-80s reforms Gliding On stereotype, in which a bunch of people did a whole lot of nothing, there are a lot of different types of roles involved in making the public service work. Let’s face facts, managing the expectations and needs of 4 million people is never going to be easy, and you need lots of people to be doing things.

For the past year my role has centred around the acquisition and dissemination of data and information, and it’s been pretty interesting. It’s not as flashy as some of the jobs in government-overall, I’d never be able to take a Crown car to the pub, but it is a solid occupation. I recently attended the ANZEA conference for example, and was reassured when finding out that most all of the challenges I face in my role are shared by the private sector.

The first and foremost issue faced by researchers and evaluators is the problem of having people uptake and listen to whatever it is you’re needing them to listen to. The second issue is knowing what you’re talking about. Why in that order? Because if you can’t do the first, the second doesn’t matter. If you can’t communicate then you could fill a report with lolcats and pictures of the Hoff and no-one will ever be the wiser.

There are of course specialist roles that centre on effective dissemination of information, but it is unreasonable to expect absolutely everyone to be expert at it. What I’m finding more and more though is that it is not unreasonable to expect as many people aas possible to at least be competent at communication.

This necessity made me aware of a problem I’d noticed about academia while in Melbourne. Academics are the repository for huge amounts of information. They study topics in incredible depth, and they have (or should have) a wide breadth of knowledge on their favoured area. But hand in hand with this trainspotter behaviour goes the inability to effectively disseminate their knowledge. Some academics are simply unable to get their ideas out there.

But communication is vital in today’s knowledge economies. If we can’t have our experts getting their ideas out to those who need them, then their utility is severely curtailed. Some are of course expert at selling. Dave Snowden is a thinker someone put me onto, and he sells and distributes ideas simply and effectively. In a way, Snowden is more than a thinker, Dave is a knowledge-maven, and in my opinion it’s the kind of role we need to see much much more of.

Knowledge-mavens are great because they take the thinking of the not-so-socially-adept and put them out there into the public sphere for the consumption of everyone. I in fact think that it’s an absolutely vital role that needs to be made more of, especially in a country like New Zealand where knowledge and better practise are the one thing that can give us an edge. Sure some commodity prices in particular are increasing, but that isn’t real productivity gain, that’s just good luck.

It’s that conduit role between ‘high-expert’ and knowledge market that most interests me, and is kind of a good description for public service researchers. There’s not the time to become completely expert in understanding the subjects for which your Ministry or Department is responsible. Moreover, becoming a high-expert will make you too valuable in the private sector for the public service to employ you. Consequently you end up being a channel for knowledge to other roles than need information to be more informed, therefore better performers.

Which brings us back to the issue of effective communication. If you can’t channel the right kind of information, to the right people, when they actually need it, then you’re not doing your job. Again, the private sector also faces this exact issue.

It’s for that reason that I see my role as being something of a low-ranked knowledge-maven. Sure, I get to create a lot of reports in my project areas, and I also get to shelve a lot of those same reports when other roles become too busy to read them. But, I also see myself having to hold and disseminate as much tacit knowledge about my areas of responsibility whenever possible, to whomever possible. Basically I just tell everyone things they need to know, but may not have time to read about, whenever I can.

It’s a smart-arse’s delight.

Oh, and the issue of whether I can be trusted as a source of knowledge is another post altogether.

Now, I have a lot of respect for Hollie Smith. Her work on other peoples albums has been outstanding. “Bathe in the River” is an all-time favourite, and almost made me watch No.2 all on its own.

Ever want to feel like some kind of traitor though? Trying saying these words, “Smith’s new album? Dull.”

Unfortunately, it’s true. I’ve tried listening to it a number of times, and all it makes me want to do is to try find Smith playing live somewhere so I can feel reassured I haven’t wasted my money. Probably the problem is bad production.

But it could also be that they songs are uninspired, don’t sound like soul, and seem to rest almost entirely on Smith churning out “whoa-yeah”.

Avoid it if you can. Which will be difficult, since it has ‘cafe backgrounder’ written all over it.

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