November 2007

I’ve suddenly discovered more free time, so thought that I’d better get cracking on continuing/improving The Fault.

Ermine leaned out the window of his dormitory office and yelled across the floor. “AckAck! What kind of humanoids you say coming in this morning?”

Well, to be honest, this book just confused me.

Amnesia Moon is the story of ‘Chaos’ a guy who lives in an old movie theatre in whoknowswhere Wyoming, in some sort of bizarre post-apocalyptic USA. After an altercation with the guy who runs the town, who also happens to be the last fat man in America (TM), Chaos flees the town, and sets out on a series of adventures.

Or at least I think they’re adventures… (more…)

This film is based on a book of the same name by Israeli writer David Grossman. The story centres on a young guy searching for a young woman to give her a ticket for letting her dog get put in the pound.

Two plots run concurrently in the film, with Assaf (the guy) following Tamar’s trail using her dog Dinka as a guide. Meanwhile, Tamar is searching the streets of Jerusalem for someone and falls in with a fagan-like character. (more…)

Well, in what some are calling a demonstration of Howard’s extreme hubris, the Liberal coalition government appears to have been mauled in the Australian Federal election, with a likely 6% swing against the incumbent Government. Let me tell you, that is not only huge, it was predicted as near impossible after the last election.

And all I can say is about damn time.

With neither major New Zealand website currently carrying any useful information, I got up and went to the Melbourne Age and The Australian sites.

Let’s start by saying I’m the first to recognise Howard’s skill as a politician. He is a wily, clear-eyed thinker and has an uncanny sense for what the electorate wants.

At least, until this election.

And good riddance. Early results even have the lying, wedge-making, racist toerag losing his own seat.

Now, despite many Australian commenters calling a ‘narrowing’ that might allow the Coalition to at least save face with a slim loss, Possum Pollytics has pretty much consistently called the election in favour of Labor ever since, well, ever since. Big, big credit to the Possum. Genius… absolute genius.

The end result? Likely to be 84 seats Labor, 58 seats Coalition. That’s a crushing defeat in anyone’s books.

Just goes to show what happens when you don’t have a boatload of refugees, a major terrorist attack, or an inept opposition to exploit… Maybe Rudd will even offer and apology to Aboriginal people!!

And the bad news? Australia just became a slightly more interesting place to live and work.

Let’s leave John with these wee YouTube videos. They include a discussion of his famous speech to a reconciliation convention in 1997. The one where he completely loses it because people boo and turn their backs on him.

PS. UPDATE 1600 Sunday. Costello not to take up mantle as Opposition Leader. This is a pity actually. Costello is the most liberal of the Liberals, and one of the few Liberals I had genuine respect for. If anything you have to admire his loyalty. Few others would have put up with Howard for as long as he did…

Well, first out of the blocks from my new Silver Spoon cookbook.

Aubergine Terrine.

Verdict? Not so bad.

Mostly cheesy. Might add more fresh basil, salt, pepper next time.

There used to be a food hall on Wellesley (?) street in Auckland that introduced me to Malaysian food the way it was supposed to be. It was there that I first tried curry laksa, and it was years until I could make a passable version.

The secret? Chicken stock.

These are the ingredients you’ll need to make the base of the laksa. Most all can be bought off the shelf at supermarkets or Asian food marts. The only other thing you’ll need is a meat, but that meat can be tofu! And you can easily use vegetable stock instead of chicken. Just make sure you add a little butter or extra olive oil to make it ‘full-bodied’ enough.

As shown here on the right, you’ll also need noodles. Try to buy egg noodles, they seem to hold together best when you’re cooking.

This recipe is fairly hard to get wrong. The main thing to avoid is over-cooking the meat, or using bad ingredients. Don’t use chicken breast for example, it dries out in the soup and becomes awful.

You’ll notice from the picture to the right that I’ve opted for egg as the ‘meat’ in this dish. But!! Not just any egg.

Look at the size of the thing! On left is a hen’s egg, and the white one I’m simmering for 15 minutes is a salted gooses egg!! I couldn’t believe it when I found them at the Waitangi Park markets. Bless those crazy market gardeners.

While the egg is simmering I put the laska sauce together. I usually put in about a tablespoon of oil, and about a half tablespoon of curry paste per person. Some people go for powder, but I like paste. You can use red, green whatever. Just get it in the pot and heat it.

While it’s heating up add about a half-tablespoon of decent fish sauce, per person (or none, if you’re a vegetarian). If you’re using chicken thighs, then add at this stage. Then heat the whole mixture until it looks like it’s about to burn. By the time the paste is very hot the chicken is cooked enough. It will cook further while the laksa heats up, and still remain juicy.

Immediately add your stock, and your coconut cream. Go for a low-fat version if you’re concerned about the waistline/heart, or for coconut milk if you’re wanting a thinner laksa. I like my nice and full. Stir, bring to a high simmer, but not a boil, and you’re away.

Then prepare your vegetables.

Slice a capsicum in half, and remove the seeds and tops with your hands. Then slice broadly. Again, cut this any way you like. I prefer the long slices because it looks better in the final dish.

You’ll add these to your sauce later on.

The next thing to do is put the egg noodles into boiling water, a cook till just tender. Don’t over cook them, or they’ll disintegrate in the laksa when you build it.

Ladle out the noodles into a bowl, then cover with some bok choy. The bok choy has been soaking in water, as shown in the first photo above, then rinsed clean (boy choy tends to collect a lot of clay and insects in the base of the plant.)

Once you’ve covered the noodles with bok choy then you’re all set to finish putting the laksa together.

Sometimes I delay the assembly bit until the laksa has reduced and thickened a little, but that isn’t essential.

If your laksa sauce is where you want it, then add the next ingredients.

I just add the capsicum, then add my next favourite ingredient, frozen shrimp! This explains the fish stock I used earlier. It’s important to not cook frozen, or any, shrimp or prawns too long. They become very very dry, and loose any semblance of flavour.

If you’re using tofu, fried or otherwise, this is the time to add it.

While the shrimps and capsicum are heating through, peel the goose egg, cut in half, and place in the bowl, as above. Then begin ladling the soup in!

This is pretty straightforward. I usually ladle out the good stuff first, then share out the sauce.

And there you have it! I sprinkle some fried shallots on the top as a garnish, and end up with one (or more) extremely delicious curry laksa!

Mwah-hah! sigh…


I’ll take the money I’m not spending on petrol and spend it on higher food prices…


After the discussion with the Road Safety Forum guys I did some chatting with some public service types and turned up a few issues, in particular what can only be termed the ‘lifecycle’ of social media channels.

I did a little google, and couldn’t find anything useful about what I’m posting here, but if anyone knows of some good thinking in this space I’d love to hear it.

What all frequent users of blogs or bulletin boards should have heard of is ‘Godwin’s Law‘. This law states that as a post ages the likelihood of “Nazis” or “Fascism” being invoked increases exponentially (I abridged). The use of these two terms, or a derivative of them, usually indicates the end of useful conversation. Now, blogs and/or forums are all about conversation, so a thread “Godwinning” is effectively a death kneal for a topic as well.

Something I’ve noticed though is that threads tend to reach a natural conclusion of sorts even if Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply. From observing in participating in conversations over at Public Address System I can state that Godwinning very rarely occurs. But, threads do tend to reach a kind of ‘peak’ before useful conversation tapers off into a blaze of many and varied topics and viewpoints.

What this has lead me to think is that a productive thread will follow a particular lifecycle. I say productive thread because plenty of threads are unproductive. I haven’t visited Kiwiblog since moderation kicked in, but back in the day it was highly unusual for a thread to contain productive or useful information. Knowledge generation? Forget it.

And for public servants, social media is partially about knowledge generation. It’s also about fostering communities of interest, social partnership, etc etc, but it’s especially useful for analysts or advisers seeking knowledge.

I know that “knowledge generation” is something of a cliche, but it’s a useful one for what we should be using social media for. This is because there are a hundred ways to gather information. But gathering information in a socially proactive way, and being able to build on it over a given timeframe? Much more valuable, especially to a researcher like myself.

So how does this relate to the lifecycle of a given social media?

All social media suffers from variable signal-to-noise ratios. What I’ve noticed is that early in the lifecycle of a social media the signal to noise ratio is high, meaning that there isn’t much useful information. This could be because there isn’t yet a critical mass of participants, or because the groupthink hasn’t adequately kicked in. But over time the babble lessens and more interesting signals can be gleaned. Eventually though, the coherency and usefulness of the conversation will again decrease.

I should add though, that the usefulness will only decrease to the person who has posed the questions. To the people participating in the conversation the usefulness is subjective, so they could still be enjoying discussing an issue or topic long after the key points have been well and truly expounded.

What’s important to making social media work is that both these needs are considered. The poster or ‘owner‘ of the site needs to be able to get good information or knowledge out of the process, and participants need to feel that a conversation has reached a natural conclusion. The former ensures that the owner thinks they’ve established a good process or tool, and the latter ensures that participants feel like they’ve both contributed and been part of a community of interest.

To sell these ideas to an analyst or adviser you need to ensure that they know that a social media will only have a limited lifecycle, and that it isn’t a long-term or onerous task. Much the same as any period of feedback or information-gathering there is a natural conclusion. And while this conclusion might not be scheduled the way a static or non-social media interaction is, it will eventually close.

The key difference is that social media offers a far richer type of interaction, and an opportunity to include the public in the way direct polling, focus-groups, or interviews cannot.

Light is a space opera set with three separate narratives. The first is a brilliant but extremely troubled scientist in contemporary England, the second a human stuck in a virtual reality tank, and the third the cyborg captain of a “K-Ship”.

Problem is, that’s about all I can tell you. (more…)

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