December 2007

And 2007 was. It’s not been a half bad year really, which I’ll now indulge myself in, with the traditional “blogger’s round-up”.

Late 2006 saw me finally make that move into my very-own digs in Mt. Cook, and wasn’t that a stupid decision. The flat I chose (on a quiet sunny day) turned out to be noisy, damp, cold AND dark. Terrific. Consequently when 2nd Chef and I were ‘just looking’ at places to move in together, and we found our place on Cuba St, I just at it. She had made it adequately clear that she was not to be living in Mt. Cook where you could all too clearly hear the girls upstairs taking a tinkle.

So a win-win situation there. We’ve been here since February, and it’s great.

2007 also saw me settle into a new job with a new segment of the bureaucracy, and it’s not too bad either. The work is busy, interesting and only occasionally stressful. There is plenty of room for career advancement in areas I’m interested in, and there may well be a jump to a new role late in 2008. Will keep you posted.

In blogging, I entered the year sans Club Politique. But… I couldn’t stay away for long, and was soon writing here, the Wellingtonista, and a brief stint at Lively (not to mention a dabble with fiction over at The Fault). And not to forget regular podcasting and posting at The Dropkicks! She’s been a busy year on this front. We’ll have to put it down to losing TV when I moved to Mt. Cook. One has to do something with all the time they save.

And how could I forget!  I also had some minor heart surgery, which finally let me get on with life. As it was merely walking up short flights of stairs would blimmin exhaust me. And now I have no excuse to not get back in shape. So I don’t make them… [thanks to Richard for the reminder]

All in all the year hasn’t been too bad then. These were some big changes for me, and have definitely taught me to branch into new habits. Getting back into reading was a major one. I’ve read something like 40 novels this year, and all that reading, combined with all that writing has shown me something quite important. I’m not a very good writer.

Now, I know that some people loved Club Politique. But I’m realising that blogging and writing are two very different things. This is especially the case with the constraints of the Public Service Code of Conduct weighting upon me. I can’t blog to the extent I’d like to, and my fiction is just a bit bloody ordinary. It’s proving rather frustrating.

It would be nice to just forget about the writing and just faff around on this year’s other big event, absolutely everyone getting onto Facebook, but I’m compelled to write things. Which leaves me in a bit of a tricky position. I can’t blog. But I can’t actually write.

I’m thinking that this will be the year’s conundrum for me. How to breathe a little life back into my keyboard, but without jeopardising the sweet deal I have in other parts of the real world…

So, Bon Vie everyone. Here’s hoping you have a very happy new year, and wishing you all the best.

Apparently, this is an indication that my food is bad…

Don’t believe a word 100 says. We’re safe as houses round here.

Question: Why is it that every year someone takes a snap of me during Movember?

Get yourself over to the Wellingtonista for my description of Jingle Jangle Morning.

Assuming you haven’t swanned off to sun yourself in the miserable bloody New Zealand Christmas weather, dashing in and out of the rainstorms and/or hail with your bottle of BananaBoat, toweling hat, and lawnchair, then you’re probably still around Wellington.

Girl in Landscape centres on the character of Pella Marsh, a young teen whose father takes his family from Brooklyn to “The Planet of the Archbuilders” after his loss and humiliation in an election. Shortly before the departure Pella’s mother Caitlin dies, and the loss of family is compounded immediately by the transition to the new world.

This is an interesting but oddly-paced book, and demonstrates again Lethem’s fascination with the Western frontiers of the USA. Girl in Landscape is in a way an exploration of colonial themes, with isolation, desolation, and desperation wound up in a simple but ultimately extremely textured tale. (more…)

I think that, if I was 12, this film would have been “absolutelyfreakingfantastic”. As it was I was left admiring the incredible animation of the fighting polar bears, the extreme evil of Nicole Kidman, and the speed at which the script skipped across the detail of the fantasy world The Golden Compass is set in. (more…)

Blimmin great novel. End of the World Blues is the tale of an Englishman in Tokyo. He’s married to a Japanese woman and they run a bar together somewhere in the seedy suburbs of a bustling Japanese urban landscape. Until a fire destroys the bar and kills his wife that same day as a tramp tries to murder him in a street.

End of the World Blues is a tale of Edo Rope Bondage, distant human futures, time travel, and the gangster underworld of at least two countries. (more…)

Well, the time’s come for all of you to step up.

If you know Russell Brown at all, or if you’ve got decent info about him, then get on over to Wikipedia and edit that page!!

Here it is here.

I really seriously liked this book. It’s not to be confused with Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell for starters, which is some kind of post-modern narrative-confused novel that I’ve yet to read. Instead, The Cloud Atlas is the story of an 18 year-old bomb disposal sergeant who’s sent to Alaska to help defuse Japanese bombs.

You see, the problem is that it’s late in WW2 and the Japanese are launching dozens of incendiary-laden balloons in the expectation of setting fires and killing civilians on mainland USA. And how to stop these things is a very real issue.

The twist is that much of the tale is told by the protagonist as he sits at the bedside of a dying “Eskimo” shaman, and he himself has become a Catholic priest… (more…)

Frankly, all this talk of Turducken is just plain pissing me off. Those damn Cajuns and their crazy food… This is after all the same people who put chicken, seafood and pork into their rice.

Following hard on the heels of this obsession with creating the avian equivalent of a haggis are these wankers (hat tip: Mr Green). Apparently, stuffing the breasts of dozens of birds into the cavity of another, bigger bird is all the rage among the toffs. And they’d have to be toffs. Anyone who’s anyone knows that the thighs are where all the goodness is.

Anyhow. Enough ranty-ranty.

The problem is that these people simply aren’t thinking big enough. If you really want to create a gourmet dish not to be matched then you need to start talking about protected game. Now that’s thinking big.

So… I got to thinking. You want a big meal? Something to seriously impress the Whippington-Smythes? Then stuff a freaking elephant. With a Hippo. With a Zebra. With a Hyena. With a Baboon. With a Springbok. With a Sloth. With a Meercat (maybe two). And then stuff the Meercat with a baby Lion. Oh, and stuff the baby Lion with a Mars bar and deepfry the whole shebang.

Other suggestions are welcomed.

I popped into Agile BarCamp a couple of weeks back, and it’s taken me this long to get it together and blog about it!

Bless the Christmas season, so little time, so many events big and small.

As Miramar Mike says, there were many different takes on the day. I was one of the people who’d only heard of the word, particularly from this provocation paper, and wanted to know more. And learn more I did.

In brief, “Agile” is an approach to project management that encourages openness, trust, and transparency via participation. This makes it a great method in situations where, as a project manager or senior project-coordinatory-type, you have a lot of room to move.

The contrast to Agile methods provided by Eduard Leibenberger was to something highly linear like engineering. If you have set timeline and a highly controlled project to work on, then you’ll not be using Agile. But if your project is (or could be) all about iteration and active learning, then Agile methods might just be for you.

What I found most interesting is that there is a constant assumption that public service projects require highly structured, tightly controlled, and incredibly restrictive project methodologies. The one mantra that seems to be uttered is “but we must report to the Minister”. And I guess that’s fair enough. As public servants we’re required to be accountable to the public via the Minister.

But. And this is a big but. Often the Minister isn’t interested in the minutiae of your project. The Minister is more often than not primarily interested in you getting them results that demonstrate value being gained from public monies. When you get right down to brass tacks, it’s not how you organise your project (be it large or small), it’s how you used that organisation/method to achieve great results.

And Agile is a method specifically designed and evolved to produce results. This is because Agile focuses attention on bringing all stakeholders to the table early, producing clearly defined and agreed objectives, and keeping your project on track by having stakeholders well-informed about progress. Seems pretty simple right?

It probably is. Although, exactly how to apply it to a researcher’s role such as my own will require some thought. I will therefore keep you updated.

(I’d recommend the DEMOS paper if you’re a public servant and interested in the idea. The stuff on the problem of bureaucracy constraining innovation is very close to the ideas Leadbeater puts forward.)

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