June 2008


Raptor leaned way back in his sea and stared at the ceiling of his habitat. He started counting the tiles from left to right, from right to left, up, then down.

“Puter.” 

“Yes, Raptor, Avenger of the Nine Dry Worlds, Prince’s Champion?”

“Where’s that slippery little bastard Millard?”

“He’s currently speaking with the Vice-Admiral about the Gazers Mission, Raptor.”

Raptor sighed with boredom, “Guess we won’t be drinking any time soon then…” He glanced across at the doorway to his habitat, then back up to ceiling. He straightened his seat stared at the table.

“Puter.”

“Yes, Raptor, Keeper of Royal Virtue, Feared in Fifteen Systems?”

“Do you have any idea how bored I am?”

“No, Raptor.”

“Well let me tell you…”

“Please don’t.”

“Dammit.”

“Please don’t be upset, Raptor. Besides calculating several million equations a second, I’m also observing phenomena several billion clicks away, answering questions from a dozen of your comrades, and moving this vessel through an extremely complex four-dimensional space. It keeps me rather busy.”

“Isn’t that an excuse from an Iain M. Banks book?”

“I’m surprised you read, Raptor.”

“Iain doesn’t count.”

“Of course, Raptor.”

“Is Millard finished yet?”

“Yes, Raptor, he’s in the common room.”

Raptor lurched up and onto his talons, and clacked out of his habitat and into the walkway. Ship’s crew, mech and bio alike, scattered as his 3m tall frame lurched down the hallway, ungainly and awkward in the near 1G gravity the Navy liked to maintain in its capital ships. He ducked beneath low-hanging cables and swatted at drones making running repairs to the ship after its last confrontation with the Gazers. He grumbled at bio guards who insisted on checking his credentials at or near section-dividing bulkheads, and finally stumbled into the common room to find Millard having an in-depth conversation with what appeared to be a large block of ice.

“Oh, apologies Vice-Admiral” Raptor coughed, “Puter said you and Millard had finished speaking.”

The block vibrated back in reply, “No problem Raptor, we have finished just this second. Doubtless Puter anticipated your transit perfectly.”

“Damn smart-ass tech…” Raptor mumbled.

“Sorry, Raptor?” The Vice-Admiral asked.

“Nothing Admiral, just congratulating the Puter on its usual spiffy work.”

“Of course.”

Millard slithered off the bench on which he had been reclining, and informed Raptor that the Vice-Admiral and he had been discussing the demise of the Gazers.

“Demise?” Raptor stated, a little shocked, “We’ve only just engaged them. How can they be demised?”

Millard smiled his distinctive reptilian smile. “Easssy, Raptor. We had the intel boffinss analyssse their sssociology. They’re an extremely tough raccce, and highly advanccced technologically, as the damage to thisss ssship indicatesss. But they’re also rather obssessssed with thought.”

“What are you saying? Are you saying that I don’t get to shoot anyone? Because that sounds a lot like what you’re saying. That I don’t get to shoot anyone, and might not be Champion again this year.”

“Apologiesss Raptor, but that is what I’m sssaying.”

“Wait… what exactly did the boffins come up with that stopped this entire star-faring race in its tracks?”

“Sssimple, Raptor. I suggested that our Ambasssador ask them a sssimple quessstion.”

“Which was?”

“How do I know I’m a Gazer, and not a Ssslave dreaming I am a Gazer?”

“Dunno, how do you know?”

“No, that wass the quessstion.”

“Oh… And that stopped the Gazers?”

“Yesss Raptor.”

“And what are they doing currently?”

“We think that their sssociety will unravel within two yearss. Individualsss are currently retreating into mental isssolation acrosss their planetss at approximately 140 beingss per sssecond.”

“So they’re just falling to pieces because they’re thinking about this problem? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yess Raptor. It iss called a SSSolopisstic Mind Bomb. Highly effective on advanced and overly-cccerebral sssocietiesss.”

“So I don’t get to shoot anyone?”

“Maybe the stupid ones.” The Admiral interjected.

I’ll have to be honest and state that after the reading about the urban corridor I’ve done I’ve decided not to make a submission to the Council. Primarily this is because I’ve been becoming increasingly convinced that it’s entirely a waste of time and effort.

The Corridor plan centres on the idea of turning a swathe of city stretching from Johnsonville to Kilbirnie into high-density urban corridor (hence the name). But the plan itself doesn’t seem to want to allow this to occur. I say this because the emphasis is on effective transport along the corridor. And ‘effective transport’ is, by all direct indications, personal transport.

The main example is the councils willingness to entirely ignore the improvement of public transport in favour of roading that will encourage the use of personal transport. There is some intention to provide dedicated bus lanes, but these are for diesel buses. 

Why this makes me think that the urban corridor idea is precluded by the the types of transport the plans lean towards. Personal transport tends to push people out towards the further suburbs. And the type of public transport they’re favouring is extremely noisy and polluting. Why would anyone like in a high-density urban area that is noisy and polluted when they can easily drive in from the burbs?

I could go on. As I say, the plan is a dog’s breakfast, and the Council was entirely willing to entirely ignore the push for public transport in the form of clean, (relatively) quiet light-rail despite it being the overwhelming preference in the last round of consultation.

So, bugger it. The Council can get the city it deserves.

Well, this is the one and only photo of this wee tacker that will ever appear on this blog.

So, without any further adieu, Second Chef and I would like to introduce you to: (more…)

Is farting so damn funny?

It seems that no matter what age you are, or what your background is, unless you’re incredibly uptight (and therefore probably need the release the most), farting is a funny thing?

Was the ability to laugh at flatulence an evolutionary advantage in ages past? Is that why the Neanderthal became extinct?

Who knows?

Although I’ve been well and truly corrected on the way PKD writes, I still find it a little difficult to deal with. A Scanner Darkly is one his least pulpy novels, but is crazy beyond explanation. The story is obviously developed on the fly, and centres on a few ideas about perceptions and their twisting by drug use. So, this is interesting stuff, right? Perhaps. But it doesn’t make a coherent plot or storyline. Like other books of his I’ve read, PKD just starts the ball rolling, kicks is along a bit, gets bored or loses the track, and starts on a whole new idea.

All these complaints out of the way, I’ll admit that the novel is interesting in a quirky way. This is because he makes an excellent attempt at capturing the insanity that is drug addicts lurking in dives. The characters in this book are dark and hilarious in equal amounts, and appear to have the kind of messed-up conversation you’d easily hear from half-intelligent stoners mooching about the house. Assuming you’d actually met or been one of these kinds of people… The only difference you can see between these 70s freaks and today is the now-ubiquitous console games. In the 70s they only had their tripped-out imaginations…

What PKD attempts in A Scanner Darkly is to provide layers in the form of perceptions. The main character is a NARC (narcotics officer) who is undercover among some down-and-outers. But, in order to maintain his anonymity he is provided with a special suit that prevents other NARCs from identifying him when he’s back at the station. So then you have the irony of the suited NARC watching himself on some scanners placed in the flat he’s surveilling, and he’s not actually sure which one he is. And on and on it goes.

It’s at this point that I could get philosophical about the deeper meanings and alternate realities this establishes… but… I can’t be stuffed. The book is an interesting play, but is ultimately meaningless and completely devoid of direction.

Read if you’re a fan.

StarterIf there’s one meal I love it’s scrambled eggs. Poached is my favourite, but damned if I can make a decent one, and fried is also good, but it’s no good for the heart. Scrambled though? Extremely delicious.

Eggs are usually cheap. We get ours from the local markets, and they’re probably from chickens so densely packed in the barn they have trouble manoeuvering the three feet they need to to get their estrogen-enhanced feed. But, all we need them for is their eggs, right?

Anyhow. All you need for this meal is eggs, as many as you like (I like three), some butter, and some milk. If you’re still freaking out about dairy prices then you probably might as well give up now, because I use about a tablespoon of butter, and at least 50ml of milk. Scarey, aeh?

Also, I noticed that these photos where a little too dark, so I photoshopped some of them. Let me know if they’re a bit hakari. (more…)

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague this morning that centred on the idea that “the path is wiser than the walker the path is more wise than the walker” (whoops, forgot grammar for awhile there). So, if you’ve come over here to get away from discussions about where the line is drawn on consent, apologies. I’m about to get all conceptual.

The path is more wise than the walker. It’s an interesting idea, and one that ties closely to the kinds of Web2.0 conversations that are all over the internet at the minute. The origins of the idea are apparently Middle Eastern, probably Arabic, and centre on the way in which paths form over time to accomodate the passage of many individuals.

My first thought on hearing it was, “not particularly original idea if you’ve ever watched a path evolve”. But then I realised that most people live in cities or towns where paths have been established for a long time.

For a small town boy like myself though, watching paths spring up in the developing or formerly rural parts of the neighbourhood is normal. When a new road is created you walk on the grass next to it (because a footpath hasn’t been made), and over time a rut forms. And that rut will stay there no matter what.

So again, not such a revolutionary idea. The shortest amount of observation will lead you to noticing it.

Why I found the idea so interesting is because of the environment it developed in. When I was in Australia myself and a couple of friends made a long trip out into the Central Desert. The deep desert as they also call it. It’s some of the most inhospitable landscape on Earth, but life exists there, as have people for tens of thousands of years.

What struck me on that trip was how obviously superimposed the road we travelled was. This road had been pushed in more or less a straight line into the desert, oblivious to the environment itself, and ignorant of the way the land lay. We’d often travel strange distances from water sources for example, and large stands of stubby trees would disappear far on the horizon. But, had we been walking then these features would have been a necessary fixture of our journey. You’d want to get close to any water, and you’d want to find that shady spot under a tree. The modern road ignored these needs though, because we, as modern men, made our own path and struck them in direct as possible a way.

Around us though, the desert ignored us. And that’s the thing about deserts, man can’t change or control them they way he can more ‘user-friendly’ landscapes. You have to adapt, or a desert will kill you in the blink of an eye.

So when you make a path through a desert, you adapt it to it. The path is dictated not by convenience, or how a man thinks it should unfold, but by the environment itself. And more importantly, that path is rarely the product of a single man. The path is the combined footsteps of many men necessarily following the dictates of the environment. The path is in effect the combined responses of many men trying to get from where they are to where they’re going, all of them responding in a similar way to the deserts hostility.

In a way, all these Web2.0 and social media applications we’re constantly talking about can act like that path. Books like the Wisdom of Crowds and Here Comes Everybody have already stated these ideas with a focus on modern groups controlling the internet environment, but the aphorism ‘the path is more wise than the walker’ made me think that it is possible for the nature of something to necessarily dictate how the crowd itself will respond.

We’re kind of swept up in the idea that we are in control of the Web with 2.0, but there is still the possibility that it continues to dictate to us the way in which we travel and interact with the interweb as a landscape. And that is a very interesting idea, because it introduces a subtle change to any thinking about the wisdom of the masses, one that forces us to take a closer look at how applications and social processes will influence the continuing development and evolution of Web2.0.

The first impression of the draft Ngauranga – Airport Draft plan is that it isn’t so much a “plan” as a statement of intent. The document states that it is a consultation, and appears to offer the chance for the public to make submissions, but in fact it is stating what appears to have already been decided by the City Council.

This impression could be mistaken, but the format of the document doesn’t easily lend itself to the idea of consultation, and is more akin to a publicity exercise. There are no options presented to the reader for example, and instead we’re given a set of intentions that may or may not be implemented over a 10-year period.

I need to scratch a little deeper, for instance reading the Urban Development Strategy and the Regional Strategy, which will hopefully reveal a little more of the justifications for the choices the Council has already decided on is putting forward in their ‘draft plan’, and hopefully illuminate how and why particular decisions are being made.

After reading this slim document all I’m left with is the feeling that their is a very general intention to develop inner-city Wellington, but that no-one is actually sure how. The options for transport are a dog’s breakfast, and although the greater weight of submissions in a previous process were in favour of light rail as a public transport solution (which implies they would be at very least willing to utilise the service, if not actively support it), the paper dismisses it out of hand as prohibitively expensive. But, digging in a little further we find that costings for light rail are hidden on the very last page. And, they are $35million cheaper than what seems to be the preferred option to improve the corridor in question, a second Mt Vic tunnel…

As I say, this is a set of first impressions. But the first impression is very bad. Options that involve high-fossil fuel use, including diesel buses and public transport, as clearly given priority, while options that could make Wellington an eminently liveable city (walking and cycling) are uncosted within the plan and clearly not considered important. The “urban corridor” is poorly conceived, and seems to be a matter of convenience in “planning” as opposed to an objective. While the document states that there is expected to be considerable growth along the corridor, how good transport will complement this growth is not apparent, except the ensure that everything is lovely and convenient at clear bottlenecks like SUV central outside the gates of Government House at the end of school.

The two things I did find interesting was the statement that integrated ticketing would be available by 2011, and that dedicated bus laneways would be created. I’d love to know people’s opinion on that, because it would be the only things in this plan that might actually encourage people out of their private transport. That in turn would have them increasing their walking in the city, which in turn might increase patronage of the shops. 

Seriously, who notices the details of retail outlets when they’re driving past at 30km/hr, not me.

I’ll put in some decent reading and get back to you.

If you don’t know what this is?

Then you’re missing out.

Mmmmmmm…. Rewena bread (expensive but, $7 a loaf!!)

I’m going to eat a slice with loads of butter. When I buy some butter, that is.

Now all I need is some marinated fish and it’ll be like 1983 again (the year I worked in a restaurant that used to serve this delicacy).

Well, after a number of days of faffing around with Ubuntu I remain unconvinced. While it definitely boots faster, there is nothing it does that someone with my level of linux skills can exploit. And at times even simple things like installing updates or software will require me to go to google, have a read of a half-dozen poorly written and unclear sites, return to the application I’m working on, fail at least once, and then back to the sites.

Furthermore, it doesn’t adequately support a some of my hardware. Most annoyingly, the brand-new hardware I bought just before I shifted over. Some business-as-usual internet activity, like watching video, is jerky and will drop out. The ability to control sound is limited, and things often skew between audible and a whisper.

Now all these things are stuff that I could fix if I had both the time and inclination to learn how. But I’m a busy man. As it is I’ve barely blogged for days because I’m spending all my time faffing and reading stuff. And don’t get me started on trying to run any Windows software. Because I’ve been unable to get anything at all to run I can’t offer a comparison in performance between the two platforms.

So all that installing unbuntu has done is pushed me towards using this box less usefully, basically as an internet reader, and making me think I might just go ahead and buy that Mac I’ve had my eye on.

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