July 2008


Curry, like pasta sauce, is one of those things you can add just about anything to as long as you’ve got the right base. Consequently a restaurant can offer you three types of korma, with minimal difference between them but for the ‘meat’, be it vegan, vegetarian or otherwise. I’ve been faffing around with different types of sauces for awhile now, but have stumbled across one that I really like. It’s very similar in two distinct English cook-books, so it’s doubtless an Anglicised recipe.

That said, it’s extremely delicious. 

What I’ll do here is outline how to make the sauce. Once you have the sauce, you can then ad pretty much whatever ‘meat’ you prefer. This is because the sauce needs about an hour of cooking after the initial preparation and cooking is done. Usually I make the full recipe, then freeze half the sauce for another day.

The final thing to note is that the outlay on spices is initially expensive. But, they last for ages and if you’re making this type of food regularly you’ll save money in the long run.

Right, we’re off! (more…)

Since attending a course a week or so back I’m now an accredited Cognitive Edge Practitioner, which is an honour I’d hang next to the other degrees. And I’m not taking teh mickey there. CE practice is a highly interesting methodology that a colleague and I are discussing the applicability of in relation to our research and evaluation work. If it lives up to it’s promise, it could present some very useful data for our workplace.

But we’re not here to discuss work. I’m cogitating an idea about an area that wasn’t highly discussed in the CE accreditation, and will try to tease out a little further before putting it up here, and/or outlining it on the Cognitive Edge site.

CE is a method that simplifies understanding how leaders can and do make decisions in organisations. But it doesn’t appear to conceptualise the “time-dimension” of that decision-making process. I think there is a distinction process followed by leaders in all five of the areas the CE framework creates. This process is common to all leaderships, and only varies in the voracity of its application and the duration of it’s effects.

I’ll do a little more thinking/sketching, and then run it out for comment.

“Are you gunna go with my Gran?”

Jesus kid, you’re breaking my heart here. You don’t even know who I am, but you’re looking at me like I’m the same old same old, aren’t ya?

You’re breaking my heart.

There was a time once when I thought well of people, you know? When I thought that good intentions would overwhelm all the evil shit that happens to people like yourself. A time when I thought that someone like me might actually make a difference. So to respect that younger, foolish me, I’ll answer your question.

Am I gunna go with your Gran? Well, let’s look at this reasonably. Let’s ignore that your Gran is well, a gran. Let’s ignore that she’s probably 50 but looks 70. Let’s ignore that’s she’s lost most of her teeth, and she’s pissed at 11.30am, on a Saturday. And let’s face it, she’s a bit worse for wear. Even ignoring all these things, the answer is still, undoubtably, no.

Now this isn’t to say that no-one I know wouldn’t go with your Gran. Because your question, asked by you who is obviously no older than 7, reveals two interesting things. First, people going with your Gran isn’t outside the boundaries of your everyday reckoning. Second, blokes who look like me are obviously the type of bloke who do drive up that long out-of-the-way road to go with women who live up here.

So Gran, you’re breaking my heart.

Why I’m here is something I undertook even before you were born. Your sister here might have been perhaps two or three years old when I first same here to speak with your family, and the people who live round here. And she’s giving me this look like, “if not my Gran, then who?”, and I’m looking at her like, “love, if you were a boy, you’d barely be shaving.”

So the three of you, you’re breaking my heart.

But here I am, all the same, a bloke who’s seeing something he’s seen before, when he came up here the last time, acted out all over again. And the sadness it laid on me then was burnt out in the kitchens of the big city while I slaved to finish this, a book I brought up here to give back to your people. And you look at me with the eagerness of a group of people somehow conditioned into thinking that blokes like me come up here for one real reason, to lay with a woman old enough to have birthed me, and or a girl still with the flush of innocence on her cheeks.

And you’re breaking my heart, again, while I stand with book in hand, trying to fulfill a promise, one I made long ago to people who aren’t even living here anymore. A promise that’s dug into my conscience for three years now, while I grow fat and content off the Degree I made out of knowledge I took from here. And I know that once I ditch this copy I’ll get back into that rented car and drive that 4 hours back into the big city to a cushy hotel room and sleep comfortably while out here the cycles we all hear about, and all hear about needing to be broken, are repeated endlessly.

And it’s not guilt that twangs on my heart-strings, it’s anger. Anger that’s breaking my heart because I know that years of work amount to nothing out here in the wilds. A place where 7 year-old Aboriginal boys find it usual that blokes are coming up here to treat their women like a convenience. A place where all my work amounts to nothing but an avenue for a bloke to take a step ahead, while you take the step backwards. A place where the word ‘sorry’ is a meaningless nothing spoken by well-meaning liberals.

So I’m looking at your sister, and I can see the intelligence in her eyes, and I pleading with her, gently, to read it. Just read these pages… Please. Not the whole thing I’m saying, just this bit here, because this is your history. The history of this place that’s been scattered to the winds over the years because blokes like me can’t see any worth in writing it down. A history that makes blokes like me get fat off the proceeds of books and talking tours while up here you have a life like your Gran’s to look forward to. Abuse. Alcoholism.

So I’m looking in her eyes and I know that once I leave that that big ugly dog in the corner will eat this book, and I’m trying to hide my desperation, because I know that education and knowledge is the way out, and I know that this thing making the difference to just one person would make all those years worthwhile. 

But you’re breaking my heart, because I know, in the end, it’s futile. Blokes like me never make a difference. We take what we need, the way we always have. And people like you three keep living on these mission stations, the remnants of a once proud people destroyed under the genocidal policies of the blokes who now come up here, for fun.

And the anger, it will always break my heart. But I tried. And I cared. Which is something I need never regret.

(PS. Cross-posted over at Public Address)

Well, the random-letter generator at Kiwibank can turn up some funny examples of a 1000 monkeys typing.

Here’s one I have actually seen before! So much for random… (more…)

Well, I’m finally back from almost two weeks of jaunting about the place learning about Knowledge Management.

And I’m freaking exhausted. I’ve been in hospital, been in conference, been in hotels and been in dives. Have eaten a range of terrific food and spoken to literally dozens of all kinds of people.

Next is to digest it all, and get up it up here on Dart. Believe me, I have a lot to tell you. The last two weeks have both affirmed and expanded both my confidence in my abilities, and my range of working knowledge. I’m looking forward to unpacking it all slowly and getting it down “on paper” as it were.

I had to write a review of this for two reasons: one to express my disappointment, two so that whoever finds the copy I bought and left on the plane on the way over knows not to waste their time.

I’ve been a fan of Stross ever since reading The Atrocity Archives on the recommendation of No Right Turn. And that was a great book, fun, funny, and engaging. Halting State is however pulp.

If you follow Stross’ blog you’ll see that that guy’s probably a victim of his own success. He seems to be under the pump to produce novels quickly, and it most definitely hows in this novel. I was stupid enough to part with $40 to purchase this of the shelf on the strength of his reputation, but now feel cheated (more so because the first thing I did was forget it in the rush to get the hell away from Air New Zealand…)

Halting State itself, now that I’ve finished the whinge, is about a bank heist within an online game. Some Orcs and a Dragon rip off a bank, and two teams assemble to try and solve the crime. The idea itself is interesting, but the novel itself has the feel of an author going through the motions and essentially writing by numbers. While there are some great ideas that emerge in the book, the kind of ideas that influence the way things like MMO’s might evolve, he’s sacrificed what might have been a great story on what I can only label, “the altar of banalities.”

I can’t explain that statement more, other than to say “it was the vibe of the thing”. There are numerous points, for instance when explaining the developing romance between two main characters, when too many words are written, obviously in haste, that should have been left out. Then, the ending is rushed and laid out as a massive confession by the bad guy, and lame device from another era. The intrigue in the book is treated like a poor cousin, while the details of the interaction between characters is a constant focus. But the interaction should not be the skeleton, it should be the window-dressing. Halting State reverses that, and badly.

Here’s and example. WARNING, SPOILER: The two protagonists are trying to escape the bad guys to get online and find some data one has hidden that could crack open the case. So they go through a convoluted journey around Edinborough (?) sans online gadgets in the hope of losing said bad guys. But, within minutes of getting to their hidey-hole bad guys find them. But this isn’t explained. So why waste the paragraphs getting main characters from A to B? 

Answer? I dunno. But it read like the author said, “let’s just publish the fkcer…”

All in all? Bad, and a little boring, with some glimmers of great ideas. 

Avoid.

Attended (some) of the first day of the Knowledge Management Australia conference here in Melbourne yesterday, and was, to be honest, entirely underwhelmed.

For starters most of the sessions appear to be sales opportunities, not conference papers. Perhaps I’m spoiled by by academic days where papers where all about the lessons and learning, but blatant sales in papers is, quite frankly, tacky. You expect a little of the sales talk, but to endlessly remind people that you’re up for sale is at best annoying.

The second thing is that I know New Zealand is a slow, rural economy. But that doesn’t mean we’re behind the 8-ball in the social media space. The level of patronisation from some of the participants, who I know are behind our thinking, is a little trying. I’ll see how I go today. But if I cop more bullshit then I’m going to Victoria Street and eating dumplings.

Mmmmm… dumplings.

Hopefully the sessions tomorrow, two ‘Masterclasses’ will be a little more interesting challenging.

DAY TWO:

Much better, some interesting papers, and some interesting takes on Web2.0 and other issues. Will probably knock up individual blogs on various subjects as the info beds down.

So a few thoughts before I duck out to this day’s conference.

  1. “Seasonal vegetables” on any menu will almost always mean, “broccoli; maybe something else from a tin”
  2. “Adult shops”. I know they always have beautiful people on the advertising outside them, but do you think beautiful people actually buy that kind of stuff? On average I mean? Humans are somehow coded to always go for the best-appearing mate, so presumably beautiful people are always excited about seeing each other. So why would they need the products of an adult shop?
  3. The Pope: Aussies are currently demonstrating how much they crave attention. OTOH, they’re also strangely hypocritical. The same displays in Pakistan would be called “religious fanaticism”.
  4. “Tank food” in Asian restaurants. People love looking in the tanks, then appearing appalled, then looking at Asian shop-owners like they’re “inhumane”. But… how about we park some cattle in the front window, slaughter them with a bolt-gun to the cranium, then serve it up on a plate? Or maybe have some chickens up there being force-fed hormones and yellow dyes before we eat them. You sanctimonious assholes…
Nothing more. Carry on.

Might just as well cut strait to the chase. BOOOOOOOORRRRING…

While Ledger played an excellent psychopath in the Joker, this was probably the only redeeming feature of this film. It was bloated at 2 and a half hours, had a plot that attempted something like intrigue but only dragged out the action, and dumbed down the story at inexplicable points. For instance, there’s a scene where a character gives another character an object. Later on in the story that scene is shown in flashback to remind the audience about where it came from. But… it’s an essential object. If the viewer doesn’t know where the damn object is from them they’re obviously either stupid or not paying attention…

As I say, the only redeeming feature of this film is the Joker. The rest of the action is routine by today’s standards. The intrigue that’s supposed to underwrite the story is patchy at best, and outright silly at worst. And some characters seem to contribute very little and could probably be don away with entirely to save about a hour of my life from being squandered.

I got a request from someone who’s moving into a public service role to outline some dos and don’ts in respect of social media and the government job, so thought that I’d put up some of the best references I’ve seen around the place. I also thought that I’d generally repeat a few things I learned when first moving into the public service (the only real game in town if you’re a Wellingtonian, other than Wellywood or Silicon Welly).

The first thing to note is that there are good resources. I’ve found Jason Ryan’s postings at  the NPSC blog to be invaluable. If you’re really keen on the use of social media, and you think your new agency could use some, or could use some guidance, then get yourself over to the SSC (State Services Commission) and hunt about for the guidelines. They have a community of practice that you could refer to as well. Finally, there are sites like So Said the Organisation that talk about the experiences of other jurisdictions, and the British government seems to have published a Guide really recently, which I can’t find just now (and would appreciate someone linking to.)

If you’re not predisposed to doing a bit of research before you get into the blogging, podcasting, twittering, wiki editing, or other things I’d been doing, then the GOLDEN RULE when using social media is:

DO NOT, under any circumstances, BE A DICK.

It’s pretty much that simple. The wonderful thing about social media is that it allows you to express yourself freely, and to engage with people all over the world, online. The very real risk this poses is that anything and everything you do or say is permanently recorded by Google Cache. Consequently, if you find yourself having a bit too much coffee in the morning, and you’re the type to blow your stack about things like, for example, trolls saying outrageous things about people you might know, then if your response to that troll will be visible to the whole world.

Why this is a problem is the complicating factor of the Public Service Code of Conduct. Basically the Code can be interpreted to say that you are a representative of the government when speaking in public. You should recognise yourself that the internet is a very public space. Likewise, the Code says that you should maintain the confidence of both Government and Opposition. This obviously means that you’ll need to make sure that your opinions, assuming that you’re putting your opinions online, which is not always a good idea, are politically neutral.

You should be able to get the idea from this short run-down. What it all boils down to is the application of common sense. Just don’t go doing things that could embarrass you, and the boss you’ve disclosed your social media activities to, i.e. operate a “no surprises” policy.

Easy-peesy.

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