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So let’s start by saying that I’m a fan of Lake. Mainspring and Escapement were genuine and original, and an enjoyable read to boot.

Green however is an out and out stinker of a novel. Such a stinker that I’m eschewing my usual unwillingness to blow the story wide open and just tell you all about it.

Green is the story of a young girl purchased by a trader to be raised as a concubine. But… as well as her training in the female arts she is also secretly taught self-defence and to be a kind of ninja of some sort. Apparently there is a plot afoot to have her slay the Duke for whom is is being trained in concubindery.

Now, this is a good solid core for a novel. A young girl, taken by a guru/wise-man out of poverty, and raised in the old and arcane ways. Hero-story the whole way. And it’s there that the story departs.

Basically, I think Lake should spent less time faffing about on Twitter, and more time concentrating on the story, because Green and the decent novel part ways very early in the piece, and are never really united.

And so it is that the young girl accidentally kills her nasty-but-lovable mistress in the art of cooking, kills the Duke almost by accident, and escapes to her home country, where she faffs around joining a temple and indulging in a world of $ and M (a theme Lake seems to really, really enjoy…). Then, mysteriously, she joins one of her former gurus, and is returned to the Duke’s city. The city has fallen into disrepair after the girl killed the Duke, and it needs her help.

WTF.

The diversion to her home country is completely pointless and a waste of pages. The entire novel could have been set around the intrigue of having her get close enough to the Duke to kill him, but she manages it by just walking up to him and saying a magic spell… Then, blah fricking blah, girl-on-girl, whippings, killings, some random meetings between boring characters and FIN.

Avoid.

If you’re not a regular reader of Bat, Bean, Bean, then let me commend the blog to you.

And this is especially the case in regard the last post.

Would that we call could write as well as Giovanni Tiso, immigrant and speaker of English as a second language.

I’m trying to write fewer reviews, but this one was such a surprise I thought I’d better share it.

Escapement is a steampunk/fantasy novel set in 1901 planet Earth. But… and there’s always a but, the world is girded by a massive wall that circles the equator. The Victorian Empire, ascendent in the West, is trying to drill a hole through the wall to find the undiscovered Southern Lands, but they’re opposed by the “magic” of the colossal brasswork in the sky.

So naturally you have lots of British Redcoats and Fuzzy-wuzzies to write about.

Initially the idea was so implausible I found it hard to engage. That, and the writer appeared to be making up lots of words to describe things, which is a death-knell for scifi and fantasy.

But then I realised it was Portuguese…

If you need a decent summer break read, I’m running this one back to the library this morning. Recommended.

Well, everything is under control and Chef Du Plunge is a [not so wee] angel.

So with that happening I’m going to try to make time this week to get some blogging done. The main trouble at the moment is material. With the change of Government I’m acutely conscious that I’ll need to be even more circumspect than usual, especially considering my… somewhat divergent views… on politics, and baby-blogging is best left up to someone else.

But circumspection isn’t really an issue for professional, is it? I have the photos for a couple of recipes, and can always talk about Christmas! Plus, a reader asked for a recipe for semi-dried tomatoes. I’ll experiment ASAP and get back to you all.

Oh! And the traditional end of year round up.

First of all I’d like to introduce a new site set up to remind you of all those days drinking bad beer in the Bay of Plenty.

Yetiboil has a huge back-catalogue of 80s and 90s Hamilton bands, and, most pleasingly, the MP3s of the Rotovegas band, the Boogadaggas. I had the Daggas on tape thru the 90s, but it got knicked out of the car in Melbourne… the fkcers.

Strangely, the tape must have stretched because the Daggas are a lot higher and faster than I remember!

Second, I want to direct you all to a new site set up by Stephen Judd and myself. The blog currently known as Frugal Me will mirror some of the content off this site, and is being written for all you cheap-skates out there who like to save money.

At present we aren’t too sure about the name. Alternatives include Cheap As, and The Farmer’s E-Market.

We’re also looking for guest posters. If you have frugal ways you want to share with the world, then let us know.

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.

A decision I made shortly after leaving Public Address was to not make the mistake of starting to blog under a pseudonym. The problem was that as newly-minted public servant in 2005, and it also being election year, it had been extremely difficult not to make extensive comment about subjects one does not broach when in the employ of the Crown. In plain English, I had to learn to keep my mouth shut.

And it wasn’t easy, and I failed sometimes.

When I kicked off Object Dart here my first thought was that it would be easy to assume a non-de-plume and get to blogging, and saying whatever the heck I wanted. The main hurdle to this idea was that “Che Tibby” had become something of a brand (for better or worse) over at PA, so losing the title would mean losing some potential readers who might want to migrate. Ego is, after all, a powerful motive.

But more importantly, I knew that using the pseudonym would doubtless get me in to a little bit of grief. Something I had been aware of for a while (mostly because I was guilty of doing it) was the inappropriate pressing of the “hot send” button. The crew at Sir Humphries were on the receiving end of it a number of times. There were quite a few issues I used to feel a lot more excited about, and if I was hopped up on coffee I would happily give out a broadside. Nazis used to drive me over the edge… I really hate the damn nazis…

As my intended brief stint in the public service has dragged out to a couple of years I’m finding that the anger about issues is abating, and the abatement seems to be doing good things for my general levels of stress. So I think it’s with actual online experience I can now dish out advice to other members of the public service who might like to get themselves into the Web2.0.

Tip #1. Using phrases like “Web2.0″ is sooooo 2007. What was Web2.0 is now OEM and not a big deal.

Tip #2. Blog, twitter, edit Wikipedia and comment places under your real name. If you’ve genuinely got the time to be engaging and/or relationship building online, then the pseudonym will or could get you into hot water.

I’ve covered this ground before, but Poneke’s recent experience with some of the seamier side of the blogosphere clearly demonstrates that there are people out there who will likely try to “get you” simply because you’re a public servant. We’re not the most popular occupation at the best of times, so the public finding out that we’re “wasting time/money” by putting our private lives online is likely to raise a few eyebrows. Using a non-de-plume, which is inevitably found out, can only add suspicion to the minds of non-interweb people who probably don’t know what the hell you do on a good day, let alone one where your hangover or mood doesn’t let you reach that exalted stage of “most productive”.

It was better therefore to go under my on name (which a surprising number of people thought was a pseudonym anyhow!) Firstly this allows me to own whatever I do online. There can be no cases of mistaken identity, and no getting my workmates under the same IP address in any trouble (Wikipedia editing anyone…). Secondly, it actively prevents me from straying into to ‘hot send’ territory. This is especially the case if I’m commenting from a work computer.

Thing is, the day is almost here where interaction online is no longer frowned upon in the workplace. All indications are that professional people should be able to self-regulate their internet usage, and that general levels of web interaction and use of applications will increase accordingly.

The risk is that public servants are tempted to say things online they might happily say in the pub, and that this is recorded permanently. My own view is that using a pseudonym will only increase the likelihood that an individual will take that risk. You only have to look at the behaviour of public servants around key or interest-specific issues (such as the seabed and foreshore), to see that people do occasionally step across the line.

But Google doesn’t cache a bit of protest. It does almost everything else. So keeping it all above board means your future self might not find a sudden rush of cold-water poured on an otherwise spotless career.

Oh, and Tip #3. Don’t write about, hint about, or blurt about work. Ever.

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