Friday, February 24, 2006

Babe Speaks:

Arrgh! I've been kidnapped by aliens! They stuck things into my private parts and then they cut me open and stuck tubes into me as well. While I was awake. I'm still looking for the microchip tracking device. Even when I thought Steph had come to rescue me it turned out to be a foul trick involving a Mad Russian Taxi Driver. And now I'm locked into a pathetic simulacrum of my house and I CAN'T GET OUT!!! Someone save me!

Note from Steph: It took her precisely the length of the taxi trip home to work the shunt out, so now I have to clean her bleeding wounds 4 times a day so that they won't close up. Babe, you better be worth it, is all I can say.

(My contribution to the Suppurating Wounds Club.)

My Cat Does Not Cost More Than A Car...

But she's working on it. It turns out that the scratch at the base of her tail wasn't her only injury while I was away, she has a nice juicy abscess. Also, because I didn't spot it until yesterday, it's grown large enough that the vets can't just give her antibiotics and are weighing up the relative risks of trying to drain it in a half-arsed fasion with her awake or putting her under general anaesthetic and doing the job properly.

How does Babe get an abscess? She spends 98% of her time inside sleeping. Bah! Humbug! I'm worried. :-/

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

And in other news...

I've been trying to get a little ahead on my term's reading, mostly for my NZ Lit class. So far this has meant Man Alone by John Mulgan and The Bone People by Keri Hulme. Now, Man Alone was apparently a landmark book that is supposed to have influenced subsequent New Zealand writers and it's bleak, and dour, and dark. In fact, a quote on the back by C K Stead agrees with me: "It's rare, dour, sober truthfulness enacts a phase in our national history and catches certain truths about our national identity." I found this a bit depressing actually, because I got to thinking and realised that most of the books by New Zealand writers that I'd read are very bleak: things like Robin Hyde's Nor The Years Condemn, Philip Mann's Pioneers and Wulf's Yarn, even children's books like the O series of Maurice Gee, Take The Long Path by Joan De Hamel and Margaret Mahy's young adult novels (her kids books are silly and fun, but for teenagers she expects more). In fact, the only NZ written books for which I can't pin the label 'bleak and dour' are Hugh Cook's sprawling fantasy novels.
Is New Zealand as a nation really that depressed? Our movies (The Piano, River Queen, The Navigators, Whale Rider) certainly seems to imply so. Our music, with a happy core of Split Enz, Crowded House, Dave Dobbyn and Stellar*, seems to imply not. What's with that? Is this all just an erroneous impression gained from too small a random sample? Anyway, I'm about half way through The Bone People and I'm enjoying it a lot. It's very bleak and dark (but of course) but has lost the dourness. There's a lot of interesting texture in various characters' obsession with food, or the sea, or the colours of semi-precious stones, and how can one not like a main character whose favourite obscenity is "Shit and apricocks". I'm liking it a lot, and wondering what the hell the ending is going to be. There will be more on my theory of whether or not New Zealanders are essentially depressed later, when I've had time to digest more of the books on the course.

I've also been watching three TV adaptions of Dorothy L. Sayers novels, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night, courtesy of the lovely Debbie Cowen, who lent them to me. I found watching the first, Strong Poison, to be a little bit jarring at first - I know all three books very well, and had formed my own mental images of what all the characters were like, which no actor/director/scriptwriter can ever match. Having said that, their performances were all true to the books, it's just the nature of interesting characters that they take life in people's heads, and everyone's take on them is different. By the second mini-series, Have His Carcase, the dissonance wasn't so bad, and it was easier to watch and enjoy on its own merits.
I found the entire series to be a fascinating lesson in scriptwriting and adaptation, just watching how story lines were compressed, clues were simplified, more scenes were added in order to Show not Tell, entertaining scenes and characters were sadly (although necessarily) jettisoned if their payload of clue or characterisation could be shifted elsewhere. While not being able to explore anything as deeply, the scriptwriters were all trying hard to retain the feel of the books, and it was interesting how some iconic lines got shifted onto different characters, and served slightly different purposes, yet still made the cut. While Strong Poison, which is a fairly simple book, survived this process of simplification quite well, the other two are much meatier works - both long and complicated, Have His Carcase for its detective puzzle, and Gaudy Night for its characterisation. Of these two, Have His Carcase was, in my opinion, more successful. The criminals made stupider mistakes, and the detectives got luckier, but the essential parts of the story still happened in more or less the right shape. Gaudy Night didn't cope so well, just because there was so much other stuff in there, intense character development, statements on the value of work, musings on women's education and in all, I don't think they quite managed to skip over the gaps of what had been taken out quite so well. This is not to say that I didn't like them, because I liked all three adaptations a lot, but I found it interesting to make the comparison.
(And my, but the actor playing Lord Peter, Edward Petherbridge, had such a lovely voice...) I also wish they'd dramatised The Nine Tailors as well. While it doesn't fit into the Harriet Vane story arc, the fens and the bells and the flood were fantastically memorable images that I think would have filmed very well.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I have been cleaning. I got home yesterday from a week away and was horrified by how filthy the house is. Alas, I can't even blame this on feckless flatmates; no house gets this bad in a week, Norman and I have merely been slack. So anyway, death to sticky floors! Death to messy kitchens! Death to mysterious smells in the bathroom! Death to black patches on my duvet! (How much fur can one cat shed, anyway?) Death to grey carpet! (How much hair can I shed - oh, never mind.) Death to Smoochy!!!

The reason for my trip was work, which was very productive, and Mordavia, which was very fun. The biggest thing that happened was a huge and horrific battle which wiped out two thirds of the player characters. For about half an hour the GMs thought there wasn't going to be another game, but the straggling remnants of the battle and the players who hadn't turned up [ahem] managed to pull something shifty and took out the major war leader and after that the army kind of drifted off. The town of Berium is probably toast though, and we're wondering where a good site to shift to for the next game is. (In case anyone is wondering, there was a lot going on that had nothing to do with battles at all, it's just that it takes rather longer to explain why it was so significant to send a large section of the crew into the game as a group of coolie labourers asking where the road they were supposed to dig up was. Actually, playing a coolie labourer was rather a lot of fun. I think I have an innate fondness for playing venal peasants. "To Fred, who was very well hung!" etc)

And my feet have almost stopped hurting. Joy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Johari Windows

Because I confess to curiousity as to what other people think of me:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I Shall Have Bruises Tomorrow...

Well, I've actually got bruises today, but they'll take a little while to develop into their full glory. This is not anyone beating up on me, just that I went along to a training session at Auckland Sword & Shield, and along with more unarmed fighting, we started learning the whys and wherefores of dagger and buckler which means lots of attack/defense drills with the occasional miss and resultant bruise. I haven't been able to train with the group regularly since I moved, but it's good to go back for visits. I got to the end of the session with my hands shaking slightly and the warm glow of having worked well. Also Steve Hodgson (the chief instructor) said that I seemed to be a lot more relaxed about personal space issues than I had been when I joined the club and that that was helping my fighting skills. So it's all good.

For the Wellingtonians who are reading this - stay where you are! The weather is horribly hot and humid, such that as soon as people walk outside they start dripping with sweat - perspiration - er, glow. Still, it rained this evening, which brings out a wonderfully earthy smell from the grass, and concurrently takes some of the heat out of the air. I saw a little of the Battlecry Mordavia game (hence got to smell the grass in the rain), and even gatecrashed it briefly with a tale of a lost pig, but otherwise missed most of it. There's one more week until the big weekend game with lots of organising still to do so I need to stop here and run around in circles for a bit.

Take care all,


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Incongruous Sight For The Day...

So, this morning I went in to the University to pick up some of the texts I'll need for next semester. As I walk out of Student Notes I'm greeted with one of the more unexpected poster ads - not for a book shop, or Student Job Search, or anything study related, no, it's actually a very large picture of an expired condom that's advertising emergency contraception. Now, I suppose as a public health message, fair enough, yet I can't help wondering if whoever sells advertising for the University thinks that students are generally promiscuous, or too ignorant to know what a morning-after pill is, or too stupid to work out how to get one. And hey, it's really important to ask for the right brand, doncherknow.

(By the way, Alasdair, both the bookshop and Student Notes have got a lot of their new stock in, and there isn't a queue in sight.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

La la la.

We won our latest Frisbee game and I scored one of the points. Hooray!
It was a really close game the whole way through, with a final score of 7-6 and a tie-breaker point to be played out after the whistle blew. It was a very impressive point, too - a massive lob from Mashugenah to be caught by Repton_Infinity waaay down the other end of the field. A very fun game. :-D

(The asthma inhaler seems to be helping, although I had a very impressive coughing fit the first time I subbed off. Damn dust.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Now I Have An Inhaler. Ho. Ho. Ho.

So. About a week ago, it suddenly occurred to me that nearly every time I've gone out on to grass lately I've started wheezing and coughing, even if only a little bit. If I go out on grass and run around it's a whole lot worse, with the one recent exception being a day when it rained a lot, so maybe less pollen or something. After wailing eloquently at my GP he said "Yeah, that sounds like asthma" and gave me a prescription inhaler as an experiment.

The experiment seems pretty damn successful - all of a sudden I can race up hills without having to stop and catch my breath at all. Seriously, I just walked up fom Brooklyn to Kingston in 28 minutes, which beats my best time for walking down the hill the other way. This is me, bouncing up the hill, humming the Pina Colada song: bounce bounce bounce...

Oh, and Memoirs of a Geisha was also very good. Thanks for the company, Frank.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Commonplace Book

Big whorls have little whorls
   That feed on their velocity,
And little whorls have lesser whorls
   And so on to viscosity.
-- Lewis F. Richardson

This was Richardson's summary of his 1920 paper "The supply of energy from and to Atmospheric Eddies" and can be found here, along with the two poems it's parodying. Gotta love physicists with a sense of humour.

In other news, our frisbee game last night was a draw. Go us!
(It's one of the more endearing traits of Ultimate Frisbee that there are no referees, but it does mean that sometimes people's idea of the score at the end of the game can be a little bit hazy. This time round, it turned out that both teams had thought that the other team was winning, so we compromised on a 12-12 split.) Also, one of the opposing team members said something nice to me about my playing at the end of the game, which still has me smiling. After the game our team decamped to my house for an evening of sausages, chips and conversation. It was a pretty good night.