Friday, November 25, 2011

Please take the time to vote...

My Gran once told me about when her father was very old and sick and living in a rest home, the election came round, and when she went to visit he told her that he'd announced that morning that he wanted to vote, and the Matron had pooh poohed the idea.  But he insisted and made a fuss and after a bit some of the little old ladies that lived there also announced that they'd quite like to vote, too, so my Gran had to go out and arrange a special booth to be set up there so they could have a turn.  Later, after all the fuss was over, my Gran asked my Great Grandad who he'd voted for, and he said: "That's my business!" and went to sleep, and he died later that night. 

Please remember to vote!  It's important and you don't have to deal with an obnoxious Matron or anything - just go down to your local polling birth and take ten minutes out of your Saturday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

National Party promotes crime, prostitution

Here's another bit for the 'law and order' ticket: make it harder for people with problems to get benefits, specifically people with drug addictions and who are in trouble with the law.  I assume this is intended to be a big club that will magically make everyone who lives on the margin suddenly law abiding, fragrant smelling, and all round wonderful citizens, but I don't think that's how it's actually going to work.  I think people who fit in these categories are mostly going to slide away into the other ways to get money if you've got problems - and those are going to have worse societal effects.

But I'm going to give people who disagree with me a G. K. Chesterton quote, because G. K. Chesterton is cool:

"It is true that there is a thing crudely called charity, which means charity to the deserving poor; but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice.  It is the undeserving who require it, and the ideal either does not exist at all, or exists wholly for them."
-- G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, Rockville, Maryland: Serenity Publishers, 2009.

And a happy election to you, too.

Politics 101

Y'know, I get that people care a lot about politics.  I also get that some of the rhetoric out there right now seems... rather less than honest.  But I'd like to put it out there, that if you live with someone who works for a political party, doing ethically dubious acts like defacing billboards isn't going to help your cause.  In particular, it's going to cause big problems for your loved one/flatmate (I'm including that Young Labour guy with the secret tapes from last election in the doofus category), and make the party you like look bad.  It's even worse when they're trying to build a reputation as being more ethical than the others.

Dude.  Don't do that stuff.  Even more - don't do that stuff and get caught.  The only thing worse than being unethical is being incompetent at it.

For the other bit of scandal that's in the news right now, I think it passes the sniff test of being an accident - no politician should seriously expect a conversation to be private in the middle of an election campaign, in the middle of a crowded cafe in which a large number of reporters were specifically invited to film him drinking a cup of tea.  And for all Our John is posturing about having suddenly acquired principles and making threats of police action, it just makes me more curious about what was actually said.  Just a thought.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spring is here

And in spring, at least every three years, a young politician's fancy turns to thoughts of the election.

And some of the rhetoric is getting kinda ridiculous, particularly the automatic pooh poohing of any idea of another party's, even when you're pretty sure that the naysayer secretly thinks that it's a good idea.  Like, for instance, Labour wants to raise the retirement age and National claims that it's a bad idea.  Isn't this the wrong way around according to their core values?

And another bit of weird logic - John Key has been saying for a while that NZ really needs to sell off half our core infrastructure assets, in order to "pay off debt faster".  Today, we get told that, hey, really it's to build up other assets, like schools and stuff!  Really?  Future spend on school buildings is either:
  • business as usual spend that was going to happen anyway - in which case the Future Investment Fund is a meaningless gesture, or
  • it's building up new assets, in which case the government debt problem isn't nearly so bad as the National Party is making it out to be.
So which is it?

Another thing that came up on Saturday was political chitchat at Fright Night, after our game finished a bit early and people were hanging out.  One of the guys running the D&D for MMP campaign in and offered to take requests (I totally bought a couple of politician zombies to afflict the party with.  Yay!), but we also had several people there who are either in the Green party, or sympathetic to its ideals, and we got talking about their decision making model.  The thing is, a friend had told me a while ago that policy has got to be set by consensus - everyone has to agree before it goes ahead, and I was curious about how that actually worked in practice.  (Everyone's had an experience of a committee that goes around and around a subject for ever, or That One Particular Guy who always argues, just for the sake of arguing, right?)  So the party member talked about some of the checks and balances that they've got - you can choose to disagree but not block consensus, perhaps for something that you don't like but don't feel like dying in a ditch over; or you can choose to block consensus, and if it's a really important issue, then and only then will the caucus move to a conscience vote.  So it sounds like it could be a slow system on a contentious issue, but also that the group has to at least consider everyone's views before it makes a decision.  And if a group of people have got liberal views, well, there tends to be a lot of diversity of opinion.

So how are the Greens doing, given that their natural constituency is inclined to have many different opinions, and they want everyone to agree?  Well, you've got to admit that for a small party they've got staying power - their first MP was elected in 1999.  In that time, the Alliance unallied, Winston Peter's personality party got knocked out (but possibly back for another round this election), and ACT, the party for argumentative people, can't manage to keep any of its line up of MPs in the first election since they officially became part of the government.  And the Greens are polling at 10%.  So that's worth thinking about.  The other thing - they seem to have a really good knack at getting their policy into law.  The anti-smacking law, the weatherproofing fund, and making youth rates identical to minimum wage are the three things that come to mind immediately, but there are others, and the now-in-Mana Sue Bradford holds the record for private member's bills by a backbencher to be passed.

Maybe it's worth thinking about consensus more often.


Repton and I now live in a nursery suburb - I've lost count of the parks, playgrounds and, above all, childcare centres.  It didn't occur to me before Repton mentioned it, but kids do that trick or treating thing now, so we stopped at the supermarket on the way home, not even really sure if anyone was going to turn up. (But hey, we could always eat the lollies ourselves, right.)

But hark!  10 minutes ago there was a tromping on our doorstep, and Spiderman, a fairy, and something or other turned up asking for sweets.  Yep.  Nursery suburb.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Dark Underbelly of the Internet

There's this project I've been doing some research on, which basically involves setting up a database to take writing content, then spit it out in prettified nicely designed PDFs (with various constraints and design patterns and required features involved - I haven't seen anything that will do what I want straight out of the box yet). I have a technically knowledgeable friend who's been giving me advice on what's possible, but nonetheless, I've spent a lot of time trawling around the 'other' internet. Not Warez sites, or anything skeevy like that, but the bit that doesn't care so much about nice graphic design, where the links may not be unbroken, and the technical specifications are detailed and confusing, and have comments like 'last stable release' and a date from two years ago. I haven't spent this much time reading this kind of content in years, and, in fact, I guess I must have subliminally figured that everybody had been carried by the rising tide of increasing prettification and tools intended for non-internet literate idiots. But no, it's always been there, I just wasn't looking in the right places.

I'm doing it old style, baby.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A brief plug

For my brother's website, TrailHunger. It's basically a website that takes uploads from GPS watches of its members, then spits them out as routes for other people to use. Because it's getting 'real' info, it shows all the little side trails that may not get on official maps. Ed's really into trail running in the Vancouver area, so that's where most of the maps are, but it's configurable for anywhere, I think.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Illegal Search and Surveillance

The police have been doing a lot of it. More specifically, they were called on this by the Supreme Court, and now want a bill passed to declare everything that they've done legal, with no oversight, retrospectively.

But you can tell the Government what you think about it!

What I said:

1. I oppose the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill and ask that it not be passed in its present form.
2. This bill is a kneejerk attempt to counteract a decision of the Supreme Court. As such, it is a challenge the entire legal system, in which Parliament creates laws and the courts enforce them. This is a dangerous precedent to create.
3. This bill is unnecessary. The NZ Police claim that it is needed to protect 40 current investigations of serious crimes in which they have acted illegally to obtain evidence - the Evidence Act already permits the admission of illegal evidence where the crime is sufficiently serious. Where the crime is not sufficiently serious, it is clear that the NZ Police's failure to obtain appropriate warrants is egregious.
4. The speed with which this bill has been presented is unnecessary. There has been a Search and Surveillance Bill being debated by Parliament for over a year; if it were truly urgent the Government would have brought it up the order paper as they have done for other bills. Issues of surveillance, particularly how to deal with changing technology, are significant and need to be properly examined before being passed into law.
5. This bill is retrospective and thus immoral. Acts that occurred in the past should not be declared either legal or illegal for the sake of convenience. As a country, we would condemn this behaviour in any other nation.
6. The court case which raised this issue, Hamed & Ors v R [2011] NZSC 101, found that the Police had knowingly broken the law while obtaining evidence - this bill attempts to reward them for their appalling behaviour. It will serve to encourage them in further abuses of power.
7. I note the NZ Police's past history of paid informants to report on legitimate and legal political protest, particularly the Rob Gilchrist case, where the informant sent prurient photographs of the protestors that Gilchrist was spying on to the Police. This is not an institution which has moral high ground - encouraging the NZ Police to break into people's house and leave hidden video cameras with no oversight is an invitation to more abuse.
8. This bill lacks any requirement to prove necessity. It encourages the Police to embark on 'fishing expeditions' to find evidence of a crime caused by someone simply because they hold unpopular opinions. I note that most of the human rights advances that New Zealand currently holds were brought about by people who held 'unpopular opinions.'
9. I respectfully suggest that this issue be shelved until after the General Election - whatever government is elected will need to live with the outcome, it is only right that they make the decision.
10. I do not wish to make an oral submission.

More info from No Right Turn here:

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's 7 in the morning...

...the day after Chimera, and I'm wide awake and have been for some time. Not really what I expected, given how tired I was last night. Also not what I expected: sleeping in the spare room and wandering around the house disinfecting doorknobs and cleaning the toilet at 11 o'clock at night. Best Beloved has come down with some kind of stomach bug and is looking miserable. Poor Repton...

Chimera was great. The game I ran with Cat went well, barring a few technical hitches, and we got an Honourable Mention in the awards for best game at the end which is total egoboo. Thank you very much for coming and giving your all in the game, guys. (And again, apologies to the two players that it didn't work out for.)

I also had much fun running around in the forest as a witch queen, manipulating my family (including sizing up Asterix the Gaul as a potential son-in-law) and collecting marriage proposals, being Very Silly in Monty Python, and coughing over everyone as the very artistic embodiment of Tuberculosis. Heh heh.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Snow Photos

View from the car at a rest stop. I was trying to show the valley, not the fence, but it got flattened out in the picture.

Me, in styley construction orange and steel cap boots.

General prettiness.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Snow in Taihape

So everyone's got a snow story, right?

Mine was driving up to Taihape yesterday on a work trip. And there was some snow in the trees, and a bit in the flowerbeds, enough to do a token snowball and that. By this morning there was a heavy blanket everywhere, and soft falling flakes all over, which means a lot when you're out and about at 6am talking to people, and driving around hanging out in the rail corridor, and stopping by the road just so we could kick about in the snow - so light and fluffy! It really did feel like a fairy tale, and being just a bit out of time.

Oh yes, and second leg of my trip got cancelled because the roads were closed out to Taihape, so I ended up back in Palmerston North for the rest of the day. Seriously. Worst Week For Site Visits. Ever. On Friday I go to Christchurch, I hope things are a bit more passable then.

Photos to follow when I get them off the guy with the camera.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The bottom of my house is fluffy

With some occasional wisps caught on rose bushes in the garden to boot. (We had people come in to install insulation on Thursday.) It's a bit soon to tell how much of a difference it will make, owing to the weather suddenly coming on unseasonally warm...but I notice that I haven't been wanting to turn on the heater as soon as I get home, so there might be something in it.

In other news, today I went for a bike ride for the first time in months, and quite enjoyed it, although getting home was rather a chore. And visited the Affordable Art Show with Ivan and Repton - always a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Today I spent a lot of time crawling around under the house, hauling stuff. (Repton got to crawl even more, and drag things out from the bowels of the house for me to take the rest of the way outside.) People leave the cruddiest things behind them, when they move, don't they?

There is actually a goal in sight - underfloor insulation, once the nice people can get access and a smooth surface to put down polyethylene and all, but right now I have the most astonishing headache (stooping + dehydration + unspecified fungus?)

Best to all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Just spent the weekend being one of the editors for a 48 Hours team. Really like how our film turned out (road movie called "Sunset Road"). Now very tired. [yawns hugely]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Self Publishing is Fun

I've just turned a couple of live roleplaying games that I wrote with Cat into published PDFs on an online roleplaying store. First sale went through about 5 minutes ago. Yay!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Adventures in Fairyland

My long term roleplaying group has been playing a campaign that was billed as "brightly coloured fantasy reminiscent of Narnia and Castle Waiting". We started off as a bunch of refugees sent to deepest darkest Devon going through a portal to a fantasy world called Carinthia, had a bunch of adventures, skipped forward in time 25 years to have a look at What Happened After, and have now picked up a set of alternate characters who were slaves in a factory on the fairies' side of the river (Bessie the Changeling, Aster the Cat, Bludo the Troll, and Greengage the Griffin (Greengage was named after his father's favourite kind of jam. He has five siblings, and they're all named after their father's favourite kind of jam.))

Last week, we were a gang of desperadoes staging a jailbreak, creating vast amounts of mayhem, and discovering that Bludo has an oral fixation (quite good for intimidating hobgoblins, we found. Particularly when he spits them out.) This week, we ended up deep in enemy territory with the goal of assassinating the enemy queen. First steps: go to school, and set Bludo up with a date.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Yesterday I got a new pair of glasses. Before New Glasses Day, I was figuring that it would be nice to have a new set of frames with yellow racing stripes. After New Glasses Day, I'm really really really noticing the change in prescription.

See, I have one eye that's somewhat longsighted, and another that's very longsighted, and my previous pair only corrected the good eye slightly to make reading easier - the optomotrist I saw back then, and I guess the one I saw as a child figured that correcting the bad eye would give me double vision. This new one, however, declared that my brain was already turning off that visual feed enough anyway, and amped up the lense as much as she could. This means that I can now actually read a normal print book with just that eye if I have to (still not easily, but at least possible), and another little soupcon that the optomotrist didn't warn me about:

Walking home yesterday was very much being in an Imax theatre, or looking at a Gustave Caillebotte painting. I'm suddenly looking at things and realising that they're farther or nearer without having to calculate from relative sizes. It's great. I spent most of my walk home yesterday poking Repton to prove that I could do it without having to guess and adjust like I normally do. I'm still not going to rush off and play frisbee or go for long drives yet (moving my head quickly makes for a feeling of vertigo right now), but still -


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Things not to do when sealing a raw edge:

Sewing through your finger.

It actually didn't hurt that much, but y'know, leaving a ritual libation of blood in things you make is only cool when you're a blacksmith.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I have the most astonishing headache

I'd be trying to sleep it off, except lying down makes it worse.

Ow ow, oh, ow.

[poor posture, you come back to punish me]

In much better news, my Super Sparkle game ran on Saturday and seemed to go well. My favourite line: "Don't do drugs - they make you ugly." "And they shorten your calves!"

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Death by Gelatinous Cube

So today I tried a new cooking experiment - marshmallows.

The results were ... well. They're basically a heap of suger boiled in water with some gelatine, and then having the snot beaten out of them before they set. Then you get to add some flavouring and roll them in coconut or icing sugar or whatever takes your fancy. The problem is the gelatine which turns the mixture into something, well, gelatinous (which gives me mouth feel issues in spades.) This was the first time ever that I haven't wanted to lick out the bowl when I was baking. There's also this point when you're beating the mixture when it suddenly changes colour into this bright unnatural white colour. I think ultimately it tastes OK, but the final texture is just gooey and I'm going to stick with bought ones - assuming that I haven't been put off for life.

On the other hand, I have enormous respect for all the people that prior to the mechanisation of food production, used to do this by hand, all the time. Give them all a cheer!

Happy New Year!