Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Blue Prints

I've been thinking a little bit about holidays and what I would do if I were to redesign them.

For starters, I'd be looking to make them more inclusive. Get rid of the religious connotations. It's not about celebrating one religion over another. It's about getting together to celebrate... New Years and perhaps, for the southern hemisphere, we could look at Easter as sort of a summer harvest type of thing.

So for New Years, get rid of Christmas entirely. Instead, make New Years eve a public holiday. For gift giving, get rid of the whole idea of a set day to give presents. Instead, if you see something that you think someone might appreciate, buy it and let them know they're in your thoughts.

If you must buy something, then I reckon you get together and chip in for those bigger purchases. For my family home it'd be things like a dish washer or heat pump, outdoor furniture or something to pretty up the garden like plinths and statues or heaven forbid, a water feature.


Which makes me think about "Secret Santa". It's a bit of fun, but it kind of misses the point doesn't it? Or perhaps not. In a workplace, you may find that you appreciate about half of them. Buying presents for say... 50 out of a workplace of 100 people could get costly through the year. So it works to that extent. However, given that you don't normally know who you're buying for means that you're not really sparing a thought for someone you appreciate. It's a bit of a token really.

For Easter, make it about what you've got in the garden. So bring along beans, oranges, lemons, feijoas, rhubarb etc. Make up drinks like ginger beer. Make something like bread or hummus. See what sort of a meal you can put together. Celebrate the fact that the shops are closed and it's a time to do something a little bit special. Celebrate with friends and family. Autumns about to hit and we're appreciative of the summer that's just been.

But of course, things would probably have to be a little different for the northern hemisphere. Celebrate the coming of spring. The winter is finally over and it's time to kick off things like spring cleaning. Plant those really early crops etc.

I'd also look to having a public holiday in that really long period where there are no holidays. Perhaps a couple of days off together. A mid-winter Christmas for the southern hemisphere. Of course, you couldn't actually call it Christmas. Instead, it would be something along the lines of "Good Day". On Good Day, people get together to celebrate and show their appreciation for one another. There's a feast and whatever traditions people want to associate to it. Family feuds and arguments are put aside for a day while everyone struggles to not show that resentment they're so trying to hide. It's a good day regardless of what else is happening. One day...

And good will to all men?

I was in the supermarket on Christmas Eve and the woman in front of me at the checkout put down her baskets and ran off to get something she'd forgotten. I don't blame her - I wouldn't want to go through the supermarket again for a couple of mistaken items on Christmas Eve.

So I decided to help her out. While she was gone, I stacked her groceries on the conveyor belt for her - just so that she wasn't rushing around. I thought it was just a nice thing to do for someone. She came back and was a tiny bit cynical about it. I mean, she wasn't awful about it, it's just that she didn't quite get my motives. She said something along the lines of "I understand about the whole flow of things and appreciate you trying to keep things moving".

"No, that's not it", I replied. "It's just a damn good time for random acts of kindness. This avoids you getting yourself into a state trying to keep things moving."

It did take her a while and she thanked me eventually. Actually, I'm kind of pleased that it did take her some time. She'd considered it.

The point though, is that these acts are so few and far between that people are suspicious of anything outside of the norm. Can't we practise goodwill to all men all year around? Spare a thought for the random person on the street. Offer to help them carry something while it's on your way. Offer up a smile every now and again. Hell, compliment someone's shoes. Volunteer to help with a cause you believe in. Although - I've got a whole other post to write up on that.

I suppose the question is, would this make us all a little happier? We wouldn't have to hear the news talking about Christmas sales figures as if we're supposed to care. This just in: cd sales are down this year and overall sales are as good as last year. Oh my! I think that in itself would make me just a touch happier.

Nevyn vs. Nilesh

I've decided to follow the whole psychological path.

So today I got angry. I saw red and reacted before thought.

So what do we know about anger? It's like a fire. A quick flaring fire. It's suddenly there. It takes fuel to maintain it. It's tiring like carrying heavy logs to it.

It's also self indulgent. If I were to yell for more than a few minutes, I would soon be told that I'm being horribly self indulgent. It's all about me. This is what I've done and this is the way that I'm treated. My family has absolutely no qualms about telling me that.

Of course, I find this aggravating as it feels as if what I'm feeling is being marginalised.

And there's the risk that I'm transferring. I'm putting my negative feelings about something on to something else.

When my sister insulted me earlier, she used the name Nevyn. My anger was much worse than if she had used the name Nilesh. Nilesh will take the abuse.

And this separation of personalities? No, I'm not schizophrenic. Humans are an infinite quantity. If it's true that we only use 10% of our potential, and we're all different, thus we may use more or less around that 10%, then it's inconceivable as to what we're capable of. It makes all of those report cards I got as a kid laughable. "Nilesh is doing well but is not meeting his full potential". Show me a person who is.

Anyway, the point is, humans are very good at adapting. We're full of potential. Me, I've found that the only way to become the person I want to be without drowning in the negative attributes others apply to me is to be the person I want to be for the most part (Nevyn) and regressing into Nilesh for certain situations. It's hard when I have to go really long periods as Nilesh. I hate it. Family weddings, family do's, Indian events. What defines the difference? Those who have gotten to know me and those who haven't.

So in terms of family, that whole "baby of the family" bit isn't at all who or what I am, thus, to them, I'm Nilesh. They don't have any interest in actually getting to know me. Otherwise I would not be struggling with sisters who can't seem to show me any sort of respect and parents who are more interested in no one arguing than actually looking at the problems that are there.

Lately I've been preaching this whole idea of living in the present. I know it's horribly stereotypical but let's stop and think about it for a second.

If someone were to say to you that you said something and you can't remember saying it, does it actually matter? Whether you said it or not, that person has the perception that you said it. Thus, what's important isn't what you said, but what that persons perception is of the situation.

In business, it's fairly easy. If there's no paper trail, it wasn't actually said. There are very practical reasons for emailing your neighbour.

Life isn't quite that easy. We don't leave that paper trail for every interaction we have. Thus, the only thing we can deal with, given that we don't carry dictaphones with us recording all of our interactions, is that perception.

It's not quite so easy when those perceptions keep being reinforced. Still, it's food for thought.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Respect

I quite often struggle with respect. Being a third child - the baby of the family, there is absolutely no chance that I might get a little bit of respect from my family.

It doesn't matter just how much I may sacrifice or do for those other members of the family. It's the same old story. Today my sister came around. She started off with a classic "you should have done X". She had brought something for my mother before they left for India. I was to:
  1. Somehow know that she had brought it and know exactly where she had put it.
  2. Know to take it out of it's packaging for my mother.
After that, she'd gone out of her way to insult me. This is the same sister which I had put my life on hold for. The scenario is this:

When she gets stressed, she gets migraines which exhibit stroke like symptoms. Loss of speech and if pushed far enough, loss of control of one side of her body. I think I've mentioned a "family issue" that came up. With her husband working 2 jobs there was no one to look after her. So... it was left to me to essentially babysit... for a couple of months. Yep. Months.

Fast forward to her being in India and instead of letting me know that she wanted me to deal with her travel insurance when I had asked, she left it to the day it expired. i.e. I was expected to drop everything to go running after her. When I had said that I had lost an entire day from it, the comment came up "but you're not getting paid right?".

Does money equal respect? Is my time less valuable than everyone else's because there's no money involved?

No tokens of thanks. There was talk of one but nothing ever eventuates with her.

I've also said that I don't speak to my other sister. It's for the same reasons. Despite the amount of money I've "loaned" her (I was well aware that I was very unlikely to see that money again) and the sacrifices I've made to help her out, it's the same old story. When she was getting divorced the first time, she rang me asking me to come down to Wellington. Put a bit of a damper on the day given that I was best man and my best friend's wedding on the day. A couple of days later she's telling me that she thinks I should leave.

This seems to me to be an extension of the youngest child syndrome. The most infuriating bit about it though, isn't so much my sisters, but my parents.

While they see exactly how my sisters treat me, I'm always berated for getting angry about it. If not berated, then they find ways of justifying my sisters' actions. It's expected that I should make amends. If my parents are reading this, it's not going to happen. It's a long established pattern. I can't control other people, but I can chose how I'm treated.

It's really hard to build up your confidence when your family are constantly reinforcing a negative image of yourself. This is where that Nilesh/Nevyn bit comes in. To my family, the place where I can not get any respect, I am Nilesh. A sink for all of their negative comments about me. Insult Nilesh all you want. Nevyn is allowed to be awesome. Nilesh was never afforded that luxury.

Compare that to how I'm treated outside of my family. While people may take advantage sometimes, they always show some respect. Things that I haven't thought of about myself.

For example, it didn't actually occur to me that I might have higher than average intelligence until after I left high school. Sure I excelled at a few things but everyone's good at something. It's not something that made me special. To my family, my cousin was the intelligent one. Or some other boy within the Indian community. This is despite me always getting awards during my prize givings and doing fairly well in science and maths competitions. If you're told something enough times, you really do start to believe it even if you see evidence to the contrary.

I guess this is why I'm surprised by this blog. I have a fairly good readership. Sure, it's struggling a little bit over the holiday season, but 600 hits in a month isn't anything to sneeze at. Considering that I've only really advertised it as a signature on the bottom of my emails, it's a wonder how I could have gotten that sort of readership within... 3 months. I've since printed up bits of paper (sort of a poor man's business card) with email addresses and the address for the blog but not many of those have been handed out. The point is, people wouldn't be reading this blog if it wasn't about things they're interested in hearing about. People give me the respect to read the blog and even tap me on the shoulder to talk about one point or another.

I guess this post is really a great big thanks to those who show me some respect, a great big finger to those who don't and a call to perhaps consider how you see yourself.

Seasons Greetings

Well Christmas has come and gone.

The picture is an image of my fridge at about midnight on Christmas eve. I've decided I need to post the occasional picture on the blog. As an indication of what I was doing before Christmas, the menu:
  • 2 Pizzas - Mushroom and blue cheese, and Spinach, caramelised onions and feta cheese. (Mum's request given that she'd just spent 8 weeks in India and was missing non-Indian food)
  • Rosemary garlic potatoes.
  • Blanched and then butter fried beans.
  • Bean Salad (straight out of the deli section of the super market).
  • Mesculn Salad with a whole seed mustard vinaigrette.
  • 2 types of chicken - Honey Soy and a grilled Indian chicken.
  • Toasted bread with a chilli, garlic, parsley oil with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
  • Chocolate Mousse.
  • A berry platter (with ice cream or cream this is an easy win for those who don't like chocolate Mousse)
  • Roasted Nuts.
  • Scorched Almonds (straight from the super market).
So Christmas for me... It's one of those things that means more to me than anyone else. I always spent a lot of time cooking but it's a bit of a wild card as to anyone will be around to eat it (it's almost always eaten but then, is it eaten and then people disappear?) In terms of family relations, I hate it.

I once held a Christmas in Hamilton. After a few days of cooking, both of my sisters had stormed off on the day leaving me as a rocking smoking mess. By about 3'ish, everyone had come back to watch Shrek. Animated films have always featured fairly big for Christmas. No one has to talk to each other.

The conflicts are fairly standard I think. A 3 children family. No one is particularly comfortable with their position in the grand scheme of things.

The oldest, was horribly spoilt being the first born. After a while though, she found herself having to grow up quickly in order to look after her two younger siblings.

The middle child was the rebellious child. She'd scream and slam doors. In other words, she was always fighting for attention. She resented the oldest for always keeping an eye on her.

And me, the youngest. I think to a certain extent I became quite accepting. I would get whatever was left over. A classic example is in terms of bedrooms. While I had asthma, I got the smallest room in the side of the house that was never heated. It was terribly damp. This was a direct result of getting last pick for a room. I think I still exhibit some of these attributes. I don't think I've ever really negotiated a pay rate. I'm uncomfortable giving a dollar value. I instead tend to take what's offered. In terms of being spoilt, I think that's true to some extent as well. I guess the parents tend to compensate for the last pick thing to some extent.

I'm not sure I'm doing this justice really. It's hard to step outside of myself and analyse it fully.

This year though, one sister is in Australia (and we stopped speaking to each other a while ago anyway) and the other one was arriving back with mum and just didn't want to spend any time here.

The extended family is about as bad. My aunties tend to get drunk while remembering slights from decades ago. They're not that great at just letting go. As it is, they tend to give us each $50 for Christmas. I don't really care. It's not my bag. I'm not about money. In fact, I'm a little disappointed that they don't take the time out to figure out what I might like and instead go down a really thoughtless route. They always apologise for it being all that they can afford.

I suppose I should say something about that. They tend to apply attributes to me which aren't really me. The money thing for example. If I could go my entire life without having to think about money I would be the happiest guy on the planet. I think it's transference. There's a family trust. When my mother suggested that perhaps she could use a little bit of the money from the trust to help my sister with treatment for her migraines, the defences went up. Suddenly my mother was an irresponsible child who had wasted her life away who didn't deserve any sort of help.

Yep. The possibilities for Christmas...

Given that I hate family Christmas' I decided to have an "Orphan's Christmas" this year. Basically, you invite over those friends who don't have plans for Christmas. Basically the strays or those who just don't like Christmas and you have a meal together, drink a little bit. A stress free day of doing nothing in particular.

So I had invited 5 people who had said they were coming. One ended up having to work. 2 more just didn't show up. So 2 people, myself and my parents. Dad isn't really into Christmas at all and usually ends up working. He stuck around for lunch at the very least this year. That was a touch disheartening. I had a back up plan in case I had a few extra people - some mussels that could quickly be whipped up into mussel fritters.

So with the people who did turn up - we played a bit of a game of not mentioning the dreaded "C" word. The "C" word that describes the day before "fistycuffs" day. I lost. Quite dramatically. We just need to come up with a penalty system. Whether it becomes a drinking game or something that leaves you with a dead arm. Perhaps a count is taken and the 2 who lose end up doing the dishes.

Then we watched a couple of movies while falling asleep. Given that I had been up the night before till around 2am with my prep work and cleaning, and then up at 7 for more cleaning and getting into the cooking, the sleep was much appreciated.

The animated film was a great watch. I'd highly recommend it. It was called "Mary and Max". It's about 2 people on different sides of the world who correspond via mail. Just to think. It was only a few years ago that people were keeping in touch using snail mail. Anyway, the movie was based on a true story and featured aspergers quite a bit. It had a delightful sense of humour to it.

And so we're now on to New Years. I think I've only really truly enjoyed one. My parents were in India so I decided to have a barbeque here. A great day of people coming and going and loads of kids running around. Brilliant day. At around 10 we all went down to the pub for the count down and a few pints.

Last year a group and friends and I were looking to have a quiet drink. Be able to catch up with friends. Of course, loads of people go away for New Years. Auckland isn't really a great place to celebrate New Years. So we found a pub. Unfortunately, because there were only a couple of groups of people having quiet drinks, they decided to shut by 10. So on to the next pub and then an infuriating time on K-Road.

I'm at a complete loss for this year. Given I really don't want to have a drunken time of it, I'm hoping someone decides to hold a quiet little barbeque. Of course, this isn't that likely given that there are no Aucklanders in Auckland during New Years.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated here :/

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Cats Last Stand

I've come to question my own motives. My cat, 19 years old, is on her last legs. The poor thing is finally going out in a fizzle. She's not eating. She's wobbly on her feet. She has no energy. She even stinks now. The flies are circling.

So I took her to the vet today (they were great! Fitted me in despite not having any slots free. I'm assuming that the vet sacrificed her lunch in order to see me and they even deferred payment given that I couldn't find an eftpos card to be able to pay them).

I really want her to survive until at least Christmas day. My mother gets back on Christmas day and the cat has been a part of our lives for a long time. As an indication, she's been around for about 2/3's of my life.

It's not that I'm not prepared for this. We all knew that at some point the decision would have to be made. This reminds me of that line from Fight Club - "on a long enough time line, the survival rate of anyone drops to zero".

So I had told the vet what I was hoping for - that mum would be able to say goodbye to the cat.

Now I'm wondering - am I being horribly selfish? Given that I had told the vet what I was hoping for, she'd not even offered putting her down. Instead, she gave the cat a tablet which would hopefully stimulate her appetite.

It hasn't worked. I've been given instructions for how to hand feed her. But then, the cat never liked it when you forced things down her throat (who does?). Is this fair for the end of her life? And is my motivation for making her last a few more days more about me not wanting to make the decision myself rather than consideration for my mother? And given that it's the cat's life, should my consideration not instead be about the cat?

Regardless of what happens now - whether I hand feed her or have her put down (assuming I can make an appointment with the vet), this is goodbye. I'd like to think Bixie had a good life. Never wanting for anything, living a respectable 19 years, a friendly scratch behind the ears when ever she so wished. She'd trained me quite well.

Well I guess this is it. Goodbye to Bixie.

Clarification

Whilst I was at the 2nd school Christmas do, I was writing notes for the blog post that essentially criticised that school. A friend of mine said to me that he'd better have a read before I published the post.

Like hell that's going to happen. I've criticised the media quite extensively. One of the things I really hate is the lack of objectivity. It became a game for me during the second gulf war to count the number of times the front page story of the New Zealand Herald stroked the ego of America. We were only really presented with one side of the story. One of the things that really bothered me was that no one seemed to be asking "Why did Iraq suddenly seek to invade Iran in the first place?". They'd lived side by side for years. What had changed?

Being objective is actually really quite hard. While I quite like the people from that school which I, for the most part, criticised, I don't want to compromise my perspective and opinions based on my feelings towards those people. I wanted to present an opinion - how the things I was observing was bringing home just what technology in the classroom was doing for the students. This is much easier when you're given a contrasting point.

Gaining a bit more perspective on the subject is brilliant for me. Being a geek, I quite often don't see the "bytes for the nibbles" as it were. Being able to share that perspective in answer to questions I've been asked previously is just brilliant. Suddenly I'm able to answer those questions.

My criticism of that school is much the same as my criticism of the Tamaki Transformation end of year event. I like the project. I like the people. I do think that with a little more thought it could have been a great event. Part of the criticism was an observation about inclusiveness - where the audience and hosts weren't quite meeting in the middle. That was a criticism of both the audience and the presenters.

So I guess the point here is that while reading the stuff on this blog, it's important to note that:
  1. It's just an opinion. Sure it's my opinion which makes it a little more important but it's still just an opinion ;p
  2. The criticisms expressed (where the media's not concerned) are usually intended as constructive criticism. I wouldn't bother if I didn't in some way feel it was important. Where the media is concerned, I think the whole thing is flawed. Mixing their purpose between "providing the news" and "making money" is just destroying any sort of integrity the media might have had.
While I'm at it, a clarification on those posts that pop up and disappear a few hours later:

Loads of people have seen 'em (I'm surprisingly well read - around 600 hits in a month at the moment and the blog has only been going since mid-October. The numbers have doubled for the first two months and it's looking like I'll have around 800 by the end of this month. Not double but then, it is the holiday period).

The posts in question are those posts where I'm frustrated.

It often helps me to put them down as if writing about it to an audience - which in the case of this blog, I am. They're probably best kept private only it does help me work through them - to make me realise that those negative thoughts don't really have a place within me anymore. It was even better last week when a friend emailed me after having read one of these posts. He seemed almost angry by it - or rather, frustrated with me I think.

If you do read them, it's quite safe to ignore them. If you think that perhaps I'm talking about you - I could be. But I don't think I put myself or my thoughts across terribly well in those posts so please don't read too much into them.

I think the main thing to remember there is that it's all about me. It's self indulgent. I'm trying to get my own head straight. I'm trying to figure out why I have so much difficulty in some aspects of my life - which reminds me of that "Lifeline" ad with the snowball.

Me wanting to ask someone out to the movies is just me wanting to get to know them better where the opportunity to get to know them better doesn't really exist outside of a "special effort" context. That's really not a big deal. It takes me a while to put that sort of thing into perspective though. In which case, frustration happens. A post appears on here. Soon after it disappears again.

In other words, those posts will appear from time to time... It's your choice to ignore the content or take it on board and gain some horribly intimate insight into my mind.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Lieu of a Christmas Post

On the last day of school somebody asked me. "What are you going to do without us?".

I said something along the lines of having loads of work to do and how I'd be pretty much occupied. Wrong answer.

The truth is, I'm actually already missing school. All weekend I've been feeling this sense of dread of not having somewhere to go on Monday. Being there is the happiest I've been in a long time. Imparting my knowledge to eager young minds (showing them my enthusiasm for maths for example). Having people around who are friendly as all hell. Most places I work at I find myself looking at the underlying currents - who goes for lunch with who, who are the stress bunnies, who are going to be resistant to change etc.

So today I went back to a place, where I had done some coding a year or so back, to do some maintenance. Surprisingly, there were very few problems (a couple were my fault which means they were living for a year without those little time savers). The thing is, I never really felt included in this place. For example, I wasn't given the gate code so that I could get to the back door which meant I'd have to get someone up to get in the front door. That is until I asked for it. I wasn't invited to the Christmas party, until the actual day, despite having been there most of the year and having been asked for feedback on what should or shouldn't be done for it. I was given the login of "contractor" rather than a name. In other words, I was a contractor. An outsider. Very much at arms length.

It reminds me of my days as a temp. It only really lasted a couple of months or so. It didn't pay the bills. I was revered for my fast and accurate data entry skills but it was hard to get a grasp on how people saw you. For the most part, I was treated poorly. When someone had said something about being "just a temp" I got annoyed. The difference between a temp and full time staff? You're expected to learn a hell of a lot more quickly than their current staff to do the same job. So at New Zealand Couriers for example, temps got 1 week training (though most of it was a snorefest) whereas full staff went for 3 weeks. At a stock take I went to, we were given a very quick cursory view of the system and told to input a whole lot of data. It took a little bit of trial and error to get to know the system well enough that I wasn't feeling lost if I had hit "enter" one too many times for example.

This leads to my time in Hamilton - where the conditions were surprisingly good despite the complaints to the contrary. My boss there was very much of the "money is not a good motivator" persuasion. That doesn't mean he didn't pay you well if he appreciated you. It's just that grumbling was not a good enough reason to review pay rates.

This all leads me to one point.

Being happy isn't about getting to a destination - it's a journey. You're happy doing something, going somewhere, being something. Buying a huge house in the middle of a life style block is less important than everything it took to get there. If someone were to offer you that same house for free, would you appreciate it?

So I guess the point is, being happy is simply knowing you're happy. It's no good looking back and thinking to yourself "I was actually kind of happy back in that period of my life". I'm not saying I was terribly happy in Hamilton. I was working night shift in a factory and had very few people to talk to/socialise with/have a drink with etc. But my complaints about work weren't so much a reflection of the work itself so much as a reflection of how unhappy I was with the rest of my life.

There has to be a certain amount of living in the moment. Looking at what you're doing, why you're doing it, what it's leading to and figuring out if this is what you want to be doing, whether you're being the person you want to be.

Despite the occasional posts that end up on here and get deleted soon after, where I'm feeling frustrated about some aspect of my life (usually the empty chasm that is my love life) or about myself and how I seem to have difficulties escaping old patterns, I think I'm the person I want to be.

I'm, for the most part, happy. I'm fairly confident (despite those occasional nasty voices in my head from my past). I do things for reasons that I don't find horribly shallow or things which I consider immoral (such as taking a job "for now" just while I find something better for example). What I need isn't money (I could do with some but then, I don't think this would contribute to my happiness - it'd just help maintain it by getting those things that need replacing replaced and making what I do sustainable). I've even started opening myself up a little (though not a whole lot because let's face it, years of doubting yourself is going to be undone in a matter of a few months. It's a work in progress).

I was going to do a big rambling post about Christmas. How I consider the commercial nature of it to be off putting. How dysfunctional families everywhere are struggling with that dysfunction. How the holiday is based on old pagan traditions marking the shortest day of the year (though given that we're in New Zealand, thus in the southern hemisphere, it's the longest day of our year). How even the date is wrong (due to calendar changes, the date is off by a day - though it means I can celebrate the 23rd - the longest day of the year whereas in paganism, it was celebrated on the 24th - the day where days start getting longer, with friends rather than family) etc. But then I've read a lot of information out there which is a bunch of people telling us we shouldn't celebrate it because it's counter to a lot of Christian values. Greed as one of the deadly seven sins anyone?

I prefer to think of Christmas as a time to stop, consider those around us, think about what we appreciate, what we think we could do better, about those who love and support us etc. Random acts of kindness are always good during this time of year as well (though I do wonder why we don't practise "Good will to all men" all the way through the year). Personally I prefer to ignore the fact that it's associated to one religion.

In which case, enough said. Merry Christmas everyone! (Though I have to say, a new name for it would be brilliant - Perhaps a nod to the Greek/Roman origins? Saturnalia? - meaning sun worship. Or something to do with Goodwill... How about a very simple "Good Day").

Saturday, December 18, 2010

End of year madness

I had the privilege of going to two leaving do's the other day. Both schools. Both decile one, both predominantly pacific island communities.

So the first one, was Point England School. I was excited by it. I took to a full "peacock" mode. I had looked in my wardrobe the other day after my post on IRD and found a shirt that requires cuff links (My father and I share 2 pairs of cuff links and ties) and a couple of pairs of black pants. The black pants were arranged by size. Apparently I've put on a bit of weight. Mud pack, tending to my nails, shining my shoes etc. the night before and I was ready for it.

There was a huge feast (thanks Delwyn). In the protein category for example, there was ham, chicken, turkey, crab meat and beef. In the salad category, mesclun, bean (Awesome! Why was it taken off the menu at KFC?), potato and coleslaw. A real Christmas feast in other words.

Truth be told, I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. It's the end of the year, and nothing has been said about my future with the project. There's been a few comments about an office - if I'm to be put in a broom closest, I want at least a couple of air holes. However, nothing has been said whether the project might be able to spare a little bit of money so that I'm able to afford to keep up some level of engagement which isn't just me sitting at home wondering how I'm going to send the various images (my connection at home is slow as all hell due to me refusing to pay for a connection with caps on it - I don't mind a slower speed if it means I'm assured of that speed for the entire month) to the people who need it.

Anyway, the secret Santa came about. I chose to steal the soap on a rope due to the smokers having run away when I went to join them - I figured I must smell so I decided soap wasn't such a bad idea.

Anyway, I had printed up a t-shirt for the secret Santa (The image above). A friend and I jot down ideas whenever we get a few drinks in us. This particular design is one I'm particularly pleased with. It's subtle and crude all at the time. Anyway, it was stolen once and then the person who had stolen it finally had a look at the design and looked disappointed. What a gib! Anyway, someone finally stole it. After everyone had gotten a gift, someone did walk up to me and ask "Where do I buy one?". So it might work...

Anyway, I found myself a little disappointed. Soon after the secret Santa had finished people started packing up. Except for Mrs. K still dancing around, no one seemed keen to have a few more drinks and socialise. 3pm. Poor showing really.

So I went home (after one of those rides home which was all about the conversation more so than actually getting home - I was waiting for a fight to break out as to who would take me home) and rang a friend of mine who works at another school. I've been out with this bunch before and was kind of looking to carry on the festivities.

So at 8 I went into town to meet up with this bunch.

Despite the similarities between the different schools, the people are REALLY different - and the culture of the schools as a result.

On that ride home, the guy taking me had said something along the lines of Pt. England school being a few years ahead of any other school in New Zealand. While it's hard to quantify this sort of claim, the realisation of what I had learnt over the last few months came crashing home.

About a month before going to Pt England, I had gone to this other school and talked to the principal and had told him about the "news network". His reaction was less than encouraging. He was cynical. Things like "What does it teach the kids really?" and "How much do the kids do themselves?" etc.

The thing is, the value of the technology isn't in the technology itself but the effects it has. For example, having a TV in each room and playing the day's news every day, has kids as presenters. In other words, all year they're learning diction. ALL of the kids in the school are getting a consistent message every day rather than relying on their teachers to get across the importance of some philosophy that the school has adopted.

Giving the kids laptops has the kids excited about writing. Publishing content to the world and having to consider their audience has a huge effect on the culture difference I have talked about previously. So hopefully they see themselves as part of a world community rather than just part of a small section of the South Pacific.

But more than this. Imagine having the kids excited to learn! This is nothing to scoff at.

So the culture difference. While at Pt. England I've been shaking the kids hands, and responding to "What's Up", or the more ... compact "Sup" with "hi" or "good morning", the teachers from this other school are very much fitting into the culture of the school at which they teach. It's VERY different. Point England School talks about this as "speaking to succeed".

This other school - I was a little uncomfortable truth be told. The sense of personal space was non-existent. While we were in a small Pizzeria and it was stinking hot, one of the guys put a tree trunk sized arm around my shoulders. A tiny bit overly friendly given that I had only really just met him that night and inappropriate given that it really was stinking hot.

I was trying to find another "edge to the sword". What does this school seem to do better than Point England? One of the more drunker guys was talking about the difference between kids from different nationalities. I'm not sure this counts - I think I would need to see this in action and whether it offered any real benefit in getting the kids to learn (and more importantly, learning those skills that are going to be useful in the future).

Anyway, never mind the nay sayers. If I were to pick a school for my kids to go to (if I had kids and zoning wasn't an issue) I would definitely pick Point England School - not because they have loads of technology but because they are very forward thinking - their kids are taught a whole bunch of skills that are going to be important to their lives. I've seen it and am really excited to see what happens at Point England School.

Just a quick side note: There was an image used last night on "Seven Days" from Point England school - the kids piled behind an iPad (still sounds like a sanitary product to me) while reading an email to them from Steven Joyce.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Look At All The Neat Stuff They'll Get!

I started today walking down Queen Street. It's surprising just how slippery Queen Street really is.

It doesn't help that I had on a pair of shoes where the soles have worn down to a smooth surface (and it was raining this morning). Unfortunately, apart from my black leathers (which could also could do with replacing), they're the only shoes I've got. Holes in the tops above my toes give them the appearance of "once well loved". The black leathers are at least passable except that I'm trying my best not to wear them out too much. Between them and my shirt, I can look kind of formal.

At school, I noticed that the thin patch on the knee of my jeans has also frayed into quite a healthy hole.

Whenever I want to dress up, I wear the same shirt. It's my most comfortable shirt and the one which covers everything. i.e. Doesn't have any holes in it.

I'm quite comfortable with the things I have. They do me well. It's just... well... they're all getting just a tad old. Their age is measured in some terribly faithful years. Heaven forbid I have two days in a row where a dress shirt is appropriate or I need shoes with a bit of grip to them (and which don't tear up the back of my feet) or that I need more than one pair of jeans that don't have a hole in them (I really should have a look and see if I even have a suitable pair of dress pants any more).

In other words, I'm starting to look just a tiny bit tatty.

So to top off my day, IRD gave me a call. On my mother's cellphone (I'm playing secretary while she's in India and simply can't afford to top up my phone). Heaven knows what they thought of that. Weird that they'd be calling her.

A couple of years ago one of my brother in laws convinced me that it was a good idea to register a business and for GST. I soon found that I had an accountant as well (I say I "found" that I had an accountant. I was introduced to him and suddenly he was my accountant).

So it just so happens, this same brother in law had also found a "contract" for me. Paying $18 / hour for Visual Basic for Applications (on top of MS Excel) development work. So I went to fulfill the contract. The problem was, the more I did, the more they were relying on me - I wasn't making myself redundant.

So after a while, I tried to convince them to switch to a database where something ... sustainable could be done. When they wouldn't go for a database solution, I stopped charging as I knew the bits I was doing wasn't sustainable. I wasn't accomplishing what I had been hired to do, and was just tidying things up so that it would work for the time being at the very least and I soon left. That and the approximately $480 / week ($18 by 40 hours a week assuming I was given 40 hours in the week, minus GST, minus tax) just wasn't worth the cost and time of the paperwork.

Long delays caused by various issues (such as the boss's Mother mentioned in an earlier post, lack of timely feedback and having to reprogram things based on feedback eventually given - after I had thought myself finished with a task and had then done up the user documentation etc) had me quite bitter by the time I finally left.

It came time to pay a GST bill, which I needed to borrow money for - which the accountant (or rather, his associate) saw as income which in turn, had me paying GST and PAYE on top of that rather than actually reading my emails to them explaining where the money had come from. To top it all off they then sent my brother in law my tax statements and other confidential data. Definitely reason to get rid of the accountant.

I then went to work on CIMS. CIMS never got finished - I still have plans to complete it one of these days though if I'm completely honest about it, I was seeing this life of little sleep, loads of stress and no life outside of it. If it were to work, I would have to put EVERYTHING into it. Not much of a lifestyle. Still, it was something that I could see helping people.

I realised that approaching WINZ would limit my ability to work on CIMS (given their insistence on meetings every week and weird condescending courses, their inability to see the difference between a really awful job and a half decent one, and their non-people focus etc.) I decided not to approach them.

Fast forward to today. CIMS was never finished because of a family issue. My volunteer efforts got me actually enthusiastic about something. The fact that I was never actually asked to do what I'm doing at the moment and volunteered to do it means that I really am doing this out of love. I've never wanted to go on the dole and so haven't. Why should I get paid for not doing something?

And IRD are looking for their cut. I wonder if they'd take a hug as a down payment.

When I said to the woman on the phone "I have no money", I don't think she quite got it. I really have NO money. I don't usually eat lunch at the moment because the $3 for a sandwich is half of the following days bus fare. The less I take from my parents, the better. After all, I had to borrow some money off them for a GST bill just a little while back.

Her rather snippish attitude and, her last line, "it was never really your money in the first place", which really describes the whole phone call, was interesting to say the least. Paying GST on money I had borrowed to pay my GST. It really wasn't my money at all. Perhaps IRD could look for friendlier staff? People who are willing to talk with you rather than at you?

So I guess all that's left really is for IRD to do is to sue me. Look at all the neat things they'll get! Two pairs of shoes that need replacing, a pair of holey jeans, another pair that's looking pretty close to having a hole in much the same spot, a shirt (which is actually my father's but which I've conveniently nicked because it looks much better on me) and a netbook (covering both my birthday and this Christmas' presents for the year) which, when it was brought for me, cost $280 (factor in depreciation and it's probably worth quite a bit less now).

And the really silly bit? I would have had to work around 65 hours every week of the year at that same rate in order to go over the $60,000 threshold. Instead, I have a tax bill, an accountants bill and a receding hairline. Perhaps I should have negotiated on my own behalf rather than blindly taking what my Brother in law had found for me?

I know I'm playing the victim here. But really? They can't talk to me with some civility? I'm just some scum who's trying to dodge his taxes? It's actually a bit of a relief that they've gotten in touch with me. It was a great big sword hanging over my head. Perhaps I could marry IRD up with WINZ and see where that goes. Either which way, this is going to be an interesting little battle. However, given the tone of the phone call, I don't think IRD have a problem with shooting an unarmed (moneyless) man.

It's a pity - I rather like my shoes. They make Queen Street interesting on a wet day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Story of the Invisiable Bar Lass (Chapter 3)

This story was really only written due to a series of one liners.

The "They're all horses" bit I was surprisingly proud of. I was waiting around for Mr Cream, had just done an all nighter and went around this really convoluted way around of getting to what is really just a play on a very old joke. It meant more to me than it did to anyone else.

Chapter 3. Story of the Invisible Bar Lass
Written by Nevyn Hira

A woman walks up the Old Burt's pathway.

It had been a while since a woman had approached the Old Burt. This was for many reasons. He wasn't entirely sure if it was the long white beard stained with what appeared to be tobacco (Though the Old Burt didn't smoke. Better not to ask where the stains came from) or whether it was the finger nails mentioned earlier, or the fact this breath could probably melt the paint off of a painted thing - though no one ever gotten that close to the Old Burt and so the people who knew of this were probably limited. It did come in handy if ever the Old Burt needed to strip the paint off something but this seldom came up and so no one ever saw him doing it.

Anyway, as I was saying, a woman walked up the Old Burt's pathway. The Old Burt was awestruck. She was beautiful (to his way of thinking at least). She too could strip the paint off of most painted things though this wasn't yet apparent - she hadn't spoken yet.

The Old Burt looked awestruck. Like someone who's just been hit round the head by a heavy cast iron frying pan. His insides did a loop de loop which resulted in his organs landing exactly where they should be.

The woman finally spoke (painted surfaces remained painted). "Old Burt, oh manky and teller of things, may I ask a question of you?"

This address was great. No truths and lies mentioned though implied with the single and simple word "things". The Old Burt tucked away a heavy cast iron frying pan under his 3 legged stool. "But of course", said he. He was staring now. Apparently her voice hadn't quite registered with him. This moment seemed to last an eternity for the Old Burt. He was smitten.

The moment also seemed to last forever for the woman though for entirely different reasons. The great old manky one was looking moonstruck (or frying pan struck - whichever one seems more appropriate) at her.

"Well ask your question", responded the Old Burt after what really was an eternity. After an eternity of looking awestruck, the Old Burt had decided to compensate by being gruff. Oh the confusion. Be too nice and people soon lost interest. Not be nice enough and you're just a giant git face.

"Well", said the woman. "I would really like to hear the best joke you've ever heard".

The Old Burt thought about this for awhile. Again, this wasn't a question where he could play "Three answers both lies and truths". Okay he said. I'll tell you a tale.

- = -

A woman walks into a bar. She walks up to the bar (Why are both the premises and the place where you order drinks from called the same thing?). She sits for awhile wondering where the bar staff could possibly be when a disembodied voice asked "Well? What would it be? I don't have all day you know".

The woman looks confused. "Umm... I'll have a beer", she said.

A pint glass seems to float up to the beer tap and a pint seems to pour itself. The woman looked around the room to see a whole lot of long faces.

"Right, that'll be a smile" said the disembodied voice.

"Come again?" asked the woman.

"A smile. Nice and easy. If it makes it any easier I'll tell you a joke."

"The Joke would be nice" said the woman, starting to get used to the whole idea of the disembodied voice.

-- === --

A man walks into a bar and sits at the bar. He looks around and sees that the bar is full of long faces.

The man asks the barman, "What's with all the long faces?"

The barman looks at the man as if he's an idiot. "Can you not tell? They're all horses."

-- === --

The woman is smiling from ear to ear.

"There you go", said the disembodied voice. "I knew that was funny despite what my friends told me."

"Oh no", said the woman. It's not the joke. I just realised who you are. You're the invisible bar lass mentioned in another story.

"Oh my", said the invisible bar lass. "I'm famous! If only my mother could see me now!"

"But I have to ask", stated the woman, "What is up with all the long faces?" indicating the rest of the room.

"Oh them.", said the barlass, "They're just being frugal."

- = -

The Old Burt is smiling though not a huge smile. The woman looks dissatisfied.

"That wasn't terribly funny", she said.

"No," said the Old Burt chuckling to himself, "I really need to get out more."

Story of the Soulless Man (Chapter 2)

While it seems rather unlikely that this story really did happen, due to the soul not being, as far as I know, a trade-able commodity, some parts (quite a lot of it actually) did happen.

The Old Burt is completely fictional.

I told this story to 2 of my friends while indulging in a cigarette at a bus stop (I am the dancing ciggyman) which lead to their contributions.

The physiotherapist bit - did happen almost in it's entirety - I was just thinking about this short story at the time. She did help though she had to stand on a stool in order to get leverage. She did seem rather confused by the end of the story. Bearing in mind that it wasn't the full story - i.e. the bit with her wasn't in there. Mr. Cream hadn't yet come up with the Old Burt character.

The bar scene is based on Mr. Cream and myself finding an Irish pub that had opened up the road and our taking up seats by the bar and talking to the bar lass all night.

Chapter 2:Story of a Soulless Man
Written by Nevyn Hira with input from Black Cat, Ian and Mrs. Cream.

A young man approached the Old Burt to presumably ask a question. The appearance of the man in this instance isn't important except maybe for the fact that the man was young. He also looked a tad crestfallen. The man tripped upon the old cracked pathway leading up to the Old Burt.

“Hail oh Old Burt teller of truths but mostly of lies”, bellowed the young man. Obviously the young man knew somewhat of the Old Burt. “Tell me please, why do girls seem to go for guys so nasty?”

The Old Burt scratched his head with a toothpick. Well this time around the Old Burt wasn't going to be able to play his game. Three simple answers were simply not cut it.

“Sit” said the Old Burt, “and I'll tell you a tale”.

- = -

Three men stood at a bus stop. It was night. It was cold (It was winter after all). One man took out a packet of cigarettes, took one out and lit it. One of the men was looking crestfallen.

“What's the matter?” said the man with the now lit cigarette (to save time/space I'm going to refer to him now as the ciggy man).

“Well”, said the man without the ciggy, “I've an interesting question. You see, I go to the pub. As you know, I'm single and can't seem to remove the singleness from myself. But while I'm in the pub I observe nasty guys with nice girls and I'm wondering to myself, how do they do it?”

“Ahh” said the ciggyman. He didn't know why he said “Ahh” - it just seemed right at the time. This man started to dance at this stage to keep himself warm. He shall now be known as the dancing ciggyman.

The third man said to the other two, “it sounds like the question asked within the tale of a soulless man. Listen up and I'll tell you the tale.”

-- === --

A man walks into a physiotherapists office. He was a rather normal looking man except for the fact that his back looked a lot like question mark. Also he said “ooch” and “ouch” an awful lot. This probably explains why he was at a physiotherapists office.

After a rather amusingly conversation with the receptionist (which won't be related in this story), the man finally got to see the physiotherapist.

The physiotherapist was female and pretty. She looked at him doubtfully. A question mark hanging over her head. Could she really help this man? To distract him from the pain he is about to endure, she asked the man for a story.

--- ===== ---

Two men walk into a bar and take up bar stools. The lass behind the bar asks the men, “what'll it be?”

“We'll have a pint each and an answer.” said the non-bespectacled lad. (Three guesses what the other lad is going to be called.)

“That'll be $12 and a soul”.

The non-bespectacled man handed over $20 and his soul. “Keep the change” says he.

“Thank you”, said the lass, “and now for your question?”

“Well”, said the bespectacled man, “We're wondering. Why is it that girls always seem to go with nasty guys?”

The lass laughs. “Oh that's easy”, says she, “Girls love the idea that a guy holds something back just for her. That smile or kindness. That tenderness that they share alone and with no one else.”

The guys think about this for a second. “That's complete crap! I want my soul back!”

The lass looks surprised. “Why would that not be true?” she asked.

“Because”, says the bespectacled lad, “the definition of a nasty guy is that he's overtly nasty. Not only is he nasty to other people, but people see that he's nasty to her. Thus truly nasty.”

“But”, the lass responded, “The answer still holds true. Girls go out with these guys because they're convinced that they can be changed. The guy will show a secret side to the girls to keep them interested but only in private. Thus, they're still nasty in public and considered nasty by the general public”.

The now soulless man accepts this answer as try. The bespectacled man went to empty his bladder while the lass went to serve other customers. Much as the soulless man would like to think he was the centre of the universe, it turns out there were other people in the bar. Such as a dodgy looking man (possibly an insurance man) in the corner.

The soulless man sees someone else behind the bar. A woman. A non de-script woman. So non de-script in fact that she was invisible.

--- ===== ---

“So?” asked the man.

“So what?” asked the strong handed and still attractive physiotherapist.

“What'd you think of the story? I've been working on it and think it's quite good”.

“I don't get it”, said the physiotherapist.

“Don't get what?”

“What's the punchline?” she asked.

“What punchline? It wasn't a joke” said the man. "You asked for a story. Not a joke."

“Well it's rubbish anyway” said the physiotherapist.

“What do you mean?” asked the man.

“The reason. The reason girls go for nasty guys is because nasty guys actually approach them. While nice guys are sitting around trying to drum up the confidence and just the right words to use to approach these girls, the nasty guys have absolutely nothing to lose by just going up and asking.”

The man moans. “I think I just wasted my soul” says he.

-- === --

The ciggy man thought for a second. “It's stupid. Everyone knows why girls go out with nasty guys. It's because girls are stupid.”

- = -

“That's a tad dismissive isn't it?” asked the young man.

“Well yes”, said the Old Burt, “But can you claim to know the minds of woman?”

“Well no”, said the young man, “But then I've only ever known one man who did. He had a sex change operation soon after so I guess he slash she doesn't really count.”

The Old Burt (Chapter 1)

As promised, the first of one of the short stories I wrote AGES ago with a few friends... The concept and direction of this story (chapter) was mainly Mr. Cream. I really just rewrote it (originally I had just edited it) after having lost it (several times).

We had discussed the whole idea and decided that none of the characters would have names except for the Old Burt who is really only there to provide a point of commonality though he's not always necessary.

A couple of months later I had read "The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse" by Robert Rankin which, I believe, has quite a similar sense of humour to it. Now one of my favourite books. I highly recommend it.

Chapter 1: The Old Burt
Written by Mr Cream (permission needed to publish his name) and Nevyn Hira
[Change...]
I got permission to use his first name only. So it's Ian. His comment about "Mr. Cream" was quite funny. He claims it sounds like a porn name. I'm just imagining a scene - it's a petrol station in the middle of no where and a woman in a cherry red convertible pulls up. She smiles at the young strapping petrol station attendant with a twinkle in her eye. He says "Hi, I'm Mr. Cream. What can I do for you?" to which she says "Mr Cream. Full her up."

The Old Burt sat upon his once throne, now a humble three legged stool (the fourth leg had fallen off some time ago). He was whittling a piece of wood out on his front porch. He knew not why he was doing this, but to his way of thinking, it was better than succumbing to age and playing golf. Whittling wood at least involved a sharp object on which his old eyes could no longer focus properly. The worse bit is that after hours of doing this, the only idea the Old Burt had for the piece of wood was a toothpick. Celebrations would ensue in the form of eating corn.

The Old Burt was a wizened old man. No one was entirely sure just how old the Old Burt might be but the “Old” prefix to his name was some sort of indication. The Old Burt occupied the front porch of an old Victorian style house in a non de-script street. People came to the Old Burt for answers. Of course, the Old Burt didn't actually give answers, or at least, not the answers people were expecting. The Old Burt instead indulged in a little game he liked to call “The three lies that could be truths”. Usually they weren't true at all but the possibility was always there. The game was cause of some amusement. In the Old Burt's frail state, you took entertainment where you could.

There was one memorable day when a man had come to the Old Burt. A clergyman (Not to be confused with a ciggy man) came up the Old Burt's old and cracked pathway with a slab upon his back. Turned out the slab was one of the slabs containing exactly one half of the 10 commandments. The 10 commandments don't feature in this little tale except to say that they gave the clergyman rather a comical look to him – if you find it comical watching someone folding almost double under the weight of a slab of rock. Who would've thought Moses would've been able to carry two of 'em?

Anyway, the clergyman asked the Old Burt a question.

He asked “Oh Old Burt, of answers infinite, and lies more infinitesimal still, where, pray tell, is the chalice so great, that which we refer to as The Holy Grail?” The Old Burt scratched his wizened head with a fingernail that resembled an oyster left in the sun to dry and allowed to grow odd bits of mould on it.

“It could be in the cafe down the street” answered the Old Burt.

“I'm afraid not”, said the Clergyman, “they only appeared to serve coffee from polystyrene cups”.

“It could be under the bed of a child, afraid to grasp for it for fear of monsters” said the Old Burt.

“I'm afraid it might be but this answer brings me no closer to the end of my quest and as the question was a direct one, I'm sure that had this been the case, the answer too would have been direct”.

The Old Burt grumbled under his breath. This one was smart, though not as smart as he thought himself to be. “The grail so holy could be the mug of coffee within my hands”.

The clergyman looked down doubtfully. “But alas, you hold only a chipped mug”.

“Yes” said the Old Burt, “but it could be. And there end your 3 answers.”

The clergyman looked crestfallen. All this way and still no closer. He left. The Old Burt chuckled to himself. Had the clergyman been as smart as he thought himself to be he would have realised the Old Burt had told some truth. The Grail so Holy was safely in a cafe. It's appearance wasn't that of a chalice but rather something that looked old and worn. It was beneath a couch and made of polystyrene. After all, polystyrene cups last forever (though they do age despite claims of eternal youth).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Audience

This post is just a short disclaimer.

When I'm writing my posts, I don't tend to think of my audience. This is because I haven't really been able to pick and choose. Who are my target audience really?

A friend today claimed that the posts were keeping her up thinking about some of the things I've written. Someone else approached me about the Lotto post which I thought had gone pretty much unnoticed.

So when I was talking about classes (lower vs. middle), I didn't actually consider how each side of those groups would take what I had written. In saying that, take offence and comment on it... or don't. Personal choice and all of that.

This is something to bear in mind when reading my blog. It's not really a place for me to be politically correct (the origins of this blog exclude that). It's also not me being subtle. At times I wonder how those I'm writing about might take some of the stuff that's on here. My conclusion is normally "Sod it. I'm doing it anyway".

Why am I writing this quick disclaimer now? I want to open up a bit. I know, I've been fairly candid. I've suggested that I might be a bit of a "mama's boy". I've constructively criticized events that are basically politically correct motivated events. I want to do something on the really candid subjects. I'm not talking about politics (heavens knows I've already gone there). I'm talking about religion.

That, and the fact that it was commented on today.

Oh - opinion everyone. If you barely knew someone but wanted to get to know them better. Would a gift voucher for the movie theatres be a good idea for Christmas? With a card saying something like "Merry Xmas, take me?". That could be read oh so many ways (have a good snigger you dirty minded people out there).

[quick edit]
There's the suggestion that this could come across as a conditional present. Presenting the vouchers without a comment in the card might come across a lot better. And the end result? If she were to ask me to come along, there's a bigger pay off and less of the wondering if she'd invited me because of the obligation stipulated in those two words up there. If she didn't invite me along? Well no biggie. Does fortune really favour the bold?

[Another edit]
I've just been talking to a friend who enlightened me a bit more on this front. The approach is just plain weird. Why not just ask her out to the movies? It's better than waiting around for a particular result. I've always thought that a movie was actually a really bad date idea. You sit in the dark, next to each other, not talking. However, there's value in it. If you find yourself irritated by the person during the movie, then there's a fairly good chance that you'll find yourself irritated by her. It's not just the movie that's of value. I've always been a huge fan of going out for a coffee afterwards. Sitting around and talking about your impressions of whatever movie. The movie provides a point of commonality. You've both just seen it - what are her impressions? Do you respect those impressions or find yourself slapping your forehead wondering what the hell she's thinking?

Avoiding Conversations

I'm sitting here in a pub still avoiding the whole wikileaks conversation. I've been avoiding it since the whole story broke out.

The problem for me is that it's a very polarising issue. The world doesn't work in this way. You don't pick a side. You question the validity of both sides of the argument.

This is true for all sorts of things. When looking in the case of Free/Libre/Open Source software (FLOSS) vs. Proprietary, I weigh up the value to me. There's a lot of inherit value, to me, in FLOSS so I'm more likely to select FLOSS. But that doesn't mean that I rubbish someone else's choice of proprietary software where that software makes sense. (Kitting out a school's email system with Outlook when it's only serving a minimum of people - just the teachers for example - is not a place this makes sense).

So when looking at the whole wikileaks saga, I find myself sitting on the wall. While I strive for transparency, particularly when the government is dealing with commercial deals that have a bearing on our lives. For example, the government's broadband dealings. More transparency here would help to offer some assurance that we're looking at the good of the public rather than the commercial interests of the big telcos.

On the other hand, information has power. Denying this fact would be like denying that the Internet has made huge differences to our daily lives. It's all information. Some information has more power than other information.

Learning the opinion of some analyst in the back rooms of another building probably near the white house, while it would appear it probably doesn't have THAT much power, has been exaggerated to become "America's opinion".

So my opinion? It's that not only has the release of that information been irresponsible, but also the way the information is being perceived and the way it's being handled.

The way it's being handled is a completely different matter. Mixing these two issues a bit like asking "Do you like gherkins and ice cream?". Sure I like gherkins. I like ice cream. I don't like the two together. The question is muddied.

So my position? Stop giving it the attention it doesn't deserve! It's a bit like dealing with kids. If kids learn that you're going to come running whenever they start crying, then the crying just becomes a means to get your attention.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Riding in Cars

I really value the conversations I have with people as they're giving me a ride home. The value is less in the ride and more in the conversation.

So on one of these trips home, a friend was talking about the main difference between middle class and lower class.

Every now and again, especially in my early days at Point England School, the kids would say something to me that would have me pausing and look at them a little confused as to the proper response.

The one I really remember is the word "sup". When someone says "sup" I think of phrases like "Tonight we sup on the marrow of our enemies!".

I looked at the kid for a second and then reply "Dude. I just really don't know how to respond to that."

He answered "You just say 'sup' back".

"So it's like Hi?"

"Yeah, that's it", he said excitedly having gotten the impression that I was understanding.

"So what's wrong with saying 'hi' then?" I asked in earnest.

So what does this conversation have to do with anything? This friend of mine was saying that the difference between lower class and middle class people is culture and/or the ability to adapt to other cultures.

You may remember in a past post I was saying about the Tamaki Transformation Project end of year bash where I was criticizing the use of terms like "Our P.I. Brothers". They hadn't adapted to the audience and this got my back up a little.

Just think about it for a second. Those who manage to escape from those lower classes normally do so by fitting into a culture which probably isn't so native to them (this is related to inequality in the workplace due to sexism which I'll get into in another post one of these days).

And there's a barrier there. For starters, they may be seen as "selling out" if they do this effectively enough. They may have grown up in areas where a difference in culture has never been challenged. Their home life is such where, being from a certain place (such as the Pacific islands), their families have never been challenged on this front. They may find that culture is so different from what they're comfortable with that they are unwilling or unable to adapt.

So, while being here at Point England, I'm doing my best to occasionally their views on behaviour and culture. For example, when one of the kids was trying to show me one of those horribly complicated 3 step hand shakes, I showed him a good firm hand shake. I'm taking my queue from a fairly narrow view of "What would be acceptable in a meeting of professionals?". Let's face it, these meetings are fairly culturally neutral. A firm handshake, a greeting or two which isn't reliant on inside knowledge (like knowing that 'sup' is meant to be short for "What's Up?" though the response doesn't quite make sense in view of this - you both ask each other what's up???). There's probably a fairly good reason for the neutrality - you can observe better what's going on if it's fairly naked.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Whole Village

Right - sulk officially over. I think the Sunday barbeque bothered me a little more than I was willing to admit. I know I don't really have a case to be irritated about it - I mean, that is why traditionally we didn't have a December meeting.

In fact, I was almost kind of bold today. I signed off an email with "I so wish I could take you out for a drink". The reason I can't? For starters, I'd met her while running around sorting out travel insurance for my sister and mum. If 2 females have me running around an entire day, imagine what another female in my life would do to me.

So I thought I'd a post on the various end of year events I've been to recently.

I know I've mentioned it before - the Manaiakalani Film Festival. While not strictly an end of year event, I thought it was long overdue that I wrote a little something about it. So the 7 schools involved within the Manaiakalani cluster, hired a cinema for the day. The kids got their work up on big screen.

When I was at school, it was considered a huge honour if you had an obscure piece of art you did a couple of years previously end up in an "art exhibition". Unfortunately, being an unpopular kid, the one piece of art I was REALLY proud of in an art class got smeared with black ink. There was no such honour in primary or intermediate school.

It turns out you don't actually need to to the film festival to see the films. The films can be found here. My personal favourite was "Rewind." "Are you ready?" is a little food for thought but could have probably done with a little less adult intervention (i.e. It's about pedagogy but it just stinks of an adult's words rather than the kids given free reign).

Manaiakalani is actually part of a much bigger project. The "Tamaki Transformation Project". It does all sorts of things with healthcare, education, housing etc. The bit I really respect about it is the fact that it's not a bunch of outsiders trying to do things for the people of the community, but instead, those people being proactive and getting involved with how all this happens. Brilliant.

So there was an end of year thing for this project. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that happy with it (I think I would have been happier going to the latest Harry Potter movie with Sooty - yet another made name to protect identities. Of course, if it wasn't for the event, I wouldn't have known Sooty was off to Harry Potter). The reason? I'm not going to go fully into it due to the risk of being horribly racially and culturally insensitive so I'll summarise as much as possible.

A LOT of the speeches (there were a few too many too) didn't take into account the audience - using language such as "P.I. brothers" when the audience was predominantly white middle class. This is part of a much larger issue which I'll be posting about one of these days - I just have to write it in my head before committing it to the blog.

[edit]
I've been asked a couple of times now what P.I. stands for. To be perfectly honest, I've never been told, but I think it stands for "Pacific Islander".

Given that it was held at a marae - or rather, on the steps of a marae. It was unclear the proper protocols around use of the toilets (whether we had to be welcomed in) and refreshments (hot sticky day). Someone offering out water from a jug to the audience would have gone a really long way.

I know, for the Manaiakalani project at least, there were loads of volunteers. The thanks was mostly around money - not time, effort, volunteered expertise etc.

And I found the audience to be a little condescending. There were a few cultural dances in between the speeches and I heard whispers of "that's beautiful". It sort of came across as "look at the little brown people in their colourful costumes". I don't know what could have been done about that but it did bother me to an extent.

In saying all of that, the scope of the project is amazing. The approach that's being taken, how involved the community are in determining their own futures and the sort of support the project is getting in all areas just astounding.

I met a guy who was there scoping out the area for a potential community garden as part of a health initiative. Brilliant.

So fast forward 2 days, and we had the Manaiakalani end of year bash. A much less formal event where we drunk, gossiped and talked. Brilliant. I even got called a gentleman! A hell of a title to live up to though.

About 20 students had dressed up and did a haka and a few other performances (sorry guys - not really up on the correct terminology). The bit which really stuck me though, was just how proud of these kids I could be. I can't quite explain it. I guess I have a sense of possessiveness of the kids given that I've been at school so often and we've formed our own little relationships (one of my favourite ones is where a certain someone says "Hello Mr. Nevyn". And then, in the same breath she'll come out with "I'm sorry - I forgot to leave off the Mr". The "Mr" just suddenly appeared one day with no real explanation. Before that I was just Nevyn).

And finally, the name sake of this post - The Whole Village.

Today was the Volunteers Morning Tea at Point England School. I had been invited to this a few weeks ago and I was told that it was fairly big. What I didn't realise until today was just how big. I've always thought of that saying "It takes a village to raise a child" to be something quite foreign. I mean, we don't really have villages in New Zealand right?

So I'm there looking around the room and more chairs had to be put out. There were that many people. People who helped with one on one reading. People who organised the walking school buses. People who did a bit of work around the school. People who supervised on school trips / camps etc.

Considering that I was the only one there from the volunteers (and commercial partners) from the Manaiakalani project, you also have to take into account the people working in the background.

But those people weren't invited - the only people invited I'm guessing where those who had actually been at the school during school hours. What's astounding about that is the fact that I was told only about half of those who were invited were able to come today. More chairs, still people standing around, only half of those invited there, and loads of people not invited.

That's not a village - that's a friggin' town.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sulky Monday

I find myself sulking today. It's a Monday. Monday's are a good day to have a bit of a sulk.

I live with my parents (shock horror! 31 and still living with my parents!). This is for fairly good reason. I will normally put it down to not having an income or might say something along the lines of "I choose to live with them after dad had a heart attack". The truth is, it's for a much more selfish reason.

I'm so likely to hide myself from the world at large, only emerging to work, that I just need to be living with someone. And I hate flatting. Trying to get along with people who you're counting on to clean the bathroom. When I was flatting, I'd find myself being "Mom". I would cook and clean and pick up after people. Soon I found myself rebelling against it and instead would spend most nights out. So, my parents, and more specifically, my mother are good for my mental health. As galling as they may be to admit.

The point is, Mum's in India at the moment and just extended her trip for another 3 weeks.

Oh course, that's not enough to make me sulk. There's also the AuckLUG barbeque. My last act as the events coordinator for AuckLUG. The world didn't end with a bang, but with a whimper. A touch melodramatic I know. I turned up to the barbeque, had a look around and then found a grassy knoll to sit on and read my book. I was about quarter of an hour bit late myself.

[Dramatic pause]

About half an hour later, someone did turn up. We decided it was a good idea to take our meat to Tangleball to get burnt. Apparently someone else showed up about 20 minutes later. 3 people. I was feeling a tad humiliated by the time I got to Tangleball.

Still, the Tangleball (grand?) opening was brilliant. Loads of people. A lot of comments about what a great location it's gotten and how this is exactly what Auckland needs. The fruits of a conversation which happened almost exactly a year ago. While I'm not involved anymore, I hope them the best for the future.

I have been a little argumentative on the mailing list admittedly. The reason being is money. Tangleball needs paying members. No two ways about it.

There's the possibility that they could "rent" out the space to other groups. So without context (I have no idea how long this group wants to use this space for example), there have been figures flying around which I have considered excessive and so have been objecting to those figures. And the reasoning that has come back hasn't enlightened me any. Things like "it's just so that we can get started" etc.

I think from a nerds perspective, we're taught quite early on that "it matters to us more than it matters to others". In other words, if I were to talk about the coolness of some standard for transmitting data, the glazing of the eyes would start almost immediately.

So if you're hiring out a venue for an event, VERY few people would inquire about the venue's operating costs. That's their concern, not yours. What's of interest is the cost to you.

Of course, given that I don't really have the context, I'm not entirely sure if those prices are reasonable or not. For example, if they're hiring the venue for say... 4 hours or more, those prices are probably on par.

So anyone from the Tangleball mailing list who might be reading this, I apologise for my aggressive tone.

So back to sulking. None of those things are enough to make me sulk. Not a day later. And if I had given the main reason, this probably would have been a REALLY short post. The reason? Woman.

It's nothing they've done. It's more about me and how I feel about things and how I deal (or don't deal) with things.

I'm just not equipped with those particular skills. "Fight Club" talked about generations of men being raised by woman. "The Game" (By Neil Strauss) talked about how our fathers didn't teach us those skills needed by men. A friend of mine only recently give me a few hints on shaving - he had the same issues as me with razor rash. So being an awkward teen, growing up as a geek/nerd/horribly insecure unpopular kid, and the fact that my father didn't show me how to shave properly, let alone anything else, it's fairly easy to understand why I would feel so out of my depth.

As a result, I've become desperately happily single. That is, I am so desperate about being happy about being single that I seem to make sure I sabotage myself. I'm quite happy to "harmlessly flirt" with people. If it goes much beyond that, the defenses go up. While this isn't always a bad thing (when the defenses are necessary for example), there are those odd times where I find myself quietly cursing myself. Definitely enough reason for a sulk.

So, for today at least, I'm in a sulk. It's a good day for a sulk.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Missing Post

I've just removed my last post. The reason being is that instead of it answering a bunch of questions, it seems to have created more questions. Awkward questions. Questions that even my closest and dearest have the good sense not to ask and those I've shared the answers with didn't ask. Chances are, if they know me fairly well, they know, or have a good sense of, the answers to those questions without my telling them.

The problem is this: I'm tired. I'm really horribly tired. I took the day off yesterday and slept the day away. I then got up, got irritated at something that I felt undermined some of my efforts on AuckLUG and reacted badly. It did lead to something positive - I've been thinking about abdicating my position as the event co-ordinator for AuckLUG for awhile and this has finally given me the push that I needed.

While for the most part I've enjoyed the position, there have been problems. I never know how many people to expect for certain events which has made things where we're looking for sponsorship next to impossible. The one that stands out in my mind is Software Freedom Day where it almost came down to passing a hat around the organisers - so those few people who had put in loads of time, effort and energy, for a great mass of people, might have had to put up some money. I don't see that situation as fair and it was brought about because people didn't want to sign up to say they were attending.

And then came the rather awkward attempt of flirting by someone. I've always thought that flirting should be something that either invokes a feeling or is clever enough that you find yourself continuing it (a clever analogy or play on words). It's a shared joke. A way of telling someone that you're interested in them and if they share it, then perhaps there's the making of a relationship of some form. And the flirting in question didn't have any of these qualities. So given that I'm tired and contemplative I picked it apart, couldn't quite understand it given that it didn't meet the criteria and just gave a blank faced stare while saying "I don't understand". The response "oh it's just a joke" got my back up. I have a sense of humour. I'm pretty sure I do. Sure, I'm tired and it's not working quite the way that it should at the moment, but even after a bit of thought, it still wasn't funny. Jokes should be funny right?

A really prudent question though is, should I be made to feel like I'm odd because the flirtation was clumsy at best?

Which lead me to write a long winded post about the possibility that I may suffer some symptoms of aspergers syndrome. So the missing post was about how I don't understand a lot of what goes on around me and how a lot of the social interactions I have with people can at times feel scripted and how getting close to people and knowing my position in amongst them can be difficult.

This lead to an email this morning which I'm quite happy to ignore . The email has sent me into a spin. I don't want to answer the questions in there when all I was trying to do was to try and answer a few questions. I'm feeling a little harassed by it.

So I know I'm tired. Chances are, this wouldn't bother me quite so much if I had full use of my facilities. I probably wouldn't feel quite so harassed and would probably have a way to deal with it. For the time being though, I am feeling harassed, I don't have a ready way to deal with it and so I'm going to avoid the blog for a little while.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Motivation

I actually wrote this post a couple of nights ago and wasn't entirely happy that I had captured all that I wanted to say so I withdrew it. Then I found out that some people had already read it due to rss feeds. I got asked tonight "Why did you take down the bathroom post?". To those who have already read it, I haven't changed anything except for the last paragraph. So here it is:



Yesterday I cleaned the bathroom. Yep, I'm announcing to the world that I scrubbed the tub and toilet, cleaned up the vanity and gave the floor a quick mop. Rather than an indication of just how exciting my life really is, this is really just the start of a post on how I get myself to do it.

I hate it. The bathroom. It's there. We spend a good deal of time in there and every week, it needs to be done again. Talk about a snorefest. Cleaning the bathroom just feels like one of those really ultimately futile activities that we seem to be destined to do for the rest of our lives (unless of course we pay someone else to do it or someone else in the house can take care of it).

So I find myself trying to fnd ways of making it less of chore and more of an occasion. It's a chance to completely metro-sexual it up. If you're cleaning a bathroom, is anyone going to see you with a mud mask on? And what about those really messy activities such as cutting your hair? (Yes. I cut my own hair). I can do that, then do the bathroom and it's a little less of a chore.

Basically, I find some sort of way of giving myself a reward for cleaning the bathroom.

What does this have to do with anything you ask? (I said to a friend that this blog was really just me talking to myself and occasionally, if I'm lucky, some of the strange names on the monitor comment - so if I'm asking questions on your behalf, it's because you're currently just a name on the screen). Here I am, involved with the Manaiakalani project. And OLPC. And AuckLUG and any other groups I happen to be involved with (can't forget Tangleball and the New Zealand Open Source Socety, and some activity with the Labour party in the form of offering an opinion on Clare Curren's blog, NZLUG etc.). I think I offer them all something valuable. My opinion, my skills and time etc.

Of course, I don't get paid for it. Is this a reason for me to stop? For me at least, money is a lousy motivator. The worst thing anyone can say to me to try and motivate me is "Just think of the money". Really? Just how bad is it if all I'm to think about is the money?

In my Lotto post I had said something about how I would much rather winning money meant that I didn't have to think about money again. Build a structure around it which distributes any responsibility, looks after those I care about and leaves me the hell alone. I can't think of anything worse than a life thinking about, distributing and accumulating money. Surely there's more to it than little paper tokens of value.

And if you think about it, very few people actually want the money. Instead it's about what the money can do for them. Support their family and keep meals coming to the table, buy them those things that advertising tells us that we want (I really hate malls these days - it's just so... in your face), maintain a "healthy" drug habit (come on - most people have an addiction to caffeine) etc.

Sure, a bit of money would be nice though I have to wonder: If I'm suddenly getting paid for something, does that make my contribution to whatever effort a little less special? Do I actually lose something from getting paid?

So what makes a job good or bad? I would say it has VERY little to do with the money.

So what is the money really? When does it really matter? In terms of mental health - when you don't have enough of it to do the things that are necessary (paying power bills, telephone bills, putting food on the table etc.) but more importantly, during your pay rise(s).

Why is money important then? Because pay rises are little more than an indication of appreciation. We get some indication of whether our employers value our contribution.

Of course, if there is no budget for pay rises, then that appreciation needs to come from elsewhere - and probably should regardless of the pay rise.

While I was at New Zealand Couriers, at times the phone queue would average around 80 - that's 80 calls on hold ("We value your call"). I was working through my breaks and trying to do two jobs at once to try and ease the pressure off everyone. And everyone was stressed. Majorly stressed. Odd to think that after being on hold for so long, customers would be just a tad grumpy.

We'd have these team meetings and it would end. We'd get talked at. "Here's what you need to know" sort of stuff. It annoyed me. Not because it took us away from the phones (that bit was good) but because despite the stress everyone was going through, no one thanked them for their work and keeping their cool during the difficult periods.

Sure, there was the occasional token of appreciation. They'd bring in savories. Carefully doled out so that you got a mini mince pie, half a sausage roll and a mini samosa. While they were doling these things out, you weren't allowed in the kitchen (meaning no coffee). This happened twice while I was there.

Add to that the fact that pay rises were pitiful (really only just meeting inflation) and you had some really disgruntled staff.

Soon the news paper was banned from the building as everyone spent their breaks looking for jobs. No one wanted to work there.

So now to a far off little fantasy world: What if they had, put on a bit of a lunch in for the staff rather than doling out a meal made for dolls? And actually thanked people? (This was another of those things that I got in a little bit of trouble for - at those meetings, I started thanking everyone for their hard work - it really wasn't my place. I was their peer, not their boss).

And really, aren't we really talking about love here? I mean, in a more abstract sort of way. We seem to spend a great deal of time seeking out validation, acknowledgement, appreciation etc. And it's really just the same thing. We seek those same things in work. Don't we? And really, if you love what you do, aren't you more likely to deliver a better result for your employer and, best of all, you'll be happier?

I guess, what I'm really saying is, although I wrote what was an analogy between my relationship to Manaiakalani and love, is it really that far from the truth? Or more importantly, would you settle yourself into a relationship that was based purely on money? Is a job all that different from a relationship?



In terms of the great "Scavenger hunt" for my real name, the third letter is a super model. If you haven't got the previous two... whoops.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Eating my hat (or selling my soul)

I thought I should probably do my last post of the month on me eating my hat. My attitude to social media has had to change just slightly. With the addition of another follower (Welcome room 6 of St Pius School - that's like... 30 odd followers right?) and the anticipation I hold whenever checking my blog, I've had to admit that this is actually not too bad a way of communicating.

Don't get me wrong. When I asked someone if they had checked out the blog last week, she replied with "No, I thought I'd have a conversation with you instead", it all came rushing back to me. Why I had resisted doing this sort of thing for so long? When I told a friend about what she'd said he asked me "is she cute?".

There is a story behind this. We were having a drink one day with a girl that we both quite liked and we were laughingly scoring her (She gets our sense of humour and has made us suffer since). She got a phone call on her cell phone, said to the person "I'm at the pub with some friends. I'll talk to you later". That was it. The both of us looked at each other. There was no more scoring to be done. He married her (lucky sod).

The problem I had with it is that it seems so much more meaningful to send the people I wanted to keep in contact with an email. Something individualised. So I'm not really broadcasting something. Rather, I'm expending time and effort to communicate with people rather than expecting them to come and keep up to date with me.

I still maintain. There's nothing social about sitting behind a keyboard typing away.

The thing is, I'm actually meeting people via this blog. That big mass of people in the staff room who, given my tendency towards shyness, I wouldn't have spoken to otherwise have suddenly gotten some idea of my personality, sense of humour and above all else, just how incredibly clever and awesome I really am ;p I'm even considering getting in contact with Room 6 at St Pius just so that I can meet them rather than them being an abstract concept on my monitor.

It hasn't all been roses. I got threatened in the staff room - "You're not leaving here without telling us your real name." It's really not that big a deal. I said perhaps I should do something like leave clues on finding the name - something along the lines of a scavenger hunt for the letters in no particular order so they'd still have to shuffle bits of paper around to figure it out. Or I could do something a little more subtle. Purposefully put a typo in each of my posts on this blog which involved the letters.

I've got a friend in Hong Kong. She trained as an engineer, graduated and got a job for a firm in New Zealand who do international contracts. I bumped into her one day - I didn't even know she was back in the country. It turns out she'd sent out an invite for a few drinks at her parent's place on Facebook. Given that I have a big aversion to anything Facebook, there was no way I would have known to go over so it was just plain luck that I bumped into her. So I still hate Facebook for removing the thought of me from people's minds. Had it been an email, I might have had a shot at finding out about it (without the random chance element).

So I guess this post is kind of for her (Hi Bird - I won't publish your name without permission). Though I haven't changed my position on the likes of facebook, I am now finding myself relying on social media to keep everyone up to date of what I'm doing. I'm broadcasting in that way that I consider fairly... anti-social. Except that I have found a reason (or excuse?) to do so.

Given that this is my last post of the month (I've given myself an arbitrary limit of 16 posts a month because otherwise I would be doing nothing but writing more posts), I thought I'd go through some of my ideas for next month.

I wrote a couple of short stories a long long long time ago. Before any of my friends were married. So I thought I'd finally publish them - on the blog.

I've taken the day off from school today to do some work on what I'm terming a 2nd pilot. Taking those things that I've learnt in the last 2 weeks and applying them to a new build for Manaiakalani. This probably means that come Sunday night, I'm going to be frantically building a new image and testing what I'm terming the "Keys to the Castle" - because we don't have admin rights to the student's machines, we need some way of resetting passwords as well as things like reimaging. So there will probably be a few more posts on that - how it's going, the changes to configuration and how those decisions were made etc. The "Keys to the Castle" will also be instrumental to the virtual machine images I've got to nut out.

As part of the Manaiakalani project, I've started to put together another website on Google sites. I don't recommend this as it's a little annoying. Rather than being able to define bits of the text as "heading 1, heading 2, paragraph etc.", it only has font controls (so take that font, make it a little bigger and bold) which I'm hating in a big way. I suppose I could do it via HTML but that kind of defeats the purpose of the interface that Google provides. Anyway, the new site can be found here. Basically it's a support page for the whole project. So where teachers might find some interesting resources for implementing netbooks in the classroom, what problems I know about, what I'm doing about those problems, what the technicians need to know etc. So I'll do a post about that once I've had a bit of time to throw up some content. I have come to realise that it's pointless my trying to teach the kids anything - instead, I'm better off giving a little guidance on how they can find the information to learn something themselves.

And hopefully I'll come up with more posts that leave me feeling self-satisfied. A sprinkling of cleverness here, a bit of wit there, and Bob should be my sister's mother's husband's brother.