Monday, 29 October 2007

Oh but reader, heal thyself
Put the book back on the shelf

By the time the bus drops me off on the way home this evening, I will have closed the cover on the third and final installment of Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver trilogy. The cycle has taken me a number of years to complete, which I will put down to its considerable length (approaching 3000 pages, I would guess), and a few intervening activities generally incompatible with reading novels, most significantly the writing of a thesis.

I have enjoyed the series tremendously. I struggle to summarise it to people when they ask me what I'm reading. Its certainly an adventure story, with much buckling of swash to be found in exotic locations. Its also well and truly historical fiction, covering important periods of history in Europe, and movements such as the standardisation of currency and its trade, the development of organised science and engineering which eventually lead to the industrial revolution, and the slave trade from a European perspective. Although the setting is different, this mix is very much similar to the one he used in his previous book Cryptonomicon; indeed, he reuses character names (and associated archetypes) from that book, quite considerably.

The scope of the whole thing is quite improbable, and although Stephenson won't win any prizes for being prosaic, he tells a very good yarn, and has obviously done his research well and has a genuine affection for his subject matter.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


I've had a steady stream of weddings over the last 7 or 8 years. Emma & Andy, Cav & Layla, Afe & Trish, Dan & Afro, Jesse & Alison, Jacques & Sophie, Sandy & Neil, and Manu & Erwan (the latter two being celebrations of marriage but not weddings in the strictest sense). This past Saturday, that company was joined by Dave & Maria-Luisa.

I really enjoy the whole spectacle of it: the getting dressed up, the making speeches, the gathering of friends & family, and the excuse to consume food and drink in high quanities and quality.

Having said that, one thing that Lach mentioned to me this week is that weddings are a poor way of meeting new people. Statistically speaking, this shouldn't have been the case on Saturday, as Maria's side featured no-one I knew, and outnumbered Dave's side by probably 2 to 1. Despite that, Lachlan's law prevailed and I really didn't meet many new people, instead spending most of my time talking to people I already knew.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Heinlein and libertarianism

How strange. John, who spends a lot of time pushing libertarianism, mentioned reading Heinlein a few days ago. Then, today, Kerry mentions Heinlein while expressing her skepticism about libertarianism. Small world!

I've only read a little Heinlein - Stranger in a strange land, and possibly Starship Troopers, although I'm not quite sure - and it was at a time when I wasn't really thinking about politics much.

Monday, 15 October 2007

election announced

The federal election was announced yesterday for the 24th of November. I followed the previous election reasonably closely, albeit from a great distance, and suspect I'll also be very interested throughout this one.

Some of my closest involvement has been through John and the party he has started, the Liberty and Democracy Party (LDP). They were previously known as the Liberal Democratic Party, but the AEC (effectively, as I understand it) ruled that the Liberal party had a monopoly on the term 'liberal', which is both ironic and wrong.

John has cast around at a couple of social gatherings recently for warm bodies to run in House races for the LDP, including asking me. I was pretty tempted, and haven't totally ruled out signing up for a run in Ryan, but I think I'm probably more interested in discussing policy than in a Quixotic candidature. I'm also not sure to what extent running lots of "token" candidates(with all due respect to those I know who are running) is a good idea for the LDP; they're up for $500 registration per candidate, with little likelihood in most cases of gathering enough votes to be reimbursed.

I have strange discussions with John about politics. I agree with most of the philosophies and principles of the LDP, but have trouble with some of their policies, in terms of where they have chosen to apply their principles (e.g. shooters' rights, smokers' rights) and the practicality of doing so (particularly regarding privatisation and deregulation). It certainly makes for interesting discussions, though.

I'd encourage anyone who is remotely interested in politics to seek out others who are or might be, and to engage them in discussions about what you think is important for this election. If you have been unimpressed by something your government or your representative has said or done, one of the reasons that happens is because people don't engage enough in the political process.

Monday, 8 October 2007

RWC07 - hardly knew ya

I hadn't gotten into the rugby world cup at all - no TV, and shocking timing with the bulk of it taking place during the much more important AFL finals.

At the urging of a french friend, I followed the online commentary of the Wallabies' loss to England, and it sounded to me like dour English "don't score a try at all costs" rugby defeating a Wallabies side that couldn't kick a penalty into the ocean if they were standing on the shore. Still, I don' t really feel any personal loss, as I was never invested.

No doubt my French friends are happy that they're through to a semi-finals devoid of the top 2 teams in world rugby. I didn't see the game, but looking at this, its hard to understand why more kiwis, in particular, aren't pointing out that the French will be there pretty much on false pretenses. I'm an AFL fan, so I like a forward pass as much as the next man, but that's a disgraceful no-call.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

a bit of lip

I just pulled out my trumpet for a practice (that's not a metaphor, if you can believe it) for the first time in God knows how long. The usual debacle ensued, of remembering fairly quickly the keys, and being surprised at not having lost an awful lot of range (though range was never my strong point) until about 10 minutes in. I then decide to try a song and see that range completely disintegrate until after 20 minutes I'm doing long note warm-downs and conking out at a ridiculously low note.

get rent

Researchers once again prove common sense. Yes, young people prefer to live near stuff. Yes, renters hate the idea of a tight rental market run by bastard agents. Surprise, surprise.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007


Busy weekend.

Friday night was Julz' birthday, and a bunch of us hit the Bowery for cocktails, then wound up back at Abingdon playing a dancemat game around 3am.

Saturday was grand final day, and a bunch of us made a blokey afternoon of it around at Neil's place.

Following that, I popped over to Mick'n'Paul's place for dinner and a screening of Oldboy. I gave Julz her birthday present, a Neon Genesis Evangelion model (possibly this one), which we then spent a few hours assembling into the early hours. We also had a visit from some guy wearing a headband and obviously either crazy or crazy high, who hung around talking to himself and playing with Mick's car until we called the police, against the possibility that he'd do either himself or Mick's car some harm.

Finally, on Sunday, Mum and Dad came down with a set of drawers and a set of shelves. We also went for a look at sofabeds - didn't buy one, but not far away now.