Moments of Permanence

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The trouble only comes if you start it Aug. 15th, 2014 @ 01:07 pm
"... the increasingly heavy-handed tactics of the St Louis County Police culminated in mobile sniper nests training their sights on locals in the streets, and the use of gas masks, rubber bullets and wooden pellets on crowds and the media."

If riots haven't started yet, that will start them.

But then...

But after the Missouri Highway Patrol, led by black police captain Ron Johnson, took over security on Thursday, the demonstrations took a different turn.

"We are going to have a different approach," Mr Johnson said at a news conference, adding that he would go to "ground zero" - the area where Mr Brown was killed and also where the convenience store was burned down.

The resulting scenes stunned onlookers and protesters, as officers hugged residents and walked with them on a largely peaceful march and rally.

Local St Louis reporter Matt Sczesny tweeted that the atmosphere was "almost festive" as police mingled with protesters.


I'm not sure "festive" is an appropriate word choice, but I'm not there, so.

Nonetheless, Captain Johnson demonstrates some key points about dealing with an upset population - don't treat them like the enemy, and they won't behave like an enemy.

Source.


So that was fun Jul. 21st, 2014 @ 10:31 am
[personal profile] velithya and I both got sick the day after we came home from Kalbarri.

It could have been worse: It could have been the day before, or we could have both come down with it on the Tuesday, and been nastily sick on Wednesday, the day we had to drive 600km to get home.

As it was, we didn't, and so we came home via Hutt River Province and the Pinnacles in a non-sick fashion. I was still quite exhausted, mind you, because on Tuesday we walked to Nature's Window and back. It's only about a half-kilometre walk each way, but some of it is quite steep paths, and some of it, well.

This is a picture of part of the last section of the trail:



If you look at that jumbled pile of rock and want to know where the trail is, no, that is the trail. There is a certain amount of clambering up and down the rocks involved. There are a couple of places where you can avoid a little bit of climbing if you go along the edge of the cliff, but... that is the trail you have.

And just to show off the ugly-beautiful majesty of the western coastline, a shot from our stop at Pot Alley, outside Kalbarri:



Things Adults Should Know: Committee-Structured Organisations and How To Manage Them Properly Jul. 8th, 2014 @ 12:03 pm
Among the useful things I learned at university that, apparently, many people did not is how to operate a committee-run organisation.

Like, for example, a convention with a convention committee and suchlike things.

Since certain convention groups that are old enough that they should know far better apparently don't, I'm going to lay out some of the requisite principles, and maybe some of this information will make its way to people who need it.

1) Committee Procedures Matter.

Everyone hates the guy who keeps nitpicking about Proper Committee Procedure, and you can definitely take it way, way too far.

However, committee rules have developed because without rules and procedures, a committee is better known as "an argument" or as "sheer bloody chaos".

As such, your organisation should have a constitution which lays out all of the ground rules on which the organisation operates, laying out procedures for the election and/or selection of officers and committee members, terms of office, and means whereby officers derelict in their duties can be removed, etc, as well as a general framework for committee meetings, including defining what constitutes quorum for committee and general meetings and the required frequency with which committee and general meetings must occur.

Someone should take minutes at every meeting, noting the general thrust of everyone's arguments during any discussion, recording in precise detail *every* decision taken, and also recording whose responsibility it is to undertake any actions decided upon.

(And that should always be there. If the committee decides that something should be done, it must also decide who is going to do it, or else it probably won't happen. e.g. "Committee authorised purchase of stamps. Action: James T." Whereupon the trip to the post office is James T.'s responsibility to undertake.)

2) Just because you're not getting paid for this doesn't mean you can be unprofessional.

If you have signed on to a committee, you have accepted responsibility. Take it seriously and do it properly.

3) Responsibility Has A Paper Trail

This is, in many ways, the biggest one. It's a major part of why meetings should always be minuted, but it goes a long, long way beyond that.

You are not going to be there forever, so it doesn't matter if you have an absolutely flawless memory, everything has to be written down so that future committees can get the information if they need it. Collate it neatly, file it sensibly, and keep records of what you did and how you did it and who you did it with and where your money came from and where your money went.

If it should happen, somehow, that one year there's a committee turnover so thorough that nobody on the committee has ever been on it before, they should be able to work out how to run your organisation and how to run its events by looking carefully through the records.

And then we get to the big one...

4) Safety and Event Management: It's Okay To Make Mistakes ONCE

So, you have an event to run. You've set everything up and tried to cover all the bases, but you know there's still a risk of health and safety problems.

Which means, obviously, you have a Safety Officer or several - enough that there is at least one, on-site and easily located, at all times.

So far so good.

But any safety or health issue that crops up is one that, ideally, you never want to have crop up again, so here's how it goes:

- Every issue that has required the intervention of the Safety Officer should be noted in the Safety Log. This doesn't have to be a super-formal document. The Safety Log functions very well if, for example, it consists of a notebook and a pen. But everything should be in it.

11:35am: - boxes being brought in were left blocking stairwell. Cleared to side-room.

1:20pm: water spill outside con suite.

3:50pm: trash dropped adjacent to trash can instead of in.


This includes any incidents of harassment, obviously, and you should have all sorts of procedures defined in advance for how to deal with that, although altogether that stuff is a different post.

But the Safety Log does not cease to be relevant at the conclusion of the event.

After the event, at the next committee meeting, the Safety Officer should go through the log with the committee, informing them of every single event. The committee can then discuss what needs new procedures at the next event to prevent recurrence, whether anything could have been handled better, and have a general sense of what went wrong and right with the plans that were in place.

Anything which will be relevant to future events can then be summarised neatly in a reference document that will be kept for the use of future committees. There should be a collection of documents that are passed on as part of committee turnover that have records of everything important.

There should never, ever be a situation where something bad has happened, and gets to happen again because the previous committee knew all about it but the new committee didn't. Ever.

Thoughts on this WisCon Thing part one: the failure of mindset on the topic of innocence Jul. 1st, 2014 @ 10:56 am
I have been thinking a lot about the problem that seems to exist with large-scale organisations that attempt to be feministy and progressive but nonetheless fail emphatically at dealing with things like allegations of sexual harassment.

I've been discussing it a lot with a particular male friend, because he's an exceptionally good sounding-board when I'm considering ideas that involve being kind of down on men, generally, because he's not okay with that. He's the sort of guy who's totally opposed to men getting away with sexual harassment, but still points out that it's offensive for me to refer to men who harass women as "improperly house-trained", because of the implication that men, generally, are equivalent to dogs.

So here's the first of a few conclusions I hope to collate at some point into a coherent article: the Myth of Innocent Until Proven Guilty.

See, that's the optimistic interpretation to put on a failure to bar a man accused of sexual harassment from the con thereafter: that if there isn't rock-solid proof that he's guilty, it would be unfair to ban him and so forth.

But where this goes wrong is: as soon as an allegation of harassment has been made, someone is guilty of something. Either the alleged perpetrator is guilty of harassment, or the alleged victim is guilty of lying about it. Best case scenario, there's been a hideous miscommunication, but that is still a significant problem.

If you go with, well, we can't punish the man, then you are, in effect, punishing the woman. This is how society, overall, currently operates because Patriarchy. If you are trying to be feminist, and to counterbalance all that massive weight of privilege, you have to operate the other way.

Which is where my discussions with my male friend come into this, because so far, he and I are more-or-less agreed, but he suggested a more nuanced way to resolve this than I had initially been thinking.

See, as a man, he considered, if he was genuinely innocent of sexual harassment but had in some other way annoyed a woman, and that vindictive bitch had falsely accused him of sexual harassment, and for lack of other evidence everyone assumed he was guilty, he would be offended and angry, downright livid in fact.

On the other hand, if the same situation occurred, and the committee informed him that the accusation had been made, but there was no evidence or witnesses and basically it came down to he said/she said, so they were not concluding that he was guilty, because there was no way to know, really, but as a matter of policy for maintaining the safety of women at the convention, they would nonetheless be required to apply the consequences relevant to his alleged offence... he'd be upset, but he'd understand that.

We're not talking criminal prosecution, here. And an investigation, run promptly and carefully, can take into account character witnesses and general behaviour. If a woman has claimed sexual harassment from multiple men, and those men's friends and acquaintances were all in accordance that he would totally never do that, and there was never any proof, well, you start taking less account of that woman's reports. If a man is accused and other people who've met him agree that he's really kinda skeevy, yeah, you go with he totally did that, or at least that he's in dire need of social lessons in "how not to seem like a creep".

If you're pretty convinced his intentions were innocent, then you can have middle-ground consequences, like yeah, he can attend the con, but he's not allowed to volunteer/work at it and he's not allowed in any but the most public, heavily-populated areas without a designated chaperone.

But you have to accept that there is no real option for the assumption of innocence, because someone is guilty. And if you want somewhere to be a safe space for women, then you have to give women the assumption of innocence, and therefore the assumption that they are not liars.
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Jun. 21st, 2014 @ 12:58 pm
Just had a chat with one of our new neighbours next door. They really seem quite lovely, and I'm going to find it much easier not to hate them now that they're done with the destruction phase of their renovations.

Got past the biggest hurdle of meeting new people - explaining the whole, no, I don't work right now, because I'm mentally ill, are you going to judge me now? thing. The reaction I got was sympathy, but not judginess, which is something of a relief.

mid-June resolution Jun. 15th, 2014 @ 03:21 pm
I will not murder the new neighbours just for spending six hours drilling into the walls of the building (the same building I live in, it's a townhouse)

nor will I firebomb their house, even though they're not living in it yet

because then they'd start over with their bloody, bloody renovations

All the previous drilling, it turns out, is because the bath tub was concreted in, and they were removing that, and all the tiles, and also the floor tiles all over.

Today they're removing a couple of walls.

They're also going to be moving the location of their front door, apparently.

And installing timber floors throughout the house.

And putting in an entirely new kitchen. (And bathroom, presumably.)

I'm sure it's going to be very nice and the policemen will be very admiring when they come to do forensics when I MURDER THEM and they seem like charming people, just.

Drilling. All the drilling. It vibrates the whole building.

On the bright side, my bedroom is one of the very few rooms in our house that doesn't actually share a wall with theirs, so if they have an attack of stupid and break through the wrong wall, *my* room will be okay.

On another note Jun. 13th, 2014 @ 07:11 pm
I saw someone today register objection to the word "moron" as ableist language.

I... no. No no no.

Terms like "idiot", "moron", and "cretin" were, it's true, once used to categorise people who were perceived as being mentally deficient. But there is no way anyone would use them that way now, because their meanings have shifted.

However, if you decry as offensive any term which has ever historically had an application which would now be offensive, but which now have distinctly different meanings and connotations, then we are going to be very short, very soon, of available words with which we can criticise anyone for anything, and certainly lack for any way to express shades or nuances of meaning thereby.

I consider Tony Abbott to be a moron. He has sufficient intellectual competence to function in society, more or less, and even to succeed in politics, somehow, despite his knack for insulting pretty much everyone ever and his negative charisma, but he's a moron. (You gave a surfboard as your official gift to President Barack Obama, Tony? Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama? You thunderous cretin. Go back to England, please, you're an embarrassment to Australia.)

I don't know many ways to say that he's a moron without using words from that category. "Fool" would have worked a couple of centuries ago, but it has different connotations now. Saying he's stupid doesn't really convey "possessed of reasonable native intelligence, grossly misapplied to the point of simulating a badly-written AI that would fail the Turing test within three sentences, tops".

And that last one is too long to exclaim in exasperation every time you hear that he did something idiotic, because he's Tony Abbott. It happens multiple times daily.
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Basketball player identification, cont. Jun. 13th, 2014 @ 06:57 pm
"Which one's Birdman?"
"The one you thought looked like a thug."
"... Well, he does."
"Apparently he's not actually a thug, he's just a bit different. I hear he's like a less weird Rodman."
"The thought of a more weird Rodman is kind of frightening."



"Hey, I know that guy - wait, no I don't. That guy looks like Snoop Dogg."
"That's Bosh."
"He really looks like Snoop Dogg."
"Yes, yes he does."

Congratulations, you have raised being terrible at your job to the level of performance art Jun. 12th, 2014 @ 01:03 pm
"David Cameron's spokesman said on Wednesday it was up to consumers whether they choose to eat prawns that had been produced through the work of slaves."

Okay. That's bad policy, but it's not the spokesman's fault.

However.

"He could not say whether Cameron himself would be happy to eat prawns where slavery had been used in their production."

Seriously?

There is a correct answer to that question if you are a spokesman, and that answer is: "No, of course not." (Especially if you are a spokesman for someone whose family made a fortune out of being compensated for forfeiture of slaves when slavery was abolished.) Even if you haven't asked him, even if you don't actually know, even if you think, privately, that David Cameron would consider the knowledge that slavery was in the supply chain of his seafood to add a delicious piquancy to the flavour, the answer you give the press immediately is no.
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Some people are terrible at arguing Jun. 9th, 2014 @ 09:04 am
So, there's this SeaWorld debate. And there was a roundtable discussion.

And in response to a question about whether captivity was unhealthy for orcas, the SeaWorld dude brought out a chart showing that orca longevity in captivity used to be super-terrible, but now it's about on par with survival in the wild.

Dude, you are making the opposite point to the one you want. That's, "Well, obviously it's been terrible, but we've finally caught up and now it's arguably not actively detrimental if you do it really, really well!!!"

Just... no. You are only making a case for animal captivity if they live significantly longer.

For example, circa 2009 at least, there was a female example of the extremely endangered Amur tiger (formerly known as the Siberian tiger, but there aren't any in Siberia any more) at the Highland Wildlife Park. Which kept seeming wrong to me, because for some reason I think of tigers as hot climate animals, but... no, Siberian, and the Highland Wildlife Park sort of seems to specialise in colder animals. They had recently acquired an elderly polar bear who'd been at Edinburgh Zoo, but in her old age had started to struggle with the overwhelming heat of Edinburgh, so had been moved to the Highlands because it's really quite cold there.

But they also had the tiger, and I had a long chat with the keeper, and one of the things about this tiger was that she was unlikely to survive in the wild. She'd had some health issues, and one of the consequences was that she needed to eat every day, where apparently wild tigers would usually eat every two or three days, and she'd be at risk of starving... especially since she had three cubs to rear.

She was a perfect candidate for captivity, therefore, because she was healthier there, and protected from threats like poachers. (And raising cubs! Which were adorable yet, clearly, also incredibly annoying sometimes. She was trying to eat, the cubs kept trying to get at her food, she had to roar at them as they tried all sorts of tricks, it was hilarious and cute and also kind of terrifying because a tiger's roar at close proximity sends RUN MONKEY RUN signals that hit straight to the hindbrain.)

However, had the argument for keeping her in captivity been: "Well, these days they live just about as long as they do in the wild!" that would not have been a good argument.

I should note: I'm not actually a huge fan of killer whales. They're only misnamed in the "whale" part, not the "killer" part, and they're sort of terrifying in some ways. That doesn't, however, mean that I approve of their imprisonment, torture, or early death.

I'm also not a particularly vociferous animal-rights advocate. I have no problem with people keeping domesticated animals as pets and I eat meat. But I am against animal cruelty, and that applies to animals that aren't cute. I don't find most fish cute, either, but I consider catch-and-release recreational fishing to be one of the most horrendous activities undertaken by humans for "sport", too.

Some thinky thoughts May. 28th, 2014 @ 12:01 pm
I may be a bit running late on particularly thoughtful commentary, but I still want to rant slightly on something that's annoyed me recently: to wit, people calling out Mark Cuban as a bigot for saying he'd cross the street to avoid a black youth in a hoodie or a white skinhead.

Primarily because: yes that's bigoted and that was his entire point. Essentially, it could be boiled down like this:

Mark Cuban: I think everyone has prejudices. I, for example, have these reactions in certain circumstances, which is totally bigoted of me, but what's important is what we say and do, not what we think.

Certain Sections Of The Media: YOU ARE A BIGOT YOU HAVE PREJUDICES

Me: What is wrong with you?

Because he actually made a very good and true point. You can't help your prejudices, at least not in the short term. But you *can* decide how you're going to act, and what you're going to say.

Having racist thoughts doesn't make you a bad person, doing racist things does.

I'm now going to talk about my parents in a way that they might not like, but this is an important thing to me.

My parents both grew up in South Africa. Obviously there was pervasive, thoroughly institutionalised racism in all sorts of areas and ways all around them. Neither of them liked it, enough that they decided they didn't want to raise their children in South Africa the way it was or was becoming, and in 1982 they left their homeland and their extended families to move to a foreign country they had never even seen, for the sake of a better life for me and my sister.

I am in awe of the courage of that decision, the sacrifice they made.

However, as I've grown older and watched *them* grow older too, I've become more and more aware of another, ongoing campaign they've been fighting against the influence of the Old South Africa, all my life and possibly all of theirs.

See, my parents are both firmly agreed that Racism Is Bad. But they hail from a society that was deeply, insidiously racist, and a certain amount of prejudice seeped into them nonetheless.

And from what I can tell, they've spent their whole lives fighting it, and fighting even more not to pass those attitudes to their children.

With an adult's perspective, I can recognise the way my parents have, in defiance of average behaviour, become more liberal as they get older, generally speaking. But I can also, thinking back, recall the times when my parents would freeze, just for a fraction of a second, and then be firmly positive in their totally-not-racist reaction to something.

The impression I'm left with is that sometimes my parents' instinctive reactions to things are racist, but my parents are better people than that, and have made the deliberate decision that those thoughts will not decide their actions.

And I admire that. I think it shows tremendous strength of character, I really do. Throughout my childhood I was taught that people of other races are sometimes different, but never lesser. That differences should be respected - you should pronounce people's names properly, even if they're foreign to you, that you should respect their customs when you are their guest, and try to make them feel comfortable when they are yours.

It was my mother, I'm fairly certain, who told me the story of the great society lady hosting a dinner in honour of a foreign ambassador - the kind of dinner where there are a dozen different forks, with "correct" cutlery for every course. When the soup was served, the ambassador, to the shock of many guests, picked up his bowl and drank from it directly, rather than using the soup spoon, tipping it only away from him, and slurping decorously.

Whereupon the hostess, with utmost poise, lifted her own soup bowl and drank from it, then continued her conversation as if nothing was amiss. Some guests followed suit, others did not, but the ambassador was not embarrassed by his error at all.

I have, on occasion, become the instant favourite of friends' foreign relatives simply because, when introduced to them, I listen closely to their names and make sure I'm pronouncing them correctly. To me, this is the most basic of politeness, because if you're casually mispronouncing their name, how are you doing anything but casually disregarding everything about them that doesn't fit your own cultural preconceptions?

... post locked because it's very rambly and off-the-cuff trying to think through things.
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Today is about 700 papercuts of aggravation May. 25th, 2014 @ 05:08 pm
So, the road outside our house is being resurfaced today and tomorrow. I woke up at 7 (having got to bed late and slept badly) to the shrill beeping of a reversing truck outside my window, and since then it's been grinding and jackhammers and the very ground vibrating and steamrollers and all of that is like fingernails on the blackboard of my soul, only it's combined with this *other* annoying thing, in that when I woke up this morning I got the hiccups, and somehow managed to hiccup with my torso twisted completely wrong and I have pulled one of the connecting muscles on my ribcage.

So every time I breathe, it hurts, and sometimes I breathe wrong and the pain spikes and my breath catches and I have to rearrange and very very carefully consciously manage the next breath, and when I breathe consciously it tends to take me ages to be able to go back to breathing automatically, which is also very annoying.

I have a tension headache. It arrived early.

RARGH

Death doesn't happen to you. Death happens to the people who love you. May. 23rd, 2014 @ 11:02 am
Once upon a time, I had a nightmare.

It was a very vivid nightmare, too. It felt as real as waking reality does, and it hurt.

The premise was simple. I dreamed I had killed myself. I dreamed my death, but that wasn't the bad part. The bad part was that I didn't end because my life did, and amid the drifting peace of the afterlife I saw the pain I'd caused.

My mother sobbing in the arms of my father, whose face was twisted with grief as tears tracked down his cheeks. My closest friends crying, falling apart, all of them wracked with loss and guilt, all blaming themselves for something I knew was entirely my own fault.

I watched people hurt, people I love, and I knew I caused it. Knew I could have prevented it, knew it didn't have to be that way, but that it was too late now to prevent it. I saw that I had left wounds that wouldn't heal, but I couldn't go back and fix it...

... but then I woke up. I woke up crying, at first with the indescribable pain of it, and then with relief because it hadn't happened after all, and I still had the chance before me not to make that choice.

If there is anything of truth in the doctrine that suicides are condemned to Hell, I think that that is it. I can imagine no torture more painful. Physical pain is nothing, not really. I broke my leg in three places once, and it very definitely hurt, but it didn't hurt nearly as deeply. Remembering my broken leg doesn't hurt. Remembering this dream does.

Sometimes I wish everyone had had a dream just like it.

In which love is expressed through trolling May. 23rd, 2014 @ 08:52 am
Scenario: [personal profile] velithya and I are talking and having hugs, late in the evening. [personal profile] velithya has just been talking about how much work she has to do for upcoming assessments in her course, and is a bit stressed about it.

She concludes by thanking me for things I have been doing to help and try to keep her from needing to worry about other things.

[personal profile] velithya: So thank you. You could make my life so much more difficult if you wanted to.

[personal profile] sami: Aww. *snuggles close* I would never intentionally make your life more difficult. *pause* Unless it was really funny.

[personal profile] velithya: *bursts out laughing*

More on basketball: why I have a favourite NBA team and it's from a town I don't care about at all May. 20th, 2014 @ 11:11 am
So my housemate is into basketball, and somewhat follows the NBA. I vaguely follow his following it, and I have something of a favourite team at the moment.

It's the San Antonio Spurs, and when my housemate was catching me up on which teams he was following when he was inviting me to watch some playoff games with him (me not having watched any basketball since the last playoffs), he reminded me which team it was by reminding me it was the team with Sad Puppy.

Sad Puppy is awesome.

You have to understand, I'm not actually great with names to begin with, and I hadn't paid attention to basketball in a year, and the players move around too much to be able to read their shirts very well. So I generally have nicknames for most of the players based on what I remember about their appearance and/or behaviour.

Sad Puppy is actually named Tim Duncan, but even though I know that now I still sometimes call him Sad Puppy, because the thing that caught my attention and recollection about him is that he is always making these utterly tragic expressions.

I know he's just concentrating and serious, but seriously, he makes such tragic faces and I just always want to go and give him a hug. It's okay, Sad Puppy! You're really good at this! Don't be so sad, Sad Puppy!

The Spurs also have a number of other good and awesome players, of course. But secretly I probably wouldn't love them if not for Sad Puppy.

(Although the Spurs also, recently, let me vent my own residual national resentment. A player from the other team had been leaning hard into Genobili, who turned that into a foul that became a tech foul when the coach got enraged by it, iirc, by way of Genobili falling over. Basically, he took a dive. To which, of course, I said: "Well, of course he dived. He's Italian." Because I'm possibly not going to be over that until Fabio Grosso is stripped of citizenship, or something, even though I actually really like Genobili.)

If everybody looked the same we'd get tired of looking at each other May. 13th, 2014 @ 10:07 pm
So, in my ongoing, yet intermittent, effort to improve my sketching skills, I'm currently working on a pencil portrait of RuPaul.

Who is African-American.

This, of course, means now I'm having to relearn noses entirely, and I am mad at the entirety of humanity right now because noses are hard and I resent this.

Noses are pretty much the hardest feature on a face to draw as it is, because there's almost no real *lines* to them, and yet if you don't get them right it throws the whole face out, so it's just this subtle shading thing that's tricky and usually takes me a million years to get right.

And then you draw a person of a different race, and it's a whole new thing in a way that other features just don't... feature.

See, eyes aren't such a big deal. Shape variations are nothing because eyes have defined lines - the borders between whites and irises and eyelids are all very clear. Mouths are tricky to get really right, but individual mouth differences don't make much difference on most people, because it's a rare person who doesn't have definition in the distinction between face generally and lips.

But noses. They're just... bumps. There's only definition around the nostrils and the... I don't know, corner bits outside the nostrils, whatever they're called, and why does the entire human race have such stupidly vague protrusions on their faces?

You may think they're not vague on some people, but you would be wrong. One of my housemates has as well-defined and Roman a nose as you can generally find outside of, I don't know, eagles, and in pencil sketch terms I can assure you it is VAGUE BUMPS.
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It's like a metaphor for something but I don't know what: May. 5th, 2014 @ 12:23 pm
I'm trying to start posting and reading DW again.

Things I Did Today include:

- Getting barefoot into a car not my own, carefully avoiding stepping on the broken glass in the footwell, to move the car a foot to the right, and having an embarrassingly long delay in the process because I had to work out how to put it in reverse.

("So, it's left of first and up, but it won't go... push down? Pull up? Are there any buttons, maybe, or is the left displaced up or down? ... Oh, there's a little ring I can pull up!")

Because my housemate's car window got smashed last week while he was off working somewhere I *believe* is probably a minesite, but I don't really know the details, but anyway, he's out there again this week.

I seemed ridiculously incompetent this morning when the woman from the glass repair people called to confirm the car's details, I'm sure, but the woman's professionally faint tone of frustration at my stupidity, apparently not knowing pretty much anything about the details of the car's make and model, vanished when I explained: "It's my housemate's car, not mine, but he's working FIFO."

Let me tell you about my computer Apr. 11th, 2014 @ 12:35 pm
So, my computer had a virus.

(It's not the whole reason I haven't posted in so long, but it's part of it.)

It was quite an unusual virus, in my experience, not least because it infected my computer, which no virus had ever done before. The symptoms were odd. Eradicating it was tricky.

I shall now describe the events in detail, because if other people get the same thing, they might want to spend less time trying to fix it than I did.

The first phase was odd, and we spent a fair amount of time thinking it might be a hardware issue, heat-related or something. It was characterised by a curiously progressive freezeup. First any background applications would go unresponsive, then Windows itself would, and finally the active application would hang.

Meanwhile, the hard drive light would be solid on, without so much as a flicker.

When I tried having Task Manager up before the crash started, nothing whatsoever showed as out of the ordinary or overactive in any way.

The system Event Log showed nothing.

At first, the crashes were happening with bizarre regularity, close on to every two hours. However, when I went to back up my data, all that changed.

Due to past bad experiences with forgetting to back up something in an odd corner of the hard drive and being sad when I realised I lost it, my preferred method of backing up before I do something drastic is to copy the entire contents of my hard drive to something else.

However, when I tried to do that this time, there were a couple of noticably odd things:

First, Windows Explorer appeared to conclude that the entire contents of my c:\ drive amounted to something like 25.7GB. This is not even close.

Second, the attempt to copy files set off the crash well ahead of schedule, and triggered a change in behaviour such that the crash would now happen more-or-less as soon as the computer booted.

In Safe Mode, however, I was still able to back up my files - which I did by copying them across to the other hard drive in the same computer, and believe me, it turns out I'm very glad I got a laptop that has two hard drives - but the computer was still instacrashing if it loaded normally.

So, files secure, I did a factory reset on my Windows partition. Did all the install stuff, then immediately downloaded a fresh copy of Microsoft Security Essentials, updated the virus definition, and set it to scan everything. Left that to run overnight...

... and in the morning discovered that it had crashed. Tried to go again, but the crash happened as soon as Windows loaded.

While I reinstalled Windows again, I had a long chat about all of this with my father, who's rather an expert on all things software, and he recommended that I outright hard-format the drive.

While we were discussing this, and I was poking around in Disk Manager, I noticed something out of place: a drive I didn't recognise.

Disk Manager was seeing my C:\ partition (HDD 1), my D:\ partition (HDD 2), my E:\ partition (HDD 1), my DVD drive (holding the system recovery DVD), and a strange, mysterious 8 GB drive that claimed to be a Sandisk SD card.

The thing is, while my laptop does have an SD card slot, as I very carefully verified, that slot was holding a piece of SD-card-shaped plastic designed, I assume, to keep dust out of the slot, but absolutely resolutely in no way more advanced technologically than "moulded plastic". There was no SD card.

My dad looked up the specs for my laptop online, and could find absolutely no mention of there being some kind of SD card onboard for any reason. I recalled no such thing, either.

According to Windows, the SD card did not contain readable data of any kind; Windows opined it was data intended to be read by a different operating system.

My laptop does not have and has never had any other operating system.

So I disabled that "drive", and reinstalled Windows. I nuked the c:\ and e:\ partitions but didn't actually do a full hard format.

Lo and behold! My computer worked. I even re-downloaded Security Essentials, updated it, and successfully ran a full scan of everything (which picked up nothing).

I've never before heard of a virus that hides itself as a fake SD card, but it's my best theory on this one.

There's actually a bit more to the saga of My Recent Computer Troubles, but it's not virus-related, and this post is quite long, I think, so the odd, quirky hardware incident that followed can be another post.
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Better living through video games Nov. 10th, 2013 @ 07:24 am
So I'm pretty sure Gran Turismo has made me a better driver.

Two incidents spring to mind on our recent trip: the first, when two tyres blew out on a narrow bridge at 50mph, and I stayed entirely in my lane and didn't so much as scratch the paintwork on the car as I drove it off the bridge and pulled over further along, where there was shoulder to pull over on.

The second was when I came around a curve at about 90km/hr (we were in Canada) to find a deer sproinging cheerfully across the road.

Braking sharply *while cornering* is fairly high on the list of things I was taught Not To Do when I was learning to drive, because it is, in fact, a spectacular exercise in the Applied Physics Of Wrecking Your Car.

Nonetheless, I braked sharply, and reflexively compensated to keep control of the car, successfully.

The thing is, I don't think I used to be quite as good at dealing with cars bobbling like that, and add to that I've barely driven a car at all in the last few years. (I've never owned a car, though when my mother was ill I drove my parents' car constantly, but riding a motorcycle is a *rather* different experience.)

However, I have played a fair amount of Gran Turismo, and one of the things that I *definitely* had to learn in that game is how to cope with cars going slightly out of control. Gran Turismo is a good simulation of that stuff, and I had to learn how to correct for a lot. Now, in GT generally the reason the car is at frequent risk of bobbling is that I am driving at speeds that, in the real world, would qualify as "suicidally insane", but, you know... racing video game. Nonetheless, the general principles are the same.

Arguably, this probably helps for the translation of the skills into a real car. The conditions I've learned to handle in Gran Turismo are far more extreme, because it's coping with a control issue when I'm already driving at the limit of the car's control to begin with; since I do not, in the real world, in a real car, drive with the accelerator buried in the floor except for those moments when I stop accelerating to brake as hard as I can for a corner nonetheless taken as fast as I can wrestle the car around the curve before flooring it again, kinda thing, I have more margin for error.

Having said that, I did take a couple of corners in North America marginally faster than I was quite comfortable with, but that was not intentional. Certain sections of road - generally when going through mountains - are really extremely twisty, and there's a section of the Trans-Canada Highway where the signposted recommended speed is 40km/hr, and all I can say to that is ha ha, you crazy Canadian optimists, because I slowed to 40km/hr, and then the only reason I did not actually yell holy shit the fuck is this AHHHH is that my jaw was clenched and the brain processing power usually assigned to "language, production and recognition" was reassigned to "decreasing radius curve, navigation" and also "terror, not screaming in".

Admittedly there were roadworks, but still. I think I went through the rest of that section at about 25km/hr, slower to go past the mans. I vaguely recall [personal profile] velithya making word-like noises during that first curve but I honestly did not process what they were.

"Too fast" is so very, very much a relative concept.

Current Location: Perth, Western Australia


Nov. 1st, 2013 @ 10:37 pm
Only two flights made it from Oakland to LAX after the shooting.

We managed to get on the second one.

(We'd stopped in Oakland because our flight was dropping off and picking up passengers. We weren't actually supposed to deplane at all, but more-or-less exactly when we arrived, our flight was cancelled. Along with every other flight.)
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