Monday, April 30, 2007
Does that help? Only if you know what social constructionist thought means. We’re given a bit of further help in the next sentence:
‘The appreciative inquiry approach offers us all the process and potential to positively explore, collectively imagine, collaboratively design and jointly commit to a path forward.’
Hmmm. Appreciative inquiry is achieved in four stages: Discover, Deliver, Design and Dream. I checked out a paper that had been written as a kind of introduction to it, and I don’t know that I’m much the wiser. There are a lot of what I’d call buzz words, words that in the context they’re presented in here don’t seem to mean too much: collective capacity building, stakeholder engagement, strategic deliverables (!), distinctive competence, paradigms of management, democratising strategy, meta strategic management cycle. Note how there are no little words here. To understand Appreciative Inquiry you have to use big words.
Anyway, Sara Orem (along with a couple of others) has written a book called Appreciative Coaching: a positive process for change. It’s published by Jossey-Bass.
The book is described in this way: ‘Appreciative Coaching describes an approach to coaching that is rooted in Appreciative Inquiry. At its core the Appreciative Coaching method shows individuals how to tap into (or rediscover) their own sense of wonder and excitement about their present life and future possibilities. Rather than focusing on individuals in limited or problem-oriented ways, Appreciate Coaching guides clients through four stages—Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny—that inspire them to an appreciative and empowering view of themselves and their future.’
There you go! That helps, doesn’t it?
Orem is a member of the Capella University, a fully online university that specialises in e-learning. I talked about e-learning late last year on this blog, again in relation to Capella, and it’s still an idea that appeals to me. Of course, it’s not entirely new, and most real universities, as opposed to online ones, are also doing e-learning of various kinds. You never know, once I get back from England, making an appreciative inquiry about myself may be just the thing!
Before I talk further about that, I must mention the wonderful machines they have at the evening job I do. They’re imaging machines which are used to image all the cheques that are processed each night so that they can be worked on by the data entry people. This imaging is done at high speed – a speed so high in fact, you wonder how the machine can register anything at all. When you consider that photocopying machines these days merely blink at the thing they’re copying and it’s copied, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the speed the cheques are copied at. But I am. I could stand and watch this amazing machine for hours.
Check Vantage is talking about a similar electronic check processing system, but one that would be available to businesses. Furthermore, this process not only images the cheques/checks, but it ‘reads’ even handwritten figures! Now, this is quite extraordinary. The humans at the place I work at have considerable trouble reading many of the cheques that pass before their eyes. I have to wonder how a machine can do it. Yet they say in their blurb: Our CAR/LAR technology actually ‘reads’ the handwritten amounts of each check, and creates a posting file to export into your billing system.’ So obviously this software can do the job. It’ll be putting all of us data entry people out of work!
Not only does it read the handwritten stuff, it images 180 items per minute. That sounds at least compatible with the machines at our place. The point of installing this sort of software, of course, is to increase the speed at which the cheques are processed. Instead of having to be handled by an accounts department, they can be virtually processed electronically from whoa to go. Scary.
David Chilton, in an article entitled: Civil Rights: rhetoric or reality, published in the Restore magazine, January 1985.
David Chilton is not someone I can tell you anything about, unless he's the same David Chilton that's written about on a blog I came across. If he is, heaven help us! You'll have to do a search down the page to find the references to Chilton, and they're rather chilling.
I'm not even sure now what the Restore magazine was, except that it was published by a Christian group.
Madame Merle: ‘When you’ve lived as long as I you’ll see that every human being has his shell and you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There’s no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we’re each of us made up of some cluster of appurtenances. What shall we call our ‘self?’ Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us – and then it flows back again. I know a large part of myself is in the clothes choose to wear. I’ve a great respect for things! One’s self - for other people – is one’s expression of one’s self; and one’s house, one’s furniture, one’s garments, the books one reads, the company one keeps – these things are all expressive!’
Isabel: ‘I don’t agree with you. I think just the other way. I don’t know whether I succeed in expressing myself, but I know that nothing else expresses me. Nothing that belongs to me is any measure of me; everything’s on the contrary a limit, a barrier and a perfectly arbitrary one. Certainly the clothes which, as you say, I choose to wear, don’t express me, and heaven forbid that they should!
From chapter XIX of The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
We used to have a program called Chreos for our data base and debtors and creditors and POS. (Point of sale to those who aren’t familiar with the abbreviation.) It was a good program and overall had few areas I’d complain about. By the time we started using it, it had been well and truly tested by other shops in the same business as us, and a lot of things had been ironed out.
However, at that time it wasn’t usable for direct online selling, and this was something we looked at fairly seriously a couple of times. It would have meant quite a change to the way we processed our data, but it would have been worth it.
I’ve just been playing with some shopping cart software which does all the things I’d like to have done in the shop. Ashop.com.au has some demo models online and I’ve just ordered myself a couple of scooters, some helmets of various sizes (you never know, my head might grow or shrink) and some roller blades. Bill came to something like $2,000AU, but that was okay, because at the end of your playing you were reminded that this was just a demo – and not to call to make your order!
It was easy to register as a customer (almost as easy as sending the items to your shopping cart by merely clicking on them), and though there’s a spelling error on the address info page (‘biling’ instead of ‘billing’) I was happy to overlook that because of the ease of usage. You’re even offered the chance to pay by PayPal, which isn’t something you find everywhere. The demo is so lifelike it even took me as far as asking for my PayPal address, by which time I thought it was wise to get out of there, just in case the program had decided to stop playing demo and get into the real thing.
For some reason I couldn’t access the Admin demos using Firefox, but that’s okay. When I get a minute I’ll give it a try on IE7.
Did I mention the price? That looked very enticing to me. For a small business, it's around $99 per month. Pretty good value, I'd say.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
There’s nothing worse than a program that takes forever to get to grips with, as I’ve mentioned a couple of posts back. And doesn’t it bug you when a software specialist walks in the door of your business, loads up the software and then proceeds to go at a great pace through something he understands but you can’t get hold of for the life of you!
Still, this program isn't as frustrating as another we use - I won't mention it's name. It reacts so slowly on our servers, that you can be typing along and suddenly discover that the program hasn't at all caught up with you, and is asking you to re-enter a screed of stuff you've already entered. And make the slightest mistake on this program, and it will make you suffer: by becoming increasingly slow. One of the other office workers the other day got so frustrated she started bashing the keyboard with her fists and screaming. Not a healthy scene!
Vonage Text automatically transcribes voicemails to text and allows the mobile owner to read their voicemails anytime and anywhere. Subscribers can read, store, search, and respond to their voicemail messages not just on their mobiles, but on their laptops as well: anywhere, anytime and in any form. (I’m not quite sure what ‘in any form’ means in this instance, but that’s what they say on the forum.) They can check out new messages to sift through and find the urgent ones. No longer will someone have to strain to hear a voice message in a crowded place; it will be readable, just as texts are.
I guess this is the sort of thing businessmen and women on the move will appreciate. For me, at this point, it would avoid the sluggish process I have to go through on my mobile to get at a voice message, but it isn’t of great benefit to someone like me who’s really only a moderate mobile user.
Added to these negatives are the awful mix of hairstyles Walters is given (seven of them, by one IMDB’s count). They go from stylish to ridiculous, and look as though annoyed Walters as much as they annoy the viewer. But the most dreadful feature of this movie is the music (besides the waste of Michael Williams and Maureen Lipman, both of whom have ridiculous roles). The score is played on what sounds to be an Hammond organ and a piano, for the most part. David Hentschel, the composer, never seems to know what he’s about, and gallumps along when he should be sober, and tries out super-dramatic when subtle is called for. Hentschel isn’t as well-known as a composer as a music producer, and Educating Rita appears to have been his last job as a film composer. However, in his other role as a music producer he’s had considerable success, working alongside George Harrison, Elton John, Queen, Phil Collins and Mike Oldfield, to name but a few.
I guess this rocking chair has been tested for over-rock. By which I mean, it has just the slightest look about it that if you rocked too far back you’d do an amazing head over heels. Maybe that’s part of its charm!
Anyone remember that marvellous moment in the otherwise violent movie, Patriot, when Mel Gibson sat in the rocking chair he’d just finished making and it collapsed? This rocking chair ain’t gonna collapse. Even if you can do flips in it, it’s gonna endure.
After the singers had done all their work, we had to have several long speeches. This isn’t the time of the evening to do this, I think. Get them out of the way at the beginning, or in the middle. Don’t keep the audience and the contestants in suspense. It’s fine that the judge should speak at that point, but not the Fran Wilde, and the Prime Minister and the representative of Lexus. People just don’t want to hear them at that point.
Elizabeth Connell – her surname now pronounced Connell with the emphasis on the second syllable, something I don’t recall from the days when I knew her – gave her comments in a humorous and warm style, and came across as someone who would have been good for the six singers to have spent a week with. She and the three prize-winning singers are going on a brief tour of the country next week, coming to Dunedin on Wednesday.
As I’ve mentioned before, Elizabeth and I were engaged for a brief time back in the late sixties. My wife is keen to go and meet her. I suggested we should take all the kids and the grandchildren too…
Friday, April 27, 2007
And I loved the place in San Diego (La Jolla to be precise) which is built at all sorts of angles, with tiled roof, and balustrades, and stairs in various directions, and balconies, and verandahs. Ah. And it’s only going to cost me between $15 and $18 million. Did I mention the swimming pool?
Real estate in San Diego has to be seen to be believed. I was looking at the Mega Dream Homes site, but if you don’t happen to have as much money as I imagine I might have, then you check out DreamHomesMagazine.com. It’s bound to have something in your price range!
Each time we have a major cleanup we find things that have come to the end not just of their useful life, but of their life full stop. Why we’ve kept them at all up to this point is always a mystery, but it’s not a mystery we’ve ever been able to solve. There are always the pieces of pottery that we haven’t been able to throw out, though we have no possible use for them. There are always the various tools that have long lost their usefulness because some bit’s gone, or something doesn’t quite work any more. There are clothes that have stains on them, or don’t fit, or are threadbare, but they’ve continued to hang on the clothes hangers.
One of these days we may be able to get more ruthless, but it’s unlikely!
But I found I get even more results when I put in my username. It turns up everywhere. That’s a bit scary. There is another ‘mcrowl,’ who’s known to the Discuss Cooking forum. And the same one, or another, is a member of the Spring Sonlight Curriculum User group. Spring, as it turns out, isn’t the name of the season, but a place in the States. And Sonlight Curriculum, as you might guess, is a Christian homeschooling syllabus.
Meanwhile, this mcrowl’s life reels before his eyes: Trade Me, Blogit, myLot, Zillion, Link and Blog Challenge, Netscape, Digg, Widgetbox, Epinions, the chess games of Arthur Frank Crowl (my dad). Gold Age Forum, reviews, free videos on the Internet – in Spanish (nah, that can’t be me). My first ever email address still shows up. It’s In My Way forum (a recycling site) to which I've contributed almost nothing. Even eBay, where my reviews from Epinions are used without any permission whatsoever. (As no doubt many other reviewers’ words are.) I’m ubiquitous!
Because we were a niche market, there was little point in buying a ready-made list of email customers, and in a way, chasing new customers had something of the hunt about it. However, businesses with different markets would no doubt benefit from buying or renting a list, and there are some phenomenally wide-ranging lists around. Martin Worldwide, for instance, possesses a database of over 290 million consumers and 14 million U.S. businesses. That makes our little list at the shop look rather paltry. Still, we made sales through it, and that was the aim!
Martin Worldwide act as a telemarketing lists broker, amongst other things, and offer turnkey marketing solutions. Okay, turnkey marketing isn’t a phrase I’m particularly familiar with, and I had to do a bit of hunting around to find out that it means – I think! – marketing that’s up and running and ready to go for the person wanting the job done. I guess it comes from the idea that you turn the key in your (new) home and voila! everything is ready waiting for you.
After mentioning Brent Stavig several times over the last few weeks, it was great to discover that he’d left me a comment after one of my posts. (I get so few comments I often miss them until I do a thorough check.)
Here’s what he had to say, for those who also missed his comment:
Hey Mike -
Brent Stavig #1 here. Actually I was merely a guest on the James Dean tour in NYC. The leader is a gent named David Loehr who is the foremost James Dean authority in the world, and who lives in Jimmy's hometown of Fairmount, IN.
I'm no longer an actor, but I am still a musician; although I'm not actively playing at the moment.
I'm the Transportation Supervisor at Starbucks Coffee Company here in Seattle, which is a great job.
Your fans can find me at My Space under the moniker bscowler, if they so choose.
The cranky letters to the editor are mine, but while I used to have a bike back in the NYC days, I've never met Brent Stavig #2 who appears to be quite the bike expert.
Keep on a'bloggin', and enjoy the spring!
I checked out the address at My Space, and discovered the Lyrical Whips, an eighties band that Brent was/is part of. There are some (interesting) photos at this site; the music is loud (I was listening to Tchaikowsky on streaming radio at the time and suddenly there was a curious confusion of sounds) and there’s some background on who the Lyrical Whips were – and maybe still are.
By the way, Brent - it's autumn here!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
“Never add cooked foods in a compost pile! They lack the enzymes and other critical elements needed and you will attract many unwanted pests and insects! If odours similar to garbage develops, it's a sign that you failed to maintain the compost pile properly or you did not have a good mix of green and brown materials.”
With all due respect to Tammara and her sources, I have to disagree. Composts will take virtually anything. Cooked foods may lack some enzymes (although it’s not something I’ve heard about before) but they still decompose in the pile, and add to the stock of stuff that makes up worm food. Certainly the worms in our compost have never turned up their noses (such as they have) at our cooked food. In fact some of them have hinted that cooked food is easier to digest. I’m mindful that worms aren’t the best communicators on earth, but I think I’ve understood them correctly!
We toss household dust into the mix, floor sweepings, the lint out of the clothes dryer. So far we haven’t got to the point of throwing a whole dead sheep into our compost, but if we did, we wouldn’t be the first person to do so!
This post came up as one of the popular posts on my blog today, and I looked it up again. I still mostly agree with what I've said above, but in the last while we've had a bit of invasion: one rat and probably some of his mates. The cheekiest rat made itself at home in the pantry, right up on the top shelf where he wasn't obvious. It was only because he didn't clean up his poo after him that we realised he was there. When we surprised him while cleaning out the pantry, he leapt down the height of the five shelves and whizzed out to the laundry, where his poo began appearing subsequently. Another lot of poo appeared under the stove, and another lot in the corner cupboard where we keep the pots. More under the sink, and more in the hot water cupboard. And then there was the something that was making a knocking noise behind the fridge! We discovered today that once we'd stopped his exits up completely, he'd simply eaten through the gib board and escaped that way!
Before that we tried traps. The vermin weren't interested. We tried more super-duper traps (if you caught your finger in one of these, that would require surgery, I'd suspect). We tried a super-super-duper trap which all the pests totally ignored. We finally began putting down blocks that poison the creatures over a few days, and this has completely put them off coming near the place. Or else it's killed them off: we found one dead rat outside on the path to the front door one evening.
It's definite that they were eating some of the uncomposted food from the compost heaps, though I try to bury this stuff under leaves and vegetation. But they were getting inside through vents that were secure when we first came to the house nearly forty years ago, and were broken either by one of our boys or one of our grandchildren at some point. Whoever it was - and I can't remember now - went round and pushed them all inwards so that the vents were completely open. We've just fixed these up today: two or three of the vents were still intact, just not in place. A couple were gone completely, and one had only half itself left. There is now no entrance through these into the house!
Up until a year or so ago we'd always had a cat around the house; at one point two of them. This kept vermin well and truly at bay. I remember a mouse getting into our hallway one evening: the dog, the cat and I were all trying to catch it. Interestingly enough I was the one who did: simply caught it in my hand in a move that surprised me as much as the mouse. The dog is good at barking at them; he hasn't a clue about how to catch them.
We may have to get a cat again!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Someone even searched for ‘blackheads in the neck’, and we got picked up. The knitting poem I quoted back in February came third on the list of Google results, and even my mention of the Fred Astaire movie,Second Chorus, gave us seventh place in line. And a search for ‘most religious country and survey and Japan,’ gave us about tenth place. I’d be interested to know if someone was searching on these words because of an article that appeared in the ODT the other day by the usually reliable Gwyn Dyer. In it he talked about some study that had stated that religious countries (including the US) have higher degrees of immorality, from murder down to child abuse. Secular countries, such as New Zealand, supposedly have less immorality. Now this is curious, because the post I did on this topic goes back to late 2005 and in it I discussed at some length a column written by George Monibot, who’d written in The Guardian about the same issue. It’s curious because normally I would read Dyer and find him most credible. However, this column was not only out of his usual field of world politics, it was blatantly wrong. New Zealand is a very secular society: yet we have child abuse, murder, teen pregnancies, divorce, and pretty much everything else to a fairly high degree. We are certainly not a moral society as a whole.
Another search, this time for Dame Maggie Smith, again brings this blog to the top of the list, this time on the Google blog search, rather than Google as a whole. And another search, for Hornby and Gilead, brings us back to the top of the whole Google results. We’re sixth in the list for a search for Shaun Tilby, the Otago Nuggets basketball player. (Go, Shaun!)
And finally, people are continuing to search for our old friend, Brent Stavig. And because we’ve given him mentions more than once recently, we turn up twice in the Google results, in sixth and seventh place.
Why am I excited by all this? Does it mean anything at all? Well, yes. Presumably it means that if I turn up on the first page of the Google results then I’ve got a good chance of being looked at. Things that turn up on the next page, are vastly less likely to be seen.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The picture of Solomon's Temple in the previous post comes from an article by John Pratt which I discovered on the Net. But who is John Pratt? He tells us that he loves 'puzzles, science, math, calendars, and enjoy connecting ideas from a wide varienty of disciplines.' He has degrees in physics and math from the University of Utah, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona. He teaches astronomy at a state college and keep notes for that class on this web site. He also does computer programming, has three software patents, and hosts a few websites such as for the Utah Table Tennis Clubs.
(By the way, my wife and I purchased a table tennis table - and bats and balls, of course - last Christmas, and have it set up in our upstairs lounge. We've played heaps, and get plenty of exercise rescuing the balls from under tables and chairs and sofas. I've actually improved, and can almost give my wife as good as she gives me.)
To continue on about Mr Pratt. Most of his publications have been about chronology, and he says it's unlikely you'll want to read them. (The sort of thing that most people would take as a challenge, I suspect!) He's also written a calendar conversion program to convert from our calendar to others.
On top of this he's invented a pictorial periodic table which he hopes might make chemistry more fun. It can be used as memory pegs for memorizing long lists of other items too. (There you go, another reason to check Mr Pratt out further. Anything to do with memory is always of interest to me.)
He finishes by saying, 'If you like tough brain teasers, I think I have found a great logic puzzle in the Bible which you might want to try.'I've just had a very quick look at his memory pegs idea, and it's very sensible. As he points out, most memory pegs are random, whereas his approach is more intelligent. Good on him!
No wonder the Temple was considered such a wondrous building. It must have shimmered in the Eastern sun.
Which goes to show, perhaps, that gold has always appealed to human beings as being something of exceptional worth. Even now an ounce of gold – which I discover is equivalent to 28.4 grams (go get the calculator out and you can work out how many ounces David had) is worth a pretty penny. (Apparently bullion bars come in ten ounce units.) If my reading of Monex.com’s price list is correct, the current gold price is edging up to $US700 per bullion bar. (If you’ve worked out how many ounces David had, you’ll be able to figure out what his 100,000 talents were worth.)
Gold is on the rise, it seems, particularly since oil is so iffy. So the expression, Go for Gold, is probably quite apt these days!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I had to go through a decimal currency change twice, once in New Zealand, and then again later on when the Brits finally switched over completely, I was living in London. The NZ version was handled in a far superior way to the British one, I feel. The latter struggled to find a way to deal with the Penny, because they wanted to keep the Pound, whereas NZ decided to make the old ten shilling note the new dollar, and things were much easier to deal with.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
In the last two decades he and I have been involved firstly with Opera Alive, a group of twenty to twenty-five young people who would put on a musical variety show (often with a them, which wasn’t always strongly adhered to), and then when Opera Alive disbanded, we began putting on shows featuring the music of particular composers, such as Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and so on.
It was good to be included in the his ‘nearest and dearest’ group today – the group included lots of relations, of course, as well as pupils and other singers, and accompanists like me, people who’ve worked with Arnold over the years.
There were a number of grandchildren there, including one little boy who, during one of the songs that were presented, walked up behind the lady accompanist and lifted up the back of her jacket and tried to put his head under! Very disconcerting for the accompanist, but she coped admirably.
In a number of cases the scammers will ask you to pay a registration fee upfront. That’ll be the last you see of that money – or anything else. Others will get you to pay a fee and then tell you that the way to make the money is to advertise to others in the same way and get them to pay you. The old pyramid approach.
Think about it: Why would any company in these days of computer addressing and machine stuffing want to send envelopes, stamps, stuff to stuff the envelopes with etc to someone’s address when they could do it all themselves? In the past the shop I managed used to send its mail-out to a company that employed many people with disabilities. They would put the addresses on and stuff the envelopes – but there was no vast fee. In fact it cost us very little, comparatively, otherwise we would have continued to do it ourselves.
While I was looking up scams on the Net one site told me about a way to make money in a completely different and entirely legit way. The only problem is that there isn’t likely to be much work in this area. You can still apply in some parts of the States to be a member of Police Identity Parades. You register with the local station, and when they want to do an ID Parade, and when you fit the bill as someone similar in appearance to the alleged criminal, they’ll call on you. It doesn’t sound to me like a very lucrative job, however, nor one that you'd be called on to do very often!
Friday, April 20, 2007
I had a recent experience with Dell with didn’t quite endear me to them, although the laptop we bought from them is fine. My son and I worked through the Dell website at great length, picking and choosing what I wanted for the machine, and eventually finished up at NZ$1677. The first email confirmation from Dell confirmed this price. The next email said the charge was $2047!
Now Dell is not the easiest company in the world to get customer service from. The first person said the difference in price had to do with GST, which was piffle. The second person, whose first name was Annie, was more helpful, but didn’t really get hold of the problem for a while. The difficulty might have been that I was speaking New Zealand English and she was speaking Malaysian English, and only occasionally did we meet on common ground.
However, Annie stuck to her guns, and over two or three weeks we did manage to communicate a bit more effectively, mostly by email, but also, to my surprise, by cellphone. Presumably I put my cellphone number on the Dell site, but I don’t particularly remember doing so. Anyway, out of the blue, she rang me on it.
They’d charged me for two extra years warranty. In the end I think it was easier for me just to let them charge me and be done with it. At least I’m supposedly getting something for the price.
To go back to the Dell special prices site. I don’t find it easy to see what the special prices actually are, but then I find the layout on some sites isn’t as obvious to me as I’d expect it to be. Dell talk about free shipping and such, but that’s no big deal. We get that with a lot of their specials here, so I’d be interested to see what their real deals are!
We’ve made compost for years, and my mother (who lived with us) and I used to battle about what could and couldn’t go in it. She didn’t think orange or lemon peel should be included, and up to a point she’s right. But the experts on composting say that some citrus peelings are okay. And she wouldn’t put potatoes or their peelings back into the compost. Again she was only partly right.
To my way of thinking, if you can put horse manure into a compost, a few potato peelings won’t go amiss. And anyway, you can often wind up with sweet-tasting potatoes later in the year, if you don’t happen to uproot them.
I’d always focused on the worms in the compost as being the great workers, but there is an army of other little creatures that get going on the leftovers you put in there. Many of them are too small to see, and often they also end up as part of the worm’s diet.
Some people think you get flies around a compost. Only if you don’t keep the rotting food you leave in there uncovered. Even if it is uncovered, I don’t find that flies are much of a nuisance. They’re more of a pest inside the house, but these days even inside I let them go free if I can. A friend of ours, years ago, complained when I used to swat flies on the windows with rolled-up newspaper, and I’ve never done it since! Plus, it seems to me that flies have a purpose in life, the same as many other insects that we’re not particularly fond of, even if it’s only to wind up as spider fodder.
With Mrs Hoggett taking over the movie, it loses the warmth that pervaded Babe, (and loses James Cromwell for most of the proceedings) but what it loses in warmth it gains in creating a world in which chimps dressed in human clothes and talking with Brooklyn accents are nothing at all to be wondered at, since the humans in this world are even more strange.
Mickey Rooney makes a brief appearance as Fugly Floom (Fugly Floom, what sort of a name is that?) a character who’s just as peculiar in his real life as he is as the Magician. And the woman, played by Mary Stein, who owns the place where all the animals hide, is a tall person who dresses oddly, and seems to think there’s nothing weird about being almost the only human in an animal hotel. Even her neighbour across the canal, who listens all night long to opera with her husband, is a manic creature given to odd hairstyles.
The crowd who inhabit the streets nearby are an extraordinary, extreme mix of Los Angeles types, many of them on skates. And there are suddenly more people in this world with porcine faces than we’d normally see in everyday life.
The animals are drawn equally largely, from the manic dog with wheels where his hind legs should be, to the pitbull who has something of a change of heart, to Thelonius the orang-utan, who insists on dressing up when he goes out.
It’s the detail in the film that’s superb. The production design by Roger Ford is constantly a delight, as are the jokes that pervade the movie, whether it’s Mrs Hoggett being dowsed in paste and turning up later creaking and squeaking, or the absurd swinging from the mezzanine at the big party at the end.
This is a classic comedy, on a par with….The Princess Bride.
Some online surveys I’ve done lately have an idea that we somehow view products in human relationship terms. Thus, I’m asked if I would think of milk as one of the following:
A loyal spouse or partner
A fling or flirtation
A trusted friend or confidante
A Distant friend
A close member of the family
A colleague or associate
A complete stranger
An opponent or enemy
Are the people who write these surveys serious? Who on earth thinks of a bottle of milk in terms of a loyal spouse, or a flirtation. Do I really go to the fridge looking for a close member of the family? Would I be surprised to find an opponent or enemy lurking there? Have you ever seen milk as a confidante? Oh, puleease.
Every time the travel agent got them settled on something, another issue would come up, and he’d have to start all over. I think if the husband had been on his own, he’d have had it sorted in five minutes. It was the lady who kept finding new ways to delay making a decision.
At the end of their time, they thanked the travel agent very much, and said they’d take it all home and think about what they were going to do. Am I glad I was not in their house that day.
Which brings me to Vacations.net, a site that features all-inclusive holidays. No, all-inclusive doesn’t mean everybody can come; it means everything you want on the holiday is included in the price, such as your room, your meals, the drinks and activities. This is a good idea, as it means you can budget before you go. (If you can afford to go – although we cut $1000 off our flight prices last Saturday, through choosing a different airline.)
The pictures are very enticing on this newly redesigned website, I must say. On the main page they’re advertising places like Hedonism III (!) and Couples Sans Souci (I had to look this up and remind myself that sans souci means ‘carefree’).
Vacations.net now has a customized booking engine and intuitive functionality. Hmmmm. Intuitive functionality. Sounds just a little like something Homer Simpson would roll around in his mouth.
I didn’t really explore the intuitive functionality on this site, but kept getting sidetracked by pictures of places where there’s a staff-to-guest ratio of one to one, along with a nanny for the kids. (That’s at the Franklyn D Resort, by the way – kinda cute name, huh?)
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Maybe these three phrases leap out at you and you know exactly what they mean. I’m not sure that I do. They’re the kind of phrases where I think I know what’s being said, but have that niggling feeling that my mind is trying to glide over them because they’re not entirely clear to me.
I picked them out at random from a website that deals in customer relationship management. (There we go again: doesn’t that just somehow seem to be not quite the English you know and love?) This website, AIMpromote.com, has a page that shows all the ways in which it’s superior to two other sites. I checked out both these sites, and in fact, AIMpromote is definitely superior in being clearer in its use of English. That’s a plus, especially as they’re the ones I got these phrases from. (One of the other sites offered a ‘news’ item, which turned out to be a dull jargon-filled piece of stuff which my mind definitely refused to read.
But AIMpromote is also superior in its features, of which there are over fifty. The other two sites have lots of crosses where AIMpromote has nothing but ticks.
Read those phrases again, consecutively:
Lead management [of]
Website analytics [into]
Customer relationship management.
There! That’s better, isn’t it? They just needed a bit of context.
A fellow blogger sent me a link to his site where he’s also got a link: to a Utube video called Wii Dancing. It’s completely politically incorrect, and uses the f-word (unfortunately) a few times in the subtitles. But apart from that it’s absolutely mad: a collection of male and female dancers in bright costumes going full bore on the side of a hill. It’s probably a Bollywood musical clip originally, but it hardly matters what it was. The subtitles have turned it into a daft song about using Wii. On the musical side it’s Busby Berkeley gone barmy, and makes Gene Kelly stomping around getting his feet wet in Singin’ in the Rain look positively tame.
If it had been left up to my wife, she would have taken the opportunity one weekend when I wasn’t around, and would have knocked the window out, and some of the wall, and left us with no choice but to do something. (She did this with a door once.) Fortunately, she restrained herself on this occasion, and we continue to sleep in a room that has its original windows.
But every so often, she harks back to the idea of ‘something’ outside the window, whether it’s our window or the window upstairs – where ‘we could build a balcony!’
The photo above comes from The Old Vicarage, Treneglos, near Launceston, in Cornwall.
Here’s the list:
1. Being exposed or having drugs and alcohol available.
2. Negative feelings.
4. Feeling or experiencing boredom.
5. Using a similar substance that reminds you of the old "high"
6. Physical pain or physical injury.
7. Remembering the "good ol days".
8. Having too much money.
9. Abusing prescription drugs.
10. Believing you are now "cured" and thus safe from addictions.
Interesting how several of these are also relapse danger points when it comes to sin! Being exposed to the sin that ‘always gets you’ and having negative feelings about life are both points of temptation, as are times of celebration (where the celebration is of the kind that leans towards sin rather than one of those fun parties where sin isn’t brought in).
Feeling bored, or flirting with something that reminds you of sins you’re trying to avoid are both dangerous. Remembering how ‘good’ the sin was (if that’s not too ironic an idea). Having too much money – as I said in another article recently, ‘retail therapy’ is a lie straight from the pit. And finally, believing you’re okay and can’t be tempted any more.
We don’t tend to call addicted people ‘sinners’ for the most part. There’s often an element in their makeup that’s given them a leaning towards the addiction. But not always. Some addictions just start out as straight rebelliousness, or even greed, both of which are sinful in themselves. It’s no surprise that AA meetings are often held in church halls and crypts. The whole AA concept is one that calls sin, sin, without somehow managing to use the word, and it often seems to lean towards its roots in the church.
Just getting back to the 4rehabilitation.com site for a moment, I thought this site focused on a particular centre, but in fact it’s a referral service. I notice on aftercare page they talk about an interesting offer some rehab facilities have available. If a person does relapse within six months, they can apply for re-admittance to the facility for free. Some perpetual sinners could do with the same ‘peace of mind’ service!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
replacement population only;
total re-use of resources;
total elimination of pollution;
self-sufficient housing (linked together in energy terms like the Internet);
a halt to physical ‘growth.’
He adds that as a result of following these things we will work less and walk more, weigh less and live more, impact less, conserve more.
My problem with these points isn’t that they’re unrealistic, but rather that a huge percentage of the population, in the Western world anyway, isn’t interested in recycling, living conservatively or considering how they use the resources they have.
I’m fairly recycling-focused, but even I find it hard to think of living within restricted parameters.
And I’m not sure that I agree, if we were to go ‘conservative’ in our progress, (if that’s not an oxymoron), that we would work less. Rather we would work harder at better things, things that involve domestic manual labour for men and women, things we could do with our hands, creative things. And we’d definitely walk more.
My mother remembers walking to Blackhead Beach when she was a child, with her parents. This would be an all day trip, there and back, up hill and down dale, and no doubt they’d be carrying picnic baskets and all the beach paraphernalia.
The other factor is how to make total re-use of resources. Perhaps with oil running out we’ll have a huge amount less plastic to deal with. That would help immensely. It’s one of the least reusable material on the planet.
I can't show you a photo of Blackhead Beach on this blog, because of copyright restrictions, but if you click here, you'll see several professionally-taken ones.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Athletics foot on fingers
Lloyd Jones Mr Pip
Complete polysyllabic spree
Rosemary tree goudge
Stone hawk battle creek mi
Brent read sings harry
When you’re investigating ways to improve your memory, one of the techniques that’s taught is to connect random things together in absurd ways. Usually it’s a list of shopping items – e.g. bread, milk, tea, coffee, toilet paper – that have to be connected up in such a way that the brain will enjoy remembering them. ‘I dropped the bread in a huge bowl of creamy, frothing milk with a huge splash, causing the teapot to fall over (hand on hip) and pour scalding tea into the coffee grounds that were roasting with a luxurious aroma in rolls of soft, white toilet paper that were spread throughout the house.’ Okay, that’s the kind of thing. I’m sure you can do better. Let me know if you can!
The HitTails results for this week are a much more difficult list of items to try and connect, because they’re far more disparate than a bunch of household items.
There’s an alternate approach to remembering them – if you were so inclined – and that’s to put them into categories. So in this case we have a literary category for Lloyd Jones’ Mr Pip and the Polysyllabic Spree. That’s easy: Pip and Polysyllabic Spree have sharp and sibilant alliteration.
The singers’ category for Anna Leese, Jonathan Lemalu and Brent Read Sings Harry, all being blogged about on that operatic blog: Linkprimalamusica.typepad.com. A soprano, a bass and a tenor in trio. The tongue-twisting blog name is a bit of an issue, though, except that it again has the letters p and s in it, along with m – the first letter of my name.
Which leads onto my name again in the Crowl Swim - which could take place in Battle Creek, where you’d make sure you didn’t infect the water with your athlete’s foot on the fingers.
That just leaves the Rosemary Tree with a great Goudge out of it standing on the bank.
Okay, let’s see if we remember all that tomorrow. Or better still, can you come up with better ways to remember it all, yourself?
I’ve just done another check back on HitTails, and notice that Brent Stavig is leading my keyword list there. That is, more people have looked for Brent Stavig and brought up results that include this site, than any other ‘keyword.’ Anna Leese, however, is running a close second.
Not knowing anything about Brent Stavig, I did a little bit of surfing, and came across a debate between him and a poet called Frederick Glaysher on political issues. The notes from Stavig start quite a way down the page, so use your search box.
Just came across this neat quote from Dorothy Parker:
I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." -Dorothy Parker
I have no idea where it comes from originally, but one of the people posting on Slashdot.com uses it as his/her signature.
To get back to John.
He offers a reciprocal link from his site to yours if you do a post that’s a review of his site. I guess his site is best known for his ‘make money online’ category, a category in which he seems to excel. There are dozens of posts on the topic, and I checked out one that interested me on increasing RSS subscriptions. He points out that the RSS link needs to be visible. Plainly the Blogger people don’t feel that’s necessary as the feed on this blog is stuck right at the bottom; not the best place if you want people to notice it. (It took me quite some time to notice it myself.) I’ll have to check and see if I can shift it up to the top somehow. (Another job!)
John’s article on RSS feeds is full of good sense (and some curious English) but it’s only one of many that are worth reading – I fully intend to do so when I get more time that I seem to have at the moment. Time has become rather scarce since we decided to go to England for six months. We’re having to clear out the house to make way for possible renters, and it’s a major operation.
So it was good to come across a post in Peter Haslam’s site, Necessary Skills, in which he brought John Chow to my attention again. This time I’ve bookmarked Chow’s site, in the hope that in the midst of all the stuff I’m doing I’ll actually have a chance to get back it and have a look at his money-making opportunities on the Net. Some people must be making money on the Net, but I’m certainly not one of them. (Well, I make money, but what I make wouldn’t feed a mouse for long in these days.) John Chow apparently makes money, and if he’s doing it honestly, I’ll be checking him out.
I guess it’s only fair of me to tell you how I’ve made money via the Internet. You might like to have a laugh, after all. There’s myLot, which pays miniscule amounts, but finally, after four months, I have US$10, which means they will actually transfer this amount to my Paypal account in due course.
There’s Blogitive, with whom I was doing well until they lost my blog for a while. They pay US$5 a post (which includes an ad) and pay regularly.
There’s PayPerPost, whom I’ve mentioned with some irritation in this blog before. They pay a minimum of US$5, and for a while I was doing well with them too – until they got all uppity and started excluding bloggers on the bottom of the ladder from any opportunities. Between these two I made over US$400 over a relatively short period.
That’s pretty much it. There might be something else, but if there I can’t remember it. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to give John Chow a run for his money just yet!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Normally these ads are for things I wouldn’t be bothered with. Occasionally they’re fun, as the one that led to an ad for Nike was recently. But today’s ad is actually worth commenting on. It leads to a site called Domain.com (rather an ironic name to have on the Net, don’t you think?), and I’m sure it’s all intended to make you buy your house through them.
But they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to put something useful together. When you click you’re taken to a reasonably long page which shows you around the average modern home. And the question at the top of the page, which was why I was interested in the ad, is What can you do to be green?
The first time I clicked on the ad it was interactive: as I ran the mouse over the photos, it would bring up boxes telling you how you could save energy, in lighting, heating, water and all. My second attempt just now has lost the interactivity, but it’s still an interesting page, and one well worth looking at. For instance, there’s a myth about showers being more economic than baths. I always knew this, but it’s good to have it confirmed with the statement: ‘Typically, showers are the biggest users of water in the home.’ (Obviously the person who wrote the ad copy has a teenager or two in the house!)
By the way this isn’t a paid post for Domain.com. At the moment nobody’s paying me for posting. Boo hoo!
At present I’m working (in my real life) for a large firm where waste seems barely considered. (Rather ironic, in view of the fact that one of the sections of the firm deals with what we do with waste!) Paper is thrown away at a rate of knots, and lately, with the colder weather arriving, the heat pumps have been going full bore in our office. I’d hate to think what the power bill is. And it would be interesting to know how much money could be saved if people were more energy-conscious in the office.
Friday, April 13, 2007
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the trip to the UK on this blog. (I have on another blog.) My wife comes from the UK and every so often has a great yearning to go back for a prolonged visit. She regards New Zealand as home, these days, but that doesn’t stop the place she grew up in being very close to her heart. Sometimes I find her on the Net searching for references to it, or checking out the webcam overlooking the carpark there. About three weeks ago, we both came to the conclusion – separately, as it happened – that since I didn’t have the responsibility of a permanent job, and because we had a bit of money left in England from an inheritance, that perhaps it was as good a time to go as any. She could get the time off work as unpaid leave, and we could spend the time in the UK visiting her extensive family, our friends from the past, and perhaps doing a bit of tripping around. We might even work there spasmodically. If we leave it longer, until I retire for instance, we might neither of us have the energy or health to go.
So we’re off in early June, gasping a bit at the cost of getting there and back, and trying to save money where we can before we go.
I was alerted to the fact that the game was on tonight by an article in the sports page (yes, I do read the sports pages occasionally) in which the captain of the team, an American import, Justin Bailey, was saying that when he got on television he would lambaste the referees because they were so inconsistent. I thought the guy must be a top player to be talking in such a fashion, but if his performance tonight was anything to go by, he’s also pretty inconsistent. Maybe he’d been given a sharp word or two from his coach for shooting his mouth off in such a way.
The Nuggets continued their trend of not doing well; they started the game sluggishly, played badly on defence throughout (or de-fence as it’s used in the game, as a kind of chant), and only began to pick up half way through, when it was too late to catch a more confident opposition.
But they do have some great shooters, and they need to let them do the ‘talking’ in the team, rather than the Captain, who looked tired and not very energetic tonight.
I sat throughout the game thinking: this is something I can do some blogging about. Such is the nature of blogging, that everything becomes a topic for it.
The photo is of Shaun Tilby, who produced some great three-pointers tonight, in an otherwise lacklustre game.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
And then I turned up as the Manager of OC Books, my former workplace.
And then I turned up as the writer of the Daily Writer at OC Books.
There are some ways in which the Internet can be a scary place. Big Brother, possibly, had nothing on it! What do you think?
Why would I be looking up ‘Emma Fraser Opera Criticism’? Only because my favourite HitTails site brought it to my attention. When I went to look at the results they didn’t seem particularly to show that Emma has any great fondness for criticising operas, but maybe someone thought she had.
Brent Stavig, on the other hand, turns up in a lot of Google results. Or should I say, several Brent Stavigs turn up. There’s at least one who’s an actor/musician, and one who’s a metalworks instructor at St Francis High School. The former acts as guide on a tour of James Dean sites, the latter set out to build a Baas bike with his class. Because he didn’t have the experience required, he invited pros into the classroom to work with the kids on all aspects of the building process. The bike(s) built were provide "money [to] buy new welders, hopefully c and c equipment in the machining area, and then the students learn on state of the art equipment, not to mention they'll be able to make even better products in the future". Now that’s hands-on experience. I can imagine many teenage boys would be more interested in building a motor bike than doing most of the things they’re expected to do in class.
Darren Rouse, on Problogger.com, mentions that we should encourage people to comment on our posts. Since I very rarely get anyone commenting on them – and thus really have no idea if anyone actually reads them, in spite of the stats – I’d appreciate any comments you’d like to make. It’s easy to do on this site: you don’t have to register to make a comment here.
Having said that no one reads the blog, the stats do seem to show up a good number of occasions when someone in Mangere, New Zealand, has checked in, and someone in Boulder, Colorado.
I have two readers. Wow.
Friday, April 06, 2007
The four approaches involve: Methylene chloride, Ethyl acetate, Carbon dioxide or water. Do you still want to drink decaffeinated coffee after knowing this? Doesn’t it rather put you off?
The other part of this conversation was, what do you do with the caffeine once you’ve removed it? Turns out that none of our jocular ideas were much near the mark. Rather prosaically, it’s used to re-caffeinate things like the many soft drinks that now have some degree of caffeine in them. Seems a roundabout way to go, really.
Just by way of totally irrelevant addition to this post, I'm adding in my myLot User Profile at this point in order to set up my blog on the myLot forum that I'm part of.
You can join myLot yourself if you want: http://www.mylot.com/?ref=mcrowl and even make yourself a tiny amount of money for each post you write.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I quote it in full:
Poor Old Gareth??!!
As a starving artist I may be poor, but at 39, I'm not that old, am I? Well, it's good of you to think of my feelings and show concern about my "beleagueredness" (is that even IN the dictionary?) but please don't worry - I haven't noticed any telescopes aimed at my house lately, and my nakedness hasn't been noticed by a soul (it only happens twice a day). And for your peace of mind - garethfarrnaked.com is not on my list of things to do anytime in the near future. All the bestGareth Farr (not naked)
I replied as follows, (though I’m not sure whether he’ll notice – hopefully he’s off composing more energetic music, music such as a man of his youth should be composing):
Sorry to hear you're starving, Gareth. I'll have to add that to the 'naked' factor and see if we can get a fund started for you!
Nah, 39 is a pretty good age, really, these days. Could be considered positively young, in fact.
'beleagueredness'? Yup, you may be right about its lack of dictionary placement, but I've used it more than once in my lifetime...
Thanks for dropping by.