Thursday, September 28, 2006

A small misunderstanding

As my regular readers will be aware, we’re trying to find a tenant to stay in our garden cottage.

Now, it’s a small garden cottage. It’s not very big. It’s quite small actually. So, armed with that knowledge, when typing up the ad we placed online, I gave it the title “Small Garden Cottage”. I named it that because, as I mentioned before, the cottage is small, and not very big at all.

We’ve had quite an overwhelming response to the ad. Most of the respondents were not suitable, but there were a few that have been. A number of them have even come by to look at the small cottage.

None of them have taken it yet. Of those that bothered to give me feedback after coming to see it cited, as their reason for not taking it, that it was too small.

Now, of course, the cottage is rather small. It’s not big at all. It’s so undeniably small that I placed the word “small” unambiguously in the ad. It really is rather small, you see, which is why I included the word “small”.

So what exactly did they think we meant by that? Did they think we were kidding about it being small? Did they think it was actually quite big, and we put the word “small” in the ad just for a laugh? Or did they think we were being modest in using the word “small” when the cottage was modest-sized, tending towards big?

Just to recap: The cottage is small. It’s not very big. It’s quite small. It’s not on the small side of big, or even on the big side of small, it’s just small. That’s why I said it was small: because it’s small. Not big. Small.

I didn’t think it was rocket-science to deduce from the fact that the word “small” appears in the ad, that the cottage is small. Apparently I was mistaken.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm too big for this country, apparently

Try as I might, I can't find a jacket large enough for me.

I need a size 48 (122cm) Long (as in, long sleeves).

My goddam gorilla-esque arms are too long to fit into a size 48 Regular, which is apparently the largest size that anyone stocks.

Even Edgars' "Size Up" range doesn't cater for my needs. I'm at a loss.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Myth of the Star Trek Fan |

The Myth of the Star Trek Fan |

What a surprise! Trekkies aren't as demographically uniform as the media would have us believe. I never would have thunk it... and here I was believing that I was the only Trekkie who wasn't a 40-year-old man living in my parents' basement.

I'll be keeping a close eye on the work of this Tenuto guy.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Delta Quadrant

With the Star Trek CCG Nationals in two days’ time, I’ve been reading the Decipher website a lot.

One of the new announcements that they’ve made concerns the upcoming expansion that will feature the debut of the Voyager crew to the game.

Voyager presents a difficulty to the Star Trek CCG basic game, in that the series worked completely differently to other Star Trek shows.

Previous shows all featured the adventures of Starships (and a space station) that were always in or near Federation (or United Earth) space… there was always a Starbase or friendly planet nearby. Which means that the game could employ Space Stations and Homeworlds as bases of operation, from which characters and Starships could be sent on their way.

The Voyager series was quite different, in that the ship was stranded on the other side of the galaxy, far from any friendly facilities.

Decipher has announced how this will be incorporated into the game.

Playing with the Voyager sub-affiliation will allow players to operate without any Headquarters Missions. There will be one Mission that will be mandatory: The Caretaker’s Array… a completable space Mission to which the USS Voyager can report.

Voyager-icon personnel and shuttles will be able to report directly to the USS Voyager, thus mitigating the ship-stranding strategy used in some Dilemma piles.

Another exciting development is the advent of this card:

This is the second card to introduce a new winning mechanism (the first was Up the ante). You need four Space Missions (one of which would be the super-easy Caretaker’s Array) and you win! Yay!

The only major danger I can see is when facing the ship-destroyer strategy. If you have a Finding our way handy, you can bring in a new ship, or else evacuate to shuttles… so this too has been mitigated to a certain extent.

The Voyager deck will make some major changes to how the game works. It sucks a little though that USS Voyager can apparently only report to the Caretaker’s Array. I’d love to use it in my Fed deck… I wonder if we’ll see an Earth-icon version of USS Voyager, or perhaps an alternate Voyager-icon Earth or Mouth of the Wormhole. (Why Mouth of the Wormhole you ask? Shame on you… if you paid attention in the Voyager pilot episode, you would have noticed that the last place Voyager docked before being whisked away to the Delta Quadrant was our old favourite station: Deep Space Nine.)

The pleasures of formality

One custom I enjoy is that of using formal titles. It started out as a joke, referring to my friends as Mr So-and-so. But it stuck, and now I rather like it.

The way I see it, most people have undergone a fair amount of effort in order to earn their title. The exception of course would be those whose title is “Miss”. It’s an unfortunate social norm that discriminates unfairly against women. “Ms” doesn’t quite do the job of replacing it, and I can’t help but feel patronising when I use it, so I don’t. Until a suitable replacement is found, I’ll have to continue using ‘Miss’.

Apart from ‘Miss’, just about every adult has earned their title in some way. A ‘Mister’ has earned it by surviving into adulthood. Not a spectacular achievement, but an achievement nonetheless. “Mrs” is also earned: she got married. Also not a big deal, but there was work done in order to acquire it.

In Starfleet everyone has a much fancier title… some more than one. Depending on who I’m speaking to, mine could be ‘Sir’, ‘Captain’ or ‘XO’. I’ve put a great deal of time and energy into my Starfleet work, so I have certainly earned those titles, and I enjoy hearing them. I also like to do other members the courtesy of addressing them by title whenever appropriate. Whether they’re a Crewman or an Admiral, they’ve earned that rank, and should be proud of it.

I find it dissatisfactory that is has become commonplace in modern society to address people by their first names. Even professional people who have fancy titles, will often prefix their first names with the title instead of the traditional surname (‘Doctor John’, as opposed to the traditional ‘Doctor Smith’).

And whatever happened to addressing your uncles and aunts as ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’? It’s all first-names now. I’m surprised that ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are still as popular as they are… I suspect we may start to see that decline in years to come.

That’s a real pity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Why are Trekkies weird?

Not everyone is given to fanaticism. However there’s a sufficiently large portion of society that is.

Consider Bob. Bob is in his mid-thirties. He is married and has two children. He has a full-time job in middle-management at a mid-size company, and earns a comfortable salary.

Bob religiously watches his favourite shows on television. Even though he can’t really afford it, he is a DSTV subscriber… essential in order to watch those shows. He’s bought some of the better ones on DVD and proudly displays them next the television amidst a virtual shrine consisting of all sorts of memorabilia: posters, commemorative crockery and an assortment autographed items, some of which cannot be identified by the casual observer.

Whenever he can, Bob gets all dressed up in a special outfit, disguises his features with outrageous makeup and goes off to meet up with many other like-minded people to discuss these things and act rather silly. Even more frequently he invites his like-minded friends over to watch their favourite shows on the big-screen TV he can’t really afford.

As you may have deduced, Bob is a fanatic. He likes to label himself with the euphemistic abbreviation: ‘fan’. But despite what you may suspect, Bob is not a Trekkie. Bob is a Rugby Fan.

Just about everyone knows somebody like Bob. The sort of guy who lives rugby. He knows the names and careers of every important rugby player in the country, possibly the world. He knows the scores of all the major rugby games for the last twenty years, and can probably give you a play-by-play account of each one from memory. He’s the sort of person who will leave a family wedding (or funeral) early so that he can go home and watch the rugby on his far-too-expensive TV.

Bob isn’t unusual at all. I would say a significant portion of South African white males are like Bob… to varying degrees. In some white-male dominated companies it is taken for granted that no-one will be expected to work overtime (or even regular time) if there is a rugby game on.

I suspect that it’s as a result of the sheer number of such people that it has become socially acceptable. Some people think it is endearing or amusing. Others find it tolerable. Those who find it ridiculous daren’t say so in public, lest they offend someone.

I too am a fanatic. I don’t hide behind euphemistic language, although my specific brand of fanaticism carries a unique label: Trekkie*.

I too religiously watch my favourite shows, although most of them aren’t on TV anymore. I’ve had to acquire them on DVD. I display them proudly throughout my home in a virtual shrine alongside a variety of memorabilia, most of which cannot be identified by the casual observer.

I like to put on my special outfit at every available opportunity and attend conventions where I lecture and play Star Trek games. I know the names and histories of every important Star Trek character. I can name every episode for the last 40 years, and give you a play-by-play account of each one from memory. However I am not the sort of person who would leave a family wedding (or funeral) early to go home and watch Star Trek on my girlfriend’s modestly-sized TV. (Even if Trek was on TV, we have a VCR and I could easily record it.)

Very few people know someone like me. There are very few people like me, especially in South Africa. My fanaticism isn’t met with admiration or fondness… it’s more likely to meet with ridicule. People are far from discreet about their derision of my kind. I often have it delivered to my face (If I hear that goddam joke about Klingons and Uranus one more time...). It’s sometimes a source of shame for my loved ones, and that hurts.

But that’s nothing new. When you’re the sort of fanatic who latches onto the intellectual stimulation of Star Trek instead of the mind-numbing repetition of a sport, and you grow up a male in this country, you learn to deal with that kind of reaction from people. In high school I lived in constant struggle against the ruling ‘Sportocracy’, who believed that no activity other than sport was worthy of mention.

I enjoy being a Trekkie. I’m proud of it. Sometimes I even enjoy the fact that it’s seen as weird. But what annoys me a lot of the time is that I’m not all that different to your average rugby fan, yet I am not accorded any of the respect that they are.

It’s the injustice of it all.

*The “-ie” at the end is clearly meant to sound diminutive, which is why a number of us prefer the term ‘Trekker’. But, like the African-American and homosexual communities have done, many of us have decided to take ownership of the derogatory term used to describe us, and now proudly introduce ourselves as Trekkies.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Well that about wraps it up for Super Group

Yup, I just handed in my resignation and I’m off in search of greener pastures. They couldn’t match the offer I’ve received, so that’s it.

Ironically, even though this is one of the jobs I’ve enjoyed the least, on average, it’s also the job I’ve had the longest. My previous record was 18 months, this one lasted 28.

I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. “Starfleet Officer” isn’t a viable career choice yet. So every time I reach a career crossroads, I’m forced to evaluate the options available to me, and see which one is the least dissatisfactory… as opposed to following the path that leads me to where I want to be.

Of course I’d much rather be running a gaming shop, but I just can’t afford to take a risk like that right now. I need to be on a stable, sufficiently high income in order to fund the things I need in my life right now: a house, a wedding, perhaps a family. I can’t be in a situation where that income isn’t guaranteed, even for a couple of months.

One positive aspect is that my new job may bring me a little closer to that, by allowing me to develop some contacts that relate to one aspect of my plan. A small step, but a step nonetheless.

I can’t seem to shake the fear. I’m afraid that this move isn’t going to make any actual difference in my life… that I’ll be moving from the frying pan into the fire. It’s a feeling that isn’t justified by anything other than personal experience: ever since my Teraitech days, my jobs seem to have been getting, more-or-less, progressively worse. I can only hope that this move will alter that trend.

I was even kinda hoping my boss would match the offer. As unhappy as I was here, “rather the devil you know…”

Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant: Ya Button-Hooked Me...I Didn't Think You Were Gonna Button-Hook Me

Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant: Ya Button-Hooked Me...I Didn't Think You Were Gonna Button-Hook Me

An eloquent explanation of post-hoc reasoning. Worth a read.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What a weekend

After spending Friday night fighting orcs, trolls and ring wraiths in Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, things got busy.

Saturday morning was the last Star Trek CCG tournament before Nationals later this month.

I realised that everyone in our league has grown accustomed to my Federation 2-Mission Deck, so I decided to mix it up a bit and go back to a deck I haven't used in ages: a Terok Nor Mission-solver.

It's kinda risky, since the Terok Nor faction hasn't been advanced at all in several expansions, so the cards are mostly quite old, and are therefore not geared to deal with some of the newer dynamics. The good thing about it is that no-one else has used the Terok Nor deck in ages, so no-one would be expecting it.

It totally worked. I got a bye in the first round, which gave me a chance to look through my new Dangerous Missions booster draft boxes. I didn't get anything terribly exciting other than the Dangerous Missions premium cards.

Second round I went against a newbie with a Borg Mission-solver deck. He had been trained by our current top player, whom he had beaten in the first round. Much to my satisfaction I had left my Homeworld and was attempting Missions before he had gotten his first ship out. Plus my Dilemmas performed their usual magic slowing him down nicely. It was a clear and relatively
quick victory.

Third round I went up against another newbie using a Romulan Mission-solver. I made equally short work of him. That made 9 victory points, which is what is needed to win a 3-round tournament... the second tournament I've ever won. This deck rocks. I'll need to practice with it a bit before Nationals, but I'm fairly certain that I can expect a good result. Assuming I can do as well against the three or four players in the league who are usually better than
me, I'll soon have a new Adversaries Anthology box to keep my stock cards in.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to stick around to enjoy my victory. I had to rush off to a concert, stopping along the way to pick up something at Hide's mom's place. I arrived at the school almost an hour late, just in time to catch the tail-end of the warm-up practice.

The show went pretty well, after which I had to dash off once again to get home in time to get ready to go out: we were meeting some of Heidi's old high-school colleagues at a pre-reunion get-together. At the same time I was expected to sing at a retirement party, so a stressful juggling act ensued.

I had to abandon Hide at the get-together so I could go to the party and be ignored by the guest of honour (who had allegedly specifically requested a solo from me). I was not impressed. I managed to get back to the get-together just in time for the last round of drinks. Great.

Then yesterday it was my sister's birthday party where I made a failed attempt to educate my woo-woo infatuated family as to the real nature of "alternative medicine". I don't know why I bother. At least my nieces and nephews are entertaining.

Now, this morning I arrive at the office and sit chewing my nails to smithereens while I await a response from my boss who may or may not decide to increase my salary in order to prevent me from moving to another company who has offered me a job. I suppose I should be flattered that she even decided to think about it, considering the last three guys from my team who
left were sent on their way without so much as a kick in the pants.

These people don't seem to realise the stress they're putting me under by waiting so long to get back to me. This comes from the use of "resource" instead of "employee"... they find it inconvenient to think of me as a person, and that the decision they're making will have resonating consequences for my life, and that of my family.

I feel like a guitar string that's being tuned... they're turning the knob and winding me tighter and tighter. Every hour I have to wait is another turn on the knob. Not only am I no longer in tune, but I'm starting to feel like I'm about to snap.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Original Trek gets facelift


This is, of course, stirring up a lot of turmoil amongst fans. As always there are two camps: purists and pro-changers.

I'm sitting squarely in the pro-changer camp, with one foot over the fence.

Watching the original series is thoroughly enjoyable for a number of reasons. Part of the whole experience is the cheesy special effects. I'll always enjoy that.

On the other hand, they're disengaging. Just when you start getting really sucked into the story, the effects spoil it. It's hard to lose yourself in the plot when suddenly you see a shot of the Enterprise flying at an impossible angle or an alien ship consisting of nothing more than a multi-coloured flashing light.

I'm on a mission at the moment to watch through all of Trek in chronological order. When I moved from the slick and shiny Enterprise to the clusmy and primative Original Series it was a real shock to the system.

We've seen in a few episodes, most notably "In a mirror, darkly" from Enterpise, updated CGI renderings of the TOS era. The USS Defiant from that episode was slick and shiny like the rest of the Enterprise graphics, but remained true to the TOS look and feel of her sister ship from TOS.

It's not just the ships. On a couple of occasions in TOS, we saw Earth (or, a couple of times, a planet exactly like Earth) from space... it looked ridiculous. This was years before Apollo sent back that famous photograph of Earth from space, so it's to be expected that they didn't know what it looked like.

Now they can remake it, with a convincing image of Earth (or any other planet, for that matter), and a Starship that moves convincingly through space.

I will be very glad to see the upgrades, and I anticipate that watching those for the first time will be a whole new Trek experience.

The added benefit is the appeal this will have for youngsters (including my own generation). Most of today's sophisticated TV watchers have become accustomed to the kind of effects found in series like Farscape and the new Battlestar Galactica. As soon as they see the archaic "models on strings" effects from TOS, they burst out laughing and change the channel. They don't watch it long enough to find out just how kickass Kirk and the gang really were!

I suspect that these upgraded episodes will be the first that I will acquire on the new HD media format... be it HD DVD or Blu-ray. That will be a good week.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ThinkGeek :: Star Trek Enterprise-E

ThinkGeek :: Star Trek Enterprise-E


My Enterprise A and Enterprise B are so lonely without the other Enterprises there to keep them company.


Richard Branson is such a geek

Virgin Galactic

I'll give you one guess what he's decided to name the first Virgin Galactic spacecraft... that's right: VSS Enterprise.

Apparently William Shatner turned down a free flight on the VSS Enterprise stating reservations about its ability to land safely.

I wouldn't trust a Starship that wasn't maintained by a Starfleet-certified engineer either.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

STXI Cast |



The Star Trek XI rumour-mill is churning away. I'm forced to wonder whether the "Matt Damon playing Kirk" rumour is as a result of my cynical speculations or just a coincidence.

Actually, come to think of it, Damon could make a pretty good Kirk. *shrug*

Friday, September 01, 2006

They think we're idiots...

An extract from Stephen Lewis's closing remarks at the Toronto
conference on HIV/AIDS:

South Africa... is the only country in Africa, amongst all the countries I have traversed in the last five years, whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment. It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. Between six and eight hundred people a day die of AIDS in South Africa. The government has a lot to atone for. I’m of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.

Indeed we are idiots for allowing this to go so far. Manto needs to be removed from office, now. She needs to stand trial for what is essentially genocide. She needs to be taken very far away from anywhere where she could continue doing her damage. I suggest the bottom of Sterkfontein Dam with a pair of concrete goloshes... but the means is really irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

Let's stop banging on about the goddam Brett Kebble murder and look at the bigger picture here. Millions of other people are slowly being murdered by this fucking moron. She has to go.