Monthly Archives: August 2008

just checking…

Geek alert! One of the great things about WordPress (that’s the do-dah that makes this writing space possible) is people have been able to bend their incredible creative and geeky skills to writing plugins. They’re useful (often very) mini-do-dahs that clip into the do-dah and make it more powerful/useful/attractive etc. And I can’t believe I’m writing about one such mini-do-dah – Broken Link Checker, by Latvian, Janis Elsts. Now while Janis has done a great job, there is a part of me that hates him – the part that has discovered there’s something like 110 broken links/missing images over this and the aquaculture spaces.

How unique though. Not that links are broken, but that in the ‘old’ days one would write and there was referencing to books, journals, manuscripts – whatever – but the expectation was/is that they will stay in print, or be available somewhere. Writing with links was seen to be *the * way to go in the web 2.0 world, but I sense a feeling of ‘I’ll link to my own writing’ to be sure that – as far as sensible I can control the availability of the resources, and sustain the credibility of the writing. Talk about fungible…meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll be spending some time sorting the links and renewing or removing them. And my future writing will be considering the robustness of the link destinations. Ah, the joys of new problems. We don’t know what we are training kids for – the jobs and issues are unknown at this point, because the technologies haven’t been invented yet.

Open Library

A kind of ‘Open Sesame’ to the Aladdin’s Cave of published books. The way humans are going on we’re soon going to have to open another planet next door just to store the books. Open Library is an ideal option for the LibraryThing you have going on. Oh. You don’t have LibraryThing. You do have books? Oh, you don’t have books…

From the Open Library project:

One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal.

To build it, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a brand new database infrastructure for handling huge amounts of dynamic information, a wiki interface, multi-language support, and people who are willing to contribute their time, effort, and book data.

To date, we have gathered about 30 million records (13.4 million are available through the site now), and more are on the way. We have built the database infrastructure and the wiki interface, and you can search millions of book records, narrow results by facet, and search across the full text of 230,000 scanned books.

Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and is funded in part by a grant from the California State Library. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone! This is an Open project – the software is open, the data is open, the documentation is open, and the site is open.

They also have an ever expanding selection of scanned/full text books (free download or read online), so you can avoid those nasty overdue fines…

the people yes

people-yesA word cloud based on lines from Carl Sandburg’s ‘The People Yes’, created with help from Wordle.

I’ve written about the poem previously, and said how it ‘describes me and most of my days’. Of late that has been more true than ever as I’ve been able to watch good people work hard to try to make a difference, while bad people seem to be able to make a difference (of a different kind) seemingly effortlessly. We’re all people, it’s the choices we make that sends us on different paths. Once we get on our respective path getting off it is difficult, no matter who we are; and no matter whether we do good or do evil.

One of my colleagues used to regularly ask me, ‘How are you?’

My standard answer was/is, ‘I’m doing good.’

And he would always laugh and give me a bit of a hard time about doing good. I’m still confused by the question and by his response. Perhaps it was the work context where doing good is something of a work-in-progress kind of concept. I don’t care – it’s not a work-in-progress for me. I am very clear. Do good, my people, do good.

bombed back to the dark ages…

Driven by by the dual forces of my Dad being able to turn his hand to any sort of manual skill, and my paranoia about the world being thumped back to the dark ages, I’m very interested in how to survive in primitive contexts. Seems I’m not the only one to have wasted invested hours thinking about what would be the useful skills to have at your finger tips if you were time jumped back to 1,000AD. Jason Kottke, with Survival tips for the Middle Ages, picked up from Marginal Revolution’s Time travel back to 1000 A.D.: Survival tips.

First, a quick snapshot of 1000 AD. China and the Muslim worlds look like they’ve got it going on. England is waiting for William the Conquerer, the Pope is on the throne in Europe, and the rest of the place looks like the set of Jabberwocky. Actually, for the most part, commentary on the Kottke/Marginal Revolution sites bear startling resemblance to Jabberwocky, perhaps the film was a documentary.

I think survival skills are a topic worthy of consideration – I believe it is very possible we might well be headed there given our ongoing addiction to oil. The original question was – ‘How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.’ I intend to refine the question somewhat to include what skill sets would you be able to bring to today if you were suddenly transported to an economy that money was of extremely limited value?

I have lived in places where money was of very limited value. Most island communities are like this even today – money only has value if there is somewhere to spend it, borrow it, lend it. The old adage that it’s made round to go round is absolutely core to its value. In a barter based economy, skill sets and personal social contracts are the order of the day.

So, what would I bring to the table? Some of this stuff I did years ago, so my skills are a bit rusty, but I could pick them up again fairly quickly. If I could bring a few things with me, a good knife, a ball of nylon cord, and some vegetable and kefir seeds would be the items I’d start with. It’s a bit like building a CV for the dark ages.

  • Rotational cropping with nitrogen fixing plants (clover), coupled with composting and earthworm husbandry.
  • Plant propagation skills which include harvest, storage, preservation, and seed storage.
  • Bee-keeping, honey processing.
  • Hide preparation, preservation, and tanning for leather
  • Clay processing, building, wood firing, and salt glazing pottery
  • Brewing alcohol, including distilling spirits that can be safely consumed
  • Growing sour dough yeasts and making bread

And I’d probably be a dab hand at catching fish, and not too bad at aquaculture, given the right temperatures and species. I can read and write, albeit not in latin, and my maths is sort of ok-ish, so I think my best bet in Europe would be to head for a monastery if I wanted to preserve the ‘good life’. I can draw out labyrinths, so perhaps I’d find a gap somewhere in some monastic order. I think realistically, I’d do better heading towards the warmer climes, and finding a nice fishing village looking for someone who can take raw agricultural, horticultural, and aquacultural materials and create some added value. The trick in barter cultures is to be able to add value – everyone can catch a fish or raid a nest – the creator of a good gin is a valuable person to have around.

But Europe? Europe? Honestly, why would anyone want to go to such verminous and pestilential place, filled with oppressive regimes and bizarre religious activities? And it was no better in 1000 AD. My venue of choice for a flashback to 1000 AD would be the Cook Islands. Frankly, my dark ages CV would be of limited value – reading and writing and to an extent, maths – irrelevant; the plant propagation/fish farming would be of value; I don’t know that there’s viable clay for pottery – if so, great; tanning would be pretty much limited to dog or perhaps shark hide, bread depends on grain/flour, I’m unsure about the presence of honey bees (doubt it somehow); alcohol might be an option. What I could bring to bear is art and craft skills, and once I’d refined my limited Maori into Cook Island Maori language, story telling could be a good thing along with helping out with hunting and fishing. At least it would be clean, warm, healthy, and ok, so it wouldn’t have achieved the levels of ‘civilisation’ of Europe, but really, who cares? The end result is a planet that has a severely compromised immune system and a diminished resale value. I’ll take fresh fish and tropical fruit, washed down with clean water, on a tropical island surrounded by friendly, smiling people any day. That’s what I call civilisation. You can keep the horrors of the cathedral/plague ridden/crusade driven insanity.

How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.


When I was a kid we didn’t have tv. Yes, I did have a pet dinosaur. Somehow my parents discovered the local museum (and when I say ‘local’, I mean a 45 minute drive away, in part over unsealed roads) ran sessions comprised of 16mm movies – documentaries – in the museum basement. It was not unlike sitting in Tutankhamen’s private theatre, if King Tut had used those finger removing folding wooden chairs, later to be used by the Spanish Inquisition to such good effect.

I fell in love with the images (typically of New Zealand) from the National Film Unit, the national pride invoked by vivaciously positive sounding voice-overs, the haw-haw jokes, and the unique music – it was unlike anything heard or used in another context before of since. Add in the torture seats, the screechy-scratchy sounds of the chairs on the hard floor, the smells of mothballs and the flickering lights on the screen – plus, of course the thrill of being out with Mum and Dad past our bedtime – all set to be a thrilling experience. So, yeah, had the pet dinosaur, but also had an experience that probably couldn’t be re-created for our young’uns. They probably aren’t going to be uplifted by scenes of mountain buttercups fluttering in the breeze, blue skies in the Southern Alps, or majestic waterfalls. You can see how, when Peter Jackson bought out the National Film Unit, all that footage found its way into the Lord of the Rings, fantastic, even if they had to toss in a couple of hobbits and some other stuff. Gotta pay the bills I s’pose.

When I found the clip above I was reminded of the documentaries clattering away in the basement of the Wanganui Museum. It’s worth viewing just for the terrific production values alone, and of course, somehow the EU food hygiene requirements hadn’t been brought into play at that point. I imagine no-one died from eating lutfisk. I don’t imagine many of the people actually producing the lutfisk were later served such delicacies in the manner shown in the film… Culture. This is culture, that is culture, this is all culture.

spin cycle

Very nice work (romance genre) from the Auckland 48 Hours 2008. Producers Adam Lound and Sarah Woodward, direction by Gareth Van Niekerk and Adam Lound. I haven’t seen the 2008 winner, it must be pretty spectacular to have beaten this effort. For those unfamiliar with the 48 Hours frenzy, it’s an opportunity for people in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to lose a weekend – not in the usual sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll kind of way – but in the create, create, create kind of way. It’s a time for people to stop talking about movies just long enough to DO IT. The results, from a critical perspective, are often highly variable; but are always highly valuable from learning and creative perspectives. Congrats to all who participated, it’s a huge effort. Thanks, Nich, for the nudge.

the terrific threes

I’ve been writing here for three years now, averaging 71 thousand-odd (and some say VERY odd) words, and a published article every 2-3 days. Recently the every couple of days or so is harder to be believed, it’s the old story there – I can’t write everywhere every day, however I do write somewhere every day. Yes, even there. So, nett result, happy birthday Marginalia. I re-read our first August and I was entertained to see I wrote about the Vincent Ward movie, ‘What Dreams May Come’ – and spookily enough I rented it and watched last weekend. Still loving that movie.

But what dreams have come? Wonderful things have happened for me – and for us – over the last three years – gifts from Gods really. Fantastic travel with great new family – family because our friends are closer than family, new house, new job, new challenges, new opportunities, new ups and a fine range of new downs – and oh yes, like any three-year old, there’s no shortage of tears. Once I was in China, and the people spoke of the changeable weather we were experiencing as being like a baby’s face – smiles one moment, tears the next, then back to smiles – and that’s true of our lives recently too. I have no idea where I (and we) will find ourselves in a years time. I am looking forward to the new year and to reporting the days and ways and amaze as it unfolds.