July 2003

The written word

I tried.


So I very carefully composed an (ultra-polite, politically correct, sensitive, supportive, positive, pro-active, open-door policy, win-win situation, opportunity-not-a-problem) email offering suggestions for ways to communicate the state of the business without inducing a mass brain-exodus or a paralysing depression. I can only hope that he reads it.


I am going to have to have words with the managing director. After his monthly motivational speech half my team need suicide counselling. He gets worse with every speech he delivers despite the fact that our company is running with growth and profit figures that are as good or better than any of our competitors. His speech this afternoon could best be summarised:

Our growth is below target. Our profit is below target. Here are the major factors that influenced it (almost all outside the control of this audience). Other companies in the same market position have moved to South-East Asia. If we don't improve we'll sack more people.

Now some background context: We have a number of new products almost ready for release that should significantly boost both growth and profitability. These are products that the people here have been working on for the past couple of years. Releasing these products to the marketplace is within our control. Do you think we could have a message of encouragement or acknowledgement of the work done and the impact it will have on our future? How can people get motivated about their work when what they actually do doesn't get a mention, but the things they can't control get held up as sticks to club them to death with?


I added some extra's to my web pages last night - Pantomime and the set of limericks about writing limericks. The process served to remind me of my limited multitasking ability as I tried to simultaneously download some files, upload others, listen to music, edit my web pages and chat. I think my brain bandwidth for chatting must have been pretty feeble.

I've started to get my thoughts back to my Ricky project (arising from a concept I alluded to in the May 16th journal). The diversion to sub-2000-word short stories was not so much a set-back as a useful exercise. It gave me some more writing practice and resulted in some interesting story ideas to be followed up later.

I'm starting to identify areas where I have difficulties in putting stories together (apart from the difficulty of actually writing the detailed text). I have one story with a good concept, characters and motives, but lacking in a coherent plot. It would make a decent short story. I have two others with reasonable concepts, characters, environments and plots, but need decent length novels in which to render them - and I'm daunted by the challenge. I have another even bigger concept (of which Pig is only the introduction) that I'm not even prepared to think about starting. My Ricky project has a strong concept, some of the characters, an environment and a plot, but is challenging me as I try to work through the details of the plot and characters.

Lifting the Shroud of Turing

One of my engineers forwarded an email to me saying "I'm not sure if they understood what I wanted. What now?". He included his request for information and the reply that he had received from Logitech. Here is the reply:

Thank you for using Logitech's Electronic Technical Support. My name is Robert P. The following information addresses your original question. You may wish to print this out and/or save this on your computer.

If you want to harness the power of Logitech products-to bring the additional functionality of Logitech devices to environments where it doesn't currently exist-then the Logitech Solution Developer Kits (SDK) are for you. These SDKs are designed for software developers that have more specific needs than are addressed by the software that ships with each Logitech product.

For more information on the Logitech Developer Relations program, please visit the following URL:

What can I say? There is more than just a suspicion that "Robert" didn't understand the request. In fact Robert's full name is "Robert Pet", and he is probably considerably less intelligent than Eliza (Eliza passes Turing test) and would have real difficulty competing with Aibo (Aibo passes Turing test).

When strong AI proponents assert that AI will eventually surpass human intelligence I have to believe them - but not necessarily just from advances in artificial intelligence. ;)


I bought the Two Towers soundtrack CD on Saturday. I had been enjoying mp3 tracks from it lately. It's just perfect for moody instrumental background while I read or ponder.

I saw pure, unbridled excitement yesterday. It was a niece's 8th birthday. On her mother's recommendation we bought her a Harry Potter movie. She was kneeling down at a coffee table to open presents. On unwrapping the movie she knee-bounced all the way across the room and back, beaming and shrieking about how she had been wanting this for soooo long. Good choice of present.

I'd been looking for a new phone handset over the last week. I figured a Nokia 3315 was a reasonable choice considering how little we use it. Everywhere I looked the price was exactly the same - A$229 - the recommended retail price. On Saturday morning I decided to ring a few places. I figured there had to be more competition in a consumer market like mobile handsets. Sure enough, a shop in the next suburb had them for $50 cheaper. (Approximately 2 CD's cheaper. WifeOfVirge bought a CD too.)

Web site

Last night I updated the appearance of my web-site and decided it was time to increase its exposure a little. (Hmmm that reminds me - I must add Pants Ex Machina to my fun page.) I added a links page to link to other writers and added some EK members' sites, then posted on the link-exchange threads. I guess I really should buy a domain name and some decent server space sometime. Yahoo/geocities has been pathetic lately - I get about a 50% reject rate when I try to log on to read mail or upload pages. "Try again later" is something I can put up with if I get it once or twice a week, but lately I've been getting it once or twice a day, and "later" seems to mean wait at least 15 minutes. The good old days when free services worked seem to be fading. That was back in the 20th century, when companies were staking their claims in the information gold-rush.

Since I was planning to submit Pig to that short story competition, I'd better print it tonight and send it off. The competition closes 31st July. I have no feedback from EK so far. I guess if I was prepared to wait another week I'd get some. I didn't allow enough time.


Sunday is a great day for relaxing. I did a little spot of recording this morning (see silliness below). Multi-track recording on a computer is so easy - especially if you're not trying to get professional results.

I went down the street to where an old block of shops is being demolished. The twisted metal, broken bricks, plaster and concrete looked interesting when I drove past yesterday. Unfortunately (but as expected) the demolition site was fenced off and I didn't feel like trying to climb over the fencing. It's the pointy bits at the top that are inconvenient. I had to be satisfied with taking pictures at a distance. Then, since I was near the railway, I looked for some inspiration under the tracks.

I finally got around to putting a little colour into my web-site background.


In the time-honoured tradition of extreme silliness I present an mp3 clip of the first verse and chorus of the 1000 post filk 820kb. (See yesterday's journal entry for the lyric.)


In the stillness of the night, at the end of the working week when the crowd has gone to sleep, when the clicking of a keyboard and the whirring of a PC fan mask the city's night sounds, when the clocks strike one in all the homes unlucky enough to have noisy chiming clocks, when the sun shines on the other side of our not quite flat earth, when the international data conduits slosh terabytes from node to node, when relaxed conversations ebb and flow between the antipodes...
My connection dies.
Where are you, LNK indicator?
Why the blank expression, RXD?
Conversation sundered.
"Bother!" said Virge.

1000 Post

As promised, the 1000 post filk - dedicated to some of the very memorable characters at EK. They're a weird and wonderful bunch.
Put on your best Scottish accent and sing along.

When I wake up, yeah I know I'm gonna see
I'm gonna see what EK's got that's fresh and new.
When I log in, from my overworked PC
I'm gonna see the words of EK's motley crew.
In my office, when I've got a moment free
I'm gonna read an extra post, or maybe two.
Then at lunchtime, you can guess I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be on EK till my lunch is through.

Yeah I would post 500 times
and I would post 500 more
Just to be the man who posts a thousand times
'cause I'm an EK whore.

I'll see Linda with her demon cat Azzy
and her girly-boys - she's painted quite a few.
I'll see Socar telling tales of Li-Gui
while her break from Mr. Squeaky's overdue.
Then there's Levi, on a portrait posting spree.
He's the teddy-bear you never quite outgrew.
And there's Lina - with a sketch of peegy-whee
watching bumble bees or finding ears to chew.

Yeah I would post 500 times
and I would post 500 more
Just to be the Virge who posts a thousand times
'cause I'm an EK whore.

da da da
da da da
da da da dum da da dum da da dum da da da da da

da da da
da da da
da da da dum da da dum da da dum da da da da da

I'll see Daniel (though I call him Mr. P)
with his cheeky smirk and angel-wing tattoo.
Pope banana. Newbies call him LSE,
but he's Joe to those who finally get a clue.
And there's Sica - with her witty repartee -
she's the EK pimp who dragged me to this zoo.
There's too many, in this human potpourri
So I'm sorry if I didn't mention you.

Yeah I would post 500 times
and I would post 500 more
Just to be the man who posts a thousand times
'cause I'm an EK whore.

da da da etc.


Work is really depressing at the moment. Layoffs, budget tightness, missed deadlines and the general feeling that the CEO thinks employees are not humans - they are just workers. My eyes have recovered, but my throat is still sore and hurts every time I swallow.

This should be the time that brings out the best in the writer. There is conflict, adversity, suffering. The artist is starting to be tortured - and we all know the necessity of pain for inspiring a writer. Hmmmmmmm. That gives me an idea. Maybe I should create a school for producing world-class poets. I'd have to make sure that students couldn't escape. If there was an easy escape from the suffering they couldn't produce their best work. This school would be a life-changing experience for the students - a grueling, tempering and refining of the mollycoddled 20th century child into either a deep-thinking, self-reliant sage or a jibbering wreck (depending on the outcome of the cathartic final exam). Either path could be said to produce great poets.


I have my thousand post filk done now. Still about 15 posts to go before it is needed - a little surprising for me, to have something done well ahead of time. I'll post it in the journal when I get to my thousandth post.