Monday, February 19, 2007

"Do you have any other pants?"

Golf - it can grind down your determination, it can kill you just a little bit, it can steal your soul one shot at a time. Then, you hit one good drive, one good chip or one good putt, and all of that goes away.

Still - there are apparently some obstacles to get through before even getting on the golf course.

Saturday, noon, I drive out to The Ohariu Valley golf course. There is a club event going on and it's 3 hours before I can get on to play. Ok, there are lots of courses around - piece of cake. I'm off to the Hutt valley - I've never played the Shandon Golf course, I'll play there. Thirty minutes later, I'm walking up to the club house. I walk inside, clubs ready to go and ask, "Can I pay for nine holes?".

The guy behind the counter is young, maybe 20 and packing bottled water into a glass front fridge. He looks me up and down and asks, "Do you have any other pants?". I am somewhat aghast and shake my head and say, "No."

"Well, we've got a dress code here and you can't wear jeans.", meanwhile, every single other person I've seen on the course is wearing shorts. I don't debate the difference in formality between shorts and jeans, I just walk out, swearing all the way to the car. When I have my mind set on something, and have been thinking about it for days, I don't take that kind of thing well.

My wife consoles me by saying that we can head up to Kapiti on Sunday and I can play on the Kapiti course. This calms me down. That was my home course last year and I like playing there. We play mini golf at the Porirua Pirate mini golf place instead. I get my best score ever with a 41, 1 under par for the 18 holes. Michael Campbell has played at this mini golf course, and his best score there is only 37. :)

Sunday arrives and I insist on calling the Kapiti golf club because you never know when they might be closed for a club event. Sure enough - closed to the public until 3:30PM. How about The Ohariu Valley? They were closed Saturday, what's the chance of being closed again today? Well, pretty high, because they are closed to the public until at least 4PM.

Arraaaggghhhh!!! This isn't a golfing weekend at all.

I didn't really want to, but I head off to The Berhampore Golf Club. It isn't that it's a bad course, but man, it's a lot of hill climbing. For the same cost as everywhere else, I get 18 holes instead of 9. Did I mention the hills? It would be hard without carrying the 25kg of golf clubs.

I play really badly for the first 9 holes and get a 53. My best is something like 47, so I've done a lot better. Still, I console myself that I was regularly scoring 60 last summer. AND, it gets better after 9, I get a birdie on the par 5 tenth and par the 12th.

Still - a brutal golfing weekend.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bush administration sweeping science under the rug

I read a disturbing editorial in the latest issue of "New Scientist" (Feb 3rd, 2007) which stated, and there is no reason to believe he is lying, that the Bush administration is deliberately covering up scientific results that might not agree with their political agendas, specifically anything to do with environmental problems or global warming.

Most governments, and this is true everywhere, regularly ignore scientific results. This, I think, is pretty normal. However, trying to cover up results, is a completely different thing. Tactics include, delaying press releases or canceling them completely, re-wording press releases to either sanitize them to reduce the impact, or make them too technical or bland to be understandable or even just changing the information completely.

If you want more details on this story, I suggest buying the magazine, it's well worth the read.

The thing that gets me about this is how dumb it is. Who exactly are they serving with this kind of behavior? Even if there was one single iota of usefulness in doing this kind of thing (I don't think there is), you'd think that they'd be smarter about it than this - after all, they've been caught doing it.

If the Bush administration were to simply ignore the scientific results like all the past governments, they would probably be treated like all the other past governments, i.e. they're politicians sure, but they aren't any more evil than lawyers. This way, they are worse than lawyers. I don't get it - why be so stupid?

I can think of a couple of reasons why you might NOT behave this way:

1. It's easier to let the scientific information flow. After all, you're just shooting yourself in the foot, since down the road, you're making your population more ignorant, and that's where your scientists come from in the first place.
2. Free flowing information makes people feel better and improves morale, after all, imagine the scientist who has this happening to him. What's he supposed to think? "This is the best government ever!" - I don't think so.
3. The more you lie, the more you have to keep your facts straight. Telling the truth is so much simpler, since you can then just let everyone verify your facts.

As I said, I can't think of a single good reason to do this. In the end, it's a lot harder to pull off than shooting straight. Una thought of something that hadn't occurred to me, but is an excellent point. With the Bush administration hiding scientific facts on global warming, it might explain why Al Gore decided to help push "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006, since he's bound to know what the current administration is up to.

It isn't even a matter of saying, "Shame on you!" to Bush and his friends, but really, they deserve a, "What are you thinking?". It's a silly, transparent, ultimately self-destructive behavior.

Determinist - the name

A few people have asked me why the name "determinist". Does it mean I believe in a deterministic universe? I get the impression that most people aren't determinists by nature, since being a determinist usually means that you don't believe in things like a soul, free will, God and these kinds of things.

This is true for me as well, and I'm comfortable with that. And, I think that everyone is actually a determinists whether they like it or not.

One of the recent issues of "New Scientist" discusses "The big questions" like religion versus science (like there is a conflict!), life, death, free will, the theory of everything and so on. I read two different pieces on free will that I found quite interesting, and the bits that struck me were well put.

Generally, free will can be put this way, and I quote, "A rigid philosophical tradition claims that no choice is free unless it is uncaused; that is, unless the "will" is exercised independently of all causal influences - in a causal vacuum. ... The problem is that choices are made by brains, and brains operate causally..."

That sums up most of the entire argument about free will, even though I go one step further with determinism, which says that everything that will happen is determined here and now, i.e. everything is cause and effect.

This doesn't take away any of the magic of the universe, since we still can't predict this determined future, and that's where the magic is. Eventually maybe we will, but until then, we can live with the illusion of free will and that's good enough for most people.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mr. Jingles - a reveal

I'm just getting used to this blogger, so am starting to play a little more with photos and other images.

The neighbor's cat who used to visit and eventually showed up on a "missing cat" flyer comes by to visit occasionally now that he has been set free.

Here is a picture of him from a month or so ago:

He is a mix of English short hair and something else. He has a beautiful demeanor, even if he steals the other cats' food.

This looks like a cat stalker

Recently, our cat Fred (that's Princess Winnifred in long form) wanders over to the neighbor's place and activates their motion detector. This turns on a light and she sits there looking for moths to come into the light so she can eat them. It looks something like this:

From this picture, it very much looks like a cat stalker staring into our windows. She sits in one place until the light goes out, and then when she decides to come home, re-activates the motion detector and decides to stay. This goes on for quite a while or until the neighbor drives a car into the driveway and in that case, she bolts for home.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

wwwW - the end?

I finished my 7500 words for the Waitangi Weekend Word Wace (wwwW) on the kiwiwriters site. I was luke warm about the progress and as I've already said, I struggled to finish.

We do get cool icons for finishing though. Here's mine:

When I say "finish", I don't mean finish my story, oh no, I mean finish my 7500 words in 4 days, which is a completely different thing.

So, there is more work to finish, and I'm not sure how I'm going to end it. I have a few ideas, but maybe I'll heap a little more trouble onto the main character and see if he comes out the other side.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Waitangi Weekend Word Wace - the struggle

The first official site-wide challenge is up on the kiwiwriters site. This is the Waitangi Weekend Word Wace. For any non New Zealanders who might be reading this, Waitangi day is the equivalent of the 4th of July in the US, Canada Day in Canada, or Australia Day in Aussie. Basically, Waitangi day represents the country's anniversary.

Our fledgling writing site will have several challenges each year, including this one. Being most of the way through it so far, I have to say, it's much tougher than I was expecting. It's 7500 words in 4 days, which is slightly more words on a per day basis than Nanowrimo was back in November, but during Nano, I was hitting an average of over 2200 words per day, and hit the 5000 word per day rate a couple of times, so I thought that it would be easy.

Not so... I guess life is just getting in the way, but I was experimenting with some of my writing, and that made it harder, especially writing in the present tense. I noticed slipping back into past tense many, many times and I would always go back and fix it.

I picked up some of my favorite novels sitting on the shelf behind me and took a look at their styles. This isn't something that you notice while reading, but now that I'm writing, I'm noticing more and more. My favorites are almost exclusively written in 3rd person and done in the past tense. I have read in various writing books that writing in the present tense adds to the impact of the writing, but strangely enough, none of the novels I've picked up are written that way. If I notice any, I'll post some comments on here.

Kerryn, a friend of mine (Writing Angel Blog) suggested writing the same piece (page or paragraph) several times, each time in a different tense. This is too smart to ignore, so I will try it shortly.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

New writing resource page

It was the end of November, Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) was almost over and a small group of Wellington writers got together to celebrate the insanity of writing 50,000 words in one month.

As it turns out, we got along so well that we decided we have to extend this insanity, we have to share it with the rest of the world, well, the southern hemisphere anyway. November was over - long live November!

So, like gears turning, our little minds went to work, scheming and plotting, planning and organizing, making check lists and checking them off, putting notches on our bedposts, creating a googlegroup and buying a domain name.

Two months later, we have a new web page ready to unveil! Muahahahaah... it's alive! It's alive!

The goal of this page: Nanowrimo has been so good to us, why have that feeling confined to November? We are gradually adding functionality to the page to let members issue writing challenges to everyone interested. The site will have "official" challenges like weekend short story writing (Waitangi Weekend Word Wace this weekend) to a full, Nanowrimo like novel writing contest in June ( Southern Cross Novel Challenge or SocNoc for short), but the real fun is in issuing your own challenge and seeing how everyone does and how many people you can get to join you! Want to write a travel guide for Palmerston North? Want to write that love letter to your partner that you've been putting off? Why not make it official and get other people to spread the love?

Join us in craziness, join us in fun - for whatever reason, please join us at