Haecksen in Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara

I'm going to linux.conf.au in Wellington in January, to give my "Beautiful Technical Documentation" talk for the Haecksen mini-conf. Haecksen is the German feminine version of the English word 'hackers'. Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara is the Maori word for Wellington.

I've done a bit of travelling in my time, but the opportunity to hop over the puddle to New Zealand has never presented itself before now. I'm quite excited!

Incidentally, I've also been asked to speak at the ANU in a couple of weeks, so I'm going to be using an extended version of the same talk. Now, to write it!



T has her school fĂȘte coming up next weekend, which means I get to bake. And I don't mean baking boring grown-up stuff, either. Kid food rocks :)

I'll be making my standard chocolate buttermilk cake, and these Open Source Brownies. Yay!

Image credit here. Check it out, it's an awesome site!

The beast within

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.

Gloria Steinem

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up again. And so, like many other writers (both professional and aspiring), I'll be setting aside the thirty days of November to pump out 50,000 words of a novel, or about 1,600 words a day. This is in addition to the thousands of words I pump out every month as part of my role as a technical writer, of course. The question here is, what on earth makes someone who writes all day for a living, want to go home and write all night as well? It sounds like a Dr Suess story: "Oh I say, we write all day. Write, write, we write all night". The really peculiar thing is that I'm not alone in this endeavour. There are many tech writers out there moonlighting as novelists every November. Don't try to take a tech writer out to dinner in November, unless you're willing to have them with their laptop out at the table ... taptaptaptappitytap


I suspect writers are born, not made. That's not to say that good writers are rare, I actually suspect that they're quite ubiquitous. Many of them never actually become writers. They become all manner of other things - butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers - but that drive to write exists within them still. They might write a private journal, be secretly working on a novel, submit letters to the editor, write lengthy letters to their friends, submit stories to a website, or keep a blog.  Or just wish they had the time.

All of this means that, as a writer, when you meet another in the street, you see that gleam in their eyes. There's a passion, an excitement, a certain joie de vivre that they only truly experience when they are head down and writing. Have you ever wandered down the street, completely lost in thought trying to work out a plot twist, a character development, a particularly witty piece of dialogue, only to realise that you're grinning your head off, looking like a loon? Then you're a writer. And here's my advice to you: don't fight it.

I have a stack of manuscripts in my desk drawer. Will I ever submit them to a publisher? No. Will I ever give them the edits and re-writes they really need? No. Will I ever look at them again? Probably not. So why bother creating them in the first place? Because I need to write. There is a living thing inside me that is only satiated when there are words flowing through me. What happens to those words afterwards is entirely irrelevant. I think them up, I write them down, I make sure I like the way they sound, and then I let them live on without me.

So if you share my passion, why not join me in November? And if just one month a year of crazy writing isn't nearly enough, why not apply for a job?

Cross-posted to http://fossdocs.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/the-beast-within">Foss Docs

They're genderising what now?

I went to Woolworth's on the weekend. Not exactly blog material, I know, but what I saw there was. I didn't snap a picture (left my phone in the car, bummer!) but I'll try and get one up shortly. It seems as though we don't have quite enough gendered food to offer our children these days, so Allen's (owned by Nestle) have stepped into the gap we didn't know we had ... "Boy's Adventure Mix" and "Girl's Enchanted Mix" bags of lollies. Ummm. What?

I didn't get a good look at the type of lollies in each bag, but the names on their own are disgusting. Do boys not like wizards and dragons? Can girls not have adventures (aside from the enchanted kind, I guess)? And what would happen if - shock! - my little girl ate a lolly from the boy bag? Would she be scarred for life? Do Allen's provide a phone number hotline for these types of gender emergencies?

Dear Allens,
Grow up.
No love,

Updated 14 September with pic

Of Babies and Pendulums

Back in December, I blogged this, which questioned the rationale behind the laying of criminal charges on the like of Chris Illingworth, at the centre of the "baby-swinging" scandal. I was lucky enough to have that post repeated over at The Thinkers' Podium, and Mr Illingworth himself responded to my original article as a result of that.

And so it was with great excitement that I read that the charges against Chris Illingworth had been dropped. Finally sanity prevails! As I read the article though, I was struck by the entirely human problem that Mr Illingworth now faces - restoring his life back to something resembling normality, and moving on. I don't envy him at all.

To continue in the theme of my original post, though, I wonder if this is really the pendulum of over-protecting our children swinging back, or is it merely that the case itself was so fatally flawed that it just wasn't going to fly? In other words, were the charges against Mr Illingworth dropped because the prosecution had a fit of sanity and reason prevailed, or because there just wasn't enough evidence to follow through with the whole crusade?

Mr Illingworth is understandably upset that he didn't get his day in court. He was denied his opportunity to speak his piece, to defend his choices, and to justify his own actions. That must hurt, and I can only hope that the normally rabid media at the very least offers him a podium of sorts to help him get that off his chest. The linked article also suggests that he is seeking legal advice over possibly counter-suing over his treatment during the proceedings. Obviously the stress of any court case is horrific, and by all reports he has spent time in hospital as a result of the stress of it all. I can say that I know how he feels in that matter at least.

The other thing I found interesting is that Mr Illingworth is calling for an official enquiry into the matter. While I whole-heartedly support this, I find it difficult to believe that it would happen. An enquiry into the bumbling idiots that made a mockery of his arrest, maybe, but an enquiry into why they decided he was guilty in the first place? An enquiry into why we feel we need to protect children to this increasingly over-zealous degree? An enquiry into why we wrap our children in bubble wrap on the off-chance that a dirty peadophile might be lurking at the school gate? I doubt it.

This question goes much deeper into societal norms and taboos than a single investigation. What happened to Mr Illingworth late last year is the sad culmination of a growing fear that our children are likely to be abducted, abused, or molested if allowed outside in the backyard for more than a few seconds without parental supervision.

So where does it stop? Again I ask - when does the pendulum start to swing back? And this time, I'm going to answer it. It starts to swing back when you start giving your children freedom. It starts when you stop living in fear of paedophiles. It starts when you lose the irrationality of fear, and start to critically think about crime, your child, and the likelihood of the two meeting.

As for Mr Illingworth ... sir, I salute you.

One Simple Diet Rule ... ?

I had the misfortune to come across this ad while browsing today:

Apparently, to be 'sexy' (which inevitably requires me to lose 10lbs of 'stomach fat'), I just need to give birth.
Is this genuine, or just a bot-fail, I wonder? 


Updated: 14 September

Just found another pearler:

(Click to embiggen)

How do you lose 35lbs? By shaving your edges off (unevenly) in photoshop! Yay!