West 86th – Paperwork Explosion

“Machines should work, people should think.” The message repeats itself several times; it’s the core of the film’s techno-utopian vision. We can imagine IBM executives and lawyers and public relations agents sitting across a table from Jim Henson telling him to make sure he includes these lines in his film. What if, following William Empson’s advice to readers of poetry, we shifted the emphasis just a little bit? From “machines should work, people should think” to “machines should work, people should think”? Is it possible that the film might be trying to warn us against its own techno-utopianism? Read this way, the film is less an imaginary resolution to the problem of information overload in the modern era than an imaginative critique of this imaginary resolution. Machines should work, but they frequently don’t; people should think, but they seldom do.

Ben Kafka

via West 86th – Paperwork Explosion.

Catching up…

I have been playing around with a different form for this website for the last couple of weeks. Because I don’t particularly care if people don’t have access to it all the time, I made the changes to the live site, and so it’s looked pretty bad lately. Lots of changes behind the scenes, though, for me at least (I’m working on my email archiving system, and that’s taken priority).

Apologies to the only people who might actually have tried looking for this site — those looking for my WordPress plugins. But all’s back and well now; I’ll be posting a couple of updates to a couple of plugins sometime in the next fortnight. Maybe.

* * *

I’m leaving soon; I think I’ve mentioned that. No more shall my daily view be this:

…and I’m saying goodbye to here:

…and moving in to a lovely little house in White Gum Valley! Katie’s found us somewhere to live, and she’s moving in today! Good news.

But I won’t go on now; I’m waiting for the removalists to arrive and then I’m off to work. And the blog-self-consciousness has set in (so please don’t read this).

Afternoon in the Office

Right. Well then.

My idea, this week, is to write more. So far, I have failed.

I have nothing to say. There is nothing going on, nothing worth talking about. But I want to write.

* * *

I have six weeks and two days to go at IBM. I’ve bought my train ticket, and started to pack up my belongings. I feel nothing much other than that I am marking time until I leave. Work drears on (if that’s a word; I’m not sure that it is) with excursions away from AIX to read about typography and distributed authentication (i.e. OpenID) punctuating my workdays. The view from my desk is unchanged, not even in that Canberran way of the trees turning orange in April, because this is Tuggers and no one plants deciduous trees here. I would take a photo, but a) I don’t have a camera (more on that in a moment, however); b) I’m probably not allowed to anyway, for some daft security reason; and c) it’s a silly thing to do, and posting the photo here would be even sillier.

Not that I particularly mind people thinking I’m silly; of course I don’t: I write a blog.

Not that by writing a blog I intend to pronounce what I write worthy of being read. I do not. I most certainly and unequivocally do not. However, I do want to write more, and more regularly. I started this blog when I was actively working with wood on a daily basis, and so I had something to write about. Now that I’m stuck in the rotten world of IT on a daily basis, I do not feel inspired. Hence posts such as this one. Sorry.

Nevertheless, I am soon — thanks to Tom‘s return from the States next week — to be the owner of a new Nikon D60.The Nikon D60, soon to be my first \'proper\' digital camera. Therefore I am one further step down this long road of commitment to technology, and not thinking that I’ll chuck it all in to fuck off to the bush somewhere. Oh dear. What am I doing? I don’t know, but I will be taking more photos, and posting them here.

I have always been attracted to the idea that one can be quite out in the open and public about what one does. I remember reading some strange geeks’ diaries in 1996 or thereabouts, and marveling at their unabashed exposition of their lives. It’s not about having anything interesting to say or reveal, or wanting anyone to read my words — but just dumping these thoughts out there in public view.

I’m sure there’s more I could say about cameras and blogging or waistcoats and slippers, and the absurd split that I feel between the two, but I am rather thinking that I’ve gone on quite long enough already.

More tomorrow…


Last night I went to an ACS talk about teleworking. Against my expectations, I actually really enjoyed it. Within five minutes the presenter — Bevis England: a neat, friendly, almost English-sounding Kiwi — had mentioned peak oil and the way in which biofuel production is pushing up food prices. The environmental benefits of teleworking have always been quite apparent to me, and it was good to see these issues being aired at an ACS function.

He also spoke about the difficulty with telework being the only mode of work for an emloyee. Generally, one or two days each week should be spent in a more communal workspace — but this is of course when one is thinking about teleworking as ‘working from home’ and working alone, and not other arrangements such as telecottaging (which poorly-named practice, I must add, has no relationship to ‘cottaging’). People have complained that it is hard to share knowledge with their co-workers when teleworking, but the results of studies of the actual situation (and not just perception) show that it can be easier for teleworkers to share knowledge. This struck a chord with me also: thinking about the differences in the levels of collaboration and documentation at IBM as compared to any of a number of open source project that I’ve been involved in. At IBM, there are people doing very similar work but who never share anything about how best to do the work ( and I realise, of course, that this is more to do with the culture at IBM than anything else), but who can imagine a FOSS project these days that doesn’t have a wiki?!

All up, and depite feeling pretty rotten all day yesterday, I enjoyed the talk. The question session was a bit of a failure, though, with England fiddling with the computer to try to explain a point that wasn’t really connected to the question he’d been asked. I got the impression that there were also people there who were just trying to ‘catch him out’, to show that teleworking isn’t any good — as though the fact, for example, that the company doesn’t benefit from reduced traffic and CO2 emssions means that these things are not worth working for! But perhaps I’m too harsh.

(Kudos must go to the ACS, by the way, for providing what I most want at that time of the day: a glass of wine! And the hors d’œuvres even had vegetarian eatability; all most unexpected.)

Sitting, reading (again).

I seem to always want to return to this state: a quite chair with a pleasant outlook, and a good book. Here I am, into my second week at IBM, and I have achieved it, albeit with some detractions. The most major: I’m reading IBM Red Books. Next: this is no quiet parlor with a comfy armchair and a neat fire burning. But we take what we can get, don’t we?

So: I’m in a fluro-lit second-floor office, sitting at a cheap white melamine desk with an IBM Thinkpad. I read about AIX, on and on and on, and then I try things, turning to the server that also sits on my desk, and in this way (I guess) I am learning…

My view is to the South, looking over Bonython or Isabella Plains or wherever it is, and nearer it’s the lake, which is a lovely place (hmm, that’s probably not the complete truth) to walk at lunch time. In fact, I think that’s what I might go and do now.