Tuesday, 7 December 2004

She was born ... Hungarian!

"Her english is too good, he said, which clearly indicates that she is foreign."

- Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady.

"Excuse me, excuse me, but I speak very well English."

- Random passerby.

Henry Higgins obviously hadn't spent enough time in France. French natives trying to speak convincing English can be identified as such from about a hundred yards. More excruciatingly, english words that find their way surreptitiously into conversational (if not official) use are given a treatment equivalent to Bob Hawke or David Boon saying "je ne sais quoi". Ears burn, and both english teachers and french purists spin in their graves, albeit in opposite directions. Ah well, c'est la vie.


I never cease to be amazed by the song selection for the timeout and quarter-time breaks at the women's basketball games I attend every week or two. There are a couple of theme songs from sports movies like Rocky, mandatory at any spectator sport worth its salt, and a couple of more-or-less-current hip-hop anthems (suitably moderated for young ears), in fitting with the general culture associated with basketball.

Then we have the Benny Hill theme.

Now, I'm not one to judge a song harshly, but at least in my mind this jaunty ditty is prone to conjuring images of scantily- or un-clad females gallivanting (Hi Lee) through a forest being chased by dirty old men. At a women's professional sports event, this juxtaposition might generously be called dubious.

It might just be my filthy mind, though.

On an related note, my french-english dictionary lamentably makes no attempt to provide a French equivalent for 'gallivant'. Perhaps that's for the best.

Friday, 3 December 2004

sometimes you catch yourself

I'm sitting in a laundromat in France, listening to Crowded House, on a small box barely bigger than an audiocassette, that has almost every song I've ever loved or recently liked.

I was depressed this morning. I've been bludging off a foreign government for 10 months, and had a presentation to give that I was so sure would be the end of my studies that I wrote Australian idioms into the slides in an effort to lose my audience. That tactic failed so spectacularly that not only did they like what I said, they doubled the length of my talk with discussion, and suggested they might find me a more lucrative scholarship next year.

I am finally arriving at the conclusion that you can, in fact, fool all of the people all of the time. You just have to be fast on your feet and be more familiar with the domain than your superiors.

If only I was convinced that I really wanted to spend all three years of the course in France, I'd be pretty smug. As it stands, I wouldn't complain too much if they booted me back to the southern hemisphere, if only they could find a reason that didn't show me for the bludger I've been. Failure to follow proper procedures for my residency permit. Too pale to be credible as an Australian. Something like that.

Outside its about 3 degrees C and humid: cold. The other day I had ice on my gloves while I was riding to work. In ten days, though, I'll be sitting on a veranda wearing shorts and sunnies, and relying on a cold beer to fight the 34 degrees and humid that have all ganged up on me at once. Its 10,000 miles away, but I've got a ticket to ride.

It's a funny world.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

brass monkeys

Hot damn, but it was cold this morning on the bike. Visibility was very low because of the fog, and I rugged up my gloves and a beanie under my helmet. I pulled on the brakes a little fast at one point and the back wheel went all over the place, silently. I suspect it may have been ice. Pulling up at a red light, there were ice crystals forming on the knuckles of my gloves. The weather observations said 0, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was even a degree or two below that.

In other news, I finished of Smilla's Sense of Snow the other day. I saw the movie so long ago I can hardly remember it, except that it was beautiful; anyway, the plot points remained unspoiled for me this time around. I looked up some reviews yesterday and they all seemed to complain about the lack of resolution, but I thought it was a good thing, and in general couldn't really complain about the story at all. The characters were interesting and believable, the setting was, for me, novel, and the pseudo-science was convincing enough that I couldn't identify it as such, if it even was.

Having finished that one, I moved onto Pirsig's Lila. I've been waiting a long time to read this, and now finding myself trying hard to refrain from judging it until I've completed it. Pirsig is a hard read, as I learnt with Zen & The Art, and seems more defensively forceful and less introspective than in the past. I'm about a third of the way through, anyway, and hopefully it'll clear up.

Monday, 29 November 2004


You know, if someone ever actually managed to make a mountain out of a molehill, they'd be well within their rights to make a big deal of it.

Saturday, 27 November 2004

The Incredibles

I'm not one to gush about movies (I suspect a glance at my comments through the year would veer distinctly negative in nature), but I saw The Incredibles last night, and it rocked. Hard. Now, I was watching a French dubbed version, much to my chagrin, so I probably only picked up on a certain proportion of the dialogue humour, but the rhythm and timing was top-notch.

What I really liked, though, were the film references. In particular, the scene chasing the son (Flèche in the VF, Dash in the VO, I think) through the forest was a beautiful mix of the ROTJ speeder bike scene, across the desert of the Episode 1 pod race, and a scene across water, that Jacques noted later was from Bond. Also Mole Man at the end, the endless references to comic characters, of which even a rookie like me picked up a few (Cyclops, Mole Man, etc).

Think I'll try and catch an English screening when I get back to Oz in December, to pick up the rest of the jokes that I missed.

Thursday, 25 November 2004


I got in about 10 past nine this morning, earlier than recent standards, but hardly crack-of-dawn, and it was cold. I saw some traces of ice in some puddles outside one of the walkways, and about 20 minutes later, weather.com was telling me it was 1 degree celsius, which I'd believe. Not sure for how much longer I can keep riding my bike in if we're going to be getting ice - I'm not cut out for that.

Oh, also, I'm in a new office now, with Franck and Benoit, my erstwhile co-authors. The noise from the construction is a little louder, but hopefully the collaborations will be worth it.

Monday, 22 November 2004


I've finished two books since my last post, and started a third.

Last week I read The Potato Factory, by Bryce Courtenay. I was inspired to buy it by a link, perceived or real between my ancestor Judah Solomon, and the book's central character Ikey Solomon, who both arrived in Tasmania around the same time. Judah get's one mention at the end of the book, too, which gave me a buzz. In all, the story is of two characters, Ikey and his "mistress" Mary (the term is not a great fit, but better perhaps than any other), and their journeys from Dickensian (Oliver Twist-ian, to be exact) London to Van Diemen's Land. The Ikey character is good, taking much inspiration from Dickens' Fagin, but the Mary character is one-dimensional and not believable. She's altogether too nice, too honest, and I didn't buy it. Regardless, the story's distracting enough and, more importantly, the portraits, fictional though they may be, of London and Hobart, sated me for the few days that they afforded me.

After that, and a quick trip to the library, I started on, and finished off, Last Orders, by Graham Swift. I picked this one up because I saw all the previews for Schepisi's adaptation a couple of years ago. Not a bad little story, although I imagine it would have made a pretty slow-paced film, not having any plot to speak of. It's kind of depressing, too, in a way, with all the interrelated lives spent doing very little, and most family relationships dysfunctional or discontinued.

Having finished Last Orders Sunday afternoon, last night I started on Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, another book since adapted to film, although in this case a film I've actually seen.

Friday, 19 November 2004

down 19

Via Jamie, it seems I traded 6th for 25th. For a footy/cricket fan like me, 6th is conservative, too; as Lachy can attest, Ireland isn't the cricketing superpower you might think.

Thursday, 18 November 2004

bye bye, blogbirds

Ubersportingpundit and, regrettably, Backpages both shut up shop today, the latter permanently. I can get my cricket summaries from cricinfo, but BP was my best source of Australian political opinion, and will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

new thesis title

Stream-of-Consciousness Blogging as an Inverse Research Productivity Aid, or How I Learned to Stop Studying and Love The Blog.

Monday, 15 November 2004

Australianism and/vs moralism

Interesting piece over at Troppo Armadillo (warning: little bit lefty if you're a Howardist). Note, the interesting bit to me isn't beating up on Christian conservatives (and especially Pell, who as Chris so aptly puts it, is as mad as a meat-axe, which in turn is a genuinely beautiful and untranslatable phrase), which is like shooting fish in a barrell, but rather the later characterisation of Australian values. It may veer unconsciously socialist, but its interesting. Earlier this year I said I'd always be an Australian, because I love my country, and someone asked me why. I couldn't answer, and still can't, despite 10 months of occasional reflection. The mateship/fair-go thing is part of the answer, perhaps.


Two films and 3 books this week, pretty much, but films are making a surge, I think. There are at least 3 films coming out this week that I want to see: House of Flying Daggers, Bad Santa, and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. There's also Birth, with Nicole Kidman, but its a Sunday marginal (i.e. if I'm bored shitless or finish a book Sunday afternoon, then I'll go see it, otherwise probably not). I think there's a Julianne Moore thriller too, but I seem to recall bad reviews from Ebert and also Berardinelli, which makes me less than enthusiastic.

story of, er, ...

My weekend. It was a 4-day weekend, courtesy of armistice (Remembrance Day in Australia) on Thursday and RTT (RDO in Australia) on Friday.

I spent Thursday mostly reading Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson, a kind of environment novel halfway between "normal" fiction and his usual cyberpunk stuff, and somewhat reminiscent of the Doctorow stories I read earlier this year.

In the evening, I went and watched "Un Long Dimanche de Financailles" (A Very Long Engagement, according to IMDB), Jeunet's latest film. I think it was the first French-language film I've seen at the cinema this year, and I was OK, but not complete, in my understanding of the dialogue, in particular, the southern (almost spanish) accents gave me a bit of trouble. The film itself is OK, but lacks the "je ne sais quoi" that made Amelie so good. The performances are good but not great, the director's fascination with reconstructing the Paris of yesteryear continues (in this case, I recognised a few places, notably the Opera and the Musee d'Orsay, which was formerly a train station), but the story is only adequate, and not really heartwarming enough. Also, the principal characters are a little thin, particularly the simpleton (I assume) boyfriend, who has little or no personality at all.

Oh, and before that, Jacques, Sophie and I went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. A bit expensive, but it did me good to smell all the spices again. I ordered poorly, an impotent vindaloo, and watched in envy as Jacques and Sophie hopped into a fluorescent butter chicken on my recommendation. Dessert was on me, Anzac bikkies that I cooked that afternoon.

Friday morning I went into work for a teleconference that had in fact been postponed the day before. I was not amused, and bludged on the net for a while before going home and finishing my book. In the evening I cooked a massive plate of lasagne, which should cover my dietary requirements for the next week or so.

On Saturday I slept in, finished off my book, and then took care of some administrative stuff. A replacement bank card for the one I left in a shop a couple of weeks back, my plane tickets back to Australia, and a new book. The library was closed for some reason, so I had to head to the used book shop instead. Was tempted by some Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, but figured I could probably find them on Gutenberg, so I opted for The Potato Factory, for its proximity, perhaps, to one of my ancestors. I need to ask mum for more information on that.

Saturday evening I went out to Jacques and Sophie's place for dinner and to watch the rugby match between the Wallabies and France. I had bought a jersey the day before, but it didn't help - our attack never really had any effect on the French defence, which was pushing up very quickly. Oh well, the pizzas were good, as was the company.

Sunday I read about a half of the Potato Factory, and then went and watched Mondovino at TNB. I thought it was crap, but seemed to be in the minority. More than Michael Moore's films, I felt it wasn't a documentary, in that it painted the Americans like clowns and the more traditional elements like sages, using music, camerawork, and what I reckoned must have been pretty selective editing. Globalisation bad, old french farmers crushing grapes in their undies good, all that stuff. Some others left half-way through, and I was tempted, and a bunch of people clapped at the end, so perhaps I lost something in the translation, but I was pretty disappointed in all. I consoled myself with lasagne, a glass of Pécharmant, followed by camembert and ice-cream. I thought for a moment about who I'd paid for the wine, but quickly dismissed the thought.

Monday, 8 November 2004


Last week was ISSRE. I've gone into the tech stuff on my other blog, so I'll stick to the social stuff here.

Tuesday night was the welcome cocktail. I pretty much stuck to champagne until the very end, when Benoit invited me to share a whiskey with him. I said OK and asked the hostess for a small one, at which she promptly filled a wine glass. After eventually getting through it, I headed out with Yves and various others for gallettes and cidre. Pretty good time, but not to raucous in the end.

On Wednesday night I went with the rest of the technical staff to, of all things, an Indonesian restaurant. I was looking forward to some Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado, Kari Ayam, etc, and the food was pretty good, in the end. The style was decidedly un-Indonesian, though, very expensive, the waiter explaining every dish in excruciating detail, and the food lacking in any spice (which seems to be a virtue in French restaurants). Also, I wasn't aware that the Indonesians eat a lot of frog's legs, but I was willing to trust our host. The deserts were acknowledgedly not Indonesian, but were very good; I went for pineapple with cardamom ice-cream, an unlikely but very tasty combination.

Thursday started well, was pretty good in the middle, and just got out of hand at the end. We started with a trip to Mont-Saint Michel, interesting if nothing else for the emptiness of the monastery - I was left with the impression that perhaps the changing proportion of tourists versus monks and pilgrims could very well have scared any god away and, if this was the case, he seemed to have taken all his decorations with him. After getting back to St Malo, we started the banquet.

I had heard from an Irishman at the conference that a group had formed over the previous nights of Norwegians, Finns and Germans determined to acquaint themselves with the local beverages. The banquet provided this opportunity. We started on white wine, and even at this early stage the waiters seemed to have realised that more frequent service was required for our table than the others. The white passed well, but it was the move to burgundy that really made the difference. The glasses were enormous, and the norwegian girls had no problem with filling them as one might any other, leading to accelerating and noticable excitement. This in turn attracted certain elements from other tables that made the calvados course just a little more stimulated.

Upon leaving the banquet at the urging of the serving staff, we had formed a dangerous and fairly optimised little group which, armed with half-empty bottles of red and "borrowed" glasses, stumbled out into the walled city in search of further entertainment. It was only when the irishman chose to offer some local authorities a taste of said red that we found ourselves seeking the shelter of a licensed establishment, where over a couple more hours we rounded out the evening. To be honest, I had basically plateaued by the end of the banquet, and everything beyond that point is somewhat less clear. I was pretty rough the next day, but I think the prize for rough went to Benoit, followedly closely by the Irishman.

Names have been omitted to protect the guilty. Except Benoit. He was too guilty.

all saints

In France, "All Saints" translates not as a TV soap, but a public holiday. It's a christian thing but, when it comes to holidays, it's not how, it's how many, so I happily accepted Franck & Valentine's suggestion to come on down to La Rochelle for a few days at Valentine's folks' house.

We spent most of the weekend on our bikes, covering 32k on Saturday cruising around La Rochelle, 46k on Sunday over to Ile de Ré, and particularly St Martin, and then a lazy 10k just rolling around on Monday morning. As with everywhere else I've visited people in France, the food and drink was excellent throughout, including good octopus, paté, and cognac. On the way home, we stopped in at Valentine's grandmother's place, 5 minutes in which we were offered everything from leftover halloween sweets to packets of rice and pasta, in the grand international tradition of extremely generous grandparents.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

i turn my back for 10 months, and...

Bad news. Yeah, everyone knows that Bush got re-elected but, according to Tinni, her employer has been knocked back for their funding application. I'm really, really biased, but DSTC was a great place to do research. Don't believe me though. Another Jim, Jim Coplien, said a couple of years back that:

“I hold the DSTC to be one of the most effective software research organisations in the world…”

That sucks and, like the elections (also American but particularly Australian), it suggests to me that the people making the decision must have been woefully uninformed or monumentally stupid to make such a choice. Whatever you think of the proposal specifics (and, although I didn't see the full proposal, only the first summary one, I had some criticisms), one look at who's involved screams, or should scream: "Give these people money and they will do world-class research".

Of course, funding bodies, like voters, aren't always that interested in details like excellence (or lack thereof) in doing what you're required and paid to do. Or maybe it's me. Again. For the third time in a month. Dammit.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

the good doctor

Thompson, like Vonnegut, isn't much of a Bush/Cheney fan, saying he'd vote for Nixon over Bush, because:
He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with.

I realise that I can quote left-wingers until I'm blue in the face, and it won't make a lick of difference to any Republican, let alone to the election, but it makes me feel like I'm socially aware and stuff, so what the hell.

more and more and more on reading

I got around my Ulysses block again. I went to the American library on Saturday morning and grabbed Count Zero, another Gibson, which I polished off on Saturday afternoon/evening, and Vonnegut's Jailbird, which I got through Sunday. The Gibson was a result of limited choice in the SF section; just popcorn. I'd been looking for some Vonnegut, and was really looking more for Slaughterhouse 5 or Breakfast of Champions, but I took what I could get. I enjoyed it, too. He's a better writer than Thompson, and although less vitriolic, probably as perceptive, although not so much Steinbeck. Actually, the book owes a certain amount of its heritage, in terms of its feint but important background in American labour disputes, to The Grapes of Wrath, although that's by the by. It didn't excite me overly, but enough that I'll try to find his earlier stuff.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

on reading

This from mum, in turn from the Weekend Australian magazine, in turn from Groucho Marx:
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

continued consumption

Ulysses has surfaced at the top of my reading list. That doesn't mean I've read it. In fact, I started it a few months ago, and failed, and have just recently started again. This is a difficult book to read, and I think I'm making it tougher on myself trying to read it on my laptop.

Land Of Plenty

I cannot be stopped. After a week's break, 2 more films. The second was Wim Wenders' Land Of Plenty.

This is very clearly a statement about certain aspects of American culture. It will be perceived in many circles to be anti-Bush, but it's not. By comparison with Michael Moore, it bears significant comparison to Bowling For Columbine, but none to Fahrenheit 9/11. There are real questions here about the culture of fear in the US, and the personal, rather than collective or military reaction to the September 11 bombings. I was really into the film for probably 90% of the storyline, and only started losing interest towards the end, and particularly in the denouement which, like so many, just didn't resonate with me, and felt forced.

In hindsight, there are probably more problems with this film than are evident in the dark of the cinema. The Michelle Williams character, which I though was fairly well acted, is really not very developed, and lacks a certain reality. Yes, she's very religious but also, one suspects, liberal and, nominally, world-aware, but she really expresses very little opinions in the film. Sure, this is partly her role, the unpainted canvas carrying less baggage than her uncle, who is really the subject of the film. I can appreciate that she's supposed to be the future and all that, to be coloured by the times and the people around her, but I don't buy that a 20-year old can be that.

Anyway, despite that, its a good little flick for the vast majority of its running length, particularly, I guess, if you have comparable beliefs to Wenders, as I suspect I do. My complaints about the denouement may be better ignored - I don't like many :-)

Tuesday, 19 October 2004


I'm not a religious manga zealot (Jules doesn't read this, I don't think, but hi anyway), but I like the genre, and have probably seen my fair share. About a month ago I read an article (can't find the link now, sorry) that this would potentially be a big year for manga, with 3 of the biggest directors having new films; Hayao Miyazaki (too many to list), Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). Akira didn't flick my switch overly, but I like my movies in series, and Steamboy was first here.

I said I like the genre, but it sure ain't for originality of story ideas. Introduce hero, introduce villain, well meaning but constructing large structure not in human-kind's best interest, climax with hero destroying big structure. OK, not all of them, but it happens over and over again. Mononoke, Akira (kind of), Metropolis, Steamboy. Oh, there you go, I gave it away.

Anyway, if you're going to see this, you don't care about the plot. You just want sweet animation, and you'll get it. Actually, the Koreanime flick that I saw a couple of weeks ago was probably prettier, but this is still good candy.

flight risk

Warning, continued unnecessary self-analysis follows.

I'm a flight risk. I seem to have a tendency to leave the scene of a social situation at the smallest provocation. It doesn't happen as much now, but I'm pretty sure that's more tied to a reduced frequency of social interactions than any behavioural change. After a basketball game on Saturday afternoon, I left without saying hello to Liz as I usually do, and I don't know why.

Later that night, even, I got into the wrong lift in the metro station and was pretty shocked to be hearing two Australian girls speaking. We chatted for a while - one of them is a student at Villejean - but I barked some half-arsed excuse about needing to be on the other platform and left. I didn't even get their names, for crying out loud, let alone some sort of contact, which I regretted the minute I left. It's no wonder I don't have much of a social circle over here.

Its epidemic, and doesn't help me one little bit.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Tim Bray on US politics

I never thought I'd link Tim Bray in my personal blog, but his thoughts on the US election are interesting. They present a different approach to the decision, and one that I'd agree with, being in a similar position as an outsider. Certainly, I have and have seen a similar view of Bush as he suggests. Of course, an Australian grad student in France is probably an even less interesting source for an American swing voter than a Canadian computer programmer.

His view probably also applies for outsiders (albeit perhaps more south-east Asian outsiders than others) looking in on the Australian election. Frankly, if they hold it against us, more power to them; perhaps we deserve a good kick up the ass for "reelecting that #*!^!% #$*!%* &*@!$%!".


One of the plants I bought on the weekend is a chamaecyparis (can't recall off-hand which member of the family, but I suspect Lawsoniana), which I'm now reading is probably more a tree than a plant. So, either I bought a bonsai, or I've gone and got myself a tree, which probably won't really work in my apartment. I'm betting on the former, based on the moss gathered around the base but also in the hope that I won't have to jettison/kill the damn thing once it gets big. Given that my recent history with minding bonsais for a colleague involved a survival rate of 25% (the life signs of the lost were, to be fair, faint or nonexistent before I took delivery), there is more than a drop of irony in this. I've been keeping it at home, because it brightens up my room, but there is a safety net of other people at work, which might prove valuable down the road. In any case, I need to learn how to trim it, too.

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Voting places where I've lived. East Innisfail and Mareeba West, in Kennedy, both voted for Mad Bob, who I respect but disagree with. St Lucia and Toowong voted Lib, as did Indooroopilly West, in Ryan. What's going on, all of my old haunts voted conservative. This doesn't surprise me in the north, but in Ryan, I don't get it. It should be full of the liberal elites from whom Howard supposedly profits by bagging.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004


That's Emily on the left, I'm sure of it. There may or may not also be a Lee in the second photo.


The next 3 years could be pretty lean for good-news ABC stories, so lets get in while the going is good. BTN is coming back, which is good to hear. I watched it and enjoyed it when I was in primary school at East Innisfail. Engaging children in news and current affairs at an early age is important for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is grass-roots development of a actively critical and diverse media, something perhaps lacking now.


In what, by recent standards, would count as a productive day, I've spent the last 2 hours or so reading papers that I haven't enjoyed, making detailed critiques as to why the contained approaches are flawed. I even read a Pegamento paper that I didn't like, although for reasons of lack of substance rather than any disagreement with rationale. I can't remember the last paper I liked, excluding ancient stuff like 1980s typing papers, which I view from a rather less informed and thus less critical perspective.

Add to that the fact that I still don't have a coherent topic for my thesis, after 9 months of trying to find one, and the fact that "middle Australia" chose to re-elect John Howard with an increased majority, and I'm feeling pretty miserable. Oh, and I still don't have my student card, which I need to renew my provisional residency permit, which I have to do tomorrow. Moan bloody moan.


On Friday night I went with Jacques, Sophie and Estelle, a friend of Sophie's, to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was excellent. In fact, although I may regret this later, I would rate it as perhaps the best (and incidentally least formulaic) romantic comedy that I've ever seen, perhaps overtaking High Fidelity.

My intention of Saturday morning was to go buy a bike, return my overdue library books, and go into IRISA around lunch to check the election results. It rained, so all this got reordered and delayed a bit, but I got it all done eventually. Unfortunately, this resulted in an election-induced malaise that still lingers.

After the bad news, I went on a consumerist rampage with the previous night's team, to Conforama, Leroy Merlin and LeClerc, picking up curtains, plants and various other accoutrements that I probably don't need. Sunday was thus reduced to installing said superfluous purchases into my now generously deported appartment, followed by despondently regarding first my shiny new bike and then the light drizzle falling outside.

Saturday, 9 October 2004


It would appear that Howard has been returned with an increased majority. I don't understand. I just don't understand. Disillusioned doesn't begin to cover it.

Friday, 8 October 2004

crunch time

With the election tomorrow, I'm beginning to think that I'll come in to work in the morning to check out the result. Crikey had a very good editorial today on their hopes for the result. Their last call, for a more robust media, regrettably, is less likely than their desired electoral result.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

the worm turns

I read an article the other day, I think perhaps in the New York Times, that it had been a very long time since there was an American president who sported a moustache or other facial hair. I got to thinking, and I reckon it might be even longer for Australia. This page, via the PM's site, seems to suggest that its not since Billy Hughes left in 1923 that an Aussie PM has sported growth. Also interesting is that until that point, every PM except Barton, the first, had in fact had either a 'mo or a full beard. How the worm turns!

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

and again...

While we're on the election, here is another article from the same site, albeit not by the same author. In fact, this is a letter from Richard Davey to his (and my) local member, Liberal Party candidate Michael Johnston, outlining why he will not vote liberal. My most significant gripe with his letter is probably his claim that he has never previously been politically engaged, which he contradicts by an apparent, acute and ongoing awareness of political issues going back a number of years. Again, there are number of issues that resonate with me, not only the anti-government sentiments, but also things like the historical sympathy with the ideas behind a GST.

more election stuff

News from my dear sisters overnight including some of their thoughts surrounding the election. In particular, Lee forwarded this article by Margo Kingston, discussing the choice for some voters between the Dems and Greens. Whether you respect her opinions or not, this article represents a pretty fair scan of a number of the issues I tossed up in making up my mind for the senate ballot. Of course, other things, like my perceptions of the candidates' qualification/readiness to do the job, also came into it.

So, for the election, Em is cooking trout and bread, and Lee is taking a very Zen approach to the whole thing:
Whoever wins, I still play my first cricket game of the season on Sunday.
That's the attitude.

Tuesday, 5 October 2004


Well, I've filled in my ballots, and I even found an Australian to witness my postal vote envelope. Hopefully I'll mail the envelope either on my way home tonight or, if I'm not sure about postage, tomorrow morning on my way to uni.

I've already done a rundown of my house candidates (for Ryan), and this afternoon I did a whole lot of scouring for information on the web on the independents and more obscure parties running for the senate.

These were the notes I gathered, first for independents, then for parties. "????" indicates that I couldn't find any information on the candidates or their policies. The lack of comment about the policies of the major parties means that they seemed clear to me. Other factors I took into account were the preference listings from the ABC web site (far, far, far and away the best aggregate site for electoral information).

Note: these are my opinions, are neither impartial, objective, nor complete, and I only really expect them to be useful to people who know my politics and can use that knowledge as a subjective filter. You need to determine for yourself which way you should vote. If you take issue with a characterisation, email or comment and correct me; I don't consider myself an authority by any means.

terry rushton
- ????
- preferences to libs, nats, ffp, one nation
eamon coll
- CQU??
- preferences to libs, nats, ffp, one nation
selwyn johnston
- http://www.johnston-independent.com
- expensive water scheme
- zero net immigration
- anti-republic
- very conservative
susan harvey
- ????
gail duncan
- ????
- strange preferencing
kim mcintosh
- ????
- strange preferencing
pauline hanson
- if you're voting, you know who she is and what she stands for
- see enough rope interview
judy smith
- hanson's sister, running mate
hetty johnson
- single issue, child abuse activist
diana scott
- appears to be press contact for hetty johnston
darryl angus mcarthur
- ????
hassan ghulam
- immigrant (esp afghans @ nauru) activist and spokesman

non-custodial parents party
- as the name suggests
- largely single-issue, social conservatives
- "lying rodent" brandis is a career politician, trood seems better
citizens electoral council
- protectionists
- 2 good candidates (esp mclucas), the other sounds like bill ludwig's son
socialist alliance
- to the left what FFP are to the right
liberals for forests
- single issue moderate environmentalists
one nation
- ultraconservative
family first
- religious right
- new country seems more in the spirit of the country party
fishing party
- single-issue recreational fishing group
- the drew-ids, difficult to find bios for 2nd and 3rd candidates
- activists, not legislators
- single issue, marijuana prohitibion
great australians
- policy-less nostalgic conservatives?
new country party
- as the name suggests
- not enamoured of NP relationship with Libs
- fairly conservative, but still basically centralist
australian progressive alliance
- the democrats without the baggage?
- newman seems a good candidate, the other is a kid
- candidates seem reasonable
- shame about current state of the party

Monday, 4 October 2004

books and movies

"To A God Unknown", the latest in my Steinbeck cycle, is another strong book. A little like the Korean films I saw this weekend, it doesn't have a very strong story, but the writing is beautiful, and he really loves the characters, and he really loves the land, and that's enough. So, while it isn't in the same class as The Grapes of Wrath, or Of Mice And Men, its still very, very good reading.

Interestingly, a quick glance at my sidebar reveals 23 films for the year, and 30 books (The Making of the Atomic bomb was last year, and the dictionary doesn't count). The former is perhaps slightly down on recent years (in turn well down from the mad years of Hollywood slavery), but the latter is way, way, way out of proportion with even my prolific early teens. Films are probably still in the majority, though, when I consider the DVDs I've seen (recently wrapped up a tour of the local Kubrick collection).


So, two films on Sunday, something of a return to what I was doing in March/April, just wandering down the road (20 minutes or so) to the TNB to catch pretty much whatever was showing.

The first I saw was Wonderful Days, a manga film, but coming out of Korea, which I think is less common. I think that having had a break from animé for a while might have emphasised it, but the film had a beautiful look. The progressive integration of 3D elements into manga films is great, and although they still show at times, the seams between the styles of animation are better and better managed every time (Titan AE was another that mixed styles, if I remember correctly). Also, the end, often a problem for me with Animé films, was pretty good in this case, analogous though it was to so many manga endings (world ending, everything exploding: Akira, bad example, Metropolis, better example).

The second film was "Printemps, été, automne, hiver, ... et printemps", another Asian (also Korean, I think) film, very buddhist in structure and message. In fact, it had only a lightweight plot, and relied much more heavily on its imagery and sound (both effects and music) for effect, an approach that certainly worked for me; I felt very calm walking home. The director, who I think is Korean (Kim Ki-Duk) has another film at Arvor this month, so I might have to check that out, too.

Its worth noting, perhaps, that, since TNB is a proper cinema, both these films were presented in original version (in these cases, Korean) with French subtitles. This was a small problem early in the first film, when they were setting things up, but in truth neither film was really dialogue-driven, so it wasn't much of a drama. My reading is better than when I watched the Romanian film in March, but I still lack for vocabulary.

electoral stuff

My voting kit arrived on Friday, so I hope to fill it out and mail it off this evening. 50 senate candidates :)

In other electoral stuff, this (via Stefan), is bloody outrageous. Chatting on Friday, French debates are very, very unstructured, with candidates able to interject while the other is speaking. They found it restrictive that it might be otherwise, but I think its necessary. Otherwise it would turn into Question Time. Still, the American contract is idiocy.

weekend happenings

On Friday Franck, Valentine and I helped Jacques and Sophie move, from Louvigne-de-bais (quite a long way from Rennes) to Acigné (a fair way from Rennes). Since they were moving from a house, they had a fair bit of stuff, and consequently the truck they rented was enormous. I also scored a wardrobe and a desk that were surplus to requirements.

Saturday morning I rearranged my appartment into the only configuration that adequately accomodates the new furniture, unfortunately finishing too late to run my library books back into town, meaning that they are now more than a week overdue. In the afternoon I read the first half of "To A God Unknown", another Steinbeck, before heading in to watch the basketball in the evening. Avenir got up, courtesy of some excellent seals in the post leading to easy layups. This was despite the other team having a very well organised motion offense, which got them open jump shots all night long. Liz had a tough time of it early with fouls, but hit a few key buckets in the final quarter.

Sunday I did washing and finished off my novel, then went into TNB to watch "Wonderful Days". Walked back afterwards, grabbed dinner and, having read everything on my shelves, walked back in for the last screening of "Printemps, été, automne, hiver, ... et printemps" (Spring, summer, autumn, winter, ... and spring").

Monday, 27 September 2004


Did I comment on The Terminal yet? No, it seems not. I'll be brief: Spielberg has another siesta from good movies with this by-the-numbers, dubiously-premised and placement-rich comedy that culminates in a character-change-ex-machina to end all. Even the presence of Kumar, both actor and character, from the Wes Anderson movies (esp Bottle Rocket, Royal Tenenbaums) can't take the vanilla taste away.

bruit brute

I find increasingly that situation dominates choice of music. Riding the bus is, understandably, no place for Beethoven piano sonatas, nor for Metheny's solo (or duet with Haden) guitar - too much background noise. Usually though, the office is - absence of lyrics is good for concentration, calming influence is valuable.

That is, except for the brute. There's a laptop sitting across from me that makes as much noise idling (it has no concept of sleep) as a small Peugot, and more than my iBook at full BG2 power (I know nothing about game porting, but its slow, demanding and, in lieu of a full install option, accesses the optical drive almost constantly). My colleague never uses it, so it just sits there whining on the login screen, permanently. Ludwig van doesn't stand a chance.


Dammit, I hate Port Adelaide. No, I mean I really hate them, like Carlton-hate them. What I hate more is that I kind of had a feeling that Brisbane were a bit too beat up. At least it'll probably save IRISA and DSTC the bandwidth of me downloading a video of the match.

Spent the weekend cooped up again. Saturday morning I finished off Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and in the evening took a chunk out of Gemmell's appropriately-named "The Legend of Deathwalker", which I subsequently polished off Sunday night. A bigger contrast you might not find.

I enjoyed Fear and Loathing, although it probably never really lived up to the explosive first couple of chapters. The first paragraph alone is epic, and its a big ask to follow it. The Druss book was just pulp fantasy stuff, but enjoyable enough as such.

In the interims, Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday, I played more BG2, making good progress on one game before the save file got corrupted, after which I restarted yet again, for the eleventy-billionth time.

I gotta get myself another pastime.

This morning I wandered past the social security office before work and applied for that card again, this time with all the requisite papers. (On that, apologies for the Tinni-esque - according to Keith - rant on Thursday; perhaps understood only by Jesse, who raised me in the ways of fruit.) Having done that, I'm told it'll probably be more than month before I get the actual card. In the meantime, I'll have to content myself with this week's subsequent escapades from sanity to the department of employment (work permit for tutoring) and prefecture (residency permit, still, again, forever).

Saturday, 25 September 2004

the big one

The Grand final starts in a few hours, and I'm in Rennes. The game is televised into 90 countries, but not France. Even if it was, I have no television, and don't know of any venue that would screen it. I've read pretty much every Lions article there is to read on RealFooty, and have been talking about footy (to heathens) all day. One colleague here knows the team song now.

Please, don't email me or text me scores or any other news until Tuesday. I just don't want to know. It'll be obvious on this blog when I've watched the game, either by vitriol or joy.

Just between you and me, the odds ($1.50 for Brisbane) are mad. This is game is a 50/50 proposition as far as I'm concerned. The Lions are beat-up, aging and finished second, and its only their finals experience that makes them a real go. Of course, I could never bet against Brisbane, nor for Port, so the point is kind of moot.

Friday, 24 September 2004

and thus it was...

Yea!, and bravely was I led into battle rush and chaos, by he my faithful leader Jacques and partner in the imparting of web services unto those who would be apprenticed to we journeymen. Hark though, as did cometh from the shadow the great beast of many heads that didst call himself by French Bureaucracy, and unto us laidst his fiery breath and many-razored claws. And yea though my sword of language cut not deep, but as lead by my fellow we didst resist the dark deep of depression laid upon. Once, twice, thrice did we slice at the many heads, the somber blue and black of social security, the viscious green of enrolments, the lurking ebony of the department of employment, the blood and dripping red of the archangel prefecture, the the fickle and faded grey of ENST human resources, and its somber and rising granite twin within our very walls. And Lo! even as we cut they didst flinch back, and fade, and fall to the blade of our mighty telephone, strengthened as it was by the enchantment of the hands-free mode. And yet still they squirmed the heads and turned and didst regather their strength before our very eyes, and as the sun left us, did we beat our retreat to take of the great bitter black bile of life, as to regather strength to conquer anew the many headed but bloodied beast another day.

Tuesday, 21 September 2004

and another thing, too

Another thing I miss about Australia is Enough Rope. This morning I read the transcript of Denton's interview with Pauline Hanson, and it was hard. By hard, I mean difficult. I mean, I have as much baggage about this woman as most Australians I know, but the Denton interviews really expose parts of their subjects that you can relate to. At the same time, there are a lot that you can't, but these challenging interviews, where you read or hear about someone with whom you fundamentally disagree but where are forced to acknowledge, "OK, I see their point, and its basically a coherent reality, even if its not quite mine", these are difficult but important things.


Another thing making me wish I was back in Australia: Mick has started sending out updates of Simplex-related activities, and it sounds like he's (the updates say "we", but London to a brick its him doing most of the legwork) got some interesting things happening.


So, these are the candidates for my federal parliamentary seat of Ryan in the upcoming election:
I can reduce it to four very quickly. The first is from the religious right. The fourth is from the protectionists, a group I thought had gone quietly into the night in the first half of this century. I can abide neither.

Normally, I'd probably vote Democrat, Green, Labor, Liberal, in that order. However, the Green candidate is, well, very green. In fact, he's still an undergraduate student. Its probably not fair to discriminate on the basis of age, but I can't convince myself that this person could adequately represent the electorate. Doubly vexing, the Democrat candidate is not much older, leaving similar doubts. The labor candidate doesn't fill me with confidence either, but at least she seems to have run some things and been involved in politics a bit. I cannot vote liberal, regardless of the candidate, because of what the current government has done to my country, and because its leader fails in any way to represent what I consider Australian.

Actually, this post is at least partly for my own reference, to consult when I get my postal vote form.

Monday, 20 September 2004


Its amazing just how compelling it can be to watch a fly's continuing inability to learn that even a longer run-up will not aid him in an effort to fly through a closed window.


On Saturday night I went into town and watched a ladies' basketball game, in which a friend from my language course was playing. Since I've been without a TV, I see almost no sport, which is very strange, since it was a big part of my previous life. For the record, Liz's team won, and she played fairly well, including hitting a scoop shot of dubious choosing but high entertainment value near the end, that probably helped to seal the win.


I spent the weekend, all of it, reading Rise of Endymion, thus ending Dan Simmons' excellent Hyperion cantos just after dinner Saturday night, the penultimate instalment having been polished off during my England visit. It was quite a week for media, including one novel, two more DVDs in my Kubrick cycle (2001 and The Shining), an excursion to the cinema for Spielberg's The Terminal, in addition to the usual inordinate blog and web site consumption. To remedy the latter, I'm currently thinking of signing up for a free box, in the hope of shifting some of these peripheral activities from the office to home.

Also, this morning I tracked down the other Australian here to sign my postal vote request, which I'll send off tomorrow morning.


So, a couple of weeks ago now I was in Canterbury for a workshop. The workshop was really good, but better was the chance to meet and chat with other people doing research in the area. On the Thursday morning afternoon after it had finished, I took a half day to walk around "down-town" Canterbury, and to have a browse through the cathedral (seen here through the fog), notable among other things for various famous people who are buried there. The scene from upon the hill before I descended was much more impressive than this photo might inarticulately suggest.


OK, backdate. After that dispiriting shot of Canterbury, I grabbed a train back to London with Antontio from Malaga. Leaving him at Victoria, I wandered up past Buckingham palace, and the waste-of-time Australian war memorial at Nelson's arch, and spent an hour or so in Hyde Park reading until Sandy finished up work.

We grabbed dinner at a Thai place near her house, which was a relief. I hadn't had Thai since at least January, and I'd forgotten how much I like the cuisine until I saw the menu and liked the look of everything there. In fact, this was just one instalment in a veritable culinary world tour over the course of the week. In the 6 nights split between Canterbury and London, I managed to cover Mexican (average), Indian (not bad), Spanish/Moroccan (not bad), Thai (very good), Italian (not bad), and Thai again (pretty good).

On Friday, I covered a large part of the Science Museum and a small part of the Natural History Museum on Friday before heading out to Sandy's boyfriend's place at Teddington. Then, on Saturday, I headed back into town and spent the day with Ted and Meg at the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre, each interesting in their own way, the former more than the latter probably.

My writing is deteriorating. I just know it is.

Friday, 17 September 2004


This was the view I was greeted with yesterday morning opening my window. It was ten past eight in the morning, a testament to the changing length of the days here - a month ago it would have had to have been ten past seven, probably. (I wouldn't know - half seven is about my limit).

Wednesday, 15 September 2004


I could be bothered posting this.

Post flood

After at least a week off, beware post inundation. Brain dump follows.

I saw Fahrenheit 911 just before I went to the UK last week. I really enjoyed Bowling for Columbine because I thought it asked a hard question and avoided the obvious and oversimplified answers. I think for this new film, though, Moore started with an obvious and oversimplified answer and tried to find a question. There are large chunks of the film that are really, really good, and it certainly pushes a lot of my buttons, but it is, to use one of my favourite movie phrases, nonetheless a deeply-flawed film.

In other news, when I came to France I set myself to avoid accumulating material possessions, partly to avoid a removals nightmare when (it remains "when") I move back to Australia, and also to taste a different type of life. My will is fading, and a bulk Amazon UK order is imminent to redress comedy (Black Books, Shaun of the Dead) and other (Six Feet Under, etc) DVD-related withdrawal symptoms. The staff club here has a lot of films, but not much new stuff, and very little "cult" stuff.

Lessig on electoral systems

Lessig (obligatory reading for anyone interested in legal/technology crossover) talks about a "ranked choice" voting system. Larry, in Australia we call it preferential voting, and everyone who I talk to about it loves it to death. Of course, we also make voting mandatory, and everyone whose opinion I respect loves that, too. You can still put in a donkey vote, but you have to actually do so, thus proving that even your non-vote is a conscious choice.

As a side note, I'm looking forward to spending a few hours later this month filling out my postal vote for the Australian federal election. Not having to do it under pressure of being in a booth will let me do my research and enjoy it a little more. I could just vote above the line ("optional preferential voting"), but like any technologist I enjoy the higher degree of control.

The Village

I saw The Village a couple of weeks ago with Jacques and Sophie. Suffice to say that I don't share Ebert's opinion (not that that means there's anything wrong with him or me). From a story perspective, I hate to admit that I actually did see the twist coming. However, for me the film was in any case more interesting from a visual perspective, where it had a sort of Blair Witch / Red Riding Hood juxtaposition of dull backgrounds and occasional brighter foregrounds for emphasis. From this perspective, I kind of liked it.

Saturday, 4 September 2004

CORBA reflection

Let's get this straight right now. I love reflection. It lets you do the most ugly, evil, interesting things, and without it, metaprogramming just doesn't work properly. Anyway, it looks like they might finally get around to adding reflection to CORBA (even though I've ceased using it recently), which is a good thing. I'll have to read the doc to see if they'll add any support for reflective application (calling operations, etc) in addition to introspection.

Incidentally, in speaking with Ian on Monday, it seems that he (and particularly Paul) don't believe in reflection. However, I really think this comes down to appropriate definitions of reflection.

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

no, i believe you, really!

A sure sign of the high regard in which politicians are currently held in Australia is this article from ABC. If a politician just says something, obviously no-one is going to believe it (yes, Johnny, I'm looking at you too), so this mob have taken to getting it all down as statutory declarations, presumably in the hope that might add some weight to their otherwise ascendant word.

Tuesday, 31 August 2004

the pointy end of the electoral season

John Howard announced the Australian federal election over the weekend, for October 9. As I understand it, this means that both the rugby league and AFL grand finals will fall during the electoral run, always a good thing for an incumbent, since they are sure to steal the news cycle in the relevant states, in particular in Victoria. Fortunately, perhaps, the key states are suspected to be north of the Murray, where the AFL will, sadly, have a lesser effect in that regard.

I faxed off my registration as an overseas elector overnight, and intend to look into postal voting today. As a great, great man once said:
I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand man.

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Gmail invites

If anyone wants gmail invites, let me know. Having had none on Monday, I now find myself with a handful of them to give away.

Update: To clarify for confused commenters, as of today (31st), I still have 2 invites left, but will only give them to people I actually know. I'm sorry if you think this is unfair.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Crap sports

You know what I don't like? Subjectively-judged sports. In particular, with the Olympics on, I just don't understand how sports like diving, gymnastics, synchronised swimming (which is widely acknowledged, I believe, as not being a sport in the first place), and dressage can be decided based on the subjective opinions of a few judges. Walking is similar, with its lifting violations, but it suffers more from being just a really unnatural way of moving. The real sports, like swimming, running, jumping, throwing, rowing, cycling, weighlifting, archery: these are simple; it's a matter of faster, further, higher, heavier, more accurate. They're objective, and the result is a measure of the athlete's performance, not of some arbitrary panel of opinions.

Friday, 20 August 2004


I haven't traditionally subscribed to the theory that soccer is a game for sheilas, wogs and poofters, and probably still don't. However, I'm probably now pretty much convinced that its not a game worth wasting any energy over.

Last night I went along with some friends to the friendly between France and Bosnia. Early on, the Bosnians were pretty overwhelmed, and the French set up the game well down the flanks, resulting in a bustled goal by Luyindula after 7 minutes or so and an Henry penalty that was saved by the Bosnian keeper. I think that settled the Bosnians, in fact, and they played much better after that, leading to their goal (a much prettier one, incidentally) after a half hour or so.

The game was crap. There was no structure in the midfield, particularly in the second half, and good shots on goal were rare. The Bosnians were way overmatched athletically, but tried hard all night, whereas the French seemed uninterested and leadereless at times. The latter could be put down to a lack of key playmakers with Zidane retired and Vieira injured, but I don't think that's really a valid excuse.

What really bugged me was the way the game was played. There seems to be no idea of courage in football, no players really giving a piece of themselves for the team. The worst last night was Pires, who flopped and whined like a little girl. The stretcher made, I think, 3 appearances, and was never, in my opinion, warranted. Moments of true team play or individual flare, as should be the feature of the world's only global game, were rare, and always overshadowed by the above problems.

So, I'm abandoning soccer in favour of sports where the players put in. Footy remains my number one winter sport, followed by rugby, and cricket rules the summer followed, I guess, by tennis.

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

athlete spotlight and other olympic observations

Today's athlete spotlight falls, somewhat controversially perhaps, on an official rather than athlete. While he may trail yesterday's standout in A's, basketball official Mario Jaime Hopenhaym Kaplansky gives nothing away in the "that-can't-seriously-be-a-real-name" stakes, and at 78 years of age is doing yeoman work in Athens, although we all wish he had filled out the "nickname" field of the profile page. Nonetheless, hats off to super Mario!

The unlucky runner-up today is this year's winner of the Eric Moussambini commemorative award for the slowest swimmer in the 100m freestyle. 20-year old Burundian Emery Nziyunvira clocked in at 1:09.40, just a shade over 20 seconds behind top qualifier Pieter van den Hoogenband's 48.70, but well off Eric Moussambini's 1:52.72 from Sydney.

"The Eel" himself was unfortunately unable to defend his title, by way of a bureaucratic bungle involving an identity photo. In truth, reports indicate that Eric would likely have been well ahead of the running in any case, having reportedly almost halved his personal best since Sydney.

As a footnote, props are also due to Ian Thorpe, who in the 200m freestyle blockbuster last night threw aside the "evil empire" stigma and defeated the aforementioned van den Hoogenband, as well as American Michael Phelps to claim his 2nd individual gold of these games. In so doing, he avenged his defeat in the same event 4 years ago in Sydney, put paid to the absurd notion that Phelps would better Spitz's gold haul from the '72 games, and cemented his place as, statistically, the most successful Australian Olympian in history.

As the above-referenced article suggests, the evil empire tag sits uncomfortably upon Australia, but it is nevertheless always comforting to see the yanks get beaten. It would be nice to imagine that we might maintain our gold-medal lead in the Athens pool, although in reality it is unlikely.

Monday, 16 August 2004

daily athlete profile

Today's athlete spotlight falls upon Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar, seen here in the 2003 Asian Championships, who took Olympic bronze in the 60k Judo on Saturday. What the 20-year old lacks in size, at 5'7 and 60kg, he more than makes up for in A's, featuring no less than 10 in his first and last names! What mysteries lie in his middle names, should he have any? We may never know.

Is it obvious that I'm missing The Dream?

Friday, 13 August 2004

more sport

In a further sporting outing, on Monday night I retrieved my newly-restrung racquet from Decathlon (via another example of the incomprehensible misdirections of the French retail system). Thus, on Tuesday, Franck and I ventured once more to the Cité U for a hit. The hit eventually turned into a set, which I grudgingly won in a tie-breaker. The standard was low, diminished notably by my lack of a reliable forehand, but it was fun nonetheless. I cannot say the same for the increasing realization that my fitness has been eroded further from the already lamentable condition in which it left Australia.

a little golf

I bought a putter and other trinkets last Wednesday, and, with Erwan, signed up for 3 months of golf at the 9-hole course at Cesson. They are on temp greens until next week, after which it should be a nice evening distraction.

I shared Erwan's sticks for a couple of rounds Thursday and Friday evening. We both played pretty poorly, and I managed to lose 5 or 6 balls over the combined 18 holes, but it was good to get out and have a hit, anyway. It had been almost 7 months since I swung a club.

If we start playing regularly, I think I'll have to go and buy myself a half-set somewhere. Erwan has an old set, but I think I need to track down some longer clubs, to take away my excuse for topping all my 9-irons.

Thursday, 12 August 2004

Antony Green

Maybe I've posted about this before, I'm not sure. Anyway, this dude rocks.

Its difficult to explain (well, not really - its the same urge that makes me watch sports statistics so closely), but I quite enjoy election coverage, and have watched many, many campaigns on ABC over the years, both federal and state (Qld) elections. Antony Green has, I think, been there for all of them, and is always a mine of statistical information. His ability was brought into focus for me when I was in the US for the 2000 presidential election and witnessed the ridiculous see-sawing on election night over the result, in particular by Fox, of the Florida ballot. I realise that its in no way a fair comparison, given the dramatically different electoral systems among other things, but I could not at the time help but compare this to a Qld state election where Green "called" the result at about 6:30pm on election day, and with, as I recall, something like 12% of the vote counted.

I also have a hankering for statistics, I guess. Having bombed out in first-year maths at uni, albeit not in stats (damned partial differential equations), its pretty unlikely, but one of my dream jobs would this sort of bulk numbers statistics stuff, in a field like politics or, even better, sport.


I've been thinking about output, with respect to what I've actually concretely accomplished these last 6 months. I've had one conference paper accepted, that I'll present in November, which was written (for my part) here, but for which the research was all done in Australia. I've developed my typing ideas a bit, to the point of encoding them, although not yet to the point of validating them, in Ruby (and hopefully soon Java). I guess that leads me to the point that I've (with Franck) build a Ruby MOF library, and in so doing learnt Ruby.

This doesn't seem like much of a hill of beans.

At this point, for these reasons and more, I'd take my old job back if it was going.

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

another paper accepted

I had another paper accepted today, this time to the 2nd European Workshop on MDA, in Kent in September. It's not really a high-prestige event, but there should be a few interesting people to meet there, hopefully.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Turnbull on Iraq

In addition to his presumably still-held visions of Australia as a Republic, it would appear that Malcolm Turnbull also disagrees with John Howard on Iraq. It will be interesting to see the response from both Turnbull and Howard to what could be a tricky alliance.
As a side note, the whole "party line" idea remains, to me, a bizarre idea that seems somewhat at odds with the whole concept of representational democracy.

Monday, 9 August 2004


Bring it, books! I totally smacked down two chunky books last week. Last sunday, on the way back from Paris, I started into Dan Simmons' Hyperion, which I wrapped up Wednesday night. I peeked 16 pages into the sequel, (although to suggest that one can read one without the other would be misleading) Fall of Hyperion, on Friday night, then kicking its ass all through Saturday and Sunday afternoons, finishing it around dinner-time Sunday.
Seriously, though, the story is pretty awesome, and well-written to boot. Although the second volume is perhaps more coherent, the variations in the styles of writing, and the general world-building, led me to prefer the first. I now have a painful 3-week wait until my library re-opens and I can track down copies of the Endymion books. In the meantime, I have 1 Asimov and 2 Steinbecks (courtesy of my parents' birthday care package) to tide me over.


Erwan lent me a DVD of Eraserhead last week, which I finally got around to watching last night. It freaked me out and, as usual with Lynch films, I didn't understand at all what it was about. However, the other Lynch films I've seen, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, have both revealed themselves a bit upon further reflection, and discussion with others. Not so this one.My head hurts. Perhaps I'll go see Spiderman 2 this week...

Thursday, 5 August 2004

90% of IT projects fail, but...

... but how many run to $50 million dollars of write-off? I don't know whether its more of an indictment of the IT people who were on the project, or of the bureaucrats overseeing it, but one way or another, someone must have dropped the ball.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004


I laughed as hard as anyone last year when the US basketball team finished 6th in the world championships, after losing to argentina, serbia & montenegro, and spain. Still, with a better team, you have to back them for the gold in Athens. They dusted off Puerto Rico, admittedly not a basketball powerhouse, in warmup games last week, and...

Wait right there. Last night they got thumped (anything about 15 points, including the 17 in this case, qualifies as thumped rather than beaten) 95-78 by an Italy that no-one has mentioned as a serious candidate for gold in Athens. Sure, the Italians got on a hot streak (15-35) from 3-point range, but the US dominated the boards 37-19. For those watching at home, that's almost double, and that a team can lose with so much more ball is almost incredible.

The following game is against a German team that may lack the depth of Italy (a depth that is certainly not lacking in the Argentinian, Serbian, and Lithuanian teams), but that does feature Dirk Nowitzki, who is perhaps better suited to the international game than much of the American squad.

random diagonal lines

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago and upon opening my shutters I was greeted by mist rising from the facing roof. I didn't quite capture it, but you can make it out a bit, at least.

Dimly lit

Hey, that's the photo, not the photographer! I was probably half-cut when I took this (it was a wedding reception), but I had the good sense to pop the camera on a wine glass to it didn't shake. I really liked the quality of the light.
Actually, this shot came after 10-15 minutes of stuffing around trying to shoot long exposure stuff in a room where nothing else was possible without intruding on proceedings, which I hate. Everyone else was dancing (which I also hate).
This photo is also a demo of photo hosting from flickr, which seems like a neat deal. It even has EXIF information (click through then find the "taken with an" link at the flickr page), which tells me I had a 4 second exposure time.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

first encounters with footy

I ran across this today, by an American chick impressed with her first encounter with footy:
it looks like what our football was supposed to be. It's not full of prima donnas who have to sit down and rest after every play. Shoulder pads? Taped hands with plaster around them so they won't get hurt? Big pads on their thighs? Sit on the sidelines wrapped in a blanket next to the furnace? No. You guys get to wear what the guys wear in northern Australia -- as little as possible. Yeah, it's raining. Yeah, everyone in the stands is wearing winter clothes. Too bad. Play. Keep moving and you'll stay warm. You got tackled and lost the ball? Get off your face and get it back. No, we're not going to stop the game until you feel better. Play, or let someone else do it, but if you lay there and pout, we'll just run over you until you have sense enough to get out of the way.

Not bad.

Monday, 2 August 2004

back in Rennes

After 10 days of travel through France for work and pleasure, I'm now back in Rennes. My 3 days working with a colleague in Paris passed well enough, although it was a little hot for my taste. More importantly, we achieved a little bit, and should find some outcome, either in the form of a paper or a prototype, or perhaps both.

I spent Saturday morning reading in the Jardin de Luxembourg, then caught the metro across town to meet first Andy & Renee, and then Sandy, Dave and his girlfriend Alex, at Gare du Nord. After passing the hotel, we grabbed a leisurely lunch in the Latin Quarter, then headed to Notre Dame. To be honest, it wasn't any more impressive than most of the other catholic churches I've seen, and perhaps less so than some.

More enjoyable was a boat-trip we took along the Seine, past all the bridges, palaces, and other features. Normally I would have been reluctant to fork out the 10€, but with the group I was happy too, and it was well worth the money. After the trip, we wandered past the "beach" (this term still sits uncomfortably with me, notwithstanding the very pleasant atmosphere they've established), before deciding to chase food. Having been recommended a restaurant called Au Pied De Cochon (the Pig's Foot), we spent 2 hours traipsing through the Rive Droite asking locals (although the most reluctant, I was the only French speaker, and as such usually the designated spokesman). After a friendly local lead us to "Au Pied De Chameau" (camel's foot), we eventually found and partook of the elusive pig's foot. Dave and Alex went for the seafood platter, which took two waiters to bring, and was as impressive a dish as I have ever seen, either in life or film. The bill was equally impressive, but it was good food, so I didn't really mind.

The next day, leaving the dormant Dave and Alex, the 4 of us headed north with the intention of seeing the Louvre. Unfortunately, we met the double-edged sword of the first Sunday of the month, meaning that the museums are free. Double-edged in that it saves us 8€, but draws crowds of unbelievable proportions. In fact, they were so unbelievable that we decided to try instead the d'Orsay. Although also long, the queue was more reasonable and, to be honest, I suspect the d'Orsay might be more my cup of tea anyway. It was. I really enjoyed the Monets, but also the Van Goghs, the Pissaros, and others. Monet's series of the Rouen church are perhaps some of the more remarkable paintings I've ever seen in terms of evocative power.

I miss hanging out with friends like these.

Friday, 30 July 2004


OK, so I've all this space on the web, admittedly for free (meaning that I have no real right to complain about it), at gmail and yahoo, but I've got no good place to stick my photos on the web. Turns out I've also got space with Apple's .mac thing, at least for another month, anyway. Here's a sample of the photo pages that are auto-generated out of iPhoto - could be an option, although its not free.

Culinary irony

So I'm staying in what is probably the world's most famous city, food-wise, and I haven't had a decent meal yet. Lunches are taken at the 'fec downstairs, and in 3 days have presented a brick-heavy quiche, a bloody ordinary leg of chicken, and today a chunk of rump-steak that moo'ed when I stuck a fork in it. Seriously, it was blue as a Russ Meyer film, and I just couldn't get through it. Breakfasts are a waste of time - the traditional European bowls'n'rolls concept, as I first encountered in Italy last year, and for dinner I just can't bring myself to eat out alone - it's depressing - so after a kebab Wednesday night, I skipped it altogether last night and just went back to the hotel and crashed. What I wouldn't give for a Raj butter chicken...

c'est un knockout!

This is for Scott: "It's a Knockout", the storied 80s Australian, well, action game show, or at least the concept, is alive and well, and its French descendent screens every night at about 7pm on France 2,


I might as well face it. I have a problem. I'm addicted to blogs. My bloglines blogroll hit 60 today. It had been relatively stagnant at about 50 for a while, as I struggled to keep up with the volume of blogs like Scoble and ESPN's NBA news, but today Michael pointed me to a whole bunch of blogs from (shock, horror), people I actually know. I've put the blogroll on the sidebar - its roughly sorted, but the emphasis is on rough rather than sorted.

Thursday, 29 July 2004

becoming old

I ceased to be young on Sunday, according to the french railways, who celebrated my 26th birthday by charging me more to return from St Avold to Rennes than I had paid for the outward journey. Fair enough.

I was fortunate enough to be at a fairly large party for my birthday, by way of Jacques' and Sophie's wedding and everyone sang happy birthday to me, first in English and then in French. If that wasn't enough, I got a repeat dose on Sunday at the Klein family lunch. To top it all off, I carted a sack of croissants and pains aux chocolats to IRISA on tuesday for morning tea, as is apparently the tradition of birthdays. In all, it was probably more festive than some birthdays I had in Australia.

I'm pretty sure my family are trying to call me to wish me happy birthday, but its proving difficult. I had a day back in Rennes on Tuesday, but from today until Sunday I'm in Paris working with a group here just around the corner from the Tour Eiffel. Sandy, Renee/Andy, Dave and his new GF are coming on the weekend, which should be nice.

After a birthday, I guess I'm entitled to some reflection, so here we are. I still want to go back to Australia. 6 months here have not in any way shaken my opinion that the research that I was involved in at DSTC was and continues to be better than that being done here. Ditto for the dynamic of the teams, although not by so great a margin. On top of that, I miss the argot, the sport, and the general culture. I still have it in my mind to broach the idea of a cotutelle (co-enrollment at Australian and French universities, dual recognition of degree, minimum of one year in one place) with Jean-Marc once DSTC gets its next bid and once my topic is a little better decided, but I can't really see any reason why he would agree to it - IRISA, and the team in particular, has nothing to gain by it that I can see.

That may sound a bit like January/February all over again, but this time it comes after one of the best weekends I've had in France, up at chez Klein, so perhaps it has more merit. I just don't know.

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

a long weekend with the Klein clan

On Thursday I pushed off in the morning to the Northeast, for Jacques's and Sophie's wedding. After passing through Paris, I arrived at St Avold, Sophie's home town, and was picked up and taken to Seingbourse, Jacques', where I was staying. I went a couple of days early at Jacques' urging, and was immediately glad of it, so much so that I changed my return train from Sunday to Monday the next morning.

We spent Thursday afternoon/evening and much of Friday setting up a marquee for the reception at Jacques' family's house, and his aunt's restaurant at nearby Farebersviller for the 'second' reception, with the help of various brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins and neighbours.

There was a very brief civil ceremony at St Avold on Friday, and then a church ceremony on Saturday at St Jacques' in Seingbourse. We were perhaps 150 people as we formed the cortège (procession) to walk to the church, then almost 200 for the first reception after walking back, and 80 or so at the second. The number of people was daunting at each stage, but despite the crowd I was never short of company, and had good conversations with brothers-in-law, cousins, grandmothers, work colleagues and friends alike.

At every stage, there were family and extended family, particularly Jacques' but also Sophie's, everywhere, and each was as accepting as the next. I kissed more cheeks in the four days than I had in my entire life, and something that had remained foreign for the last six months finally started to become normal. Also, I realised at various points that I was communicating quite fluently with people, perhaps moreso than at any other time since coming to France, and without the sense that people were deliberately speaking slowly for my benefit. There were still times when I struggled for vocabulary, but they were in the minority.

I was most impressed by the diversity of languages present. In particular, Jacques' mother spoke 3 languages - French, German and the local patois - in equal measure, changing as required and with astonishing ease. It was an agility that evaded my two languages; on more than one occasion someone tried out their English on me, only for me to respond in French.

In the end, I passed the weekend with perhaps only an hour of tourism, having spent much of it working either making or unmaking the various scenes. Still, I would have had it no other way; its the people that you meet that really teach you about a place, and it was not without regret that I returned on Monday to my apartment in Rennes, as the Klein clan really treated me like I belonged.

Friday, 16 July 2004

Orwell on Kipling

I mentioned an essay by Orwell on Kipling. You may read the full version here, but one enlightening quote, by way of example:

Kipling is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting

Tell us what you really think, George.


Someone unexpected mentioned a few weeks ago that they, and others they knew, were aware of or even reading (*gasp*) this blog. I don't buy it - there have been only a handful of comments, and I can't believe that anyone would read more than 5 posts and continue. Comment and tell me I'm wrong.

more on books

On Monday, I joined the Franco-American Institute's Library, which I think will be excellent for my reading, as it is probably the best source of English-language books in Rennes (though I've been too lazy to try the municipal libraries, admittedly). I immediately borrowed a couple of Asimov novels and the Hyperion novels by Dan Simmons, in an attempt to tide me over for the library's summer break, until September. They won't last me, I shouldn't think - there are at least 4 train journeys in between now and then, which chew books at the rate of a hungry teenager - but I hope that in combination with Gutenberg, I will survive.


I've lost the enthusiasm for my little book reviews, it seems. Thus, short summaries of my recent readings follow.

After finishing White Teeth, I basically couldn't be bothered going to the bookstore and buying yet another book. With no place to store them, and no real personal predilection towards re-reading, it really doesn't make sense. A reasonable person would have subsequently joined a library, but I was too lazy for that too. This left only one avenue: that friend of all sloths, the internet. I have downloaded my last 4 books, and intend to continue doing so where possible. The advantages are clear, soft copy is easily transferred (I have the cutest USB key I've ever seen, courtesy of my excellent colleagues at DSTC), free, and readily available at work. The downside is that reading a screen is just not as nice as reading paper, and my laptop is heavier than any novel.

The first 3 "eBooks" (though I hate the term, its shorter than the alternatives and, as established above, I am nothing if not lazy, although I realize the irony that this argument counteracts itself in its verbosity) that I downloaded were by Cory Doctorow. He released them under open source, which seems to have worked well for him, and certainly worked well for me; I would never have read them if they weren't. They were good, if not great, reading - certainly well-written, and topical to me in their subjects and their settings.

More recently I have gone to the well of Project Gutenberg, where old texts go to be archived. I've downloaded Kim, by Kipling, and am most of the way through it (it will certainly not last the weekend). I was skeptical about going back to Kipling. I enjoyed him when I was young, in the form of The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, Captains Courageous, and Stalky & Co, but have become increasingly wary of his imperial British bent since then. To be fair, this was influenced more by an essay I read on him by George Orwell than by any real personal insight, and it has proved no stumbling block in my return to his work. Kim is beautifully and vividly written, and I am enjoying it immensely. I am aware that its a bit "Boy's Own", but its fiction, and I don't mind.

in the name of all that's holy...

I miss Australia a lot, but the more Australian news I read, the more I wonder whether it'll still be there when I go back. This, for example, via ABC news online, sounds decidedly unlike the typical western-suburbs culture that I had envisioned, and much more like suburban, er, some city in the US. Do we blame this on the continuing decline of rugby league (understandable - silly game that, but for Roy & HG's origin calls, I would ignore completely)? The popular opinion was that aussie rules or rugby would take its place as the first church, but - perhaps - what price christianity?

Peter Costello should have enough sense to realise that playing religion in his position is unadvisable for all sorts of reasons.

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Kipling on Australia

Kipling, via A.B. Paterson, via here, is reported to have once said:

You people in Australia haven't grown up yet. You think the Melbourne Cup is the most important thing in the world.

He was wrong, though. It is the most important thing in the world. Along with the footy, the beach, the cinema, and all their ilk. I'm not joking.

prefecture pain

I gave some more of my life to the prefecture over the last 24h. I managed to put it off yesterday afternoon until 2:30pm, and it cost me, as the queue stopped for the day, 2 numbers in front of me, at 4:30pm. I think they processed perhaps 10 people in 90 minutes. The numbers weren't much better this morning. I got there at 9:30am, and was served at 10:45 or thereabouts. Somehow, my appointment was perhaps 2 minutes, but they only managed to get through 6 numbers in the 75 minutes before I got there. Someone needs to teach these people about queueing theory, to convince them that they need a second register open. Wait times of over an hour are just unacceptable, especially when a substantial proportion of those waiting are doing so with small children.

Anyway, I have another récépissé, good for another 3 months, and with a changed address. Apparently what I'm waiting for is something to do with a check for TB and other diseases. News flash: if I arrived with TB, I've probably given it to half of Rennes by now. Also on that front, I'm really looking forward to trying to explain to the doctor that my TB test reaction is because I was innoculated against it at birth. Big words still hard translate.

umm, sunday...

The plan on Sunday was to go and listen to an organ concert at the cathedral. Apathy killed that one off, and instead I listened to Wynton Marsalis, Sonny Rollins, Roy Hargrove, The Lucksmiths, and Pink Floyd, at chez moi. Cooked a nice stir-fry, too, with some pork that was on special at the marché-plus. Hmm, garlic, ginger.

As a bonus, I even had desert! The anzac biscuits that I made last week were a hit at the tour with J&S, and since with, er, me, and are almost all gone now. Planned v.2 features include yeast and hazelnuts. Deadline slippage is anticipated to be significant.


It seems, to me anyway, that I've been blogging less about what I've been doing & thinking, and more about random other things that I've come across. While this wasn't my original intention, it doesn't worry me overly.

On Saturday I went with Jacques and Sophie to Dinan to catch a glimpse of Le Tour. I usually follow it in the same way that I follow soccer, basketball and, this year at least, Aussie Rules. That is to say, I read all the news articles, know all the names, and many of the stats, but don't actually watch much (usually for problems of accessibility - if I had the opportunity, I think I would spend a rather large proportion of my life watching sport).

Dinan, which I think I'd passed through once or twice with Didier, is a lovely little town, and they had brought out all the flags for the Tour. The people were out, too, lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the caravane or the riders, or both. The caravane, an hour-long stream of advertising and free junk attached to cars, trucks and other vehicles, set me thinking about the tradeoffs that sports make to bring in money. For example, the football doesn't feel quite so commercial, and yet I didn't have to pay to see the Tour. Its an interesting balance.

Anyway, after the caravane had passed, and we had collected 2 or 3 trinkets hurled at us, from vans whose sponsors' names escape me (now that's effective advertising), a couple of riders scooted past, to vast cheers from the crowd. We had positioned ourselves at the top of the day's only climb, in the hope that the speed would be less, and the combat more lively. As it was, they were probably doing 30-35km/h, hardly snail's pace, and they whisked past in only a moment. The peloton was a little better, 7 minutes later, but still presented only a few seconds of entertainment. Like anyone, I had the riders I wanted to see, but the sad truth is that the group is so tightly bunched, and passes so quickly, that its almost impossible to recognise anyone. I caught the green Jersey of O'Grady, but beyond that, no-one.

After the kerfuffle, we wandered through the streets, looked at the church, and had a crêpe and a café before heading home again.

Thursday, 8 July 2004

colour me cook

I adopted the Jay McCubben school of procrastination last night, and made biscuits. Surprisingly easy, although I burnt a few of them a little bit (more accurately, caramelized them, I think).

Monday, 5 July 2004

Forget Federer, Woody greatest ever

People have been saying that Federer could be the greatest player ever, and it might be true in 10 years time, but its way, way too early to do so now. However, you can say this right now: Todd Woodbridge is the greatest male doubles player in history. Over the weekend he won his 9th Wimbledon mens doubles title, with Jonas Bjorkman, surpassing the Doherty brothers' record, set in 1905 (under the challenge round system). He has 22 grand-slam doubles titles (16 men's and 6 mixed), and 81 professional doubles titles. The latter surpasses McEnroe (77) and Okker (78) for the most ever, and the former surpasses, I believe, John Newcombe's 18.

So, hats off to Woody, today's top Aussie.

(It should be noted that these are records for men. Woodbridge doesn't come close to any of Navratilova's records for doubles titles (129) or grand slam doubles titles (31 women's and 9 mixed). Probably, no-one ever will.)

Saturday, 3 July 2004


Of the two papers I submitted to ISSRE 04, one was accepted and the other rejected, the rate that I had expected. The reviews of the paper I wrote with Franck & Benoit ranged from ambivalent to positive, and for the one I wrote with Michael from very negative to positive. In the face of all deduction therefrom, and contrary to my expectations, it is the latter that got up, while the former was rejected. I'm happy that the paper with Michael got up, but I think I'll have to bone up on some stuff like compiler testing before its presented.

The positive coming out of the rejection is that the paper might, in fact, fare better submitted to a journal, since we had to cut 3 or 4 pages of content from its length to fit into the 12-page conference format. No doubt we will talk next week about re-working it.

As for the reviews, I was pretty surprised by some of them - which seemed to miss the point of the papers. Admittedly, I have had similar reactions to paper reviews in the past.

Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Hewitt watch, you know?

Update on, you know, Lleyton Hewitt. He's playing, you know, pretty well, you know, beating Ivanisevic and then, you know, Carlos Moya to set up a, you know, huge quarter-final match against, you know, world number 1 Roger Federer. More importantly, his interviews, you know, are going really well.

After the Ivanisevic match, you know, he managed 38 "you know"s from 15 questions. His form was a little down from his second-round interview.

However, he outdid himself after the Moya match. His 57 "you know"s from 21 questions was down from the 2nd round interview, but it included this marvelous second question. Count them.

Q. Someone mentioned to me earlier that you look as if you've got your freshness back. Did it go anywhere in that period of time?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Well, it's hard to say. I guess, you know, I had two years there where I, you know, played so many matches, I guess. When you throw Davis Cup into that equation, as well, you know, I had the chickenpox straight after I got No. 1 in The Masters Cup in Sydney, you know, played a Davis Cup final. You know, I guess, you know, maybe that wore me out a little bit at the time.

You know, it was extremely important, I think, you know, to win that Davis Cup final against Spain at the end of last year that I took those two months off. Not a lot of people questioned whether I'd be able to come out and, you know, beat those guys who were top five in the world, you know, fresh out.

You know, I believed in my ability. I think that held me in good stead as well for this whole year, as well. You know, just staying at home, you know, training extremely hard, but then again, you know, getting a break from, you know, the grind week in and week out.

My hat's off to you, mate. Really drawn a line in the sand there. If we didn't know before, we definitely know now. Thanks to the Wimbledon web site for the transcript.

(Footnote: For completeness' sake, I checked his first-round interview, and it was a bit of a warm up, just 18 over the 10 questions)