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.