Friday, 30 December 2005

book and film count

So, my anomalous 2004 of reading 41 books has been followed by a more reasonable, perhaps even disappointing 2005 of only 9 books completed (having finished off the Constant Gardener yesterday). I do still have 3 or 4 on the go, though, at least two of which bear a reasonable chance of being finished within the foreseeable future.

More shocking is that, following a sortie last night to see King Kong with Lee, I've only been to the cinema 12 times. I don't have the numbers, but I rather suspect that to be my lowest yearly total since '96, my first year of uni, and possibly even lower than that year, which was basically my first of going to cinemas. There are a lot of factors: a lack of viewing partners some of the time, lack of original (i.e. not dubbed) versions of films I would otherwise have seen, and the temporary relocation of my local cinema, TNB. Most significantly, I've been doing massive, massive amounts of film and TV watching on my computer at home, which instalments I have not counted in that figure of 12. I have a list at home of the films watched on my PC, so when I get back maybe I'll post that.

It would be nice to think that the coming year would see a rise in both figures, and while the cinema count is almost sure to go back up a bit, I think the thesis will probably block a large rise in the novel count.

My Lillehammer trip was good, posts and photos to come when I get back to Rennes next week.

Monday, 19 December 2005

what the...

I've been browsing Australia media outlets sporadically over the last week for responses to what's been going on in Cronulla. This morning I've found some shockers.

This report via Yahoo, has a quote right at the end that I can't even parse. I really had the impression that these sort of people evolved away a hundred years ago, and that they are alive and running around in Australia is kinda scary.

The Donnelly clown got some play a few months ago bagging postmodern approaches to education, but at least he had some credibility in that discussion. Today, the Australian's given him a soapbox to air some views that it is PC education that has caused these troubles. Such an obvious abuse of common sense would be funny if it weren't sure to exacerbate the problem.

Finally we have this James Morrow fellow, who makes two points. Firstly, that violence perpetrated by the Anglo-Celts has been disproportionately publicised compared to that perpetrated by the Lebanese, which I can't comment on at this distance - certainly all the coverage I've seen has been of the former. Secondly, he attacks the idea that the problems will not be much noticed internationally, and will not effect our image overseas. I can say from personal experience that this is bullshit. I've had four or five people ask me about this stuff over the last week, and in every case I think their opinion of Australian society has been changed a little.

twas the weekend before christmas

And all over town people were praying to the hungry god of consumerism. I should have been amongst them, but I couldn't be arsed, so I stayed home and fiddled about on my computer. In the evening, there was an Avenir game, a fairly win against Nantes after some worries early on. Early in the second quarter, when your centre has 16 of the team's 22 points and her opponent has 3 fouls, it is imperative that you not throw the ball into the low post. Or at least, that seems to be the prevailing "wisdom". Their logic is not like our earth logic.

After the game there was a party for Nono's 25th. Some friends made her a video montage, and food, drink and merriment abounded. I was pissed enough to do some dancing later on, including the chicken dance (duck dance over here) around 3am or so. We, being Liz, Soso, Francky, Ashoo and myself, headed off at 5:30am, after Francky's general mood took a turn for the worst - poor chap.

On Sunday there was a game at Vezin, Soso's team playing in the Coupe de France. I jumped on my bike and rode out around 2pm, overestimating fairly considerably the time needed for a 9k trip. I thus squeezed in some time sitting in a park reading Crime & Punishment and watching a bit of a local football game. The basketball was OK, the difference between the N2 and N3 levels very evident in the lesser physicality. The gym wasn't heated though, so I spent most of the match feeling pretty cold. Goodness only knows how I'm going to manage in Lillehammer.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

curry with ashoo

Last night we gathered for curry. Present were Franck, the host from Alsace, Soso, the sole local, Ashoo, the cook, from Hyderabad, Liz, from Canada, and myself, the antipodean. Good curry, good company, and for bonus points we played a little NBA Live in between courses. To be repeated, I can only hope.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

hell. handbasket.

Jobs in Australian IT research are rare things. Every time a lab gets shut down, my chances of working in my current field in my own country get smaller and smaller. DSTC, gone. And now TRL, apparently.

From another point of view, I find it baffling that a company (Telstra) would at the same time dispose of both its in-house research (by firing its TRL researchers), and its outsourced research (by withdrawing from CRCs). I'm a shareholder of Telstra, but I won't be for much longer if this news is confirmed by Telstra itself. A company the size of Telstra with no view to research, is not long for this world.

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

modern liberalism

It seems like its been a while since I blogged about politics. It remains of interest to me, and I still don't quite know where I fit in the Australian political spectrum. I would like to think of myself as a liberal, but not a libertarian, and certainly not a Liberal.

Anyway, so an article about the new terror laws passing the House and about their prospects of being amended in the senate made me think about small 'l' vs big 'L' liberals. So I wandered across to Wikipedia and read about small 'l' liberalism. That lead me to 'classical liberalism' - not really me, I decided. Thus onto 'social liberalism', or 'modern liberalism'. There, I said, that sounds a little like me. So I googled for 'australian modern liberal', and came across the maiden speech of The Hon Joe Hockey MP, Member for North Sydney (NSW). Earlier today, Mr Hockey voted in favour of the terror legislation, including the changes to the sedition laws. I wonder how that decision, along with the general culture of fear, as I see it, that has begun to effect Australian politics. In particular, how do these things relate to his quote of George Reid:

"There is no country in the world where the people are less paralysed by reverence to the past. There are no people in the world who have fewer fears for the future."

And how do they relate to his four tenets of modern liberalism: the rights of the individual, representative parliamentary democracy, reform and equality of opportunity? I'd say that the first has been diminished by a process showing, to date (we can hope that the senate can restore our faith), very little respect for the second.

Friday, 25 November 2005

to the happy tipple

I squeezed out some sentimental words by way of a wedding toast this evening, in a spontaneous role as surrogate speechwriter. Two and a half large jars of Beamish red played a not significant assisting part in the copious corn contained, in a flourish the fruity froth which perhaps only Jesse could fully appreciate. (*sniff* Almost made we want to dance on levels *sniff*) God bless the sauce and the eloquence it engenders, and three cheers for Kev'n'Kel, the happy and unknowing beneficiaries!

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

famous last noises

So apparently Willy got it wrong. It wasn't "Et tu brute"; it was "gurgle gurgle gurgle". Not unlike Harold Holt, that; put it down to the accent.

Monday, 21 November 2005


Avenir played a home game Saturday night - an easy (in the end) win over Brest in an ugly game. Ugly because the umpires were letting far too much go down low, and also because I didn't really like the offense Avenir were running. No post play whatsoever, too much dependence on passes from the top of the key to cuts or seals. Anyway, what do I know. There was a party afterwards, a typical affair filled with beer, kir, rum and worrying conversations, and which I should probably have abandoned early but at which I stayed until I found myself queuing at L'Éspace (a local night club) at 4am. The combination of fatigue, the cold (-2 or -3 I believe) and the prospect of paying 10 euros for an experience I've always hated, woke me up somewhat, and I busted a move and walked home.

Why should I have abandoned early? Well, Sunday was lunch at Tortue's, and I had promised to make a dessert, not my strong point. In the end, amid the thick haze of a hangover and 4 hours' sleep, and after much to-ing and fro-ing over what to make, I did a date and walnut cake thing, which worked OK, although was a little too rich compared to the puddings I was making a couple of years ago. I tried to find a pudding dish thingy like I used to have, but was unable to track one down. Anyway, lunch was good - moules in Pineau for starters, seiche (cuttlefish) for the main, chévre chaud and finally my cake thing.

Thursday, 17 November 2005


The socceroos qualified for the world cup yesterday. I'm a pretty patriotic guy (a scoundrel, if you like), so I was walking around with a grin for a while. I read on Ricky's blog, in various articles on SBS' site, that maybe this will help soccer challenge aussie rules and rugby (he doesn't mention the national sport - cricket) for sporting dominance in Australia. Good god, I can't think of anything worse.

All sports are surrogates for war, but none so much as soccer. Sport as a substitute for partisan emotions, be it for country, club or colours, is a wonderful idea. Every sport in the world keeps this on the pitch. Except soccer, amongst whose fans violence is commonplace. I know a bunch of fans of soccer teams, but very few fans of soccer. Take me. I'll cheer for Australia, but put me in front of a game between two neutrals, and I couldn't give a damn, and am likely to get annoyed by the lack of "courage" and "honesty" in the game. Like war, its an outlet for partisan competition where the competition itself is greatly lacking of aesthetic appeal. That it is the closest thing there is to a "world game" is a sad accident of history that we should not reinforce.

So I'm pretty happy for the socceroos, and hope they go well, but they can stay in Europe as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

craziness in the streets

I bravely walked 15 minutes home from the metro last night. I didn't see any burning cars, but I did see a pair of shiny black shoes on a window sill with a sign saying "Servez vous" (help yourself). The streets just aren't safe.

Monday, 14 November 2005

underground cookery

Tonight I'm testing my culinary bounds.

My favourite dish of all time, or at least the most nostalgiacally cherished in my twisted little memory, is veal parmigiana with ravioli. Between about 9 and 14 I reckon I ordered this dish perhaps 20 times at the Underground Restaurant in Innisfail. By the end, Silvio Mantovani, the chef, didn't even ask me, he just wrote it down. I've found plenty of other places that offer such a dish by name, but they aren't the same thing. I have no idea how they made it, but I'm giving it a shot tonight based on memory and a mishmash of recipes found online.

So, anyway, the basic recipe tonight is that I take a veal escalope (don't know in english). Ideally I beat it with a hammer to within an inch of its life, but I don't have a hammer. Then I coat one side with flour, then an egg/milk/pepper mixture, then breadcrumbs with a little bit of grated parmesan cheese mixed in. I fry this one side, then lay on a slice of prosciutto, followed by a dose of parmesan cheese, then I fold over the veal to seal the prosciutto and parmesan inside, pinching it closed with a toothpick. This then goes into the oven with some tomato sauce and a slice of mozzarella. The ravioli I've bought, since I have even less chance of duplicating their amazing home-made pasta, and none whatsoever of making that into credible ravioli.

I'm going with a gaillac for wine. The bottle doesn't say what grapes it contains, but it comes from the area between Toulouse and Albi, through which I travelled on a train with Chris and Mick a few months back. From what I remember of previous gaillac escapades, I think its likely to be a cab-merlot or something nice like that.

Friday, 4 November 2005

the weeks roll by

... and no blog entries. I'm a slackarse, it's true. You've found me out.

Actually, the truth is that I haven't been doing much. Saturday my new mobile phone and SIM card turned up, so I played a little with that (as much as one can without an activated SIM card).

The plan, meanwhile, was at some point over the weekend to head along to the Salon des Vins et de la Gastronomie (wine and tasty food) with Sophie and Liz. Liz couldn't make it, courtesy of a heinous workload at uni, but Soso and I trotted along Tuesday evening. We tasted a bunch of whites (Rieslings, Sauvignons, Chardonnays and an Anjou or two), I tried a bunch of reds (Grenache - ugh, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chinon, among others), and by the end, a little less sensitive to subtle taste (and gravity), I tried a couple of cognacs. We also bought some jambon from the pays basque, which I hope to get into this weekend.

Great fun, but a pretty slim return for a four-day weekend. Oh, I bought gumboots, too, with a view to going mushroom-hunting, but now that's cancelled. I still have gumboots, though. Whee!

Thursday, 27 October 2005

terror laws

So the terror laws that Howard's pushing, with the decreasing support of the state premiers, are probably in violation of the constitution, and of international human rights laws. They seem to be coming along well, but we still need to make sure that they violate the Geneva Convention, the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, suburban zoning restrictions, the treaty of versailles, Moore's Law and the bible.

can't hold a candle to the candle

Last Monday I made two orders. About lunchtime I logged onto the Candle Records website and ordered 3 new Lucksmiths' CDs and a DVD. In the evening I called SFR and asked for a new SIM card. The first order was previewed to be 1-2 weeks, the second 72hrs + time of delivery. Then, on Wednesday, I ordered a mobile phone, from another online shop in France, with an expected delivery delay of 2-7 days.

I only have one of the 3 packages, and its only slightly surprising that it's the one that came from 16,000km away instead of those from <1000km. French efficiency.

In other news, it's T-shirt weather! Well, it is in my head.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

origins vs nationality

At some point in the family tree (its actually a DAG), all of my ancestors came from the British isles, but I for one am sixteen-sixteenths Australian most of the time (110% when playing sport, of course).

Tuesday, 25 October 2005


Went to another basketball training last night, this time a group that Liz coaches from her uni or something. My calves cramped again - every time I do this I promise myself to do some fitness work, but it's just so much easier to sit at home and play games or watch movies. Anyway, I did OK, good rebounding, but I still can't hit a jumpshot.


On Saturday night crazy harpies set upon each other and on me, leaving marks of a nature most incriminating.

Friday, 21 October 2005

plurals! infinitives! hyphens!

I've been correcting franglais this week: english written by francophones. Its tedious and time-consuming, and it's annoying when the same error recurs, or variants of the same error recur, over and over again. Having said that, it's pretty easy work and it serves to build up my language karma before having to write a bunch of my thesis in french next year.

Tuesday, 18 October 2005

YS Falls

Astute readers will notice that a few new photos have snuck into the right hand column, and that they don't look like France. They're not. They're of Jamaica, and they're from this flickr photo set. Whatever my qualms about the people, it's undeniably a very naturally beautiful place. Having said that, I'd take Josephine Falls over YS falls (pictured) any day of the week.

Monday, 17 October 2005


The mascot of my university, the symbol to strike fear into the hearts of any who would oppose us, to stand before them as a beacon of our strength, resilience and power, is a triton. They've put more emphasis on this in their new logo (warning: PDF).

This is all impressive right up until you translate triton into English. I'll save you the time. It's a newt.

return to brevity

Quiet weekend, mostly gaming. Grabbed a copy of NBA '06 and refined my hoops skillz a little. Tried to do some netgaming with P & D, but BG2 and NWN both refused to play ball.

back on the recepisse

After two or three glorious months of having a proper carte de sejour, I'm back on a recepisse (provisional thing). I went in on Thursday and lined up behind 77 other people, but realised I had forgotten an envelope, so went walking to try to find one, figuring my number wouldn't come up for at least 30 minutes. I couldn't find one for love or money, since newspapers in france are sold by bars, not by newsagents. I wound up in town, where I bought what I needed from the GPO and headed back out. My number had gone past, but I grabbed another and it only took 25 minutes or so of queueing. I guess they had two servers on to help with the increased demand from students arriving, but it was much better than my previous sorties.

oh, island in the sun

Ah, Jamaica. I've been avoiding writing this up for a week, but here goes.

So I headed off a couple of Saturdays ago to Montego Bay for the Models conference. A train to Paris, in which I wrote up my notes for the first of my two presentations, then a wait at CDG until I could check in for my flight to Heathrow. There were maybe a dozen or so of us on the flight going on to Models, including Jean-Marc and his wife. At Heathrow we were running late, and had to hurry to get to the gate in time for boarding, along with a few Germans that we met, including Gregor Engels. Anyway, the Jamaica flight, in a sign of things to come, boarded an hour late, so we (by now perhaps 30 Models'ers including Germans, Spaniards and others) were in plenty of time.

Jamaica is a poor place. I guess I hadn't figured on that so much, but the ride from the airport went past some pretty marginal housing, a goodly quantity of barbed wire, and an army jeep full of guys carrying semiautomatic weapons. The hotel could not have been a bigger contrast. After passing guarded gates, it was basically a colonial compound. 3km of private beaches, swimming pools everywhere, buses and golf carts to ferry people around. There were 5 rooms, I think, in our villa, and we were taken care of by our own cook and butler, which was a pretty weird vibe for me personally.

The conference itself was pretty good. The MTIP workshop on Monday, at which I presented, was valuable (in a global sense) and interesting, and I chatted with a number of interesting people. My talk in the main conference on Wednesday went well, after some soul-searching on Tuesday night on how to frame it. I got very positive commentary from some people, and only one real critic. I also had a chance to chat with someone from the graph grammar crowd, which should serve me well going forward. Elsewhere in the conference, I chatted with a bunch of people, including the Microsoft Research guys from Cambridge, who are doing good work.

Living in the resort was weird. I had a swim in their lap pool, which was something I'd wanted to do, but I didn't have a swim in the sea, more from lack of opportunity than lack of desire. I'm not used to luxury, though, nor to having 'servants' (though I use the term with hesitation). That said, when I left Friday into town, it was into uncertainty, not relief. The hotel into which I checked in town was pretty dodgy, with a choice between a noisy aircon and stifling heat. Also, and I'm no interior decorator, but the decor of the room was purple and green. I'm not talking pastels, either, these were verdant rainforest green and eyebleed purple.

So the weekend began, and an interesting one at that. Friday night we headed over to the pelican to meet some other people from the conf. We were a pretty international group of 7 people: ukraine, canada, brazil, england, germany, estonia, australia and france were all represented either in nationality or residence. There was also a jamaican guy who the german guy had met, who proposed to take us all on an excursion down south the next day. Gradually we accepted, and in the morning we piled into a couple of rented* cars and headed out.

It was a good day. We went to a house where they kept hummingbirds and had them perch on our fingers and drink nectar from bottles. We went for a river tour and saw egrets, mangroves and crocodiles. We went to some pretty amazing waterfalls and swung on a rope swing. We bought baked fish, hot breads and coconuts from roadside markets. It was fun.

The fun ceased the next day when the two guys who had paid deposits on the cars realised that our erstwhile friendly guide had taken them for a ride in more ways than one. Neither he nor the ~US$1000 in deposits were to be found. As for me, I went for a walk up and down the tourist strip, pushing aside the guys hawking tourist schwag, hash and hookers.

After finding a park to lie in and read for a while, I walked west towards town. Along the way I was approached by a young guy, and we started talking about cricket and stuff. We kept walking, him showing me stuff around town. After a while he suggested we go grab a beer and a joint. I turned him down on the joint, but we bought a beer and he bought himself some weed. It was probably at this point that I realised I was in the wrong part of town. It was basically a ghetto.

I really shouldn't have been surprised that, when I tried to take my leave, my 'friend' and another dude who had followed us started asking for cash. I was pretty annoyed. They were really indirect about it - "Sometimes, we show people around and they show us respect by giving us like ten, fifteen thousand dollars (about $US160)." - but the message was very clear. I wanted out of there, so I offered them increasing amounts of cash until my wallet was empty and they suggested I go to a cash machine and get them their money. In hindsight this is weird, but I basically negotiated them down to about five thousand, claiming to be a poor impoverished student. I was pretty conscious that I had a laptop and a digital camera in my bag worth 8 times what they originally "suggested". So I withdrew some money, like $50, and hotfooted it back to the tourist strip. The rest of the afternoon I wallowed and wondered why the TV wasn't showing the Australia-Jamaica soccer game. Later, withdrawing money for a taxi to the airport, some dude claiming to be called "Mr Cool" offered me weed or women, claimed he ran the streets in the area (still on the tourist strip), and asked me to get some cash for him while I was at it. I just shook my head and walked away.

So I didn't get a great taste of Jamaicans as a people. It went beyond me and my friends being robbed, though, or getting crap pushed on me while walking down the street. It was the two-facedness of feigning friendship first that got me. Probably it was also the fact that I bought it, but I value that sort of naivety, and I resent it being taken advantage of.

So thus endeth the lesson, right? No fear. Arriving back at CDG via Heathrow, I found myself alone watching an empty baggage carousel. Turns out Air France, in their wisdom, put my suitcase on a later flight, and I, like a moron, had left my house keys and phone therein, making it impossible either to head home and have the suitcase delivered later, or to call and ask someone to put me up. My laptop's email archives and Gabrielle came to the rescue, and after recovering my suitcase, 4 hours late, I met her in town and she found me a bed in her son's room. As a final rub, my phone wasn't in the suitcase. Air France promised to reimburse me the monetary value of the phone, but it doesn't have any; the value was in the list of contacts and the number.

So my work blog will say the trip was very useful, but it says right here that it sucked.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

random acts of dairy propulsion

Mick got jipped on buying a domain for his simple-x work a while back, so did the obvious thing and instead bought Diverse hilarity ensues.

screen. more screen.

Saturday games. Sunday TV.

Little more detail, I guess. I burnt Saturday playing Madden, then stepped out in the evening for Avenir's first home game. There were promises of storyline, like the fact that the crazy Polish girl was lining up against Liz, but it didn't pan out. Avenir trailed at 1-0 and never after and won by godknowshowmany, let's say 40. Liz had her ankle strapped to kingdom come having spraining her ankle Wednesday - god knows how she got up and down the court.

Sunday I watched teev: Entourage, Sopranos, Anger Management, pap.

Today I'm at SPLC attending tutorials, more through technical assistance (read: lock and unlock doors and show people to and from rooms) than interest. It's all rather dull - not my field.

Monday, 26 September 2005

footy final

I managed to avoid news of the footy during Saturday so that I could watch the game on Sunday. Going into it, I was a little indifferent, but probably more for the Eagles than the Swannies, just because the games I'd seen through the year made me think that te Eagles were a team put together the wrong way, whereas the Swans were a team that played the wrong way. In the end, the eagles' lack of anyone capable of taking a mark was clearly their downfall, whereas Sydney's defensive, tactical and, in my view ugly game, stood up. One opinion I did change was of Barry Hall, who I had thought of as basically a harmless thug, but who I now consider just a thug. He clotheslined Wirrpunda in the first half in a really cowardly display. Anyway, the commentators called it a great grand final, but I thought it was a pretty ugly game - low scoring obviously, but also with a lot of stoppages and clogged forward lines almost all game.

Wednesday, 21 September 2005

I am not the walrus

*Sigh*, yet another one. I'm gonna suggest that there's a little wishful thinking and dialogue obsession in this one. On a more brutally honest day I could equally come out as Donny, I think.

According to the "Which Big Lebowski character are you?" quiz:

Why don't you check it out? Or we cut off your Johnson!

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

no more

Jamie's had enough, and I hear that. I think coming back to being a student in close contact with academics has pretty much convinced me that I don't want to be an academic. That said, I don't want to abandon research holus-bolus - if I could find DSTC-style secondary research or corporate resesarch, I'd go straight for it. The team thing is important though - I really need the structure.

Monday, 19 September 2005


Yeah, well, so much for the whole posting every day hypothesis. I'll plead long weekend. OK, perhaps it wasn't every day, just more spontaneously, and I think I can meet that.

By way of update. The long weekend was due to Irisa deciding to rip up all the electrics this weekend, the RTT day coming via August, a change that annoyed some of my workmates, but suits me just fine. To profit, I caught up with Liz, friday, for lunch at the wine bar where we go from time to time for tarte. I did some shopping in the afternoon, too, though as per usual the lack of car prohibits a shop for more than a few days' worth of food.

Saturday I bludged the morning away and gamed the afternoon - tennis and BG. Soso called me out for an apero in the evening with a friend of hers, but conversation was as sparse as sparse can be, so I bailed after a couple of hours and came home and watched another 6-ft under episode, the penultimate. The other reason for my now-standard abandonment was the smoke. Its a well-observed fact that all single attractive women in Europe are smokers, but it really becomes a problem when every other person in the bar (in this case the Webb) is as well. My jumper, hibernating for 5 or 6 months now, took about 2 hours to become thoroughly imbibed.

Oh, between the gaming and apero I braved a roast lamb - I didn't really know what I was doing, so I just tossed it in the oven with a bit of water, some garlic, rosemary, onions and potatoes and hoped for the best. It was OK, not enough blood in the juice for a good gravy - too pale - and the potatoes didn't cook, but I'll grade it a C+, with promise.

Sunday was gaming day - got up early and all - before the sun, which has gone all lazy and isn't up before 8 these days. Slacking in the heat department too - was mid-single figures Saturday night, and felt it. Anyway, the gaming was good; Dan and Jules rocked over to Paul's, and once we eventually got it all going it was fun.

This evening I finished a couple of my TV series - s2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm over dinner. Pause. Every now and then I manage a proper dinner. Tonight, even if it was last night's effort, I had roast lamb + 3 veg, with gravy, cracked pepper, green tea (no wine in the house - too heavy for shopping), then camembert with fresh baguette and a still-in-progress short nightcap of calva. I'm way getting old, but if the calva fits, wear it.

The other series was 6ft under s5. Best. Show. Ever. Not the final show, but just the whole series, or rather 5 series. You know, the show. I was a big sopranos fan, and there are bunches of others that I've really liked. Firefly might be the closest, but it had no closure - it finished a good 2 or 3 seasons short of that, and so suffers as a result - maybe the movie will help. The sopranos goes the other way, and maybe should have wound up after 4 or even 3 seasons, but 6fu finished at just the right time. And its quality - really pathos in just about every episode, and not just cheap soap pathos, but well-made. There's a real identifiable sense of style to it, that starts with the obvious things like the fades to white but goes further. Example, in the last episode Brenda is talking to a doctor, and one of the dead folks takes his place. The change was so seamless I had to go back to see whether they'd cut or done some tricky morph, but on reflection the morph would have been way wrong for the whole way the show's shot. That's probably bullshit, but there you go. Good show. Will be missed.

Brain. Empty. More to follow another day.

Thursday, 15 September 2005

goddamn penguins

What the hell is going on with these goddamned penguins? Apparently now "La Marche de l'Empereur" is the highest US-grossing French film ever. I won't even attempt to list the myriad French productions that surpass it. Personally, my opinion might best be recapped as "fucking awful". Perhaps the explanation comes at the end of that BBC article:
In the French version of the film - which was shot by a four-man crew over 14 months - actors' voices speak for the penguins.

However the US version has been reworked, replacing the actors' voices with a narration by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman.

I gotta confess, though, that I would have thought it would take a lot more than just re-doing the narration. Perhaps one day I'll check out the US version to see if its better. Or I could just gouge out my eyes with my bare hands.


Today I feel like shit, and am inclined to run home to Australia and hide for a month.


Not only did they start destroying an apartment in my building, without telling me beforehand, at the ungodly hour of 8am this morning, they blocked the entryway with their little debris truck. I had to lift my bike bodily over it and squeeze through a small gap.

Went out for crepes last night with Jacques, Sophie and Estelle. After getting home I queued up a couple of episodes of six feet under. It would have been one, but I can't help myself.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

mea culpa

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government and to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said during a news conference.

Well, um, der. And about bloody time. Still, better late than never I guess.

change in transmission

I had occasion to use the wayback machine to revisit one of my old blog (by name, not tech) entries from 2002, and its interesting to note how things have changed. My writing style now is more formal but, perhaps by consequence, I blog much, much less often. I've decided to try and change that. Prepare for more posts, with more dropped subjects. Example follows.

Hooked up with Paul last night for a quick bout of NWN, continuing the game we started on the weekend. Its frustrating having to run over the same ground again and again, a condition not helped by my deciding to launch a single-player game at the same time. In the meantime I'm going to grab a copy of BG1, a game that I haven't played through before, that might offer some more story novelty satisfaction. I also continued ploughing through my TV stash, watching another episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and another couple of Six Feet Under. So well made, that show.

Today, at work, I'm mostly doing jack shit. Forecast has that continuing into the afternoon and into tomorrow.

Monday, 12 September 2005

meyer-briggs all over again

Like many in my field, I suspect, I'm INTP, although INTJ might be more common. My details:

  • moderately expressed introvert

  • moderately expressed intuitive personality

  • moderately expressed thinking personality

  • moderately expressed perceiving personality

Although I've seen this result before, the results were more moderate than I remember. Perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age.

(Test via Anna, Kerry)

Thursday, 8 September 2005

the last week

Its been a fairly quiet week. Last Thursday I went for a drink at the Webb with Soso and a friend of hers who's going to Australia soon for 8 or 9 months of working holiday visa goodness. I told him about the absolute necessity of doing the Cairns-Sydney or at least Cairns-Brisbane coast over a couple of weeks, all with not a small tinge of jealousy. Later on a bunch of familiar faces - Liz, Sandy, and a few others - joined us.

On Friday Liz and I went to Soso's folks' house for gallettes. Good gallettes, and nice to chat to Soso's dad. I also met her brother, who invited me to a basketball training on Tuesday.

The weekend was given over to playing cricket - on computer unfortunately, but still better than nothing. The game, EA's contribution, has a fairly steep learning curve, particularly in batting, and despite having played a game with the same controls a couple of years ago, it was only after a few hours that I managed to start registering scores in excess of 20.

On Tuesday I went out to Vezin le Coquet for basketball training with Jeremy. There were about 13 of us, with myself and one other guys the only newbies. I struggled with the early drills, my inability to hit a jumpshot somewhat of a hindrance. I also came to realise that I'm not as fit as I could be, and was blowing pretty hard at times. Later we moved onto some 3-on-3 games, and I did better, getting a nice tipback and generally not feeling too out of place playing in the post. We moved onto 5-on-5 and, likewise, I thought I was doing OK, but my calves started cramping up pretty badly and, despite a break to stretch and rub them a bit, I basically had to sit out the end of the session.

Since then I've been pretty sore. My back was tender after the game, but a little stretching down sorted that out. My calf, hip flexor and groin muscles are still tender a couple of days after though, despite my efforts to stretch them a couple of times each day. I probably need to start going for some runs if before I think about going to another training, or my fitness is going to be a problem.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

homesick again

Chris has been taking awesome, awesome photos of Australia, and it's making me homesick. The country around the Herbert river reminds of a couple of camping trips we did when I was little, the stuff from Mt Mulligan really captures the burnt-out, desperate scrub/forest country around Mareeba, and the shots of animals (redclaw, lizards, birds, etc) really serve to remind that the tradeoff for 500-year-old churches found in Europe is an almost total lack of wildlife.

Friday, 2 September 2005

natural disaster madness

Ricky wonders about the madness following the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, and whether the same thing would happen in Australia. I guess the closest thing we've had is the destruction of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy in '74 - obviously a much smaller storm in area, if not intensity, and mitigated by Darwin being above sea level - which basically levelled the city. Now obviously one can't compare a storm that killed 65 and evacuated 30,000 to a storm that will likely have killed thousands in a city of 1.3 million, but I've never heard of any great level of lawlessness in the wake of Tracy, and everything I've heard and read suggests the government response was much more immediate (effective too, but that's again of less viable comparison given the scale - immediacy is fair game though). I'm sketchier on other big Australian natural disasters like Black Friday or Ash Wednesday, but they're of even less direct comparison being fires.

Now, Australia's a country very prone to natural disasters. Cyclones and large-scale bushfires are an annual risk, and droughts are fairly regular and frequently followed by floods. However, so is the US. Hurricanes and tornadoes happen every year, in predictable regions, so there is really no excuse for unpreparedness or for tardy reaction. (Talking to people in Bretagne about natural disasters is silly; there aren't any, and I don't care what they say).

Thursday, 25 August 2005

korean spam

For the last year or so I've been scanning my yahoo spam for messages that inadvertently slip through. I've probably found 2 or 3 in that period, but the escalation of volume has continued, and I stopped the practice three weeks ago. There are now 1056 in the box, as in indication of the volume, and I reckon 60% or so are in korean (the rest are loans, fertility drugs, porn and cheap software). This makes for a bemusing sort of spam - I can't read it, and the illustrations are so cryptic that they give no help to deciphering the nature of the product. It was the same at DSTC, and just recently they seem to have found my other webmail account. For the moment, my uni account hasn't been picked up to any great extent.

Monday, 22 August 2005

rennes beach

I'm just back from a ride, the first I've done for a while - I put it down to the distraction (welcome distraction, but distraction nonetheless) of having guests for a month or so. I didn't manage 50k this time - just a shade under 40 - and although it was the same canal, I went in the direction this time, out towards and past what might be generously called the local beach. There were quite a few people out, on bike, on foot, and just sitting and lying around the parklands which form the more notable part of the beach area.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

hot ashes

Its been perhaps 20 years since Australia had a competitive cricket series with England, but they now find themselves up to their armpits. I can remember maybe 2 tests (AUS vs WI in Adelaide and AUS vs RSA in Sydney) in the last 20 years as exciting as the 2nd & 3rd of this series, so to have 2 in a row is just incredibly good for Ashes cricket. Having English cricket back in the media, and rightfully (for August) ahead of the football, is long-overdue and very welcome.

Personally, I lived and died on the BBC online radio commentaries of both 5th days, and am counting the days to the 4th test, the 5th test, and then to boasting about Australia's majestic victory to Laurie Tratt in Montego Bay.

Pointe du Raz

Here's a belated photo looking west from the Pointe du Raz, taken when Lee and I were there a few weeks ago.

Trip to paris

After Brittany, Lee and I headed east for the obligatory visit to Paris. The first afternoon we headed up to Sacre Coeur to have a look out over Paris. The hill itself was bitterly crowded, but a minute stroll over the hill down into Montmartre saw the masses off, and we enjoyed the atmosphere of the obviously very expensive area. After dinner we dropped by the tour eiffel to see it lit up.

The next day we popped into the Louvre, the first time I've been in my half-dozen trips to or through Paris. We checked out the french sculptures, italian paintings, egyptian relics, and arts of africa, the asia pacific, and north america (somewhat bemusing to see an exhibit devoted to 2/3rds of the earth). The french sculptures were really nice, but the Italian paintings were far too crowded to be pleasant. The Mona Lisa bore the brunt of my resentment, since I was unable to properly appreciate the Titians and Tintorettos because the queue to take photos of the little lady took up so much of the room. We joined the queue, as much to say that we had braved it as to see the painting. Shocking.

In the afternoon, already half gone, we walked around the tuileries, place vendome and the obelisk. After a lie-down in a parc on the champs-elysees, we had dinner in a restaurant just of the main drag, then popped down to see the arc de triomphe at sunset.

On our final morning we used the hour before our train left to visit the Musee de Rodin, or at least the sculpture garden, in front of which I appear above. This was my favourite place of the trip: not too crowded, nice sculptures, and a genuinely nice place to hang out.

back to work

I've been back at work for the last week and a bit now. Upon returning I came across a call for papers for the MTIP workshop at Models, so I contacted Mike Lawley and we rustled up a paper together on Tefkat, which I hope to present, since no DSTC (Disbanded, Stopped, Terminated, Ceased) people will be at Montego Bay.

On Montego Bay, things are looking grim for my bank account. The conference hotel is in reality a resort, 16km from the town itself, and I've been told this afternoon that my budget is US$70 per day for accomodation, food, and misc other. This is a little less than half the conference hotel rate, which I estimate puts me in a $1000 personal hole for the week if I can't find some other way to manage it. If I had a license, I could stay in a cheap dive in town and rent a car, but that ain't gonna happen in the next month. Its weird how the french public service is quite happy to throw money about willy-nilly in some ways (tenure), but not in others.

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

photo finish

When Lee and I were in Quimper, we visited the Maritime Museum there. To be honest, its not the sort of stuff that flicks my switch, and a lot of the time I couldn't be bothered labouring through the written french descriptions of the exhibits.

At one point, though, Lee called me over and said there was a piece on a guy who visited the Solomons and Australia in the late 1700s. That struck me as interesting, so I had a read. The guy was La Pérouse, and I was shocked to read that the plaque said the he visited the Solomons on January 1st of 1788 and then Sydney Harbour (then Port Jackson) on the 26th of the same month. Now, being a good patriotic Australian, I noted that as an important date, because its when the first fleet landed at the same harbour. I was a bit shocked, and to be honest suspicious of French revisionism, that a frenchman was there on the same day.

As it turns out, Captain Arthur Phillip (who in fact reached the continent a week earlier, but found Botany Bay unsuitable for settlement) was equally shocked upon seeing French ships in the harbour on the day. La Pérouse had in fact been sent to explore the southwest Pacific in response to Cook's voyage in 1770 (or thereabouts), and had undertaken a massive voyage around the Pacific rim, and was later given instructions to check out the colony while stopping in Russia.

The English he met there (dare we call them Australians? perhaps not) were unable to give him food, and in the end were among the last westerners to see him or his crew alive. His ship was later found wrecked in the Santa Cruz islands in the south west of what is now the Solomons.

Anyway, I found all that jolly interesting.

Sunday, 24 July 2005

more brittany

Another week, another round of tourism.

The original plan last Tuesday was to catch some trains up to Bayeux and Rouen and check out Normandy, but forecasts of bad weather and dodgy train timetables made us reconsider, so we took the easier option and jumped a TGV out to Brest, via St Brieux. After an afternoon there exploring the maritime museum and various parks, we caught the train down to Quimper, where we ran into a large celtic/european cultural festival. We took in a concert or two and wandered around amongst the crowds, and along the way established (or, in my case, reestablished) the opinion that Breton dancing is entirely without rhythmic, diversionary or any other sort of merit. We had a quick visit to the gallery there, but had to cut it short, which was a shame.

On Thursday morning we caught a ridiculously cheap but out to the Pointe du Raz and had a scramble on the rocks. It was a very different day to my previous visit. The visibility was high, the winds low, and the gulls largely absent, and the flowers that had been so colourful had seen their hues quite dulled by the sun in the month since.

After an afternoon of sun, we were pretty tired catching the TER back to Rennes, and collapsed basically on arrival, even forgetting to check the score in the cricket.

Tuesday, 19 July 2005


So Lee got in a bit over a week ago, on a Saturday afternoon, and has been staying with me. We've pretty much gotten her to every place worth seeing within reasonable reach of a day trip: St. Malo, Mont St-Michel, Vannes, various trips around Rennes, and even Betton and the canal yesterday. In between times I've been filling in some gaps in her cultural education, in the various forms of Firefly episodes, and Blade Runner, and revisiting both of our childhoods in the form of the Mysterious Cities of Gold. Notably, the latter has fallen into my basket of childhood pleasures that stand up less well to the passage of time.

This afternoon we're looking to head up to Normandy for a couple of days to look at beaches and the like. We'd go to Switzerland, but I'm still working out troubles with my carte de sejour (which should all be sorted next week, the lady assures me), so am nervous about leaving (or more accurately re-entering) France.

In a spare moment, we've set Lee up with here very own blog, over at Vikings and Fjords. The name doesn't fit so long as she's parading around sunny Brittany (I'm unable to convince Australians that Brittany is a rainy place!), but should do better once she gets to Oslo in August.

Saturday, 9 July 2005

trading places

Mick flew back to Australia on Thursday, after trips to Spain, Scotland and Switzerland. Meanwhile, Lee arrives in Rennes in a couple of hours after a few days in KL and a very, very long flight. I really should have gone to meet her at the airport in Paris, but I didn't get my butt into gear. In any case, I'm excited to see her, although things are a bit of a mess here in terms of thing scattered and undone.

Friday, 8 July 2005

hamlet's ghost

Paul Keating evidently believes that the current ALP opposition is incapable of holding John Howard accountable in the public eye. Perhaps the only thing more discouraging than a retired politician who won't let old grudges die is when he is justified in doing so. *Sigh*

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

sport and podcasting

After tennis with Franck last Thursday and a big bike ride on Sunday, the natural consequence was more tennis on Monday, this time with Seb as well as Franck. I put myself against the other two for the first hour or so. I much prefer it that way; better for my fitness, and in theory at least I should be more reliable than them, and this is becoming more and more true as I slowly work out my problems on my forehand.

Today, Raphael dropped in for a visit from Lille, ostensibly to speak with Jean-Marc about a European project they're putting up, but the opportunity to talk about other stuff was also useful.

In other work news, I'm still getting nowhere on reviewing a paper for tomorrow, nor on updating the camera-ready copy of my Jamaica paper. I think I've narrowed down my little model type well-formedness niggle, though.

Meanwhile, I'm listening to more ABC radio than I have since college, with Philip Adams & Robyn Williams on Radio National, Karl Kruszelnicki, Jon Safran & others on triplej and grandstand all having podcasts out there for me. I'm also getting into WeFunk's archives in a pretty big way - makes outstanding cycling radio.

Monday, 4 July 2005


After wasting Saturday on NBA Live (on defense I've got these hands, and on offense I've got handles like pots and pans!), I got a little more done on Sunday. OK, so I watched a couple of games of football - 3 for the weekend - but I also got on my bike (literally and figuratively) and went for a ride on the track along the canal d'ile et rance. A few months back I rode this coming back through Betton from the foret de rennes, but this time I went quite a bit further, up a few kilometres past Chevaigne. Turning around after just over 27km, I was feeling alright, but there was a stretch of 4 or 5km of coarse bluestone gravel that really put the hurt into my legs, so by the time I got home the 53.6km was not lost on me.

Thursday, 30 June 2005


DSTC is dead, long live, er ... Oh, right. Well, DSTC is dead.

Sometimes you don't burn bridges, they just fall down.

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

google mapping

So, I work here (crescent building), I live here, and this morning I went out here (the big square building) to hand in a certificate which I was given here (a building on the SW corner of the square) and for which I bought a 55 euro stamp here (the inverse T-shaped building NE of the big carpark).

It'd be nice to be able to put pins in the map and draw lines between them, because I reckon I probably clocked up about 15-20km on the bike running around this morning. It will also be nice when they get around to linking the map and search engine up properly like they've done for the US version.

Update: Oh, its all just way too cool. The basketball tournament the other week was here, we climbed on rocks last week here, listened to techno here. I could go on, and probably will at some later point...

Monday, 27 June 2005

update, again

Stuff has happened. Ian was the harbinger, dropping by Rennes a couple of weeks ago for endless parties with his former housemates, a group comprising, it seems, half of the ag campus. There was a basketball tournament at Chanteloup, featuring as players Liz, Veronique, Yann, and myself among others. We reached the final undefeated but lost in close circumstances, although to be honest it was all about the paella afterwards, along with the alcohol-soaked cherries and boisterous drunken singing.

Mick and Chris arrived Tuesday the week after, and we pushed off around Brittany for a few days. A day at Mont-St-Michel, an afternoon at Vitre, and trips to the markets at St Therese and Les Lices all featured. Then last Saturday we hit Nantes to meet Fabu, although I didn't wind up actually seeing any of Nantes. We went for a walk on the beach (the same as last year's team seminar) before crepes at Le Croisic, and then the next day dodged the heat by heading to the microclimate of Finistere and the Pointe du Raz, the latter being a highlight.

Following Nantes, on Monday we caught a train via Bordeaux to Toulouse, where we stayed with Valerie and Juan. On Tuesday we went out to Carcassonne and saw the town and the castle just outside, which was a bit touristy (10 euros to get into the keep) but still impressive. On getting back to Toulouse, Juan took us around the fete de la musique, which was enormous - if someone told me there were a hundred thousand people on the streets and fifteen thousand in the place du capitole, it wouldn't surprise me. On Wednesday we toured around Toulouse, through the musee des agustins and past a couple of churches including the very architecturally weird cathedrale. On Thursday we headed to Albi, another small town to the east with a cathedral notable for the number, colour, and 3-D elements of its wall art, and the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, which was pretty cool, although Chris didn't dig it so much.

You'd think that was enough, but on Friday I did the big Z from Toulouse to Bordeaux to Paris to Rennes for a party/photo night from Liz' farewell weekend. Having been asked to bring a plate or something to drink, I took both, rustling up some Gado Gado (sans chili - french folk don't go there, usually) and toting along a bottle of Famous Grouse. Good party, Sophie having taken care of making a DVD and Audrey of assembling a photo CD, and notable for Veronique making it along. After drinking all the scotch I could find (not, of course, alone), and learning some fairly surprising news (will elaborate when I'm sure I'm not jumping the gun, but its not news for you, Chris), I crashed at Avenir before heading home the next day.


Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Monday, 13 June 2005

another item for the list

My list of things that other people are doing in Australia that I wish I could be doing in Australia now consists of:
  • Playing club cricket (presumably at some low level), like Lee or Jaye. No justification for this, really, since I haven't played organised cricket since I was 9, but the club aspect appeals to me, as well as the whole couldabeen thing.
  • Making a go of it with film and DVD, like Mick. If I hadn't left, I'm pretty sure I would have been at least peripherally involved in this stuff.
  • Being in a musical, like Jeremy. Again, its been a long long time, but I trod the boards a not inconsiderable number of times in my youth (including the Treasure Island musical of which Jeremy writes, although I can't remember as what - I think I was probably about 6 or 7), and again its a social thing as well as a chance to get a performance buzz.
One day, perhaps.

Friday, 10 June 2005

oz it research

IT research in Australia seems to be in a pretty bad way. DSTC is on wobbly ground after missing its funding last year (not to mention the fact that Clinton's leaving :), and now NICTA has seen its CEO and then 5 board members including the chairman quit, all within a month. This sucks for me, since these are the sorts of places where I could well be looking for a job in a couple of years' time.

mise a jour

Recently, on Jim...

Boring weekend, lots of Rome: Total War, not a lot else. On Monday night I went to a training session with the basketball team at Chanteloup, this time as a player. In fact, there was little choice, as there was no coach, and thus we wound up just playing 4 on 4. I was the tallest, so spent most of my time down low looking lost. I threw some good passes, and had a couple of big blocks, but generally don't know where to go in terms of positioning, particularly for rebounding, and for post defense, notably fronting. Anyway, good fun.

Tuesday I gave a presentation for our team, which went pretty well, with a bunch of good questions and discussion.

Last night there was a party for Audrey's birthday (again), this time at the club foyer. They moved Liz's apartment down there, which was fairly amusing, although reportedly a pain in the arse to undo. The party, like all such things with that group, was pretty crazy, winding up about 5ish. I stayed the journey this time, along the way following a somewhat dubious trail from punch to bordeaux to scotch.

Today lunch in town with Veronique and Liz, tomorrow night basketball tourney followed by paella and sangria. Mmmmm.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

party party party

Party last night for Audrey's birthday, surprise thing at Nono's place. There were a bunch of people from Pleyber, we were probably about 20 in all. Good fun, I left around 2ish, but I suspect a bunch of them kicked on for a bit after that.

In other news, Jamaica is go! Whee!

Friday, 3 June 2005

the wolf in full voice

I took Wednesday off. I met up with Liz in the morning for a quick pass through the market, then we caught a lift with Veronique out to her house at Chanteloup. Once there we helped prepare lunch, tarte aux fruits de mer and magrets de canard in a cognac-honey-creme-fraiche sauce, all wonderful. In the afternoon we went down and helped out with a training session for a couple of kids (specifically poussins, poussines and bellegamines) basketball teams. Lots of fun!

As a followup, I've signed up to play in a social tournament next Friday, with a training session on Monday night. If only the town wasn't so far away (22km with hills), I'd go to play regularly. Another situation where not having a car is a bit of a drag.

and on the seventh day

After two big weekends away, I welcomed the chance for a weekend at home. I watched a couple of Collingwood games, listened to a couple of Phillip Adams shows, called a couple of family members, watched a couple of films and finally got around to finishing off Cryptonomicon.

Tuesday, 31 May 2005

operating systems

The standard linux installation here at IRISA is so appallingly bad that I'm tempted to go back to Windows. Those who know me realise that that's really saying something.

Honestly, I have no rights to install software packages, so wind up grabbing source files and scattering them around the local disk. This would be less of a problem if the software I needed, exotic things like java runtimes, were available. Software that is installed runs off the network, and thus at speeds not befitting the punchy machine they've given me.

Probably the only thing stopping me from going back to windows is hubris.

Friday, 27 May 2005

another surprise departure weekend

The day before leaving for Liz' surprise weekend, I got a call from Fanni inviting me to come for a not dissimilar weekend for Chris, the week after (i.e. last weekend). Getting to CH is a little tougher than getting to Avenir, so I corralled TGVs from Rennes to Paris and Paris to Lausanne on Friday, taking the day off for travel. In Lausanne I stayed and more importantly caught up with Bruce and Bec, and went along to see a screening of Star Wars (some brief thoughts here), in VO, a condition not able to be met by cinemas in Rennes this week. Bruce and Bec seem pretty well set up there, with the location of their school/employer bettered only by that of their apartment.

On Saturday I caught a train up to Fribourg and met Fanni, Chris and Valerie. After coffee, lunch and shopping, we headed up to Fanni's folks' chalet above Vevey. We had a nice walk through the hills, before heading back to prepare the evening's feast. I say feast and I mean it - this was cuisine on a grand scale, grander indeed than the available appetities, 8 in all (the 3 aforementioned, Yann, Babalou, Audille and a friend whose name escapes me, and yours truly). Following dinner we hopped into a bottle of Calva that I picked up in Normandy the weekend before. The regrettable consequence was Audille and friend deciding to drive home (down a swiss mountain, mind you, not an easy proposition) in a condition beyond imagining for me.

On Sunday, after a breakfast-cum-lunch during which we made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful collective effort to consume the delicious and plentiful leftovers from the previous evening, we hit Vevey. First order of business was to change my train, after which we wandered the shores of lac leman and caught up with Fabou and Mallorie for a coffee. Then it was back to Bern via Lausanne, dinner with Babalou and Valerie, and night train back to Rennes for me.

Photos from the chalet and Vevey are up here.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

lost space

So here's my random thought of the day, conceived during the unlikely act of simultaneously reading Bill Simmons' More Cowbell blog on ESPN, and Berardinelli's review of 'Sith.

I'm a big starwars fan, but I just haven't been able to get excited about the new ones, and I think I've worked out why. You see, my third and fourth favourite star wars films are, respectively, Jedi and Sith. A bunch of people have said they preferred Sith to Jedi, and I can understand that; the story is darker and perhaps more compelling, and of course there are no ewoks in Sith (nor the hijinks that come with them). I think the sole reason I prefer Jedi is special effects. Lucas learnt a lesson a bit between Clones and Sith - the climax in Clones was one of the biggest messes I've ever seen, and he cut back for the most recent instalment. Not enough though. Its still too busy, there's still too much going on in the background, and there still isn't enough space in the shots.

There are other faults there - the dialogue is worse than ever - "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo when there was nothing but our love … no plotting, no war" (my God, I just realised that the worst line in the last film is a reference to the worst single scene in the series) - and he no longer has a Harrison Ford or a Carrie Fisher to make it work - but this overkill, which has been growing ever since he went back and started touching up the originals (example: putting animals in the Mos Eisley scenes), is the real issue. In fact, without the numerous references to the previous films (and the games - I got to know Adi Gallia and Plo Koon through Jedi Power Battles), and perhaps some of the scenes on the lava planet, I might well have gone for Menace ahead of Sith.

All that said, in any star wars film, even episode 2, there are moments when I get totally caught up in the universe, and for that I can overlook a lot.

Thursday, 19 May 2005

travel up

Travel is up this year. Last year I had trips
This year, so far I've had
So, I'm already 2-3 trips up on this time last year, which can only be a good thing.

I've got a few things in the pipeline, too. I talked to Gabrielle the other night, and I'm going to try to get to either Paris or Liseux to visit them, hopefully in June. Mick and Chris are here in June, and Lee in July, so there'll certainly be a couple of trips tied up in there, too. I'm also hoping to get away for some more local weekends, plans including a cycle trip up to St Malo, possible getaways to the nearby islands such as Guernsey/Jersey/Belle-Ile, and perhaps a trip out to Finistere.

I feel dirty, I've basically just made a flashback episode.

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

to market to market

Liz wanted to see the St Therese market, so we went along this morning. Its even bigger than I remember - the range of clothing in particular I find astounding for a street market. Lee is going to go insane when she comes in July, as it will be slap bang in fruit season. Anyway, I wound up buying a few things, fruit'n'veg and a reblochon cheese for making a tartiflette, perhaps tonight.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

weekend de depart

This weekend just gone was a surprise weekend for Liz, to which I was invited during the final-game party last weekend. We met at Avenir on Friday evening and pushed off north to Deauville in Normandy, There was a party that might understatedly be described as large, the festivities of which for me finished at about 4, and the details of which I'll save for later moments of injudicious revelation. I managed one massive gaffe, which I will regret for months, but I can't complain.

On Saturday we squeezed in a visit to a Calva distillery, paintball, speedboat (zodiac) racing and a couple of hours on the beach playing prisoner-ball and ultimate disc, before dinner (until ejection from the restaurant for singing too loudly) and a night club until 3. The night club wasn't my thing, partly because I was tired, partly because I hate house music, but above all because I'm just not a night club person. By this point, Liz had finally realized that she was not, in fact, going to be playing in a basketball tournament this weekend.

On Sunday we started back towards Rennes, then stopped off for a high ropes course and bungy jumps for Liz, Audrey and Nono. I decided against it, and regretted it most of the afternoon.

Liz told me she had a great weekend, I had a great weekend, as I believe did: Audrey, Nono, Soso, Agnes, Angie, Estelle, Sandy, Nanou, Fred, Arnaud, Sophie & Francois, and hopefully Manu & Erwan (the most legendary organisers of the whole thing). Liz is lucky (and she knows it) to have such wonderful (and, it must be said, fairly crazy) friends, and I just hope I can profit by association.

Update: Photos from the weekend (my camera, but mostly taken by other people) are up on flickr here.
Update 2: The Calvados distillery that we visited was this one (the site is pretty ordinary, but the calva is pretty good).

Thursday, 12 May 2005

smaller, lighter, blinder

So, like a good little boy, I trotted along to be examined by a doctor this morning. I passed, although I was at a loss to remember what the triple antigen entails (measles, mumps, rubella, I think, in hindsight). That said, my passing marks disappointed me a little. I was 1cm shorter than I thought (189/190), and a few kilos lighter (74kg) than I thought I was, but more importantly I missed a few letters on the eye test with my left eye. Immediately after I'd done it I wondered about the positioning of the eye chart right next to a very bright open window, but given that I was fine with my right eye, it's still a little worrying. The doctor also said I had a straight back, although I guess she must have been joking. I now move on to the "pay 55 euros and collect a carte de sejour" stage of the game, although I'm sure it won't be that simple.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

the golden age of australian film

So a few months ago I watched Gallipoli, and last night I watched Mad Max, and I'm asking myself, how is it that it has been the latter that succeeded commercially? Miller's film was OK, but Weir's was just far, far, far superior, in every way. I still need to track down Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Cars That Ate Paris, My Brilliant Career, The Road Warrior, and perhaps some others like The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, if they can be found. Suggestions please.


Fascinating subject, identity, but it should never be trusted to politicians.

Example. Via BoingBoing, the US have passed a bill for a national identity card, which will serve as a prereq for trains, planes, automobiles, and for getting into federal buildings. That's disgusting, and Benjamin Franklin is surely spinning in his grave (to be fair, a small part of that might stem from possible misquotation):

Anyone who sacrifices liberty for security deserves neither.

Just another sign that the "sweet land of liberty" is going to hell in a handbasket.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

now we're talking

Throughout the weekend I was pretty down. Down about my PhD, which had been still-born for 3 weeks, but also generally. That said, Saturday night was fun, Sunday night was good, and the first couple of days of this week have been great. Notably, yesterday saw the first sortie for tennis for the season, with Seb and the 2 Francks, combined with a hit of table tennis after work with Erwan and the usual 8k on the bike to and from work. On top of that, today was the first time this season that the IRISA basketball list has revived itself from hibernation, and the first time ever that I wandered down to join in. The tennis was pretty calm, likewise the table tennis, but I ran myself pretty hard on the basketball court, and am feeling it this afternoon. We played 2 3-on-3s to 30 points and a 2-on-2 to 20, and I had a great time. I played pretty well, too, I thought - blocked a few shots and hit a lot more than I usually do. As is to be expected, I was basically the tallest there, which helps I guess, and I may have played a little too hard at times, but that's the only way I know how. These are probably the first two days I've had in France were I could say (with profound thanks and apologies to the Boys) that too much sport has been hardly enough.

Sandwiched in between said sport, I had a pretty good meeting with Jean-Marc, which didn't go at all how I thought it would - hardly surprising given how negative I was going into it. "Self-flagellation" was the phrase that Mum used the other day on the phone, which is probably pretty accurate.

a long weekend in two parts

Thanks to France monodenominational culture and general status as a bastion of the Holy Roman Catholic church, combined with the French socio-cultural obsession with not working very much, I scored a four-day weekend. More specifically, Thursday was Ascension, which almost certainly once had something to do with Jesus, and Friday was nominated by INRIA as RTT, basically a historical compensation for raising the work week from 2 to 2.1 hours per week. Something like that, anyway.

Whatever the convoluted and (to me) irrelevant motivations for this festival of not-work, to me it just meant time spent at home. I really, really should have gone somewhere, but I just couldn't be damned, so I spent Thursday playing NBA Live 2005 and Friday playing Need For Speed Underground 2.

Fortunately, Saturday was the final game for Avenir, so I trotted along like a good boy and watched them lose, unfortunately, to Pleyber Christ. After the game was, as advertised, an end of season party, to which I scored an invite thanks to Liz. It was perhaps a little less lively than it might have been had they won, but it still bounced along. Lots of music I didn't know, dancing, and interesting personal interactions once the Pleyber girls rocked up (actually, it was just two people who had interesting personal interactions, but they were pretty damn interesting). I spent the majority of the night chatting with Erwan, the announcer, Manu, an ex-player, and Arnaud, an assistant coach. It was a pretty good night, although I hit it (it being punch, white rum, whiskey, and desperados) pretty hard and was a bit under the weather for the latter stages. I staggered home, amid traditional SMS exchanges with Chris, at about 5am, leaving a few of the girls still going strong.

Sunday, the start of which I've already covered, was delicate. I feigned sleep for 6 hours or so, and then felt viciously sorry for myself until about 3pm when I rolled out to grab a bite to eat. After that it was out to Acigne for dinner with Sophie and Jacques followed by a film. Kingdom of Heaven was the only option, although it being in VF (dubbed) was quite against my philosophy, and definitely hindered my understanding. In any case, I didn't get the vibe that I got from Gladiator (sorry Ridley, but if you make sword epics now, that's what you get), and was generally pretty unexcited by it all, probably at least in part because suspension of disbelief is pretty tough when the actors have the wrong voices.

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

movie quotes

This should surprise no-one who knows me, although personally I expected a little better. 99% indeed. I gotta get to the cinema more.

Well done! You got 80% of the quotes right.

All these quotes are taken from movies that are on the top #250 of
IMDB's All Time Top List. So if you didn't get all quotes right, maybe
it's time to catch up on these classics.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Movie Knowledge
Link: The Movie Quotes Test written by atalya_waves on Ok Cupid

Tuesday, 3 May 2005

philosopy quiz

Well, look at that, I'm a hedonist.

You scored as Hedonism. Your life is guided by the principles of Hedonism: You believe that pleasure is a great, or the greatest, good; and you try to enjoy life’s pleasures as much as you can.

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...





Justice (Fairness)




Strong Egoism








Divine Command


What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with


OK, so I'm sitting here listening to my boss and someone else chat away about what I am assuming, in the absence of actual evidence, is perhaps research direction. It occurs to me in doing so that one of my reasons for deciding to do a PhD was that I enjoyed this sort of fat-chewing while I was a Pegamental, and figured (quite reasonably, I maintain) that one day I'd like to be able to run a team like that, and that the shortest path to such a situation started with a PhD. Ironically, I expose myself to dramatically fewer of these discussions now. This has a little to do with the fact that I'm preparing (loosest possible interpretation of terms) a thesis, by necessity an often solitary task, but more to do with the fact that my views are a little too contrary to take into a direction meeting here. That sucks - another reason for the devil on my right shoulder to continue his "you should quit your PhD, go back to Brisbane and cut Java code for a living" speech. Convincing little bugger, and he'll get more so when my paper gets rejected in a month's time.

Monday, 2 May 2005


Thursday night was Zoe's housewarming. It was good to meet/greet some IRISA faces to whose names I hadn't previously been privy, but by the end, at around 4:30am, it was all Triskell people, discussing and demonstrating abstract art and talking, I believe, about cats.

On Saturday, summer arrived in a single stroke. Donning shorts and t-shirts, Franck and I headed out en velo to the "forest of Rennes", forest being a term certainly generous but not, I concede, wholly inappropriate. We stuck to paved or at least conventional tracks for a while, but then headed off-piste, and managed to find some nice horse-tracks that tested better the range of our bikes. By way of return we headed home via Betton, following the Canal St Martin back to Rennes around 8ish, with around 45k on the clock. Afterwards, we recovered with a curry at Ganges, without spice but nonetheless tolerable flavour-wise. The weirdest thing about Ganges, though, isn't that dishes labelled curry have no spice, but that Naan is only proposed as an entree. The guy was curious collecting the entree plates as to why we hadn't touched the second naan, when quite obviously it was necessary for curry-mopping. Der!

Sunday was super-fine too, but the 45k were still telling, so I chilled at home with my new computer speakers listening to Cat Stevens and Damien Rice. In the afternoon, I headed up to the Thabor to lie on the grass and read my book. Of course, everyone else in Rennes had the same idea, so it wasy busy as hell.

Thursday, 28 April 2005

abc on political blogging

The ABC has a thing on policital blogs today. Tim Blair gets a lot of run, Troppo (which I read and where I very occasionally comment) gets a very brief mention, as do Back Pages (far and away the best political blog I have read) and Quiggin, which got cut from my roll in a recent rationalisation. I also subscribe to Mark Bahnsich's Larvateus Prodeo, although I'm not too enamoured - a little too narrow or something, and doesn't give me much I don't get through Troppo. That said, Troppo was also probably better when Bahnsich was there. Without doubt a number of these sites will blog on the article before the day is out.

Monday, 25 April 2005

knock knock

Someone rang my doorbell this morning, an almost shocking experience given how often it doesn't happen. Being half-asleep, my french was not at its strongest, and all I heard was "My goal today ... blah blah blah ... something something ... of the bible". So I said, "Er, no", "It doesn't interest you at all?", again "Er, no", to which she responded something which in hindsight was probably along the lines of "people are usually nicer about this". I didn't figure they had door-knockers here, being such a uni-denominational country, but I rather suspect that most evangelists evanglize more for their own souls than for those of the lost.

hockey one, hockey two

I got a callup on Saturday that a friend had a free ticket to go see a game of ice hockey. It probably would have been more interesting if I'd brushed up on the rules before going, but nonetheless it confirmed the impressions previously engendered by the snippets I'd seen in news reports and Paul Newman movies, that its a game rich in both grace and violence but, as in all such games, the balance of the two is an uneasy one. Anyway, Rennes lost 5-4, in a match that was entertaining enough other than the opening third. After the game, we went for a kebab and a couple of beers at the Webb, followed by one with another friend at the Railway.

Friday, 22 April 2005

Subliminal polyrhythm classes

Listening to music while people beat hell out of the building with hammers is a challenge, but maybe I'll learn some polyrhythms along the way.


Talk about a beatup. It turns out that if you conveniently relabel spam as "children being contacted by strangers", then it can become a hot issue for the moral majority. Well, gee, thanks guys, we hadn't really been working much on spam-blocking techniques, but now you put it that way, we'll redouble our efforts! As for being exposed to dubious sites such as online casinos, they'd be much better off talking about overexposure to poker machines and lotto. How many children were exposed to the Melbourne Cup last year? Internet bad, gambling revenue good!

Thursday, 21 April 2005

valley jazz

If you're in Brisbane, get along to the Valley Jazz Festival. Features include Traffic, Misinterprotato, and various other bright young things.

Canuck, nuck, nuck, nuck

Liz invited me out for a drink with some canadian friends last night. I can't remember their names, but they were 3 and they pronounced their vowels funny. Seriously, though, it was good to speak English for a while, and good to get out besides. We had a few drinks at Le Chat Qui Peche, and then a bite to eat at Chez Dede.

Context is an amazing thing.

I was talking film with one of them and, in discussing how good films these days are often way too long, Kill Bill came up, along with the fact that this guy hadn't seen it (already a faux pas in my cultural book, but I can let it slide). I tried to explain how it was good, with the whole Tarantino style/cool over substance thing, but I don't think it vibed. He mentioned that Pulp Fiction was more of an art house film, and I kind of gagged up. Its an interesting proposition but, on reflection, its bollocks. I reckon the PF soundtrack must be among the 10 highest-selling film soundtracks of all time, and I suspect a poll of people aged 25-35 from a western country would reveal a high percentage who had seen it, and a not insignificant percentage who could quote from it. Later, it turned out this guy was a handy badminton player, and he talked about how it isn't much fun playing with people who aren't near his level. Talking about Tarantino bore striking similarities.

In the course of the evening, I had two shots at "so what are you doing your PhD on". The first one I dodged, but he felt he knew IT, so I ran off a lot of buzzwords like "design automation" and stuff, to give a general sense. I scared the girl sitting next to me, but that happens. The second time, I went for a much broader analogy. Building software at the moment is a bit like building a sandcastle from individual grains of sand. You can build anything, and you can build it really well, but it takes a long, long time. What we're trying to do is make buckets that you can use, to build using higher abstractions. It seemed to go across OK, although she'd just had oral corrective surgery, so maybe she isn't able to grimace yet.

In other developments, just when I thought I'd reached a ceasefire, warning shots come across the bow.

Tuesday, 19 April 2005


I still hate this blog template, and one day when I'm feeling energetic and procastinatory, I'll get around to having a hack at the CSS (the standard templates do little to excite me). For the moment, I've settled for reducing the book and movie lists to those of the current year (showing me how few of each I am consuming).

I've also added a little stream of my most recent uploads to flickr, which I'm now using to show my photos online. This is partly because Mick (a much better photographer than me) kicked a pro account my way, but mostly because the system they've got going there really impresses me, with the whole contacts thing (which is becoming more and more common), and the RSS feeds, and the noting system, and other stuff. A bunch of people like to call this stuff (these "hot" sites like, audioscrobbler, flickr, technorati, and to a lesser extent these days, blogger) the semantic web. For me though, the central idea is not so much semantics, but more sophisticated structures. Still, tomato, tomato, potato, potato.

Anyway, in summary, my photos will thusforth appear here.

Update: The only thing cooler than all this stuff is being able to visualize it with touchgraph. Oh, sweet autorearranging glory!

Monday, 18 April 2005

Music meme

Via Anna:
  1. Total volume of music files on my computer?
    About 13Gb on my iBook, about 4 on my home PC
  2. The last CD I bought was...
    Travelling Without Moving by Jamiroquai, and Abbey Road by the The Beatles (bought at the same time).
  3. (a) The last song I listened to before writing this was...
    Earth's Flight by Marco Passarani. Actually, it comes from the Radio National Sound Quality show, which Keith recommended to me.
    (b) Song playing right now:
    The Lighthouse by Amon Tobin. Also from Sound Quality.
  4. Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me.
    • As It Is, by The Pat Metheny Group. Speaking of Now is no longer my favourite album, but this song just builds so wonderfully, and it amps me up.
    • Crash, by The Dave Matthews Band. Its corny pop, but it tingles my spine. I dunno.
    • The Golden Age of Aviation, by The Lucksmiths. Actually, no more this one than other lucksmiths tracks, but I had to choose one.
    • The Koln Concert, by Keith Jarrett. Tracks have no meaning on this album, to which I often listen while working.
    • Follow Me, by Pat Metheny Group. Minimalist, nice.
  5. Which 5 people are you passing this baton to, and why?
    • Afe - because he had interesting taste in music years ago.
    • Keith - because his recommendation answered one of the questions above
    • Chris - Because, er, he owns an album with naked women on the cover, and there must be other interesting stuff in there...
    • John - Er, maybe he will have indonesian or singaporean music in his list? A long bow to draw, perhaps...
    • Bec - Oddly enough, I have no idea what music Bec listens to, even though its more than 9 years now since we met.

Athens Panorama

This was a panorama I took from the philospher's hill looking north towards the acropolis and around to the east or perhaps ESE, during a quick hour or so of wandering around with Laurie. Judging by Athens, it is very easy to see that Greek culture had its peak over 2000 years ago. The hills are nice, but the city itself didn't excite me very much.


I don't know why I didn't blog from Athens. It would be tempting to say I was too busy, but that would be a flagrant lie.

The trip was basically a junket, since I had nothing to present. That said, I enjoyed the discussions, pressed the flesh, almost (I think) got sounded out about a job, and generally had a pretty good week. There was a little time for tourism on a couple of afternoons, and plenty of evenings spent in restaurants eating the usual dishes: greek salads, dolmades, tzatziki, taramasalata, moussaka, etc, all accompanied by adequate quantities of beer, greek wine, and even an ouzo on one occasion.

The trips to and from were pretty forgettable. The plane in both directions was old and full of greek high-schoolers too excited for their own good. (Incidentally, the mullet haircut is alive and well and living in Greece). My train on the way there was cancelled and I had to schlepp through Paris and dodge RER maintenance. On the way back, I discovered that watching DVDs is a good way to cut down boredom on long hauls, but that I probably need a second battery for my iBook if I want to do it properly.