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 QuizFarm.com


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.