Tuesday, 28 February 2006


At new year's a went on a little spree and saw 3 films within a 10-day period, and all was good with the world. Since then I've seen only 1 in 6 weeks or so, which basically a continuation of the abominable stretch evident from last year.

Further to my woes, my once-regular cine-buddies are now proudly and justifiably preoccupied with recently baked progeny, leaving me even less likely to rediscover my once prodigious and now much-missed predilection for the moving image. Charitable applicants for this now vacated position may apply below or to the undersigned :)

Monday, 27 February 2006

a little balance

This weekend was a little more balanced. I still had some gaming, this time on the network with Jesse, which was nice, but his hours saw that wrap up in the early afternoon. Saturday evening I cooked - a big lasagne that should feed me for a week or so, and another batch of ANZACs, the latter motivated by the previous lot having been simultaneously a little flat for my visual tastes and very well received by those who wound up eating them. I'd left them at Nono's party Wednesday night, then got a text Friday that they were being consumed by Liz's basketball cadre, which was fine by me.

On Sunday morning I watched a little football - real football! - from one of the preseason games, being played of all places in Darwin, in February. Madness. In the afternoon, I wandered down to Avenir to hang out with Liz, Erwan & others, watching a cadettes game. We went for a couple of drinks at the Webb afterwards, which was a nice way to round out the afternoon. To boot, after that I went home and made a lamb korma, tasty indeed.

It occurs to me, off the top of my head, that a lot of what I write on this site, particularly concerning weekends, is pretty mundane. Robert Pirsig, who wrote a lot of crap in his books, particularly in Lila, did say one thing (among others, to be fair) that has stuck with me:

"What's new?" is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow.

There's something to that. The most boring conversations one can have are about "what's new". Now Pirsig goes on to raise the alternative question "what's best?", but that I prefer "what's true?". By not eliminating subjectively inferior topics, we keep the conversational base wide and, as a bonus, it rhymes! Who's superficial, now?!

Anyway, I'll see if I can devote at least one post per week to "what's true" rather than "what's new".

Saturday, 25 February 2006


OK, frank admission: I was pretty tanked when I wrote that last entry. The conventional wisdom on the intertron is that its a bad idea to blog while hammered, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm more interesting when I blog after a few. Anyway, what I wrote basically stands, although I do have to add a caveat. That being, in between repeating my "how I came to France story", I did in fact have some of the most interesting chats I can ever recall having, so its not all repetitive grind.

Thursday, 23 February 2006

and another thing

Party tonight. I have to say, the fact that I'm a native english speaker that makes a decent fist of speaking french but am still recognisably not french and the inevitable subsequent revelation that I'm Australian, followed relentlessly by the frankly uninteresting story of how I came to be doing a thesis in France, this is dull. It ceased to be interesting to me as a topic of conversation fairly soon after I managed to master recounting it in french, albeit that this took a number of fairly painful iterations. The variations, including explaining that Brisbane is north of Sydney and that Australia is really quite big, that Australian football isn't like rugby and that as a population we don't much care about soccer, and even the minor ones like that Australian chicks aren't generally as pretty as french chicks, these also no longer hold much appeal. It's all very repetitive, and for someone with a limited vocabulary (as is inevitable for any non-native speaker, I suspect), literally so. I swear I could draw a pretty accurate workflow for the first conversation I have with a french person, and not have it violated more than 2% of the time.

For goodness sakes, won't someone ask me about how the Lions are going to cope with their aging midfield, or how Michael Clarke has to be given another chance, or how John Howard has moved Australian politics to the right? I'd settle for their french equivalents, but if someone asks me again, in french, how I came to be doing a thesis in france, its entirely possible I'll take up the nearest piece of blunt cutlery and stab them in the throat.

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

wherefore art thy baked goods?

My friends Jacques & Sophie have been baking for a while now, and the bun, name of Juliette going back a long time now, came out the other day. From limited reports, all is well and healthy for all concerned.

Mmmm, baking, eh. Perhaps I'll make me some Anzac bikkies...

Update: The anzacs didn't turn out so well - the mix was too sloppy, so they flattened out too much.

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

the weekend of the underdeveloped military base

Fairly crappy weekend.

I called a few people, and that was good. Mum & Dad on Saturday on their new speakerphone. Paul, recently relieved of a few teeth, in a conversation which morphed into a skype call while we both played games. Lee on Sunday while we both ate: her dinner and my breakfast.

In the interim and surrounding periods, I basically played Civ. Civ, unfortunately for my weekend, is somewhat of an occupying experience for me, during which I, for example, glance twice consecutively at a clock and see that 6 hours have passed and that I've forgotten to eat. To further examine this phenomenon, I plan to try a network game with Jesse next weekend.

Saturday, 18 February 2006

Friday, 17 February 2006

the skids

I just went for a walk to the shops. On the way to, there were a couple of cars with their emergency lights (a loose term in France, but that's a conversation for another day) on, and some poor schmuck lying in the middle of the road next to what was once his motorcycle. The police rolled up just as I passed. On the way back, schmuck had departed stage left, presumably in some ambulance-type device, but the wreckage was still there, with 3 divvy vans buzzing around excitedly taking reports and such like. I'll have to check the paper tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

rarest of things

I had a good day yesterday. I booked my flight home for my holiday in April. I had a good and productive talk with Franck and Jean-Marc about what I'm doing with implementing my ideas. And I went out for a couple of pints at the Webb with Liz, Soso, Nono, Franck, Sandy & Jeremy. I also got rained on, but I guess one can't have everything.

knick knack paddy dack

Tadghy Kennelly might have been born and raised Irish, but he's an Aussie in my book after this stunt:

Sydney Swans player Tadhg Kennelly has apologised to a Catholic girls high school for pulling down a team-mate's pants in front of them yesterday.

Good work, tiger.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Fat Lip

A bevy of lovely girls showed up to basketball training last night, most of whom hadn't been before. By way of introduction to one of them, I lip-butted her in the forehead. I quickly checked that she was OK, and she inquired to the same effect, and I lied and said I was fine. Today, my lip is swollen up like a marble. I'm pretty happy with the technique, and intend to repeat it for my upper lip at the next training session.

Monday, 13 February 2006

Le monde est bien petit

L'autre jour quelqu'un a mise un commentaire sur un des mes photos, et c'arrive qu'elle est de l'ecole de Liz. Ses photos comprennes mêmes des portraits des gens que je connais, y compris ashou, et houtan et nadim de basket. Its a small world after all.

This post has been brought to you by bilingualism, and the letter É.

another weekend of basketball...

Another weekend where too much basketball was barely enough. I think I wound up watching 4 games in all - two live and two NBA game telecasts.

Avenir beat Ouistreham Saturday night, and the party afterwards was pretty good - got home about 4:30. It was a bit of a surprise knees-up for Sandy, and she seemed appreciative.

(Aside: how much of a surprise is it that there's a party after an Avenir game, given that it only happens, like, every game).

On Sunday Vezin hosted the Avenir B team, and a bunch of us (Jeremie, Nono, P'tit jou & others) went along to support with face paint, drums, and a helium canister. (Which of these things is not like the others?) Avenir played poorly, and Vezin played really well,including Caro & Soso, who revelled appropriately after they won).

Sunday night I made myself a tartiflette, which I had with some lettuce to soothe my cholesterol-soaked conscience.

Friday, 10 February 2006

black butter eye

In french, its not a black eye, its an oeil au beurre noir - a black butter eye. Mine, from an elbow at basketball Monday night, came up nicely for my presentation yesterday. No-one commented - to be honest, its not very impressive, as shiners go. I thought the presentation was pretty ordinary - my explanations through the technical section were hesitant and unconvincing - but there was some interesting discussion afterwards, and some of the feedback was good.

Ice on the Vilaine again this morning.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006


It was a pretty quiet weekend. I did some shopping, cooked a little, watched a bit of sport, some films, had a really good chat with Em about life in general. I even got myself out on Sunday afternoon for a walk, although the weather was a bit marginal.

Basketball training last night was pretty physical. Like the previous weeks, the numbers were a bit thin, so we started with 1-on-1, at which I pretty much sucked, largely due to an inability to score. Another guy turned up later, so we played 3-on-3, which was more enjoyable. I made some nice cuts spinning out of the post, and I was playing with a couple of good passers, so it worked fairly well. I also had a few good blocks, and a couple of nice drives, although I still need to work on my footwork around the basket. I caught a hard elbow from Franck in the cheek, which is showing up just a little today. I also caught a good one to the lip and got knocked down once or twice on drives, which is fine by me. I was very proudly wearing my Lions jersey, so I was asking for physical contact, I guess.

At work, I haven't been making much progress on my talk for Thursday, which will have to change, since I only have a day or so left now to get it done. Still don't have a time scheduled, and I'm pretty sure the room that they've booked will be far too small. To boot, I probably won't know which language I'll be speaking until I get to the talk. Oh well.

Friday, 3 February 2006


Lee just totally rocked my world, at a distance of 16,000km. She sent me one of these bad boys, along with a bunch of curry pastes, whose values increase ten times by their mere presence in this curry-forsaken country, and I had the fortune to receive them all a little bit tippled (with Liz and Soso: credit where credit is due), and two days after something for which I actually feel justified being rewarded. To make it even better, the wonders of modern technology and a rare alignment of almost diametrically opposed time zones meant that I was able to call her straight away and gush thanks through the blower. I might just keel over and sleep, I'm that happy.

People will look at me funny, but tomorrow at work I'll be a Brisbane Lion, come hell or high water. If they say anything untoward I'll shirtfront them.

understatement of the day

Surely no nationality does understatement quite so well as Aussies:

A toddler has died after being mauled by the family dog - a dingo-labrador cross - at Bunyip in eastern Victoria.

Later in the article:

RSPCA animal shelter manager Andrew Foran: "... not an ideal family pet."

No kidding. Gold star. Good work, tiger.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Its called soccer

I said in my recent whip that after submitting my blood-streaked papers I go and watch football. If you believe the implication that this is a description of a larger set of processes, then for this last paper I broke with tradition, because I actually went and watched soccer. Soccer, as you'll recall, will never be a match for real football, for any number of excellent reasons.

Rennes were playing Lens in the Coupe de France, and Seb kindly invited me to come along since his better 'arf considered two games in one week somewhat excessive for her tastes. All in all, it wasn't a bad game, certainly better than the France-Bosnia and Rennes-Bordeaux games I'd seen. Having Seb, a season-ticket holder, there to tell me about players probably helped a little, too. Still, there was only one goal, and that an own goal, deftly tucked into the corner though it was. No-one called the ump a white maggot, there were no shirt-fronts, no speccies, no-one ate all the pies, and there was no goal umpire, so no-one was able to inquire about the size of his endowment. Am I asking too much?

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

jimmy drama

And ... scene.

Back in December I was invited to extend and resubmit my paper from MoDELS for a special issue of SoSyM, a computing journal in my field. That was cool, because journal publications count pretty highly on a CV, and I don't have any. Also, it gave me a chance to publish some of the theoretical work I'd been doing to ground what I'd written in the MoDELS paper.

So I knew about this in December - I had a date (today), and basically knew what it was I needed to do. I made a little progress in the couple of weeks before going away over Christmas, but knew that the real guts would have to come in January.

Unfortunately, I have this way of working, you see. I sit in front of the computer and surround myself with appropriately chosen reference materials, and then, well, do other stuff. I read web sites, distract myself, write blog entries, read other people's blog entries, whatever I can do to avoid working.

Every now and then I have a meeting where I have to show some progress, and I dig out some relevant part of a paper to discuss and pretend that I've been neck-deep in its implications for my work (the impliciations usually being real, to be fair), and I'm very convincing but I come out feeling dishonest because I really haven't written anything.

Then, with two weeks to go, and the task looking daunting, I tell myself, "right, now I have to start doing this". And I promptly don't. I keep avoiding, I stress myself about it, I tell everyone I know how stressed I am about it, perhaps I cancel a few commitments, unsubscribe from a few blogs, stop blogging. But I don't actually do anything.

For my last update meeting, a week out, I rush some stuff I've doodled into a document and show it with great sweeping hand gestures about how I'm going to talk about A in section X and explain B in section Y, and justify C in the related work, blah blah blah. But I do nothing.

Then I really stress. I catch a cold and don't sleep well and stop shaving. I tell myself I'm going to work through the weekend and finish off the major section so I can get it proof read with a day to spare. But I don't.

Then, a day before its due, I have this day, where I just sit down and write. I write maybe 3 or 4 pages of neat, succinct prose that says just what I needed it to. Still, on the last day I have another page and a half to write, and corrections to make to 3 others, and its dire. I get up, I do it, I give it to proof-readers, they read it, give comments about minor improvements, which I make, and I submit it. Then I go and watch football and tell myself that next time I'll put in some yards earlier on in the race. But I won't.

And I know. I know its not ideal. I can kind of see how it works. I agonise over the stuff so much that by the time I get to sitting down and writing, it flows out almost fully formed, moreso than if I had started writing when I should have. In a bizarre kind of way, its grossly efficient - the actual time I spend working on a paper is drastically less than it should be for what I submit. But it eats at me - I hate myself for weeks at a time, wishing I'd been challenged at high school so I could have a work ethic, speculate on how my life will go down the toilet when I miss the deadline and lose my scholarship. My health suffers, my self-esteem suffers, and it just isn't good for me. But I keep doing it.

Yeah, I know, get over myself. But its my blog and I'll self-flagellate if I want to.


Oh, it was cold last week. Oslo and Lillehammer were colder but they have an excuse, being in Norway. Rennes has no excuse for a week straight where each evening goes below -4. The days were clear as, well, day (a metaphor with limited currency in Rennes, generally speaking), though that's not much consolation riding the bus into work at 9:30am seeing seagulls standing - standing, mind you - on the Vilaine. The Vilaine's a canal, a watery passage. They were standing on it, you see. On their little feet. I can't stress that enough.

I was probably fortunate to miss the teeth of this weather. I was riding out to Vezin the weekend before it really started up, and got a puncture just outside of town. The 6km walk home was a kind of advance I guess, since the week it took me to go and buy a patch kit spared me some chills riding past those crazy seagulls.

The whole sordid episode culminated on Saturday. I'd been watching my little weather forecasts all week: a little line of alternating "sunny and cold" and "clear and cold", terminating in a little snowflake on Saturday. Sure enough, I woke up Saturday morning to a nice cover of about a centimetre of snow, which thickened to a good two inches during the day.

Blithely I trotted down to a bus stop and headed out to Chantepie to buy a patch kit and replacement inner tube for my bike, only to find that the return leg would be by foot, as the buses had stopped for the snow. But for the lack of a limping bike and the added company of 2 inches of powder, fairly familiar.

permanent catchup

Three weeks without a post; anyone would think I'd been on holiday, which couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, I've been working (I'll give a subtler interpretation of this verb in an upcoming post, I think) on a journal paper.

In the interim, Lee wandered down to the south of Spain for a week, then flew back and home to Australia, where she's now settling back into work and cricket. It was good to have someone around for a while. So many things go better with two; cooking a decent meal is more easily justified, conversations work dramatically better.

After Lee left I got an invitation to go and play tennis in an informal mixed doubles tourny out at Chateaugiron with Emilie, a colleague of Liz's. There were four of us who headed out: Emilie, Franck (G, not F or C), Isabelle (another from Liz's school, by way of Germany and England), and myself. We played 5 tiebreakers or so with various partners and opponents, which was fun, although the level was maybe a little below what I like. In between, though, I hit around with Franck, who hits an OK ball, and Philippe, the club president, who was my level or perhaps slightly better. It had been so long since I'd had a good hard hit, and having the Australian open on during the week meant I was really up for a hit, so I had a really great time.

As a bonus, at the end of the day the club put on gallettes des rois and cider. Gallettes des rois is apparently a french tradition based on the gifts of the 3 kings (you know, Jesus and all that jazz), where they eat cake. There's a token somewhere in the cake, and the person who gets the token is king for the day and has to bring the cake the next time. We did it with our research team as well, with more ritual than at tennis.

After the tennis afternoon, Avenir hosted Pleyber for the big rivalry game. This was by far the best game of ball I've seen at Avenir, in all facets: quality of the game, excitement, crowd involvement. I guess it helped that the home side got up. Anyway, after the game there was a big party scheduled, anticipated basically since the schedule came out. I went along, but had a nasty-ass headache basically the whole time, and ended up bailing out early at about 2am. Reports in the following days suggest that frivolity was rampant.

In other news, basketball training has started back up, although numbers have been really low. Last week we were only 4, so we just played 2-on-2 for 90 minutes or so. This week was marginally better, with 7 (4 continents represented: 3 French, 2 Canadians, 1 Chinese and 1 Australian). Again, though, we just played 3-on-3 rather than running any drills.