Friday, 30 July 2004


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

Culinary irony

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

c'est un knockout!

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


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

Thursday, 29 July 2004

becoming old

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

a long weekend with the Klein clan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 July 2004

Orwell on Kipling

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

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

Tell us what you really think, George.


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

more on books

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Kipling on Australia

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

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

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

prefecture pain

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

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

umm, sunday...

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 July 2004

colour me cook

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

Monday, 5 July 2004

Forget Federer, Woody greatest ever

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

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

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

Saturday, 3 July 2004


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

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

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