Tuesday, 31 August 2004

the pointy end of the electoral season

John Howard announced the Australian federal election over the weekend, for October 9. As I understand it, this means that both the rugby league and AFL grand finals will fall during the electoral run, always a good thing for an incumbent, since they are sure to steal the news cycle in the relevant states, in particular in Victoria. Fortunately, perhaps, the key states are suspected to be north of the Murray, where the AFL will, sadly, have a lesser effect in that regard.

I faxed off my registration as an overseas elector overnight, and intend to look into postal voting today. As a great, great man once said:
I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand man.

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Gmail invites

If anyone wants gmail invites, let me know. Having had none on Monday, I now find myself with a handful of them to give away.

Update: To clarify for confused commenters, as of today (31st), I still have 2 invites left, but will only give them to people I actually know. I'm sorry if you think this is unfair.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Crap sports

You know what I don't like? Subjectively-judged sports. In particular, with the Olympics on, I just don't understand how sports like diving, gymnastics, synchronised swimming (which is widely acknowledged, I believe, as not being a sport in the first place), and dressage can be decided based on the subjective opinions of a few judges. Walking is similar, with its lifting violations, but it suffers more from being just a really unnatural way of moving. The real sports, like swimming, running, jumping, throwing, rowing, cycling, weighlifting, archery: these are simple; it's a matter of faster, further, higher, heavier, more accurate. They're objective, and the result is a measure of the athlete's performance, not of some arbitrary panel of opinions.

Friday, 20 August 2004


I haven't traditionally subscribed to the theory that soccer is a game for sheilas, wogs and poofters, and probably still don't. However, I'm probably now pretty much convinced that its not a game worth wasting any energy over.

Last night I went along with some friends to the friendly between France and Bosnia. Early on, the Bosnians were pretty overwhelmed, and the French set up the game well down the flanks, resulting in a bustled goal by Luyindula after 7 minutes or so and an Henry penalty that was saved by the Bosnian keeper. I think that settled the Bosnians, in fact, and they played much better after that, leading to their goal (a much prettier one, incidentally) after a half hour or so.

The game was crap. There was no structure in the midfield, particularly in the second half, and good shots on goal were rare. The Bosnians were way overmatched athletically, but tried hard all night, whereas the French seemed uninterested and leadereless at times. The latter could be put down to a lack of key playmakers with Zidane retired and Vieira injured, but I don't think that's really a valid excuse.

What really bugged me was the way the game was played. There seems to be no idea of courage in football, no players really giving a piece of themselves for the team. The worst last night was Pires, who flopped and whined like a little girl. The stretcher made, I think, 3 appearances, and was never, in my opinion, warranted. Moments of true team play or individual flare, as should be the feature of the world's only global game, were rare, and always overshadowed by the above problems.

So, I'm abandoning soccer in favour of sports where the players put in. Footy remains my number one winter sport, followed by rugby, and cricket rules the summer followed, I guess, by tennis.

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

athlete spotlight and other olympic observations

Today's athlete spotlight falls, somewhat controversially perhaps, on an official rather than athlete. While he may trail yesterday's standout in A's, basketball official Mario Jaime Hopenhaym Kaplansky gives nothing away in the "that-can't-seriously-be-a-real-name" stakes, and at 78 years of age is doing yeoman work in Athens, although we all wish he had filled out the "nickname" field of the profile page. Nonetheless, hats off to super Mario!

The unlucky runner-up today is this year's winner of the Eric Moussambini commemorative award for the slowest swimmer in the 100m freestyle. 20-year old Burundian Emery Nziyunvira clocked in at 1:09.40, just a shade over 20 seconds behind top qualifier Pieter van den Hoogenband's 48.70, but well off Eric Moussambini's 1:52.72 from Sydney.

"The Eel" himself was unfortunately unable to defend his title, by way of a bureaucratic bungle involving an identity photo. In truth, reports indicate that Eric would likely have been well ahead of the running in any case, having reportedly almost halved his personal best since Sydney.

As a footnote, props are also due to Ian Thorpe, who in the 200m freestyle blockbuster last night threw aside the "evil empire" stigma and defeated the aforementioned van den Hoogenband, as well as American Michael Phelps to claim his 2nd individual gold of these games. In so doing, he avenged his defeat in the same event 4 years ago in Sydney, put paid to the absurd notion that Phelps would better Spitz's gold haul from the '72 games, and cemented his place as, statistically, the most successful Australian Olympian in history.

As the above-referenced article suggests, the evil empire tag sits uncomfortably upon Australia, but it is nevertheless always comforting to see the yanks get beaten. It would be nice to imagine that we might maintain our gold-medal lead in the Athens pool, although in reality it is unlikely.

Monday, 16 August 2004

daily athlete profile

Today's athlete spotlight falls upon Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar, seen here in the 2003 Asian Championships, who took Olympic bronze in the 60k Judo on Saturday. What the 20-year old lacks in size, at 5'7 and 60kg, he more than makes up for in A's, featuring no less than 10 in his first and last names! What mysteries lie in his middle names, should he have any? We may never know.

Is it obvious that I'm missing The Dream?

Friday, 13 August 2004

more sport

In a further sporting outing, on Monday night I retrieved my newly-restrung racquet from Decathlon (via another example of the incomprehensible misdirections of the French retail system). Thus, on Tuesday, Franck and I ventured once more to the Cité U for a hit. The hit eventually turned into a set, which I grudgingly won in a tie-breaker. The standard was low, diminished notably by my lack of a reliable forehand, but it was fun nonetheless. I cannot say the same for the increasing realization that my fitness has been eroded further from the already lamentable condition in which it left Australia.

a little golf

I bought a putter and other trinkets last Wednesday, and, with Erwan, signed up for 3 months of golf at the 9-hole course at Cesson. They are on temp greens until next week, after which it should be a nice evening distraction.

I shared Erwan's sticks for a couple of rounds Thursday and Friday evening. We both played pretty poorly, and I managed to lose 5 or 6 balls over the combined 18 holes, but it was good to get out and have a hit, anyway. It had been almost 7 months since I swung a club.

If we start playing regularly, I think I'll have to go and buy myself a half-set somewhere. Erwan has an old set, but I think I need to track down some longer clubs, to take away my excuse for topping all my 9-irons.

Thursday, 12 August 2004

Antony Green

Maybe I've posted about this before, I'm not sure. Anyway, this dude rocks.

Its difficult to explain (well, not really - its the same urge that makes me watch sports statistics so closely), but I quite enjoy election coverage, and have watched many, many campaigns on ABC over the years, both federal and state (Qld) elections. Antony Green has, I think, been there for all of them, and is always a mine of statistical information. His ability was brought into focus for me when I was in the US for the 2000 presidential election and witnessed the ridiculous see-sawing on election night over the result, in particular by Fox, of the Florida ballot. I realise that its in no way a fair comparison, given the dramatically different electoral systems among other things, but I could not at the time help but compare this to a Qld state election where Green "called" the result at about 6:30pm on election day, and with, as I recall, something like 12% of the vote counted.

I also have a hankering for statistics, I guess. Having bombed out in first-year maths at uni, albeit not in stats (damned partial differential equations), its pretty unlikely, but one of my dream jobs would this sort of bulk numbers statistics stuff, in a field like politics or, even better, sport.


I've been thinking about output, with respect to what I've actually concretely accomplished these last 6 months. I've had one conference paper accepted, that I'll present in November, which was written (for my part) here, but for which the research was all done in Australia. I've developed my typing ideas a bit, to the point of encoding them, although not yet to the point of validating them, in Ruby (and hopefully soon Java). I guess that leads me to the point that I've (with Franck) build a Ruby MOF library, and in so doing learnt Ruby.

This doesn't seem like much of a hill of beans.

At this point, for these reasons and more, I'd take my old job back if it was going.

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

another paper accepted

I had another paper accepted today, this time to the 2nd European Workshop on MDA, in Kent in September. It's not really a high-prestige event, but there should be a few interesting people to meet there, hopefully.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Turnbull on Iraq

In addition to his presumably still-held visions of Australia as a Republic, it would appear that Malcolm Turnbull also disagrees with John Howard on Iraq. It will be interesting to see the response from both Turnbull and Howard to what could be a tricky alliance.
As a side note, the whole "party line" idea remains, to me, a bizarre idea that seems somewhat at odds with the whole concept of representational democracy.

Monday, 9 August 2004


Bring it, books! I totally smacked down two chunky books last week. Last sunday, on the way back from Paris, I started into Dan Simmons' Hyperion, which I wrapped up Wednesday night. I peeked 16 pages into the sequel, (although to suggest that one can read one without the other would be misleading) Fall of Hyperion, on Friday night, then kicking its ass all through Saturday and Sunday afternoons, finishing it around dinner-time Sunday.
Seriously, though, the story is pretty awesome, and well-written to boot. Although the second volume is perhaps more coherent, the variations in the styles of writing, and the general world-building, led me to prefer the first. I now have a painful 3-week wait until my library re-opens and I can track down copies of the Endymion books. In the meantime, I have 1 Asimov and 2 Steinbecks (courtesy of my parents' birthday care package) to tide me over.


Erwan lent me a DVD of Eraserhead last week, which I finally got around to watching last night. It freaked me out and, as usual with Lynch films, I didn't understand at all what it was about. However, the other Lynch films I've seen, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, have both revealed themselves a bit upon further reflection, and discussion with others. Not so this one.My head hurts. Perhaps I'll go see Spiderman 2 this week...

Thursday, 5 August 2004

90% of IT projects fail, but...

... but how many run to $50 million dollars of write-off? I don't know whether its more of an indictment of the IT people who were on the project, or of the bureaucrats overseeing it, but one way or another, someone must have dropped the ball.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004


I laughed as hard as anyone last year when the US basketball team finished 6th in the world championships, after losing to argentina, serbia & montenegro, and spain. Still, with a better team, you have to back them for the gold in Athens. They dusted off Puerto Rico, admittedly not a basketball powerhouse, in warmup games last week, and...

Wait right there. Last night they got thumped (anything about 15 points, including the 17 in this case, qualifies as thumped rather than beaten) 95-78 by an Italy that no-one has mentioned as a serious candidate for gold in Athens. Sure, the Italians got on a hot streak (15-35) from 3-point range, but the US dominated the boards 37-19. For those watching at home, that's almost double, and that a team can lose with so much more ball is almost incredible.

The following game is against a German team that may lack the depth of Italy (a depth that is certainly not lacking in the Argentinian, Serbian, and Lithuanian teams), but that does feature Dirk Nowitzki, who is perhaps better suited to the international game than much of the American squad.

random diagonal lines

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago and upon opening my shutters I was greeted by mist rising from the facing roof. I didn't quite capture it, but you can make it out a bit, at least.

Dimly lit

Hey, that's the photo, not the photographer! I was probably half-cut when I took this (it was a wedding reception), but I had the good sense to pop the camera on a wine glass to it didn't shake. I really liked the quality of the light.
Actually, this shot came after 10-15 minutes of stuffing around trying to shoot long exposure stuff in a room where nothing else was possible without intruding on proceedings, which I hate. Everyone else was dancing (which I also hate).
This photo is also a demo of photo hosting from flickr, which seems like a neat deal. It even has EXIF information (click through then find the "taken with an" link at the flickr page), which tells me I had a 4 second exposure time.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

first encounters with footy

I ran across this today, by an American chick impressed with her first encounter with footy:
it looks like what our football was supposed to be. It's not full of prima donnas who have to sit down and rest after every play. Shoulder pads? Taped hands with plaster around them so they won't get hurt? Big pads on their thighs? Sit on the sidelines wrapped in a blanket next to the furnace? No. You guys get to wear what the guys wear in northern Australia -- as little as possible. Yeah, it's raining. Yeah, everyone in the stands is wearing winter clothes. Too bad. Play. Keep moving and you'll stay warm. You got tackled and lost the ball? Get off your face and get it back. No, we're not going to stop the game until you feel better. Play, or let someone else do it, but if you lay there and pout, we'll just run over you until you have sense enough to get out of the way.

Not bad.

Monday, 2 August 2004

back in Rennes

After 10 days of travel through France for work and pleasure, I'm now back in Rennes. My 3 days working with a colleague in Paris passed well enough, although it was a little hot for my taste. More importantly, we achieved a little bit, and should find some outcome, either in the form of a paper or a prototype, or perhaps both.

I spent Saturday morning reading in the Jardin de Luxembourg, then caught the metro across town to meet first Andy & Renee, and then Sandy, Dave and his girlfriend Alex, at Gare du Nord. After passing the hotel, we grabbed a leisurely lunch in the Latin Quarter, then headed to Notre Dame. To be honest, it wasn't any more impressive than most of the other catholic churches I've seen, and perhaps less so than some.

More enjoyable was a boat-trip we took along the Seine, past all the bridges, palaces, and other features. Normally I would have been reluctant to fork out the 10€, but with the group I was happy too, and it was well worth the money. After the trip, we wandered past the "beach" (this term still sits uncomfortably with me, notwithstanding the very pleasant atmosphere they've established), before deciding to chase food. Having been recommended a restaurant called Au Pied De Cochon (the Pig's Foot), we spent 2 hours traipsing through the Rive Droite asking locals (although the most reluctant, I was the only French speaker, and as such usually the designated spokesman). After a friendly local lead us to "Au Pied De Chameau" (camel's foot), we eventually found and partook of the elusive pig's foot. Dave and Alex went for the seafood platter, which took two waiters to bring, and was as impressive a dish as I have ever seen, either in life or film. The bill was equally impressive, but it was good food, so I didn't really mind.

The next day, leaving the dormant Dave and Alex, the 4 of us headed north with the intention of seeing the Louvre. Unfortunately, we met the double-edged sword of the first Sunday of the month, meaning that the museums are free. Double-edged in that it saves us 8€, but draws crowds of unbelievable proportions. In fact, they were so unbelievable that we decided to try instead the d'Orsay. Although also long, the queue was more reasonable and, to be honest, I suspect the d'Orsay might be more my cup of tea anyway. It was. I really enjoyed the Monets, but also the Van Goghs, the Pissaros, and others. Monet's series of the Rouen church are perhaps some of the more remarkable paintings I've ever seen in terms of evocative power.

I miss hanging out with friends like these.