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.

team retreat

After all the papers had been submitted for the Jamaica conference, our team headed up to St Jacut de la Mer for a retreat. We stayed at what used to be an abbey, and had a bunch of meetings about the general team direction, with a couple of special guests thrown in, including Mariano from FT, who I worked with on HUTN. The technical discussions didn't really excite me very much, partly because I'm not overly enamoured with the details of the software process (I'm a "narrow-minded technocrat", as a former co-worker once pointed out), and partly because I think I was in need of some downtime. On the Wednesday afternoon we went for a walk, but the weather went from Breton-miserable to actual rain, and our effort to put 17 people in a 10-person pub resulted in a less than ideal ambience.

On getting back Thursday night, I headed over to a friend of Liz's place, for an apero before a planned trip to see a Ska group in the Rue St Mich. We never got to the rue St Mich, and I was pretty hammered when I got home about 3am. Drinking games which you require to sing French songs are not ideal for someone who doesn't know any, and I paid a high price for my ignorance. The fact that I mixed my drinks with a reckless abandon didn't help either.

As a result of this foolishness, my trip to the prefecture happened much later than I had intended, and my afternoon at work was largely spent holding my head.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005


Having stressed last week over my paper, it all kind of petered out. I only had an hour or so of work left go last night, and that only for repagination etc, when they sent through a deadline extension, of 2 days. The timing was impeccable. I was just in the process of bailing when Liz called, and heading out to a wine bar for a few glasses of Cote du Rhone and some ducks' guts on toast was just what was needed.

My busy period probably has another couple of weeks to run, though. Final editing this afternoon, team retreat tomorrow and Thursday, possible concert on Thursday night, off to Athens Saturday for the OMG meeting.

Saturday, 2 April 2005

medical check

I got my medical check appointment yesterday in the mail. Radiologist (lung scan for TB and stuff, I think) on Tuesday, doctor on Thursday. Only problem is that we have the team retreat next week to the abbey at St-Jacut-De-La-Mer, something I don't really want to miss, for both technical and tourism reasons. Anyway, I called them up (OK, Franck called them up for me), said that it really didn't suit, and they said OK, we'll send you another one. No check, when might it be OK, nothing like that. We'll send you another one. Roll the dice again and maybe it'll come up better. That's messed up, but nothing in French bureaucracy surprises me anymore.

London to a brick the next appointment is while I'm in Athens.

In other news, my paper is coming along. In my view, it lacks meat, but I guess that's probably normal; it's really a discussion paper and not a presentation of a concrete technique or experimental results, so its to be expected. Anyway, its mostly done bar the conclusion and some fleshing out in the middle. Probably wind up about 13 pages.

Watching others here write, and most of all reading their drafts, really makes me appreciate my ability to just sit down and write something coherent without labouring over it. Of course, its probably also the thing that makes me sit here dwelling on my lack of productivity the rest of the time, but what are you gonna do?