Wednesday, 27 December 2006

random stats

Two loose facts about me.

  1. I am endless fascinated with calculating useless statistics.

  2. I am working my way through the IMDB's list of top 250 films.

With that in mind, its probably interesting only to me to note that:

  • I'm 68% (169/250) of my way through the list.

  • I'm at 82% (113/137) for films made since 1970, but just a shade under 50% (56/113) for films made before then. Of the films I still have to see, more than 70% were made before 1970.

  • I'm at a woeful 24% (5/21) for film made before 1940, including 0% (out of 6) for films from the 1920s. These are Keaton (2), Chaplin, and some early German films (3).

  • Just under 1 in 5 of the films are non-English language. I've seen only 30% (14/47) of these, whereas I've seen 76% (155/203) of the English-language films. The non-English language films I haven't seen include german(9), french (7), japanese (6), italian (4), swedish and spanish (2 each), korean, russian and danish.

  • My viewing percentage descends linearly with quintile. I'm at 98% (49/50) for the films from 1-50, 80% (40/50) for films from 51-100, 66% for films from 101-150, 56% (28/50) for films from 151-200, and 38% (19/50) for films from 201-250.

  • Subjectively speaking, although I enjoy the majority of the films I see, I do find some disappointing. Yesterday, I watched A Christmas Story, which was rubbish. Last night I watched Citizen Kane, which was good but not as good as advertised, and Roman Holiday, which was nice. This evening I finished watching The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was a little underwhelming (not up to the standard of the other Bogart entries: Casablanca, The African Queen, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon.

cut up

Monday, after submitting my paper, I checked myself into hospital. I had the afternoon to myself, since my operation wasn't until Tuesday, and amused myself watching the fourth day of the third test (after consideration I will, for Mr Tratt's benefit, write up my thoughts on the ret-urn in another post).

On Tuesday, a nurse came by around 11-ish to shave my knee. After that, I took a betadine scrub shower, and jumped on a trolley to be wheeled downstairs. They punched me full of holes for a little while: for a drip, a hip-catheter (for pain blocking), and one in the back to knock me out from the waist down, in what they called rachianaesthesie (something like, but not the same as, an epidural).

Then, after a small wait, they wheeled me into theatre 13 (unlucky for some) and hooked me up to some machines that went beep. People buzzed around me and occupied themselves with my right leg. It was a very strange experience to see them moving it around in preparation and not feeling anything. Before the surgeon started, they strung up a sheet between me and the battlefield, so during the exciting part I really couldn't see much. To be honest, it was a little lonely there, while everyone else was busy behind the sheet, with only the anaesthetist to keep me company from time to time up in the DMZ. I was very coherent, too, which surprised me. Others had suggested they'd drug me a little to calm me down, but I really felt more tuned than normal rather than less.

Getting back up to my room I was plugged in to 3 tubes: my drip with what I assume was glucose or saline or something, my catheter with marcaine, and another draining blood out of my knee. These were disconnected gradually over the next 48 hours, and by Thursday afternoon I was able to go for little tours up and down the corridors on my crutches and in my Big Lebowski dressing gown.

In between times, I managed to watch a half dozen or so films, read a couple of hundred pages of my book, and make yeoman progress on my thesis, mainly cutting and pasting in the recent paper, and blocking out structure for a couple of sections. On Thursday and Friday I also chatted with the third of my room-mates, a young bloke getting his patellar tendon seen to who had spent the previous summer in Australia, of all places. Also on Friday I had a visit from Liz and Sophie, whose brother had coincidentally had the same operation with the same surgeon a week earlier, and who was in for physio.

On Saturday morning it was all over, and Seb came in to give me a lift back to my apartment, via the pharmacy for my prescriptions.

In all, I was very impressed by the efficiency (from a user perspective) of the whole process. The hospital was clean, staff was helpful and generally communicative and neither before nor after was I burdened by administration at all. Even the food wasn't too disagreeable (although they did struggle with the concepts of cereal and tea for breakfast), which for a hospital is about as much as you can expect.

paper cut

Well, its been a while. Not much has happened. OK, I'm lying. Everything has happened.

First of all, I got a paper written, the first new paper I'd submitted as first author since March last year (although, in reality, the revisions to that one for republication in a journal were significant enough to count). After switching onto it after my MRI back in mid-November and an initial burst of activity, 3 weeks of slow progress had ensued. Then, with a week and a half to go, I perhaps predictably extracted my digit and got it done. In the end, the last 5 days or so were pretty comfortable, and I had the chance to give it a solid proof-read.

Nonetheless, the program committee for the conference has some significant names in it, including some I've cited extensively in the paper, and I probably expect them to reject it. That said, I'm still reasonably proud of it for the moment, and it has made its way into my thesis as a chapter, which is the bigger goal in any case.

If it does get rejected, it may well be the first paper I have rejected as first author (correct my memory in the comments). This is in part because with Pegamento we wrote as a team, and in alphabetical order I was typically one of the last names listed. I don't recall a lot of rejections there, either, though.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

in my hot little hand

What may very well be the final chapter in my carte de séjour battles held court today. I rode out to the prefecture bright and early (well, 9am or so). Proudly striding through the queue (which, to be honest, was by far the shortest I've seen), probably much to the displeasure of the poor souls waiting with a number, I plonked down my invitation and other papers.

"Do you have your work permit", she asked.

"No, I don't need one", I replied.

"You're a student, you need a work permit," she insisted.

I waved my hand. "You don't need to see my work permit. That isn't the paper you're looking for. You will just go and get my carte de séjour."

She seemed confused, but repeated, "I don't need to see your work permit. Let me just go and find your carte de séjour." She shuffled off, and returned with the above laminated marvel.

That's how I roll. Move along.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

a tale of two bureaucracities

Two bureaucracies, unalike in virtue...

Bureaucracy the first.

My unending battles with residency continue. Having won the bout a few weeks ago, I had almost forgotten that the war raged on. During the summer, some people at the lab here had claimed the priviledge of "regularising" (regulating? making regular, anyway) the acquisition by PhD students of work permits from the Direction de Travail (Ministry of Employment?). Foolishly, I thought this would be a good thing. In any case, having obtained my recepissé, I gave them photocopies of that and every other paper in the hopes that my work permit would magically appear before my invitation to pick up my carte de séjour (residency permit), envisioned for 6 weeks after the acquisition of my recepissé.

I went down to their office yesterday and asked how it was coming along. Well, it wasn't. They were waiting on my carte de séjour. I assured them that at the same time, my carte de séjour was waiting on my work permit, which they didn't believe. So, this morning, I showed them the little letter I'd received saying that I could come pick up my carte de séjour any time I liked, so long as I brought my work permit. Well, the lady was very confused, and called the prefecture up to talk it over, and afterwards encouraged me to go see them with my scholarship contract and use a jedi mind trick to convince them that they don't need to see my work permit.

We shall see.

Bureaucracy the second.

After my operation moved up to next week, so did some other things. To that end, I went for a tour of the hospital yesterday. First I dropped by to see my surgeon's secretary, apparently to get a tiny little slip of green paper saying that he would cut me open on Tuesday. The surgeon didn't seem to be in, so I didn't have to queue to see her, which was nice. From there I went down to pre-admissions to tell them about my insurance situation and what kind of room I wanted. Again, no queue. After that, I had about 45 minutes to kill, so I found a lounge and did a little work on my ECOOP paper. Around 4, I went up to anaesthesia for my appointment. I had to wait 25-30 minutes, then saw the anaesthetist, who got a quick history, informed me of my options for the operation, and told me what would happen afterwards to manage the pain. She then sent me away armed with a letter for the lab to take some blood, which I did directly, and again with neither queue nor delay.

All in all, I saw 6 people (all women, curiously) in 4 departments within a period of about 2 and a half hours, including about a half hour on my paper. Impressive.


Lee's (and Em's, apparently) former flatmate and friend, Kate, was in Rennes last week. She and her boyfriend Ben have been moving their way through Europe working and holidaying on their way to a more permanent installation in London, and they made a stop for 3 days or so in Rennes. Kate studied here 5 years or so ago, so she knew her way around and spoke french, but they had the misfortune to arrive at the same time as Transmusicales, a big music festival, which made accomodation difficult. I was able to offer them a bed Thursday night, which was nice. We also went out for beer and pizza on Wednesday night, and mulled wine and gallettes on Thursday night, which was also nice.

Monday, 11 December 2006

change of plans

I got a call from the hospital the other day. Apparently they had a cancellation, and the asked me if I'd like to move my surgery up a couple of weeks to the 19th (instead of January 2). My initial thoughts were (a) do I really have to make this decision within the close confines of a single phone call?, then (b) better sooner than later.

So, I'm off to the anaesthetist on Tuesday to talk, I expect, about drugs, gas and needles, and which of them will or won't either kill or paralyse me. Then I get a week to finish off my ECOOP paper before I check myself in Monday week.

With a little luck, I should be able to check out by the Saturday afterwards. That's the last Avenir game of the year, and Sandy is back for a visit. It would be nice to see everyone before what could be a fairly lonely Christmas not going outside too much.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Things that go bump in the night

(Apologies to Laurie, if he reads this before his time-shifting reveals the capitulative horror of it all)

With my incessant talking about it, people at the lab here have started to ask me about the Ashes each day when I arrive. They didn't today, though, because yesterday I declared in no uncertain terms that the match would wind towards a draw on what had been a pretty uninspiring pitch.

How wrong I was. I woke up late this morning - there was no reason to get up early - to the cricinfo headline that England had collapsed and that Australia were pretty much cruising towards an unlikely victory chasing 168. Even the pirate radio I had been tapping seemed to have abandoned the match for dead, as they weren't passing on the coverage for the final 10 runs, which I watched float by as text commentary on cricinfo.

It's a remarkable victory, as surprising a result as I can remember perhaps since Langer and Gilchrist sank Pakistan in Hobart. I watched highlights this morning and the Australians seem to have bowled really well. Warne was more hostile even than his figures suggest - the ball that got Pietersen was a jaffa, which beat him in the air and then ripped outrageously off the pitch - and Lee swung it both ways at pace. A few of the decisions were shaky - Strauss, and McGrath's LBWs - but that's going to be the rub of the green when you're playing attacking cricket. What's more, said green is always going to rub hard against a side that scores only 70 runs in 54 overs of batting.

Once the batting collapse was over with, the English were basically playing a one-day game against the world's best one day side.

For the record, Australia made their 168 in just under 33 overs. Imagine the figures reversed: England make 168 in 33 overs and force Australia to chase 265 off 54. This probably should have been their plan, but it certainly didn't look that way the way they were batting.

Monday, 4 December 2006

My thesis has a number

My thesis has a number, its 3523... doo do doo ...

I had this bright idea about a post sung to the tune of "My baloney has a first name", but the bastards gave me 4 numbers instead of 5!


Pretty shitty weekend, by dent primarly of being boring. I went along to the basketball Saturday night, both guys and gals. The guys played pretty well and got home by 18, and the girls lit the others up to the tune of 114-43, courtesy of some really good ball movement and pressure defense. The fête afterwards was a little disappointing, though. It was catered by the boys, who seem collectively to have a much lesser tendency to folie. (See how I'm working in french words, there? I'm in France you see...)

I did manage to have some chat with family, though, as I begin to drag them into the VoIP revolution with Skype. Em called me on Saturday over her modem, which was touch and go bandwidth-wise, but otherwise pleasant, and I conferenced with Lee and Dad on Sunday, Lee borrowing some bandwidth from an unknowingly neighbourly neighbour.

In between times, the grand plan was to write an outrageous proportion of my paper, to compensate for a pretty unproductive previous week. But, well, the best laid plans of mice and girly-men aren't worth shit if there are cricket and basketball games on.

and then there was one

Congratulations today to Jacques, who successfully defended his thesis today, and is now, I guess, Dr Jacques. He was either unlucky or lucky that his most critical (perhaps in both senses of the word) examiner was not able to attend due to an unlikely confluence of personal commitments. That said, he gave a good presentation, which elicited interesting questions from each member of the jury. To be honest, I didn't think he was at his best in answering him, but that takes nothing away from the mention très honorable awarded him.

With Franck having gone through a couple of months ago now, that leaves me. At least 3 people have approached me today to say "well, you're next". And they're right. Who knows? Perhaps that fact will help me to pull my finger out and make more progress this week than I did last. Shouldn't be hard.

Monday, 20 November 2006

L'église à Thorigné-Fouillard

church front
Originally uploaded by jsteel.
On the way back from the forêt, we rode through Thorigné-Fouillard and past this fairly distinctive church. The top section I found really quite strange, and the little lady on the left as well. The leaves in right of picture will serve to place the season.

The light was better from the side of the church, but the form was lost. I cropped the top of the spire, which is a sure sign that the deteriorating viewscreen on my camera is causing more problems than I thought.

The leaves that are green turn to...

The leaves that are brown
Originally uploaded by jsteel.
Mark texted me Sunday morning proclaiming that it was a quite marvelous day, a clear reference to a suggestion I'd mooted earlier in the week about going for a ride out to the Forêt de Rennes to see the changing colours of leaves, something perhaps more novel to me than to him, but nonetheless fairly notable. He was right, too; the day was magnificent, cool but aggressively sunny and with a deep blue sky.

We rode out via Thorigné-Fouillard to the forest, which was fairly well-attended by families, joggers and a few other cyclists. I'd packed a couple of jumpers, since my weather report had said 6 degrees, but we both wound up riding in T-shirts, since the sun was warm. The leaves were indeed impressive, although perhaps not as colourful as those outside my appartment or office window, which are quite dramatic. The ride was pleasant, too, for plenty of chat about filmmaking, tech toys, and rising house prices. We rode back again through Thorigné, but this time sticking more to cycle paths, heading down through fields to Cesson, then along the canal back from Cesson to Rennes.

We had dinner at Mark's, too, at which point the conversation turned to work things. Mark has pretty much become my principal sounding board for a lot of the ideas I've been implementing and writing about, so while it was good to avoid work during the ride, it was nice to chew that familiar fat again once safely within doors and lubricated by a glass of bordeaux.

the bright glare of progress and my dark gnarled hand

Originally uploaded by jsteel.
My rapid progress has slowed a little with the transition from programming to writing. I started well on Wednesday getting the structure and some existing pieces of the paper in place and gaining about 6 pages. Between Thursday and Friday I didn't get very far, although on Friday Jean-Marc came back to me with a piece he had written, so I crept up to 7 pages.

Saturday was a tough call for work, as it turned it out. Mum and Dad called about 90 seconds after my alarm went off, so I was able to give their new webcam an inconspicuous beginning, with bleary eyes and a strong desire for coffee and a shower. From there I just never quite hit the work vibe, hovering between a new cricket game and the strong gravity of the intertron.

This photo has nothing to do with anything I've written, beyond a vague, perhaps plausible but ultimately apocryphal reference to being woken up and blinded by bright lights. I took it on the weekend though, so its not entirely non-sequitur.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

on a tear

I had been coding like a tiger for a few weeks, chasing a deadline arbitrarily set at Tuesday, and in the end pretty much got there. I lost some impetus on the weekend when I realized that I'd gotten the implementation pretty much to where I wanted it. What remained was building a convincing example, which was less than inspiring as a task, and thus I didn't pound out the LOC like I had beforehand. Anyhow, its in a state where I can write some examples for my thesis and justifiably claim that it typechecks and works.

To be fair, Tuesday wasn't entirely arbitrary as a deadline. I had a meeting with Jean-Marc scheduled for the afternoon and an MRI scheduled for midday, meaning that I was going to lose half a day anyway, making it a good candidate for thinking about direction rather than trying to write or code.

The MRI went pretty well. I was called only 20 minutes or so later than the appointed time, and from there was treated to an amusing parody of an old Seinfeld sketch I remember about doctors and hospitals. I was called and taken by someone into a small room, where I was told to remove my pants and wait. After 5-10 minutes someone else came and got me and escorted me to another small room for another 15-20 minutes of doing nothing. OK, to be fair, this second small room had a million-dollar MRI machine in it, and although I was doing nothing, I was inside a tunnel and the machine was going clunk-clunk-whirrr, so I guess it wasn't entirely time wasted. From there it was back to the original small room, pants back on, and another little wait. I then met the esteemed photographer in a third small room where he showed me pictorally how my ACL is, as suspected, not what it once was. Too subtle? It's torn, and my surgery will go ahead as the specialist had predicted. Anyhow, in all, I was back at work by 2:30pm, which was reasonable.

My meeting with Jean-Marc went pretty well, too. He had been watching the CVS stats, so it was no secret I'd been churning code pretty hard, and we had a good chat about the paper we have planned for the ECOOP deadline in a month's time, which will hopefully also cut-and-paste itself in as a chapter of my thesis.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

potent quotables

For one reason or another, I've been reading quotes today, a practice which draws the reader inevitably towards the genre's undoubted master, Oscar Wilde. For instance:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

Hard to argue with that.

Having claimed that Wilde was the genre's master, it must be admitted that I began the browse with Groucho Marx, who, despite a different approach, is no mug either.

Monday, 6 November 2006

Gore blimey...

Since when does being thrown into the air equate to being "gored"? Is it sufficient now to be injured in the company of an animal with tusks? Used to be one had to actually, you know, "pierce or stab" you. *Sigh*, I'm getting old.

Monday, 30 October 2006

rundown on being run down

I got run over this morning. It sounds worse than it was. I was on my bike going through the roundabout near the cemetery, turning left, coming from left of screen, indicating and all like a good nerd, and a girl driving from the south apparently didn't see me (y'know, I'm only 6'2") while entering the roundabout. She wasn't going too fast, but she got me pretty good, and I pretty much went arse over tit. I stumbled off the road, to check myself, but other than some bruising on my left leg, didn't seem to be hurt. The girl stopped to see if I was alright, needed to go see a doctor or anything, and if my bike was damaged, but I waved her off. I was a bit shaken, so I walked for a while then got back on and rode the rest of the way into work.

Getting into work, I noticed that my watch face had been smashed, which really pissed me off, since the watch is a very nice mechanical automatic I inherited from my grandfather. The hands had stopped too, which was really worrying, but apparently only because they were being blocked by some pieces of glass from the lens.

Now, come lunchtime, my knee (other knee) is hurting a bit, and I reckon I'll have a pretty nice bruise by tomorrow.

I suppose that from a certain point of view I've been lucky. Between St Lucia and Rennes, I've been commuting to uni/work for a quite a few years and had never had an accident until now.


My ambitious tradition, begun last week, of trying to work on the weekends, continues. I put in about 5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday on my development tasks, and made a whole lot of progress until running into a fairly troubling bug in Kermeta on Sunday evening, fortuitously at about the time when I needed to be preparing a chicken and zucchini quiche in any case.

In between times I managed to negotiate the changing time zones in both Europe and Australia and talk to both of my sisters: Lee on Saturday and Em on Sunday, bringing me into a comparatively rare state of up-to-date-ness with all of my immediate family.

In hindsight, what I didn't manage to get done on the weekend was leaving my apartment for any length of time. I'm not too worried, though, since I got a little social contact Friday night with a trip with Liz over to Manu & Erwan's for dinner. Liz drove in her new car, and we engaged in a bit of Tiger Woods 2006, as well as a nice pot-au-feu courtesy of Manu.


Congrats to Will & Anna, who got married in Brisbane yesterday. I used to work with both of them, and they both rock!

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

time on the wing

Its hard, and not a little alarming, to believe that almost a week has gone by since my hope-filled account of mounting progress last Thursday. Since then I've sat down to implement my plans, with mixed success. The original plan was to finish off the little task last week, but it ended up dragging out until yesterday, a regrettable but not shocking slippage in the context of software development tasks.

In the interim, and on the advice of Mark, I sat down on Saturday morning and put in a determined 2-3 hours on my thesis document. I had previously downloaded and fiddled a little with the provided template, to the tune of 26 largely empty pages, but this marked, in my mind at least, the first time spent on the thesis. Significant things happened. I checked it into CVS, ensured that I have working writing/editing environments both at home and at work, and cut-and-pasted my SoSyM paper in as a chapter. That this ramped me up to 42 pages is nice, but what's nicer is the feeling of having dipped my toes into the stream and, for now at least, not found the current to be insurmountable. In addition, having it at hand and in some psychological sense begun, I can now record those high-level decisions I make in my implementation endeavours as jottings in the relevant chapter in my thesis, rather than on some random scrap paper floating on my desk.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

so much time, so much to do

I had a meeting with my supervisor the other day, trying to work out a few things, like how I'm possibly going to finish my thesis even with a 3-month contract extension into next year. Its all a little daunting, this business of making plans for more than 5 months away, particularly when it pretty much depends on my working like a crazy man starting now and running right through.

In any case, its been a good week to date. I talked code with the engineers, and although they were unable to offer me the resources I was after, at least it helped me to clarify in my own mind what needed doing. Tuesday I met with Jean-Marc and afterwards button-holed Mark to talk about an algorithm problem I was having. I needed him as much as a sounding board and sanity check on my ideas as much as anything, but in any case it was very productive. Yesterday I was planning on going for a drink with Liz, so worked pretty hard through the day to salve my conscience in the event of leaving in decent time, but she pulled out, leaving me working through til 7 or so. At that point, I proposed beer, and Mark, just out of a teleconference, proposed pizza, so we went and had pizza and beer.

Friday, 13 October 2006

lager, lip reunited

When last we left our not-so-intrepid anti-hero, lager and lip remained adrift. This morning the nectar hit home.

Yesterday morning I tried in vain to call the école doctorale to see whether they had accepted, forgotten or lost my request for a fourth year. Failing to succeed to establish the secretary's continued existence, much less the status of my entreaty, I gather a posse of two, and rumbled down to accost said villain. We found her hiding in the photocopy room and beat the signed form out of her using nearby empty toner cartridges. That achieved, we issued a collective war whoop and accelerated on, tsunami-like, to the scolarité to demand instant and irrevocable enrolment. Such was our accumulated wrath, the poor creatures had little choice but to accede. Word leaking out ahead of our arrival made the cashier very accomodating, to the extent that she didn't blink when presented with a 3rd-party cheque (required in order to circumvent previous idiocies of an unnamed generally-societal french banking institution).

(See my ac- verbs and despair).

Episode next, today. I got into work early - and I mean rooster early - to get my photocopies done, then rode out to the prefecture for the cruellest step of them all. Unfortunately, I was not alone. About 40 or so of us were queued outside the front door at 5 to 9, and by the time I got my ticket I was 26th in line for the étrangers desk. Thus it was that at 10:40am I was summoned, and despite a little "proof of your scholarship" curveball, I walked out a few minutes later clutching a récépissé de demande de carte de séjour in my hot little hand.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

many a slip between lager and lip

My carte de séjour (residency permit) runs out on Saturday, and renewing it depends on re-enrolling at the university, which process was available to me as of Monday. Of course, re-enrolling depends on having a letter signed by Jean-Marc (who was away last week), and the director of the école doctorale, who was mysteriously absent yesterday. To complicate matters, when I come to re-enrol, I will have to pay up, which ideally is done by cheque. Of course, my chequebook ran out a couple of weeks ago, and the bank has screwed up the delivery of a new one. Its all a mess, and I hate it.

In other news, Franck had his soutenance (thesis defense) on Monday, so he's now Dr Fleurey. He's the first of three PhDs due to finish up this year. Number two is Jacques, who submitted his document yesterday, and will likely defend in early December. Number three is me.

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

people come to town, people leave town

It occurs to me that I've neglected to mention that other people are, or have been, around. The Avenir girls started playing again a couple of weeks ago, with a fairly appalling home loss for their first game. Weird vibe after the game. People come up for a bisou, but do you ask them how they're going after a game like that, or just stay mum and assume they're kinda pissy about it?

Last week was also Nanou's farewell before chooffing off to Vancouver to follow in Sandy's still-fresh footsteps and work as a jeune-fille-au-père (nanny, I think). She also played in the NF3 game on Sunday as a farewell, I guess, to basketball. Actually, that game was pretty impressive in that the team was actually organised and managed to get the ball into the post and moving, which was the main problem with the NF2 girls the week before. Anyway.

Last night I went over, on spec, to the student residence where a friend of Ashu's lives to farewell Katrin, who's driving back to Germany today with the noble aim of getting her studies back on track.

In other news, I've actually pulled my finger out a little the last 3 weeks or so and made some progress on my programming. As had been the previous tendency, the problem gets harder the closer I look at it, and I'm in many ways still working on stuff a little precursive to the guts of my real "contribution". Nonetheless, at least now it feels more like a monkey on my back and less like a parasite.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

From the mouths of, er, ...

This from my new jeans:
This jeans runs flat broke.

I, er, don't know either. I don't think it was an accident; it was on two of the tags.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

coming to grips

I have to confess that I got pretty freaked out when the specialist told me I'd busted my ACL, and I've been thinking a lot about it since.

Perhaps the reason I got freaked out is that, being a fairly keen follower of sports, a lot of my heroes are sportsmen, and for these people, a busted ACL is a big deal, for some the worst injury you can have. For them, it puts in jeopardy their profession and passion, which is pretty hardcore. For me, I'm increasingly realising, playing tennis, basketball or football is important to me, but I'm fortunate enough that cutting them out would still leave me with plenty of alternative pursuits.

I'm also coming around to the idea of having the reconstructive surgery in France. A couple of people I've talked to in Australia seem to think that it would be elective surgery in Australia, which would mean no or little public coverage, and a long waiting period before getting it done, neither of which particularly appeal to me.

In the interim, apparently it helps the recovery process if the knee is strong prior to surgery. In aid of that, I went for a run last night, and plan on going and getting my bike fixed up this week so I can go and do some cycling a bit beyond what I normally do to and from work. Who knows, it may even have the effect of getting me fitter, which would certainly be no drawback.

holla atcha boi

I have a continuing saga of how I call home to Australia.

In the beginning there was silence. I waited for people to call me on my work phone and chatted to them at work. I once called home with a bog-standard phonecard, which ticked down 10 euros in about 8 minutes, from memory.

Then I got skype going and started chatting on that, typically from work, since the times for calling Australians in their evenings are between 9am and 3pm here - work time. Around the same time, I got my ADSL hooked up with Free. Their rates were 3c/minute to Australian landlines, while Skype's where 1.7c/minute, but I preferred to use the Free phone when at home because of the superior ergonomics of holding an actual phone. Also, at the end of last year Free lowered their rates to make calls to Australian landlines free. That's cheap, but it didn't help me at work.

Recently Free, in their wisdom, started offering a SIP service in the freebox (ADSL modem). I activated it last night, and tried connecting this morning. X-Lite and SJPhone both had trouble punching through the firewall and/or NAT here at work, so I gave Gizmo a spin. Sure enough, I was able to connect to my freebox at home and via that call my folks in Toowoomba, profiting from the low (free) call rate of my ISP. Sweet.

I'm a nerd, yo. And that shit gets me free calls.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006


I got up this morning with the daunting realization that my knee specialist appointment was at lunchtime and I still hadn't even booked the MRI. I called up and did so, getting the pressing date of November 14th, then called the specialist's office to cancel. The secretary suggested I come anyway, so I trotted out to St Gregoire around 11. I got to the office at 1145 for my midday appointment, queued to present myself for 20 minutes then sat for an hour. Good training for the prefecture next month, I figured.

I told the doc what had happened, and he had a look with a little machine for measuring how much my shin moved from my thigh. Apparently it was too much. The doc tells me I have a busted ACL and need surgery before I can play sports like tennis and basketball again without getting hurt and swelling up for weeks at a time. So I'm scheduled for surgery on January 2, unless the MRI goes the other way.

Thinking about it afterwards, though, I'm not sure whether I want to do this in France or wait and do it when I return to Australia. I really need to call some people and get some advice on things like public health system coverage for injuries sustained while overseas, the politeness of turning up to the first day at a new job on crutches, and generally about where is a good place to be unable to walk for a few weeks.

In my head, I had this great big list of "things to do when I finish my thesis". I really hadn't considered adding "knee surgery" (do I get to say reconstruction?) until today. Getting my driver's license and playing organised tennis had both been on there too, but may have to be shuffled down.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

burn them, ralphie!

Apparently next week (or the week after, my sense of time is off) is Banned Books Week. I've been reading around the ALA site, and I keep having to pick my jaw up. Some of the books on that list are among the best I've ever read; how anyone can challenge anything about Of Mice And Men, let alone attempt to have it banned, is absolutely beyond me.

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

curse you, cage of water!

I was right! It started raining a couple of hours ago, and it's quite possible it won't stop until April; it just has that look about it. Unfortunately I cycled to work today in a haze of Beatles-misled optimism, and consequently didn't bring my raincoat, so I can't ride home for fear of getting wet. I ate my last gummy bear at 3:30pm. Please send food via the comments section.

Monday, 11 September 2006

last rites of summer

Summer is ending; I can feel it rattling.

I risked spending all Saturday inside watching teev, but Mark swung by and we rode out to Chantepie to have a look at overgrown retail warehouses and stuff. After a couple of hours of that I had to leave him in order to head back and make biscuits ahead of dinner at Erwan & Manu's. We had Sylvain with his wife and two kids (respectively 2 years and one month), plus Ashu, Erwan and Manu. Audrey Dub turned up later on, and we had a pretty decent fish tandoori marsala. Most entertaining.

Sunday looked like going the same as Saturday had, but I got off my butt and went for a little 20km ride up the canal towards (but not to) Betton. There were lots of people out making the most of the sunshine, on foot, bike and boat. I stopped after about 10k just to relax and read a little of my book, but some other cyclist stopped at the same bench to have a ciggie, so I only read a few pages before feeling uncomfortable and heading off. Soundtrack for the whole adventure was PMG's First Circle on the way out and Louis Armstrong coming back.

Teev of the week has been House MD, Love My Way (Australian drama!), and My Name Is Earl. The latter isn't exciting me too much, but the others are pretty watchable.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

not dead, not writing up

Been a while since I posted. For the most part, that's had nothing to do with me being busy. Its generally been the usual rota of rubbish television and computer games interspersed by periods of being at work but not working. People continue to ask me if I'm writing my thesis yet, and I continue to say that I'm quite close.

Having said that, the last three days have been gangbusters at work. I've gotten more coding done than in the preceding 2 months, and I'm starting to think about planning to anticipate the possibility of later seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I may be overstating things, but what can I say, I'm excited.

In other news, the stewdents are back in town.

Friday, 25 August 2006

I am not a well man

I watched Little Fish the other day, which features a very nice reworking of a Cold Chisel song, Flame Trees. I was able to find a copy of the original, and thus have been listening to Cold Chisel the last couple of days. I would have considered such a thing unthinkable last week, and still question its reason.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and buy some blue singlets.

Thursday, 24 August 2006


This amused me in my after-lunch blog-check today.

Red? Tastes like rhubarb/apricot/strawberries? When I was growing up in Innisfail we had a quandong tree in the backyard, about 15m tall or so I would guess, and although the fruit were edible, they were blue, quite dry, and tasted nothing like any of those 3. I turned to wikipedia:

Which says there are 3 types of quandong, which I think I've read somewhere before. I assume the blog author was referring to one of the first two varieties, whereas we are more familiar with third. They're not from the same genus - one is a "non-obligate root parasite" and the other a tree that grows up to 36+ m - but they have very similar seeds.

The wikipedia page also says that
They are frequently eaten by cassowaries; in fact it is commonly thought that the seeds may be unable to germinate unless they pass through the animal's intestines.

We had cassowaries in the bush at the end of our street that would come up the hill and either around or through our house to eat the fallen quandongs in the backyard. I seem to recall, though, giving seeds to our neighbour Mr Andrews to grow on his hobby farm for the wood. I'm pretty sure he didn't have tamed cassowaries cycling the seeds for him.

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Slightly Less Ugly

No, not me. I still look like I used to, I'm afraid.

The blog is hopefully slightly less ugly than its previous radiant orange self, courtesy of Blogger upgrading itself somewhat. So there are now tags on posts (still working on a scheme), trackbacks (by any other name) should work, and the sidebar is kinda different. On the downside, the main column is now fixed width, which shits me. There are a few other things I would change if I could, but for the moment they're not letting me hack at the template code.

It makes me feel productive, anyway.

olympos climbed

My reading is increasingly linked to my travel. Having spent quite a long time not getting anything read, the last month and the two trips it included have seen me through one and a half fairly thick tomes. The finished one was Dan Simmons' Olympos.

I read the first in this 2-parter, Ilium, last year, and enjoyed it a lot. The second, as any sequel in this genre (space opera? science fiction? hard to say), doesn't enjoy the first's opportunities for introducing the reader to the newness of the world (or in this case, worlds) in which the story takes place, but Olympos is fun despite that. It takes the story through interesting variations, and has some challenging views of god-ness and God-ness and its relation to creativity. Perhaps even more so than his Hyperion/Endymion books, Ilium and Olympos should really not be read separately. They are one story.

The second of the books I've been reading is, for curiosity's sake, Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, the second instalment in his Baroque Cycle. I'll give my thoughts when I finish it.

mattresses and pie

I decided to buy a mattress. After 2 and a half years, my poor old sofa bed has quite reasonably become uncomfortable in the middle, meaning I have to choose one side or the other upon which to sleep. A simple enough decision if made while awake, but not so much when dormant. Fortunately, Jacques and Sophie volunteered to drive me to a shop to take delivery of said new mattress, so last Thursday it was off to the shops, with the additional participant being the now-5-month-old Juliette.

The chap in the store quite happily assured us that the mattresses were all on site, rather than over at the depot, which was nice to know. Of course, this was true right up until the point where I said, "I want that one!", at which point he grimaced and admitted that said model was not, in fact, available until next week. At which point I cried, got him to order it in, and went home to make pie.

Goat's cheese pie. Ring any bells? Inspired by Chris & Anjum, I perhaps foolishly offered to J&S to make them the guinea pigs in my first attempt at this famous dish. Its actually pretty simple: chopped onion, halved cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, basil (I didn't have time to buy any fresh stuff, so I just used dried), lots of chèvre (for the non-francophones, that's pretty much goat's cheese), and pesto.

I have to boast that all this went down in the context of a somewhat larger and more impressive culinary exhibition. We started with melon with italian ham and port. The goat's cheese pie, runny despite my having avoided real tomatoes, followed, accompanied by a rocket and beaufort (smelly french cheese) salad. We finished off with a raspberry charlotte cake (bought, it must be admitted) with ice cream. I offered coffee, but forgot to dose the calvados, much to my shame upon realising as much. The only hitch was that Juliette got pretty tired and, as is the wont of her kind, made noises I would not have credited to an instrument of her size had I not heard them with my own bones. Nonetheless, as my most ambitious invite-around thus far, I would call the whole shebang a success.

Jaunt into Germany

INRIA in concert with IRISA was kind enough to give me a 5 day weekend for Assumption (the mother of all, er, its a religious thing anyway), so I took the bit between the teeth and headed up to Germany. From Rennes on Friday morning I caught a train to Paris, and from Paris another, slower train to Mannheim. There I met Chris, and we pushed on up to Weinheim.

At Weinheim we caught up with Anjum, our host, in full flight with her work crowd at a bar singing eighties songs and, later, dancing on tables. A good time was had by all, in particular those strong enough to last the distance: Chris, myself, Anjum, Annette, Brendan and crazy Alex.

After a lazy Saturday morning, Chris, Anjum and I headed north to Frankfurt for a look around Europe's purported financial capital (pictured). We had a nice walk along the river, and through the middle of town, and grabbed some nice Thai food for dinner before heading back.

On Sunday it was south to Heidelberg (no pictures - dead battery) to see the Philosopher's perch (or some such), the very impressive castle including its even more impressive grounds, its slightly underwhelming yet undeniably enormous wine vat, and the many-jarred apothecary's museum, all rounded off by coffee and cake.
On getting home Chris and Anjum whipped a lovely goat's cheese pie with a nice salad.

On Monday, Anjum was back to wage-slavedom for the morning, so Chris and I headed west (like all young men should) to Speyer. For a small town, it has no claim on the 3 enormous churches it has. We also wandered down past the luxuriously wide main strip to the Rhine, from which Chris could look nostalgically upstream to Basel. On the way home we stopped past a cheese shop and grabbed some Langres, adding to our respective lists of smelly french cheeses experienced. Chris tried in vain to convince me that the chèvre we had was stronger than the Langres, which was, frankly, laughable. On the whole, Langres probably takes a back seat to Livarot and perhaps Munster for strength, of the AOCs I've tried.

On Tuesday it was back onto trains to Rennes, a dreary trip punctuated only by the bright spots of the muffins with which Anjum had so generously equipped me upon leaving.

Tuesday, 8 August 2006


Today is the Australian census, and I won't be counted, which is a shame. I'm a big fan of stats and surveys and the like, but they don't count overseas nationals. Some people aren't too happy about that, since the estimated 4% or so of Australians who live outside of Australia do represent a fairly large proportion. I'm not sure I really care for census purposes though, for all the good work that SCG do. Anyway, for those expat aussies reading this and who feel the need to fill out a survey, there's one running over at one million more.

pillar to post

Consolations to the Natimuk footy club seniors this week, who got pipped by their Laharum opponents by a score of 53.26.344 to 0.3.3. Jason Przibilla was among Laharum's best with 19 goals, while Simon Mentz led Natimuk with, er, fewer than that. After a disappointing scoreless first 3 quarters, the Rams turned it up in the final term, pouring in 3 points to their opponents' 14.8. This augurs well for next week, when Natimuk will try to break their 24-game losing streak against league leaders, Harrow Balmoral.

Monday, 7 August 2006

new words

The more I read, the less frequently I encounter new words. I can take this as telling me either that I should be trying to read more ambitious material, or that my vocabulary is improving. Perhaps both. Anyway, I got two new words in a single sentence yesterday, and they're jaffas: synecdoche and metonymy. The written word is amazing, and surely the might of the pen is no less than ever. See? Bobby dazzlers!

We used to sit on our arses...

Some things might have to change
I wish there was some furniture
That I could rearrange

Quiet weekend. I sort of watched Battlestar Galactica, a couple of games of footy, read some of my book, and did a little cooking (quiche, bolognese, some little dim-sim things, and a stir-fry). I figure I'm probably entitled, between last weekend in England and next weekend in Germany. I probably haven't mentioned that, but I'm off for a long weekend to see Anjum & crazy in Weinheim, with probably passes through Heidelberg and Mannheim. The train tickets arrived Saturday.

I've been feeling very tired recently, and am still considering the possibility of buying a proper bed to see if that helps me sleep better. What's really holding me back is not wanting to go looking at beds and not wanting to have to sort out transport. I just need somewhere I can order online or over the phone and have it delivered.

Wednesday, 2 August 2006


Look out for debt, says he who keeps encouraging people to take out home loans.

When Australia's unsustainable household debt bubble bursts and Howard's supposedly-battling aspirationals start really battling on weak financial ground, maybe then they'll realise that, in hindsight, eroding employment security might not have been such a good thing.

Hanrahan was right.

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

weekend in Bath

I had a long description of my voyage over to Bath on Saturday, but I found it dull. It was long - I left at 7am french time and arrived around 10pm English time - and contrived, but I got there more or less intact.

On Sunday morning I went for a walk around Bath for a while, then found a bench by the canal, from which this photo was taken, and spent a few hours reading my book.

Later in the afternoon I headed off to find the hotel where Sandy & Neil's wedding party was on. I got hopelessly, desperately lost, and an hour and a half later managed to contact someone to say as much and get some directions. I was pretty embarassed to be so late (an hour!) but as it turned out I missed the croquet but arrived in time for dinner, which was something. It was a really nice party, too, with a nice buffet, some brief speeches, and plenty of time to catch up with Neil, Sandy, Jaye and Jaye's wife Alexis, who I'd been looking forward to meeting.

On Sunday I was waiting to meet up with Jaye and Alexis, sitting on the same bank of the canal reading my book when a guy from my hotel passed and said hello. He commented how I was reading, and how so few people did these days, and we got into a conversation about all manner of things including the nature and relative value of intelligence and intuition. Fascinating, and the sort of thing I wish happened more in the world.

That done, I met up with Jaye & Alexis in town and we went for a look through the Abbey. We were going to have a walk through the baths as well, but considered 11 pounds a bit too steep. Instead, we met Neil & Sandy for lunch at a nice little restaurant, then went for coffee and talked for a couple of hours.

The trip back was even longer and less pleasant. I wasn't able to sleep on the overnight ferry crossing (11 hours!) and because of inconvenient train timetables didn't get home until about 11am, having left Bath at 4:30pm the previous day.

Notwithstanding all of that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. The weather threatened inclemency at various times, but was on the whole palatable. I also managed to get through about half (350 pages or so) of Dan Simmons' Olympos, which given my recent reading form represents excellent progress.

Friday, 28 July 2006

the horror...

John Winston's (is there a good reason why we don't call him J-Dub?) birthday is the day after mine. He's a few centuries older than me; how many is unknown since he is, of course, undead. If only I saw him running past while I was holding a screwdriver...

Wednesday, 26 July 2006


Thanks to all for the birthday greetings, which came in numbers I would never have expected and from all parts of the world. For those who expressed their concern I wouldn't get out to mark the occasion, I did manage to find in Mark a taker for a beer at the Webb after work. Excellent chat, 3 pints and a few gallettes. Can't understate the quality of the chat; made me realise what I've been missing these last years. For all the qualities of our team here, they're not much chop when it comes to socialising outside of the lab.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

old man

Well, happy birthday to me; I hit 28 today. I stopped being excited about birthdays a while ago, and the last few I've started noticing little cues telling me I'm getting old. 2 years ago I lost the right to cheap rail fares in France, last year to cheap bus fares in Rennes, and this year I'm injured and can't run around. You know, like an old man.

Still, its been nice to get happy birthdays (and bonne anniversaires, and even a buon compleanno) from various people, even if they have been either at work, over the phone or by email/IM rather than at a party, barbecue, footy game or John Williams concert.

I should have cooked myself a cake, for any number of diverse reasons, but lack the art. Instead I was forced to buy croissants, pains au chocolat, and pains au raisin in order to satisfy the squawking masses at work.

Anyone wishing to consider this a flagrant and obvious attempt to seek attention may do so at their leisure, while keeping in mind that the blog as a whole serves little other purpose.

Monday, 24 July 2006


Someone needs to pull their head in.

The ever-developing Akermanis situation is a gross tragedy for all concerned, and I think the Lions are the more culpable party. Here's a guy who easily counts in the 5 best players Brisbane has ever had, who's still playing really good football and remains capable of turning a game on his own, is by modern standards rarely injured, is as close a thing to a home-grown player as they have, and is their most popular player among fans. He runs at the mouth but doesn't get in trouble himself in a league where drink-driving seems to be the rule rather than the exception. From management to coach and everywhere in between, then need to bending over backwards to keep him and make sure he finishes his career having played 300 games all for Brisbane. This is especially true given that, by my reading, all that requires is shutting up and telling him they'll do just that. The 6-game leave of absence is not along those lines.

Aker is not blameless here. He runs at the mouth, and seems to be chasing himself out of town to some extent, be it through a real desire to leave or just through his normal tendency to sensationalism when fronting the press. Still, I really think he's better off in Brisbane, where the (strictly superficial) damage he does with his spiel can be limited by the relatively light media attention, and in a club which shows promise for returning to finals football in the short-to-medium term (a topic for another post, perhaps).

I´m not unbiased in this. Brisbane is my club and I have a number 12 jersey which diminishes dramatically in value if Aker is wearing different colours next year. He's one of my favourite players, not just because of his play but because he is surely a walk-up start for the all-time all-FreeDarko team.

I can only hope this is part of some elaborate plan to generate media attention in Brisbane while credibly allowing Akermanis to have the surgery he needs in order to be ready for the start of next season with a Brisbane list purged of its current injury plague.


It seems (noticed via DeadSpin) the all-blacks have a new haka, Kapa O Pango, which they're going to use for special games as a complement to the more traditional but less custom-made Ka Mate. For those not familiar with them, this is the old one, and this is the new one, from the Wallabies game a fortnight ago.

Two reasons I'm not digging the new one. First, I think the throat-cutting is a bit over the top, and equivocating about radically different meanings in Maori culture are, frankly, bullshit. Second, it just doesn't have the vibe. Ka Mate is a more team thing, has more history behind it, and frankly just looks cooler.

Friday, 21 July 2006

how well do you know my music?

Its been a while since I indulged in one of those crappy meme-type things, so here we go. What follows are the first 50 songs with words (there were 28 without) that came out of a shuffle on my iPod. If you know what artist/song one is, put it in the comments. I'll put up each answer as an when someone gets it, or like next week or something.

  1. Where did you come from lady, and ooh won't you take me there, thataway won't do me baby
  2. Take this silver lining, keep it in your own sweet head (David Gray - Silver Lining)
  3. This is my church. This is where I heal my hurts. (Faithless - God is a DJ)
  4. From the very first moment I saw you, that's when I knew all the dreams I held in my heart had suddenly come true (David Gray - Be Mine)
  5. Let me take your hand, I'm shaking like milk
  6. Every time we do this I fall for her, wave after wave after wave, it's all for her (The Cure - From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea)
  7. His guitar slung across his back, his dusty boots is his cadillac
  8. We might kiss when we are alone, when nobody's watching, we might take it home (Damien Rice - Delicate)
  9. Don't be shy, just let your feelings roll on by (Cat Stevens - Don't Be Shy)
  10. Here comes a cold, break out the winter clothes
  11. Come gather round people wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown (Bob Dylan - The Times, They Are A-Changin')
  12. We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control (Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall)
  13. I didn't have much time for school, spent my days breaking the rules
    and regulations
  14. We 'bout to get up on this thing, the time is now, what you waiting
  15. Strange infatuation seems to grace the evening tide, I'll take it by
    your side
    (Placebo - Without You I'm Nothing)
  16. Don't hold yourself like that, you'll hurt your knees (Damien Rice - Volcano)
  17. I was totin' my pack along the dusty Winnamucka road (Johnny Cash - I've Been Everywhere)
  18. I'm a long time woman, and I'm serving my time
  19. Come see, I swear by now I'm playing time against my troubles
  20. There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief (Dave Matthews Band (or Dylan, or Hendrix) - All Along The Watchtower)
  21. I creep around slowly and receive from the TV signals about my life (Powderfinger - Don't Wanna Be Left Out)
  22. I can't believe the news today, I can't close my eyes and make it go away (U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday)
  23. Somewhere deep inside, something's got a hold on you (Crowded House - Better Be Home Soon)
  24. Ain't it funny how we pretend we're still a child (Smashing Pumpkins - Galapagos)
  25. If there's anything that you want, if there's anything I can do (Beatles - From Me To You)
  26. Ooh ma, Ooh pa, must the show go on (Pink Floyd - The Show Must Go On)
  27. Joan was quizzical, studied metaphysical science in the home (Beatles - Maxwell's Silver Hammer)
  28. I'm gonna make a change for once in my life (Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror)
  29. Alone, listless, breakfast table in an otherwise empty room (Pearl Jam - Daughter)
  30. Not enough, never too much, woman look just like love
  31. Good god, don't jump, a boy sat on the ledge, an old man who had fainted was revived (Simon & Garfunkel - Save the Life of my Child)
  32. Still a little bit of your taste in my mouth (Damien Rice - Cannonball)
  33. Its a family affair, Its a family affair
  34. Well I think its fine building jumbo planes (Cat Stevens - Where Do The Children Play?)
  35. I should be standing at the bar waving a 10-pound note around (The Streets - I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way)
  36. Well, I'm a rambling man, I've got the distance in my eye
  37. I've waited hours for this, I've made myself so sick, I wish I'd stayed asleep today (The Cure - Close To You)
  38. Reverend, reverend, is this a conspiracy?
  39. I let you down, lemme pick you up
  40. You know there's no place like planet home
  41. Well, up and down the puppy's hair, fleas and ticks jump everywhere (Dave Matthews Band - What Would You Say)
  42. Hey jude, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better (Beatles - Hey Jude)
  43. Torture from you to me, abducted from the street (Pearl Jam - Animal)
  44. Dansons tu dis, et moi je suis (Sting - La Belle Dame Sans Regrets)
  45. Another summer slipped away without me noticing, at least you had the decency to say "I'll see you later"
  46. All is quiet on new year's day, a world in white gets underway (U2 - New Year's Day)
  47. Let me enhance your mind with a brand new design
  48. Because the world is round, it turns me on (Beatles - Because)
  49. Can you tell me why you're so uptight, out of your head and ain't
    talkin right
    (Ben Harper - Mama's Trippin)
  50. Mama loves her baby, Daddy loves you too (Pink Floyd - The Thin Ice)

My money's on Afe, and on a lot of these going unanswered.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006


In the last 24 hrs I've called the radiology lab and the two knee specialists referred to me by my doc, and all 3 told me the earliest date was mid-september. This is particularly frustrating because my knee is actually holding me back in the meantime. I tried riding home really gently yesterday but could feel that it was stressing the knee sufficiently to not want to do it as a regular means of transport. I also feel it when I walk, and sport is out of the question.

Its tempting to think they can't fit me in because they're busy, but I *know* its because they're closing up for summer. This whole goddamn country with its hopeless addiction to holidays is a dead loss for much of july and all of august, which is hot-weather cold-comfort for anyone who needs a service provider during that time.

So as not to sound too nationalistic about my whining, if I were doing this in Australia I would also have an appointment in September, and its uncertain whether the cause for that being a long waiting list rather than a long holiday would lower my blood pressure.

Monday, 17 July 2006

reading progress

My reading is a long way from the boom days of a couple of years ago, and it had been a few months since I finished a book, but I finally finished Quicksilver on the weekend. I guess the slow-going is not a great sign for a book, but I think its probably more to do with the increased availability of online and online-derived entertainment options than with the quality of the writing, which is OK if not spectactular.

Like Stephenson's other books, of which I think I have read most (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Zodiac, Cryptonomicon), he's a passable stylist, but has a flair for making an interesting story. This book, the first in an ambitious trilogy, is much in the same vein as Cryptonomicon, set in real history but telling a fictional story. The setting here is the 1600s, a period which in many ways saw the reemergence of science from the slow progress of the middle ages. He bounces between protagonists a bit, with Daniel Waterhouse, Jack Shaftoe and the apparently surnameless Eliza all getting strong treatment. Its entertaining storytelling, and an evocative impression of the scientists of the time - Newton, Liebniz, Hooke, Huygens, etc - that encourages the reader to look again at their contributions.

I have the second instalment, The Confusion, on order, and that no doubt will be followed at some later date by The System Of The World. Its unlikely my rate of reading will increase, though, with a thesis looming increasingly largely (as opposed to large, which at this point it is not) on the horizon.


Knee update. I went to see the doc this morning about my knee. He listened to my tale, and had a look at it, which was a good idea, because it turns out there's a big-ass bruise on the side, which I hadn't noticed. Given that I haven't taken a knock there, this is not a good sign, and I'm off for an ultrasound (if my translation of 'echographie' is correct) on it this afternoon and then back to the doc to see what's going on. There's a fair chance I've torn something, if I understand his quick analysis correctly, but I'm gonna wait on the happy-snaps to believe it. More news as it comes to, er, knee.

ba-steel day weekend

Thursday night was set aside for fireworks on the canal to celebrate the next day being Bastille Day. Two things are interesting here. Firstly, the french, unlike much of the rest of the world, do not call their national day Bastille Day, but instead just fête nationale (national celebration) or quatorze juillet (July 14). Obviously outside the context of France, these terms are ambiguous, thus the renaming, but I still find it interesting. Secondly, they have their fireworks the day before, rather than the day of, the actual date. That I can't explain, although I guess it avoids cutting into the 3-day weekend.

Anyway, I got invited along by Katrin and Ashu, although I didn't manage to find them until after the show was over, due to misunderstandings about canal directions, general disorientation and fairly excessive noise on my end of the phone calls due to high-volume disco music. Still, I ran into Saga, our new Indian/Canadian masters student, so watched the show with him. It was a good show, too, not too long but nice and dense. They played disco over the top to celebrate its 30-year anniversary or something, which was OK, although hearing a french-language cover of Peter Allen's "When My Baby Smiles At Me, I Go To Rio" was surreal to say the least. I took some movies with my camera (trade-off: phone has sound, but camera has better resolution), but they're not particularly interesting, and at this point are in need of rotation.

After that, the weekend rolled by as normal. Shopping, WoW, a bit of reading, a couple of games of footy, and the tri-nations win over South Africa.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

forehand wide

Dammit, and dammit to hell.

I finished up the physio sessions on my knee yesterday, and the physio told me in leaving that I was OK to start playing sport again. That was good news.

So I played tennis today. Well, I would have played anyway, but I felt better about playing some singles against Franck. I was hitting the ball OK, too. My serve was out of rhythm despite having been hitting them well in the warmup, and I was stuffing my approaches, but other than that it was fun to be back in the sun and running around. We got to 5-6 and I was serving at 15-15 and went to net to get a simple dropshot. I waited too long on a forehand and pushed a gumby piece of crap into the tramlines and started to shout in frustration when I landed and twisted a little bit on my knee and wound up shouting because my knee hurt like crap.

Since then I've been at pains to walk as its gotten all inflamed again. I left work straight away and came home to put ice on it.

The irony is that yesterday at the physio I was asked to settle up, but didn't have my chequebook, so I was intending to go back this afternoon to finish it off. Off course, I couldn't, because the knee that was fine to play sport on was not, by contrast, fine to carry the weight of a chequebook.

Which would be delicious if only I wasn't a bloody cripple.

Bitter? Two pints please.


It's wonderful to see the continuing use of the word "goolies" in the Australian sports media.

Monday, 10 July 2006

on sporting choice

Here's an observation.

So over the last month or so there's understandably been a lot of talk around our team about soccer. When I got bitter about Australia's loss and then put off by the low scores, play-acting and overly significant contributions of referees in deciding matches, I waged something of a campaign arguing that soccer was a sport with deep flaws, and loudly proclaiming that it was dead to me. All this is very well.

What is interesting is that I have the luxury of doing so, but that my french colleagues do not. The difference in the proliferation of sports between the two countries is startling. Cricket and now aussie rules are easy to follow throughout Australia. Rugby league is easy in its home states of Qld and NSW, and rugby can be followed easily for internationals and on cable for Super-14 games. Soccer is a little trickier with its passing into cable exclusivity, but is still a candidate. There are others like tennis, golf, basketball and periodically swimming, but they're not really major sports.

In France its different. There's soccer, and its everywhere, but after that there's a big, big gap. Rugby is played only in the south, and is to a certain extent limited to the 6-nations and world cup tournaments - the domestic league is OK, but not comparable to Super-14 in strength or depth. Then there are minor sports like basketball, handball, cycling and tennis, the latter two of which have their broader appeal respectively limited to the Tour de France and Roland Garros.

Basically, if a frenchman wanted to abandon soccer, he would have little to turn to beyond perhaps rugby, and then only if he lived in the south. For the rest, there is no choice of national, continuing high-level professional sport, which is really very sad.

I guess the US also has a pretty wide platter, with baseball, gridiron, basketball, hockey and to a lesser extent nascar (though I don't understand the latter's appeal at all) all readily available. Canada has hockey and, I guess, the american sports. New Zealand has rugby, cricket and rugby league. England has soccer and to a lesser extent cricket and rugby. Ireland has soccer, rugby, hurling and gaelic football. By contrast, what I've seen of Italy suggests it has even less choice than France. I wonder what other countries are like. Keeping in mind that major sports tend to be a rich country's luxury, what is the norm on sporting diversity?

Ed: So how'd I go? Did I at least make a reasonable attempt at not being too anti-soccer there?

Update: Rugby is better served in France than I thought by TV coverage, with European cup games shown on free-to-air as well as national team games. Cycling is too, with the summer classics shown on TV as well as the tour de france.

regularly scheduled programming

I was feeling pretty tired Sunday evening, so it was with some reluctance that I strapped my camera to my belt and walked into town to observe the crowds watching the world cup soccer final. Maybe there were good reasons - I was pretty tired, and have become increasingly critical of soccer as a sporting spectacle recently - but I just didn't feel there was any real buzz amongst the masses. There were plenty of people gathered, probably more than the QF against Brazil, but it wasn't jumping like it was the previous week. It was probably more boring as a game, too, which might not have helped. In any case, at the end of regulation time, I was yawning so much (how does that happen?) that I jumped on a metro back to my place. On the walk from the metro I heard the cheers and groans inspired by the penalty shootout (if there is a more arbitrary way of deciding a sporting result, I haven't seen it), culminating in a loan drunken teen yelling in frustration when Barthez failed to stop the final Italian penalty. The streets were as empty as I've seen them during my time in Rennes, and the vibe of walking through deserted streets while one lone yobbo screamed from his balcony was somehow a cool vibe.

Wednesday, 5 July 2006


This was some video I took with my phone (ergo crappy quality) of people shaking a car after the game on Saturday night. It wasn't the most excited point, and I need to learn to keep myself still when I film, but it may give some idea of what it was like. Warning: noisy.


I know, I said I soccer was dead to me, but a very pretty girl invited me to go into town to watch the game against Brazil on Saturday night, which easily dismantled my resistance. The bars had turned televisions out onto the place des Lices, and a few had put stalls out to sell beer and gallettes saucisses. The square was packed with people, and the atmosphere was such that I was happy to momentarily suspend my concern's over the game's dismal aesthetics for the sake of sociological observation.

The game was, in keeping with the nature of the sport, particularly boring from an objective perspective, but everyone went crazy when France scored, and again when the final whistle went. A series of cars tried to drive past in an effort to leave the area, but each was stopped and rocked by revellers. One had its roof jumped on by a particularly enthusiastic and shirtless supporter, a few flares found their way into the bottom of the square by the erstwhile market area. In general though, the crowd remained just narrowly on the safe side of a riot, jumping around to the strains of "on est en demi" (we're in the semi) and "qui ne saute pas n'est pas francais" (anyone not jumping isn't french).

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Just to reiterate...

I stumbled across Afe's album reviews, and was happy to read that he, like me, was shockingly disappointed by Belle & Sebastian's The Boy With The Arab Strap, having had it consistently recommended by sources human and otherwise.

And for Mr Stein's benefit, I reiterate what I may or may not have sufficiently emphasized in previous posts here: The Lucksmiths are living gods of pop, and I am yet to hear their equal for song lyrics (with the possible exception of Mr Zimmerman). No easygoing summer is complete without them. And anyone who persists in mentioning that BS album in the same breath as them will be added, forthwith and courtesy of my good self, to the world encyclopedia of twentieth century murder.

Violently unhappy and happily violent. Sigh.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

the roundball shame

Et c'est pour ca, mes chers amis, que le foot est, et va toujours être, de la merde. May as well toss a goddamn coin. Arbitrary referee decision, game over. And to think I overpaid for two pints during the match. Soccer is dead to me. C'arn the pies, up you Lions, and ooh-aah Glenn McGrath.

Really, though. What sort of sport allows a game like that? 90 minutes with basically nothing happening, then the referee gets thirsty and blows an arbitrary penalty to avoid going for another 30. Pish. Tosh.

Bitter? Yes please, and make it a pint.

Monday, 26 June 2006


A strange weekend, busy in a way, though hardly stressful.

Friday night was football, the "return" game - having gotten Australia through against Croatia, we then got France through against Togo. Like their previous games, France dominated general play but had real difficult getting shots, and fingernail were being bitten at half-time. In the second half, though, Vieira stepped up and the 2-0 result was merited and sufficient to get them through to play Spain. The evening was good fun, too, with Erwan & Manu, Arnaud, and Erwan's parents all in attendance.

On Saturday I trotted around to Avenir (how many times have I written that?) for their "fête du basket". From 10am, we played some inter-generational games, plus a whole bunch of little challenges like 3-point and free-throw contests, dunk contests (for all ages, including the little kiddies - poussins - on little plastic hoops) and dribbling challenges. I actually won myself a basketball on one of the latter, which surprised me. I was less successful in the real games, but it was fun to run up and down and try to get the little kids involved. In the evening we had a dinner, and I had a good chat with Ashu, Sandy, Arnaud, Soso, and others. Through the day I also met Jean-Paul and Maxine, whose daughter plays with the cadettes (or minimes, not sure), as well as a couple of other people from around the club.

Sunday, by contrast, was consecrated to WoW. I had an epic day, with a bunch of SM runs in the morning which got me to lvl38, then a poorly organised but invigorating SS raid where I racked u 50HK to help my feeble PVP rating. In the evening, Ashu came round to borrow my internet connection, in order to finish his webpage assignment. He asked for help a few times, but I had little to add in a constructive sense to a project based on Dreamweaver and making liberal use of flash. So, in order not to interrupt his work, I kept playing with a long, long run at Uldaman with a bunch of hunters, by the end of which I hit 39. The Ulda run was particularly fun, even though we wiped a bunch of times. We came within a whisker of finishing the main boss, too, but the lack of a true tank to hold aggro really hurt us. At 38, I was a little underpowered, but I can punch well above my weight as a primary healer, so got a few compliments and a new guild for my troubles.

And that was the weekend that was. Today its off to test my knee with a little tennis (basketball on Saturday was touch and go), then hopefully to a bar somewhere in town to watch the Australia game.

Friday, 23 June 2006

job market

It feels like I'm falling into the job market tous d'un coup. I got a request to send a CV off to someone last week, then an ad for a post-doc popped up the other day, and today I see that NICTA are looking for a researcher in SE. They all involve interesting topics in which I have a bit of experience, too, which is reassuring in terms of the job market not being as glum as I thought it might have been. At the same time, they probably need attention in the next few weeks which, from the perspective of both time preparing applications and mental energy expended, is not likely to help my PhD progress in the short term.


I last night donned my wallabies jersey (subtle comment on soccer's role in Australian sport) and one of the tattoos my sister sent me last year (where else am I going to use them?), and rocked around to Erwan & Manu's place with Arnaud and Nono to watch the Australia-Croatia derby (10 players with conflict of interest, I believe).

The star of the show was obviously the pillock of a referee, but generally highlights included:
- Joe Simunic showing his Australian upbringing by executing a textbook rugby tackle on Mark Viduka, yet somehow not being penalised
- A croation defender executing a textbook aussie rules spoiling punch in the area yet not being penalised
- Tugging and general buffoonery all night long in both penalty areas, almost totally ignored by aforementioned pillock and his buddies on the sidelines
- Zeljko Kalac playing out his worst nightmare by almost throwing the ball in his own goal off a corner then finishing the job off a tame shot in the second half
- Joe Simunic getting a second yellow card, but deciding that it was a fun game anyway, and continuing to play until getting a third yellow and belated red after the final whistle, in turn brought about by
- Pillock looking Joe in the eyes and saying to himself, "Hang on, I've been booking this guy all night long, what's he still doing here? Crap, I'd better blow full time, even if the Aussies are about to score and settle this thing beyond doubt"

Englishmen should not be given whistles anywhere outside of a dance party.

I'm not sure I've seen a more chaotic game in any sport. On the balance of possession and chances, I'd say Australia certainly deserved to qualify and probably should have won the match, but you have to wonder how that sort of bordelle can happen at this level.

Tonight its back to the scene of the crime to watch France vs Togo, featuring the much anticipated battle between a french attack featuring Henry (Arsenal) & Trezeguet (Juventus) against 4 blokes who play respectively in the french 6th league, the cypriot league, the belgian second division, and without a club.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

wet de la musique

Today is the solstice, which here means the fête de la musique, wherein street performers flock to street corners to beat on drums, strum guitars and generally make noise. I missed the first year I was here, but last year had a pretty good time wandering around Toulouse with Juan, Chris and Mick watching groups of varying styles and abilities beat out their tunes. I'm pretty keen to do the same here in Rennes tonight, but for the moment its looking miserable outside, which makes a foot-tour of the centre-ville pretty unappealing. I'll have to see if I can rustle up some company...

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

here come the blow-ins again ...

We had the first wave of visitors a couple of weeks ago. Robert France, Sudipto Ghosh and Trung Dink Trung from Colorado State spent a week here and there were numerous meetings talking about all manner of things, both research and administration (plotting for grant monies).

The second wave arrives today. A chap called Diego from Spain arrives for a couple of months, to be joined by his boss in a couple of weeks. Then we have Iman coming over from London for week or so, as well as a new Indian Masters student, a new engineer from England, and a visit from an Aussie, Greg O'Keefe, for a couple of weeks in August.

Busy, busy, busy.

Monday, 19 June 2006

there's nothing i like more ...

... than having nothing much to do

round and round

So on Thursday night there was a dinner at the foyer. It was the usual crowd, a propos a few - the basketball chicks, Erwan & Manu, Katrin, who I hadn't seen in a while, and most importantly Ashu as cook. We had some bbq'd tandoori chicken and another chicken curry, which was all pretty good. It was also kind of farewell for Liz before heading over to Vancouver for summer. Good craic.

On Friday I had lunch with Tortue and Liz in town, which was nice. Later in the afternoon I went for my second (and first proper) pyhsio appointment. He put me through a bunch of exercises designed to make my knee work under some static pressure, which also put my lower calf and quad muscles to good work. He seems pretty confident I'll be back running around in short time, which is good.

I had grand plans to do, like, "stuff", on Saturday, but mice, men, and all that. Mostly I just bummed around, watched football, played FIFA. And sweated. It has turned hot all of a sudden here, and even sitting around in a singlet, I was in stuck-pig mode for not insignificant intervals. On Sunday I got off my bum a bit, did some shopping, had some lunch and headed out on the bike (having received the OK from the physio on Friday) with my iPod. I rode up to Betton and back along the canal, by pedometer 33-odd km, by bike computer about 35. Interestingly, its my hip flexors that get tired/sore with cycling, not my quads as it probably should be.

After my ride I wandered by the braderie (giant communal garage sale) around the corner and caught up with Erwan, who was manning a stall with his brother-in-law Bernard and father-in-law Thierry. After a brief family meeting, we headed over to Bertrand's (brother-in-law) place, just 100m or so from mine, to meet Arnaud and watch the Australia-Brazil game. Australia played OK, and probably didn't deserve to lose by 2 goals, but could not claim to have earned a win. Brazil were underwhelming. After that we headed back to Manu's parents place, 200m from mine in the other direction (small world), for an apero before the france game. To recap, participants included: myself, Manu & Erwan, Arnaud, Manu's sister and husband, Manu's mum & dad, grandma, and 3 little ones asleep upstairs. We had dinner, a summery help-yourself type thing with salad and cold meats, and watched the france game, with Erwan, Arnaud and Bernard particularly on edge. France were unlucky to draw, but were nonetheless unconvincing in attack, and fatigued noticably towards the end of the match. Why Domenech waited until the 90th minute to put in subs for a tired Zidane and an ineffective Henry, is beyond me.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006


The accents of frenchmen speaking English make baby Jesus cry.


I went along to the physio this afternoon for my first session on my knee. She applied ultrasound, and some sort of electrical pads that made something in my knee quiver, and some cream that made it all cold for a good half hour. Funky. Back on Friday.

Monday, 12 June 2006

in the wars

Silly boy.

So last night was the chanteloup basketball tournament. Tortue booked me in a few months ago, so as well as really looking forward to playing, I kind of felt obligated to play. I shouldn't have, probably.

My knee was feeling a little better, kind of. It wasn't troubling me to walk, but at the same time I pretty much knew it couldn't take weight. I was resolved to take it easy and not jump into things, and I managed for about a game and a half. In the second game I grabbed a rebound in a crowd and got wrapped up, and it hurt. I slowed down, subbing in and out of the next couple of games. Unfortunately, we made the final, and Jim got excited. We got out on a fast break and Soso threw a nice pass that I really liked the look of. Unfortunately, trying to drag it in, I landed and saw my knee kind of buckle a little, and I went down, well, like a sack of shit. And it hurt. I'm limping today, and its a little swolen. I'm icing it, but my freezer is scheisenhausen, so I'm on a pretty slow cycle.

Doctor Monday morning. Crap on a stick.

Update: Sprained (but not ruptured/torn) LCL ( think, not ACL as I previously wrote), with maybe a pinched meniscus. Anti-inflammatories, ice, and some physio sessions.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

roland garros

Roland Garros is on, and it looks like they might get the top 4 men's seeds into the semis, provided Ljubicic can get past the last best french hope, Benneteau, this evening.

Everyone seems to love Rafael Nadal, but I reckon he's boring. To me, he's pure claycourt, Sergi Bruguera with speed and endurance. I respect that he's effective, but until he starts playing some attacking tennis rather than just waiting for the other guy to hit an errant shot or come to net, I don't see myself enjoying watching him play.

Its just a style thing. So many people say that grasscourt tennis is boring, but I have a suspicion that there is about an equivalent amount of attacking tennis between grass and clay. Its just that in grass, the non-attack time is spent serving and walking between points, whereas on clay its banging the ball back up and down the court without trying to create or force anything. I'd rather watch Ivanisevic than Muster, any day of the week. Perhaps that's because I've served a few balls in my time and reckon I'm pretty good at it, and realise that it has much more to do with technique and placement than with being tall and strong, as grasscourt critics often claim.

Its also partly a preference for serve-volley tennis (dying or perhaps dead with the fall from grace of Henman), although i'm also a big fan of players like Agassi and Hewitt, baseliners who truly play and attack from the baseline rather than defending a few meters behind it, like your classic clay-courters.

Above all, I need to get out and hit some balls.

for my greater edifilmcation

Still trying to work my way through, or at least into, IMDB's top 250 films. Last night it was quintessential western, with Gary Cooper in High Noon. Classic. Tonight it was quintessential dystopia, with Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Bent, surreal, and very cool.

Despite all my best efforts, I don't seem to be able to advance in my count, though. At one point last year I hit 157/250, but now, even with those two, I'm back to 153. Only one thing for it.

Monday, 5 June 2006

no more listlessness

The end of listless Warcraft weekends came, small surprise, via a list. I made one up Saturday morning, with a dozen or so things that needed doing, and managed to cross off half of them or so by the end of the day. I made a DVD up for Em's music needs, cleaned up my bookshelf a bit, mailed off a few letters that needed sending, did my shopping, called Mum and Dad, and finished off the day with a lamb roast (my gravy chops are wanting, it seems). I did still get a little WoW in, but in most reasonable proportions.

Sunday was going a similar way, when I got a text from Sandy to come and hang out at the beach for the afternoon. Perfect plan, since for the first time the weekend had offered up not only t-shirt, but shorts weather. So, I went and lay on the Rennes beach (such as it is) for a couple of hours chatting and getting just a little bit of sunburn.


I went over to Sandy's place on Friday night for drinkies with the Avenir girls. This time, perhaps for the first time, I was the only bloke there, among a dozen or so from Avenir. Its interesting the change from my Brisbane social life, which was dominantly male to quite a strong extent (caveat: less so towards the end with Julz, Kylie and a few others). Turns out Sandy is off to Vancouver for a year next month, visa permitting.

Wednesday, 31 May 2006


A first glance out my windows reveals that its snowing. A second reveals that the tree beside, heavily laden with flowers, has begun to unload its burden into the wind, leaving white petals to float past and distract from what I should be doing. Summer is coming.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006


I jarred/twisted/hyperextended/something'd my knee today at basketball. Perhaps I came down and it locked instead of bending, I don't know, but it hurt. I limped/walked/jogged/ran it off, but contesting a rebound it twinged again, so I abandoned and walked back to Irisa. I asked about ice at the cafeteria, but the best they could do was a vanilla drumstick. After 15 minutes it wasn't feeling cold, so I ate it. Far too much chocolate for it to be an effective medical stopgap, I think.

I'm supposed to be playing in chanteloup next Friday, hope this doesn't affect that.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Between countries

In the spirit of May, a month jammed full of weeks shortened by public holidays, I took Wednesday off as RTT to give me a 5-day weekend in Basel with Chris. I caught a couple of trains to Paris and then Basel, leaving Rennes around midday and getting to CH that night. Chris was waiting and we headed back to his place for some swiss bread, french cheese, and australian red.

On Thursday we jumped on a train out to Rheinfelden, just east of Basel, and wandered around there for a while, including across the bridge to Germany for a coffee. It was my first time in that country, and I was struck again by just how easy it is to go between countries in Europe.

This was highlighted in the afternoon. We trained back to Basel, and jumped on a no. 10 tram, which Chris assured me had delights stored at the end of its route. Of course, the 10 has one stop, the second-last, which is actually in France, which meant that in the space of perhaps 3 hours we had passed from Switzerland to Germany, back to Switzerland, into France, and back into Switzerland again. Trippy. Anyway, the delights at the end consisted of a walk up a hill along a track marked with the stations of the cross. Alas, our faith was insufficient, and we made some turns near the end that denied access to whatever paradise awaited the true believers. Typical :) Still, it was a nice stroll.

On Friday it was back to France, on a day trip to Colmar, a small fairly touristy town in Alsace, about 40 minutes ride from Basel. We spent a few hours wandering around the old town, saw the canals and stuff.

Saturday started slowly, and it was after midday by the time we got out. Chris called Anjum, who had bought a new phone, so Chris was obliged to go out and get one for himself, which he duly did. That in hand, we jumped on a train down to Bern, changing in Olten and stopping on the second leg for a walk around Burgdorf, a very pretty, very clean, and above all very quiet little town just outside of Bern, with a nice castle overlooking a river and a newly renovated church. In Bern we made a beeline for Pickwicks and met up with Dave. From there we followed a path I suspect well-trodden by both, to Neal's, Papa Joe's, Les Amis, past Peri and down to Turnhalle. In keeping with tradition, much of the conversation throughout centred on the fairer sex, and it's obvious why. Bern just has a concentration of beautiful women that is above and beyond that of other cities I've been to. Its really not fair.

Ah. Anyway, after all that I caught my trains home to Rennes on Sunday. SNCF did their best to screw me around with delays, but I got there eventually. I think a little time not travelling will do me good at this point.