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.