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.