Tuesday, 29 January 2008

return to poly-sport

In my previous life in Brisbane, I was a sporting scattershot. I played regular tennis, and at various times also got into almost-weekly pickup basketball, regular golf, lunchtime indoor soccer, and anything else that was going. This disappeared in France, with only a brief period of basketball training, and another of sporadic tennis, to accompany my regular cycling.

My return to Australia, too, has thus far been light on sport. I've had a few games of tennis with Matt, and a few games of golf with Dad, but nothing to build a base of fitness or noticable acquisition or development of skills. This was accompanied, surely not coincidentally, by a realisation that my days of never worrying about my weight or physique, may be over. When I weighed myself over Christmas, I was 5kg heavier than the previous measure (which was admittedly a long time ago), and had the beginnings of a belly.

One of my main new year's resolutions, then, was to rediscover my previous sporting habits. I resolved to make sure I got 12 games of tennis, 12 games of golf, and 1000km of cycling done over the year. The tennis is going OK, with 2 outings (although I'm only counting it as 1 game, since the first outing was cut short by lights failure). I've had 1 game of golf (albeit only 9 holes), and my bike counter is reading 70km (of which 20km is probably from the end of last year).

Also, this weekend was positive for diversity. On Saturday, a bunch of us wandered along to Moorooka Bowls Club for barefoot bowls. There was barefoot dancing on the next green, but we basically bowled for a few hours, in various configurations of players and seriousness. On Monday, after a barbeque at Neil & Sandy's place for Australia day [sic], Andy and I filled in for their beach volleyball team, which was lots of fun, although a little less technical than the volleyball I'd played in the past. In the midst of that, I also got an invitation from Dave to play indoor soccer on Thursday nights, for which, with my new resolution in mind, I expressed my enthusiasm. Once I add tennis fixtures to the mix, I should be back into a the rhythm I once enjoyed.

Southern climes, again

Having started my new job just a scant week previous, last week our team trooped down to Melbourne. The purpose of the journey was to learn what we had really signed up for, taking over the code from CSIRO, both that which we are superseding, and that which form the firmament upon which we will build.

The work aspect of the week was good. We had 3 and a half very intense days talking with the previous developers, learning the nooks and crannies of the code. We also had a half day with the current and potential industrial partners, about the directions in which we might go, both technically and in a business sense.

The non-work aspect of the week was also really successful in the end. We were put up in nice digs, at the Oaks on Lonsdale; I was in an apartment probably as big as the one in which I live. What made the trip worthwhile, though, was that I didn't spend much time there.

On Tuesday night I popped around to Kris' place in Brunswick, for dinner with him and his girlfriend Lizzie. We had a great evening, very easy conversation. I get on well with Kris.

Before leaving, I had gone online and a bought a ticket for the Wednesday night session of the tennis. When I arrived outside Rod Laver arena, though, I looked at my ticket and was horrified to see that it was for the day session. I lay on the grass for 15 minutes or so, just cursing my carelessness and wondering what I would tell those to whom I'd boasted that I was going to see Federer play.

I wandered over the ticket office, by this stage a gathering point for people hoping (mostly in vain) to score tickets to the sold out session, to confirm that I had stuffed up, and if so whether there might be any tickets left I might buy. The lady was very nice, took some ID and presumably went away to check that my day session ticket had not, in fact, been used. At her urging, I hung around for about 10 minutes while she apparently worked on my behalf to find a ticket. When she did, she asked me not to appear to triumpant, or everyone would want one, but I thanked her heartily and wandered inside. In the end, I ended up with a really good seat - far better than the one I had bought - and had a great time watching a fairly good match of singles (Federer-Blake) and most of a match of doubles (Bryan/Bryan vs Bhupathi/Knowles). That I was so lucky to be there made it much more special.

To that ticket lady, whoever you are, you made my week, and I can't thank you enough :)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

how does my garden grow?

my garden, originally uploaded by jsteel.

I have something of a checkered history with growing plants. Nonetheless, my dearest mum has kindly supplied me with herbs and other plants for my balcony. She did the same when I moved in, but the only survivors are a peace lily and the chives (both of which are thriving, it has to be said).

In our last drive down, I was supplied with a pot of baby spinach, which is also doing very well, and some basil, which had a brief episode with a caterpillar, but since then is looking strong. There was also some thyme, but it has gone brown at an alarming rate, and I'm doubtful as to whether it will see out the month.

So, for the benefit of my nursery operator/mother, here is the current (actually a day or two ago) state of my garden.

Monday, 7 January 2008

storms in an SCG-cup

The reason I'm back to blogging probably has a lot to do with the second test match having finished in Sydney yesterday. I basically missed out on the three first days, ironically because I was down in Sydney on holidays, but I saw a bit on Saturday, and lots yesterday.

The match was very exciting. Anyone who says differently, and I'm talking about Spanky Roebuck here, is full of crap. There were some real heroes on the day, from Hussey and Symonds building Australia's total, to Dravid, Ganguly, Kumble and Harbhajan who held out so well on a difficult pitch, to Michael Clarke who bowled well when it was finally demanded of him.

The umpiring was bad. I didn't see the decisions on the first first few days, but from what I hear they were pretty rotten, and Dravid's dismissal on the final day was a shocker, and was compounded by its importance. The Australians were excited, and the clip of the pad would have sounded like a nick to them in the heat of the moment, but Bucknor had to be better than that, and he wasn't. The bat was behind the pad, and although that's not a tactic I like (pretending to be playing a shot to avoid LBWs), Bucknor should have seen it for what it was.

The two catches with sniffs of dirt on them, by Clarke to dismiss Gangles, and by Ponting in an unsuccessful appeal for bat-bad against Dhoni, were handled properly. Ponting's was fairly caught, but there was reasonable doubt about whether the ball had hit the glove. Clarke's was close, but I've seen no replay which contradicts his claim that he caught it fairly on the first grab, and mumblings about his roll are just stupid.

Overall though, the Indians got a bum run with the umps, and deserve to say so. They've done themselves no favours, though, in immediately asking for them (and Bucknor particularly) to be stood down for future matches. The rules say they have no right to influence umpiring appointments, which is entirely correct, and if they'd waited a day or two then the ICC could have stood the umpires down of their own volition. Now that the Indians have requested it, though, the ICC's hands are tied. If they stand them down, the'll be seen to be bowing to Indian pressure, but they can't really let them continue after their performance in Sydney.

Harbhajan's suspension for racial abuse is a real shame, but he has no-one to blame but himself. Regardless of whether 'monkey' is a racial slur in India, it was made quite clear to the Indians in September that it was thought to be as such by the Australians. After that, there is no defense for having used the term. He might get his suspension knocked down on appeal though; I reckon 1 or 2 tests is more on the money.

Kumble covered himself in glory in the match, with both bat and ball, but stripped himself of it when he started questioning the Australians' approach to the game. The claim is baseless, and just comes off as hypocrisy coming from the team whose player has been quite rightly suspended for racial abuse. If he wants to make claims like that, then he needs to condemn Harbhajan's behaviour first. In reality, his real gripe should be with the umpires.

Its a real shame that all this crap interfered with the test, which was otherwise a pretty great contest.


Sandy has been out from France for the last 3 weeks, but had been staying out with friends in Cleveland, which is unfortunately a long way from anywhere else. On Monday she came into town and we hung out, before going to a couple of New Year's parties in the evening: a BBQ at Dave's in Paddington, and then dinner and drinks at Southbank with Chad, Mirri, Craig, etc.

On Wednesday, Sandy and I got up early and flew down to Sydney. The move proved wise. Brisbane had been pretty inclement weather-wise for the whole of Sandy's stay, but Sydney turned on some glorious weather. On Wednesday we walked around town, from Central station through Hyde Park, then around through the botanic gardens to the opera house, and through the Rocks to Darling Harbour. In the evening we headed out to Pymble to stay with Dave, a family friend of Sandy's.

On Thursday we did the beach thing. Manly beach was beautiful, but closed to swimming due to dangerous surf, but we had a lie on the beach, then moved to Shelly beach and then the inside beach for a dip and some more sun. I collected rather too much, and have some nasty red bits on my back and feet now. In the evening we headed to Andrew's place for a barbeque, which was lots of fun, both in terms of seeing their apartment, meeting Steven, and just hanging out with them for a while.

On Friday we again did the beach thing, this time heading out to Bondi, which was open. We didn't swim, though, just walking along the beach, then up and around the cliffs towards Bronte. We spent a while watching some surfers trying to get out to the big break off Tamarama. It took them a good half-hour to get out there, and in the half an hour we watched after that, they weren't able to catch any waves. To end the little holiday, we caught up with Dave in Darling Harbour before heading out to the airport and home.

a month is a long time in the blogosphere

I figured I hadn't blogged since around Christmas, but in fact it has been longer than that. Its been an interesting time.

I finished as a NICTA employee on the 21st of December. In fact, I took some leave after that and was on the books until Friday just gone, making it a neat 6 months since I had started. In the end, I just decided that the research wasn't interesting enough to me, and I missed the challenging software engineering problems that I'd faced previously, and that I hope to face in my new position, at QUT, which I start next week.

Liberated of work, I headed up to Toowoomba for a week over Christmas. I played 3 rounds of golf with Dad, shooting 99 at Borneo, 44 for 9 holes at Goombungee, and 101 at Middle Ridge. Every now and then, I look like I know what I'm doing with a golf club in my hands, but lack of practice makes those moments a little too few and far between for me to shoot good scores. One of my new year's resolutions is to make sure I play golf at least 12 times this year. In between golf, I watched a lot of cricket, bought myself a new bike, and just generally made the most of some family time. Lee was up, and with Mum and Dad we headed down to Mullum for Christmas to have lunch with Granny and Andy.

Last Saturday I headed back to Brisbane. First commitment was Gav's birthday dinner at Kedron Park, which was fun. The next day I went out for a hit of tennis with Matt down at New Farm Park. He beat me comfortably in the first set, and I hit the wall physically, but found a sort of second wind to come back and pinch the second set. Another of my new year's resolutions is to play at least 12 games of tennis (although if I pull my finger out and register for fixtures, that will be easily done).