peteg's blog

Hilmer goes world class at UNSW.

/noise/politics | Link

Continuing in his bid to win the hearts and minds of the working classes, Professor Fred Hilmer has announced a slash and burn policy for the general staff at UNSW. I might suggest — cynically, some may say, after the CSE redundancies — that the academics' union is just too strong for the central admin to try this stunt on them, and that the sackings will cost more than forecast, the reduction targets will be over-reached, and we'll have a new bunch of frown-lined faces working fifty-percent harder... after a bout of corporate amnesia.

The general staff union proposes that the uni normalise the ratio of general to academic staff by employing more academics. I appreciate their humour.

Professor Fred Hilmer has already spent the money on buying school leavers. I guess this is what happens when the feds shape the market with a bums-on-seats policy.

Kingsley Amis: Lucky Jim.

/noise/books | Link

Here Kingsley is so evidently the coy predecessor of his son in his commission of sex, drugs and proto-rock'n'roll to enliven what is really a Wodehouse-esque tale of some fairly prosaic academicians. Not bad, just dated.

Team America

/noise/movies | Link

Wow, what a masterpiece. A guest-pacifier at Peodair, Tim and Marilyne's place in North Carlton.

Thank You for Smoking

/noise/movies | Link

At the Village Jam Factory in South Yarra. I liked the (cough) moral flexibility, but I think it would have worked better as a mockumentary — the narrative arc got a bit irritating at times, and most of the funny bits had already made it into the shorts.

Cosi by the Victorian Opera

/noise/music | Link

Bel was part of the chorus, and so furnished me with an excuse to trip down to Melbourne and (finally) go to the opera. Ticketek sold me a "B" reserve ticket that looked fine on the seating plan but was in fact completely missing a view of the surtitles. I think Tim and Rumiko, Peodair and Rachel fared better in that regard.

The opera itself was well-performed, at least as far as I could judge. The plot was terrible and I'm sure that if I could have read the surtitles I would have a thing or two to say about it.

Brick

/noise/movies | Link

At the purported 9:10pm screening (more like 9:40pm after the ads) at the Bondi Greater Union with Rob. Excellent, great actors, the cinematography is top-notch, the setting beautifully recorded. Go armed for some pacey dialogue.

Martin Amis: Money

/noise/books | Link

Not as good at The Rachel Papers, I reckon. Indeed, I can't see how anyone would think this is his best effort; perhaps the tawdriness of the nouveau riche was novel in 1982, but Will Self captured the effects of Thatcherism much better in Junk Mail (albeit after-the-fact): p17, apropos of the London drug trade:

It's an ethic of enlightened self-interest that isn't that dissimilar to any other rapacious free market where young men vie with one another to possess and trade in commodities. And, after all, isn't that what Mrs T wanted us to do? Tool around London in our Peugeot 205s and Gold GTis, cellular phones at the ready, hanging out to cut the competitive mustard.

Martin Amis: The Rachel Papers

/noise/books | Link

mrak is leaving for Qatar so I stole a bunch of books from his shelf. This, Martin Amis's first book, is much better than the others of his that I've read.

Fanboy #2 goes to Yvonne Ruve.

/noise/music | Link

At mrak's behest I headed over to warehouse land to catch The Thaw. We missed them a couple of weeks ago at the Gaelic Club due to the venue's management being unimpressed with the punters' drinking abilities. (Disclaimer: the following was written well after the gig.)

Firstly, the venue: Yvonne Ruve is just around the corner from the old Frequency Lab, signposted by a sizeable Manga-style girl-and-cat erotic artwork. (Don't ask, just see it.) Entry to what is just a fairly large room is by "donation" and booze is bring-your-own. The smokers lurk on the open-air gantry-ish corridor outside, and some clean-lungs are lucky enough to park their arses on one of the few couches. Apparently it is already the very fundament of underground Sydney noisemaking.

The crowd were prototypical vampires, apprentice zombies, strongly cliquey, certainly nomadic. Apparently tallness is not in fashion amongst the young; the scant few other punters circa my vintage had significantly better views of the band than the majority.

First up was Rhythm Bell, from Melbourne. I can't remember much apart from their closing cover of Midnight Oil's The Power and The Passion, which was completely out of place, out of time, and probably out of friends — surely no-one there would know that song. They were tight but their own material didn't get me excited.

Next was Radiant City, voice-less, also from Melbourne. I recall thinking that they demonstrated just how inexpressive a lead guitar can be, in spite of some solid underpinnings of drums, bass and sundry other things. I think I spent most of their set flaffing about outside. The toilet sure is an experience.

Finally the main act, The Thaw, from Fairfield train station. They go in for short noisy vignettes, circumscribed almost to the point that their Peter Garrett-esque interlocutions take up more time and mental space than the music. I'm not sure I followed all the logic, and it would have been completely inappropriate if I did. They're tight, the drummer is fab, the guitarists impressive, and I think I missed the point. The set was quite short.

I scored mrak a DVD of The Thaw playing in Melbourne, at Bar Open of all places! Haven't watched it myself, so I remain mystified.

The Dirty Three

/noise/music | Link

After going to see the Dirty Three at the Metro a few weeks ago, I've become a fan. Kingsmill at JJJ put together a hitlist, and dig have a live-in-the-studio. She Has No Strings Apollo and Ocean Songs live in the glovebox. What should be next?

Wow, something useful on Everything2.

Version 1.0: The Wages of Spin

/noise/theatre | Link

I caught a packed re-run of Version 1.0's The Wages of Spin at the dear old Performance Space — one of the last nights before they move to the old Eveleigh rail yards. So very Melbourne, so very saddening.

/noise/music | Link
David Bowie is famous for padding out his albums with filler tracks, but it was only when I tried to listen to Lodger and Low that I realised he has padded out his career with entire filler albums.

Let them burn ethanol, says Howard, but it's not all bad news.

/noise/politics | Link

The best thing about a principled cave-in is that you can get things past the voters that smelt pretty bad last time and concomitantly do some beneficient back scratching.

New Theatre: The Man Who

/noise/theatre | Link

A production somehow related to National Science Week. I've never read anything by Sacks, and this came across as neurological freak show; like the circus, for the curious. Some good acting, especially from the young blokes, but I was generally unpleasantly unsurprised.

The Libertine

/noise/movies | Link

Johnny Depp at his best, Samantha Morton and Malkovich unobtrusively excellent, great supporting cast. At the almost-empty 9:20pm screening at Hoyts Paris Fox Studios.

Whatever You Love, You Are

/noise/music | Link

Bought another Dirty Three album in Newtown, after having one final lunch with mrak before he heads off to Qatar. This one is brilliant, especially the thirteen-and-a-half minute I Offered It Up To The Stars And The Night Sky.

Tom Wolfe: Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine

/noise/books | Link

Not his best work, but what is? The chapter The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening and section Sex and Violence remain interesting to those born well after the chronicled generation, but he answers his own question on why scholars failed to delve into the society parties of the day with the now-disconnected Funky Chic.

Yes, I'm giving Blosxom a go.

/noise/blogging | Link

Venerable NTK had a link to Blosxom back in ... well, let's just say it was many years ago. I remember being horrified by such a masochistic use of perl and instead tried to do something nice in Haskell, a project which has become too time-consuming to maintain. The models are very similar, entry-per-file, but Blosxom uses the file change date to decide where it belongs in the index.

(That last point is resolved by the entries_index plugin that caches the date when the CGI script first sees the entry... necessarily stepping away from the pure filesystem-as-database model.)

I must admit I didn't think perl could be written this readably.

Somewhat annoyingly there are several conflicts in worldview between CSE and Blosxom, the main one being blosxom's view that plugins should not be in URL-able webspace, versus CSE's wisdom of forcing all CGI-accessible things to live in public_html land... but not to worry.

Somewhat surprisingly for such an ancient instance of the blogging program genre there's an active user group. The plugins are groovy and I'm sure they're as insecure as all get-out. How long will it take to get a healthy dose of the blog-clap?

Things to fix:

  • Archives, get rid of list bullets.
  • Categories font.
  • Get images working.
  • Trackback / comments.

Michael Sipser's Theory of Computation

/cs | Link

This book has an excellent introduction to complexity, especially space complexity. Thanks mrak.

The copy in the UNSW Library has already been nicked, it's that good.

Everything is Legal, Anything Goes.

/noise/music | Link

John Schumann, of Redgum fame, has set Henry Lawson's words to music. The Vagabound Crew have impeccable credentials, and it scares the bejesus out of me that the last few CDs I've bought — some by members of this mob — are classified as "folk", "alternative" or lacking genre in the database backing iTunes.

John, characteristically for an old radical, doesn't seem to appreciate that beating the younguns around the head with their own indolence leads only to charges of boomer hypocrisy.

Smullyan's The Riddle of Scheherazade (and other amazing puzzles.

/noise/books | Link

I'll never get around to solving all the puzzles in this book, although they tend to be a lot easier than the ones in his To Mock a Mockingbird. The obsession with coercive logic wears thin after a while.

The Matrix Reloaded.

/noise/movies | Link

Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice.

/choice | Link

A public lecture on Google's new video service (link courtesy of Amir).

Some related links:

This line of argument segues into paternal liberalism, which can be roughly characterised as making the defaults in decision making processes accord with what's taken to be good for you. There's loads of examples, as a quick Google demonstrates; Gordon Smith even-handedly presents a summary of the original paper and immediate responses.

I'm not altogether convinced there's a hell of a lot going on here, apart from pleading for biasing defaults towards social wellbeing rather than government ideology.

Barry is a dead ringer for Al Pacino.

Howard on interest rate rises.

/noise/politics | Link

According to the Smage, John Howard says: "last week's interest rate rise was not something that anybody in the community welcomed". I'm not sure what community he's talking about here, but the mortgage-free money-in-the-bank crowd are cheering, as are those who benefit from the resulting increase in the exchange rate.

Aiming for Leone, achieving Spaghetti.

/noise/movies | Link
The Passenger at the newly refurbished and re-opened Chauvel, with Rob.

NICTA Systems Verification Workshop 2006

/cs | Link

Gerwin has been busy again.

Backups at CSE.

/hacking | Link

I was very proud of myself when I cooked up the following to backup and encrypt my email to CSE's shiny new selfbackup server in a streaming manner. Assuming you've set up GPG and your environment sets $EMAIL and $USER appropriately, this will encrypt a tar archive of ~/Library/Mail using your public key:

tar c ~/Library/Mail/ |
   gpg -e -r $EMAIL |
   ssh selfstore.cse.unsw.edu.au "cat - > /backups/$USER/.mail.gpg &&
      mv /backups/$USER/.mail.gpg /backups/$USER/mail.gpg"

Decryption is just a matter of gpg -d | tar x.

/cs | Link

Professor Comer at Purdue shares his searing insights into the social dimensions of computer science.

Hacks for the shift.

/noise/blogging | Link

Showing how rusty my 37337 sh skills are, here's some things that help to migrate PLog entries to Blosxom:

  • Make PLog entries into Blosxom ones:
    for file in *; do mv $file $file.txt; done
    
  • ... but before that, get blosxom's idea of the date for an entry to match PLog's:
    for file in *; do echo $file |
       touch -t `sed -n "1s/\(....\).\(..\).\(..\)/\1\2\30000/p;"` $file;
    done
    

/noise/music | Link
On mrak's infallible recommendation I plumped for a ticket to the Dresden Dolls at the Roundhouse next month. Still haven't heard a single track.