peteg's blog

Condensed milk and espresso is not your friend.

/noise/cafes | Link

... when you're still wired at 2am. I drove back from Orange tonight and figured I'd get caffeinated in Katoomba around 9pm. The Mountain Ridges cafe on Katoomba Street does an espresso with (too much) condensed milk, I forget what they call it. Not quite Vietnamese, but getting there.

Virgin Mobile Broadband: it just works on everything but Mac OS X.

/hacking | Link

Coles was (and maybe still is) flogging these crappy Virgin Mobile-branded Huawei E160E modems for $24.50 (half-price), with 4Gb of data included. I figured that the modem is obsolete and hence probably well-supported, and while it is presumably locked to the Optus network, I could probably swap to a better Optus reseller or unlock it without too much hassle.

It turned out to be easy enough to get going under Windows XP, using the drivers on the modem. Similarly under Debian the default option driver does the trick, with some hackery of the chat script/ppp options. Mac OS X put up a fight though: the included drivers work fine (they're pretty generic anyway), but the included chat script was garbage. Maybe that Java monstrosity took care of all of that, I don't know. Once I twigged, patching in the relevant things from Debian did the trick.

Unscientifically, in Orange under Debian I initially got:

  apt-get install ...
  ...
  Fetched 42.9 MB in 13min 56s (51.3 kB/s)

Not terrible, but a long way from the 3.6Mbps (HSDPA, not HSUPA) this modem is capable of. Apparently the Optus network is saturated with tennis traffic, and Virgin supposedly massively oversubscribe anyway. Later it completely fell apart; under Mac OS X I got 11kbps sorts of speeds, i.e. slower than dialup, and similarly under Debian. Maybe I'm on the GPRS/GSM/EDGE/slowarse network. It doesn't bode well for mobility.

Update 2010-02-01: Back in Sydney I get about 2Mbps according to Oz Broadband Speed Test, and it does feel snappy.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Headed down to Cape Banks in the mid-afternoon with Rob. Perfect day for it, hot, and the water is still a little cold with some warm currents. Some randy couples around. We didn't see much until we got to the shallows near the beach. This little guy was very inquisisitive, and Rob almost stepped on this flathead that was sitting in about 50cm of water. We also saw a sea snail of some kind but the photos didn't come out so well.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Another after-work snorkel at Gordons Bay. I saw the big blue groper in some fairly shallow water but the photos weren't so great. The water is clearing up, I guess.

The Fighter

/noise/movies | Link

Marky-Mark Wahlberg stars in something of a return for him to Boogie Nights; he does the lower class aspirational thing really well, sincerely. I doubt he'll ever get an Oscar but this is probably his finest outing. In contrast Christian Bale got an Oscar nomination for his completely fake flaked-out rendition of the older brother, but that's just acting, there's no identification in it. It must be tough being professional.

I liked it. The boxing scenes were quite intense, communicated the violence and fascination to all comers (not just enthusiasts). Amy Adams does a solid job but ends up a little empty as she's too business-like. In some ways this is a lot like Trainspotting, but being set in America, it isn't much of a comedy but more a tragedy.

Dana Stevens loved it, as did Paul Byrnes. It is already parked at #211 in IMDB's top-250.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

After-work snorkel at Gordons Bay, off the scuba ramp. The water is weird, a bit cold at the shore with some warm currents further out. Saw heaps of fish: some fairly mature blue gropers, a cuttlefish (purple-ish, maybe 50cm long, big eyes and a skirt), a stingray, and a feeding frenzy of a school of black fish and some vertically-striped silver guys.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Midday snorkel at Long Bay. The water was cloudy and there was heaps of junk at the boat ramp. Didn't see much, really just in it for the exercise. Perfect weather for it, ballpark 30 degrees, a little choppy on the water.

Les diaboliques

/noise/movies | Link

Parked at #183 on the IMDB top-250. Clouzet (and wife Vera) also made Wages of Fear, which I preferred. This one is Hitchcock with the sideline characters of Shakespeare. It's fine as far as it goes.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Early evening snorkel at Little Bay, the place to get your wedding pictures taken. Lots of floatsam in the water, but fairly clear despite that. Didn't see much as the tide was out and it got a bit rough past the rocks.

Watchmen

/noise/movies | Link

A bit more unsettling the second time around. The mutated ending felt more forced.

High Noon

/noise/movies | Link

#139 in IMDB's top-250. I didn't get it, and moreover I was waiting for a twist that never came. Grace Kelly is very severe here, as is Gary Cooper.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Late afternoon snorkel at Little Bay. Quite a few people there as one would expect, and the water was pretty cloudy after the recent rain (somewhere in Sydney). Didn't see much. It got a bit rough out past the rocks.

The Godfather: Part III

/noise/movies | Link

The Ugly Tuco has graduated from scamming bounties to growing olives and tomatoes in the old age of a Don. Sofia is irritating. I can't see a Part IV even though this serves little other purpose than to make that possible.

The Godfather: Part II

/noise/movies | Link

Robert De Niro got an Oscar for this, his least Robert De Niro acting effort: it's a long way from here to the Fockers.

The Godfather

/noise/movies | Link

Unfortunately superior to its successors, maybe because Brando is such a huge presence.

True Romance

/noise/movies | Link

A Tarantino script for an ensemble cast. Walken and Hopper have a lot of fun here, as do Slater and Arquette. Oldman was born for this role, and so forth.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

/noise/movies | Link

The plot never stays with me but the cinematography does. Van Cleef is awesome but underused, perhaps true of all of Leone's actors, even in films as long as this one.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Early evening snorkel at Cape Banks. I figured it'd be the least polluted spot after the recent rains. Simon Z at NICTA reckoned there's more fish straight after a rain and I think he's right. The water was a bit cloudy but much warmer than my previous visits. I am sure it was unwise swimming so soon after the rain.

Paul Mitchell: Dodging the Bull

/noise/books | Link

Yeah, Mitchell-from-Melbourne has great technique. His stories tend to be a bit too cleverly transgressive, and so lose their bite; for example, that one of the stories is about some born-again gays is revealed after a couple of pages, masterfully, but the rest of that piece is rife with cliché, or at least normativity, as it must be given that he doesn't have the space to pull these tricks twice. Thematically he recurringly treats the domestic violence due to returned fathers and its accompanying stereotypical quietism, as well as the fragility of men. His small-town stories suffered similarly from tired underbellies lending ambience but not presence. Often I was left dangling, feeling I'd missed the point; cryptic crossworders might not blink at inferring paedophilia from mentions of a descriptionless young lass and a damaged older gent rubbing his groin in front of some sparrows, I don't know.

McPhee definitely plucked the story most interesting to me, and as it is one of his more recent efforts, we can hope for more good stuff from him in the future.

Xavier Herbert: Capricornia

/noise/books | Link

Last time I saw them, Jacob and Barb mentioned that they'd read this, and spoke so glowingly of the language I just had to give it a go. I haven't read many of these classic Australian literary works, scarred by the neo non-classic Maestro in HSC English. I was fortunate to dig a copy out of the UNSW Library, proving that it's not just a café afterall.

The opening chapter is a blistering tragicomic account of an exploitative frontiersman arriving in an Aboriginal nation and demanding the services of the locals, specifically their women, for him and his Aboriginal company. In that Herbert neatly expresses so much of what can be misunderstood amongst cultures, as does his rapid anti-decimation (keep one-in-ten) of the tribe occupying Port Zodiac (Darwin), which is similarly painful and masterful. The bar is set unendurably high too early, but it is easy to forgive Herbert as he never slips far.

Perhaps Henry Lawson could have written like this if he'd settled somewhere for long enough; this (1938) comes well after Lawson carked it (1922). It is also on the track to Donald Horne's brand of commentary (The Lucky Country), whinging about the general crappiness of the people running the place. They might not be relieved to know that nothing has changed.

I only have two complaints about this book, neither of which kill it: the first is that the plot is lost somewhere in the middle when too much time is spent adjusting the epistemic states of the characters without anything much happening. The second is that the final third or so is a big set piece about how the law is an ass, both in general and specifically in these sorts of places, e.g. due to the impossibility of a jury trial and the pompousness of the rule-of-law minority-of-two (or so). This is a bit tiring.

Conversely I liked the heavy-handed character names, they were quaint. I also enjoyed the lightness of his treatment of the relationship between the Capricornians and the Asians, e.g. the pre-national Indonesia (Java, Papua, Timor), and the Japanese pearlers. I wish the female characters had more heft, as e.g. Heather and Jasmine have pivotal roles but it is unclear what drives them. Marigold is all status but is written out just as she is developing.

Like Hunter S. Thompson's Las Vegas, Capricornia is Herbert's vantage point for watching the wave breaking and rolling back. I'll have to read Poor fellow my country now, I guess.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Little Bay. Not so many people, 11am-ish, parked near the Chapel. 100% cloud cover, high. Saw loads of fish, the usual suspects. A little rough out past the rocks.

Toy Story 3

/noise/movies | Link

Yeah, better again than the second one. Wish I'd seen it in the cinema now. The animation puts the computer effects of Tron Legacy (etc) to shame. Love has been lavished on the script too. Already #26 in IMDB's top-250.

Wordlines: Contemporary Australian Writing selected by Hilary McPhee

/noise/books | Link

Patchy, as all collections are. McPhee's introduction starts strong as she reflects on her return to Australia after three years in the Middle East; from the dust of Amman to being repelled by Australian "affluence, food fetishism and the politics of spin." I wish she'd kept on with that, as her summaries of the works of others contained herein are a bit pointless when they are so short and immediately available.

Not much really stood out for me, but I will be keeping an eye out for Drusilla Modjeska's Papuan novel when it's cooked — what's here is not quite enough to satisfy. Paul Mitchell struck a cord with his tale about the extra-suburban dwellers: those not in the cities and not in the bush, living neither a majoritarian or dead-Australia romantic life. The other pieces passed the time agreeably enough.

Melbourne is the vein for the whole thing. With all their education and cash, why aren't the bored housewives of Canberra writing this sort of stuff? I expect big things from this parental leave scheme.

Here's a longer review in The Australian.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

I wanted to go for a late-afternoon snorkel somewhere not too crowded. I tried Little Bay only to find it overrun by four-wheel-drives (SUVs? are we American yet?) parked on the footpaths, and drivers not prepared to let me get out of their way. Good to see that Sydney drivers have already decided to continue their unfailing rudeness into the new year / decade. I guess politeness is not a very stable equilibrium.

Anyway I made it down to Cape Banks without incident, although the traffic around La Parouse was even more insane. The water there remains a bit cool, but not as bad as it was, and maybe a little less cloudy than I usually find it. I didn't see much beyond the usual suspects.