peteg's blog

Milan Kundera: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

/noise/books | Link

More introspection from the Czech master, a dry run for his four-years-in-the-future Unbearable Lightness of Being. I have to say that Teresa and Sabina resolve into foxier women in the latter than poor Tamina does here.

This is fairly standard territory for him, combining sex, politics, literature and authorial interjection in a ramble about the necessity of memory and the power of laughter. He gets the big quote from the book out of the way on the first page:

It is 1971, and Mirek says that the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

Kundera is never short of an idea or shy in defending one. What sticks in my memory is his characterisation of "the two types of laughter" in The Angels (the first one, p61 in my English translation):


Angels are partisan not of Good, but of divine creation. The Devil, on the other hand, denies all rational meaning to God's world.


Things derived suddenly of their putative meaning, the place assigned to them in the ostensible order of things ... make us laugh. Initially, therefore, laughter is the province of the Devil. It has a certain malice to it (things have turned out differently from the way they tried to seem), but a certain beneficient relief as well (things are looser than they seemed, we have greater latitude in living with them, their gravity does not oppress us).

The first time an angel heard the Devil's laughter, he was horrified. ... [U]nable to fabricate anything of his own, he simply turned his enemy's tactics against him. He opened his mouth and let out a wobbly, breathy sound in the upper reaches of his vocal register ... and endowed it with the opposite meaning. Whereas the Devil's laughter pointed up the meaninglessness of things, the angel's shout rejoiced in how rationally organised, well conceived, beautiful, good, and sensible everything was on Earth.

... And seeing the laughing angel, the Devil laughed all the harder, all the louder, all the more openly, because the laughing angel was infinitely laughable.

Laughable laughter is cataclysmic. And even so, the angels have gained something by it. They have tricked us all with their semantic hoax. Their imitation laughter and its original (the Devil's) have the same name. People nowadays do not even realise that one and the same external phenomenon embraces two ompletely contradictory internal attitudes. There are two kinds of laughter, and we lack the words to distinguish them.

His extended meditation on Litost (ask Google) is quite amusing in a Eurocentric way.

Shifting to

/noise/blogging | Link

Finally got around to buying a domain: $AU33 for three years from the nondescript Website Domains registrar. So far, so unimaginatively kosher. I availed myself of the freebie DNS provided by EveryDNS; they're somewhat limited in the kind of records they'll serve up, but more importantly are apparently reputable.

At the moment I've got Apache running on Debian on my dear old P120 at home, so it's all terribly slow. I feared the 64kbits uplink would sour the deal but Blosxom blindsided me by taking several tens of seconds to render the index pages. perl, gotta love it.

DNS Report has proven useful for linting all that stuff.

The Constant Gardener

/noise/movies | Link

/travels | Link

Trekked around Sydney CBD today, looking for stuff, more successfully than last time. The haul:

  • A Macpac Nautilus tent from Paddy Pallin. It got a good review or two and seemed easy enough to pitch, at least with the help of the lovely young lass in the shop. One of those times when I went in optimistic (and well-researched) and it worked out well.

    Paddy Pallin are having a sale right now so I got it for $AU360 rather than the usual $AU450, bonus. Still seems a lot for two pieces of fabric, some pegs and two collapsible aluminium poles.

  • A car-powered air compressor for air-mattress / lilo-type things.
  • A mobile-phone charger for the car.
  • Camping in Australia (Cathy Savage, Craig Lewis). This was more-or-less what I was after: locations and services, though the details are a bit sketchy. Lonely Planet seems surprisingly disinterested in the less kempt.

Now I just need all those little things: knives, forks, cups, pots, bog roll, ...

It seems that's Systemantics...

/cs | Link

...and my only excuse is that so many others have made the same mistake. To atone I present here law 11, so familiar to those who deal with modern universities:

The bigger the system, the narrower and more specialized the interface with individuals.

The most-recent edition has been renamed to The Systems Bible. I caved in and ordered a copy from Amazon. True to form, it won't be here until sometime in March.

The Black Dahlia

/noise/movies | Link
Hillary Swank enjoys herself mightily in this attempt at 40s noir. Everyone else seems to be labouring. (I think Brick was more successful at imitating the genre.)

Root canal work on Blosxom.

/noise/blogging | Link

I thought I'd try to tidy up a few things in Blosxom, such as the timestamps in comments, get the cookie memory-device going, that sort of thing. While the core and some plugins may be as-tidy-as-perl-can-be, the writeback (comments) one is pretty nasty.

I also tried to fix the formatting of the sidebar. Once again the lack of compositionality of HTML bit me on the arse: some things one can fix by twiddling some CSS in the flavour files, and others require a sift through the perl. To some extent it's a matter of code quality, but also there's the issue of what HTML objects are allowed with what combining forms. For example, the find plugin needs to return a form, so that'll be a div and not a span, thanks.

I guess my next trick will be some kind of functionalisation of my abbreviations plugin, so I can have some default text and also override it as needs be. Next Christmas, for sure.

The Joys of XHTML.

/noise/blogging | Link

The theme I pinched for Blosxom claimed to use an XHTML DTD, and so idly I thought I'd try to make it conform. Yep, a complete waste of time. I naively imagined that XHTML has twenty-first-century tech but in fact everyone's been ignoring it since 1999.

Both Safari and Mozilla seem to deal with it OK. I have no idea if any of this works in Internet Explorer, sorry.

There's a semi-usable packaging of the W3's validator available here. For dynamic content I use curl to grab the page then feed it through as a file. Not very convenient but the less lazy can script it.

I find it ironic that the motivation for XHTML in the Wikipedia article is to make things more anal, purportedly for an efficiency payoff. To my eye it's just XML buzzword compliance, an opportunity to clean up the semantics of the beast squandered on syntactic busy-work.

My pet peeve is that the layout rules are so damn complex when something as semantically simple as a bunch of markup combinators could fix this mess. This tradition in CS goes back at least as far as Henderson's 1982 paper on functional geometry and continues with Lava and pretty printing and many other works. Then, instead of spending an hour finding out that one should lay out a line right-to-left (perhaps, maybe, this week at least), I could just say "title beside search box" and get exactly that!

Heck, this would even be better than CSS: define a bunch of named objects and some way to lay them out explicitly. Completely separate content and presentation, perhaps even a "declarative" layout! Somehow the fundamental notion of compositionality has been MIA here.

Discover Magazine: May the Best Man Lose

/choice/social-choice | Link

An oldie but a goodie about the vagaries of all voting systems, and specifically the one used in US presidential elections.

Helen Garner: Postcards from Surfers

/noise/books | Link

A collection of short stories. I enjoyed Postcards from Surfers and Little Helen's Sunday Afternoon. Her closing The Children's Bach is the best piece of fiction I've yet read by her, but the standard Garner complaints of being a sketchy journal write-up and pedestrian-of-plot apply. Indeed, there are some parallels with Altman's Nashville. She describes Melbourne quite beautifully, though again I wonder how it would strike someone unfamiliar with the city. Her non-fiction has been more to my taste.

Scandinavian Queuing to Bank a Scandinavian Cheque.

/noise | Link
The ANZ branch in Orange has just recently started using the ubiquitous Q-Matic system that lets you sit, rather than stand, while waiting. Ironically I war trying to deposit a skatteverket cheque that was a refund of some long-forgotten ill-gotten earnings. Strangely the cheque came from Citibank and was posted from Singapore.

A pointer to an object is the object.

/noise | Link

What a great piece of reportage from the Smage. I quote:

A court ruling has given the recording industry the green light to go after individuals who link to material from their websites, blogs or MySpace pages that is protected by copyright.

Of course they mean that the recording industry can go after people who link to material for which the recording industry owns the copyright. Repeat after me: there is one homogeneous recording industry, which speaks with one voice. Further down, the EFA says:

Dale Clapperton, vice-chairman of the non-profit organisation Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), explained the ruling as follows: "If you give someone permission to do something that infringes copyright, that in itself is infringement as if you'd done it yourself. Even if you don't do the infringing act yourself, if you more or less condone someone else doing it, that's an infringing act."

That's a bit strange; how can I give someone permission to infringe someone else's copyright?

Mr Clapperton added that this ruling could have wider implications for general search engines such as Google.

"What Cooper was doing is basically the exact same thing that Google does, except Google acts as a search engine for every type of file, while this site only acts as a search engine for MP3 files," he said.

But Ms Heindl said MIPI would not be going after Google in the same way it sued

"Mp3s4free was different in the sense that it actually catalogued MP3 files that were infringing copyright material - Google doesn't do that," she said.

Hmm... it's good to know that Google doesn't index torrents... or perhaps pointers-to-pointers are OK. In any case this is precisely what the new copyright laws were predicted to lead to.

Independence Day (1996)

/noise/movies | Link

An astonishingly bad movie. The moral clarity and ineffective security (and so on and so forth) seem so familiar in these post-911 times that it's like the TV news. I'm glad that Apple has improved the styling of their PowerBooks since the mid-90s and retained the ability to communicate with alien spacecraft.

Roger Ebert: two-and-a-half stars. Janet Maslin. That doesn't sound like the movie I saw.

Doing battle with Adobe Reader.

/hacking | Link

sicleThis application is just plain broken. It wants to be an operating system: from the look of Version 8 Adobe has tried to shoehorn most of the Mac OS X desktop into their proprietary web-browser-of-sorts. Hmm... perhaps this is what the Windows people have been dealing with all these years. unnecessary, unwanted feature-creep and integration.

The updater is broken. Just download the latest version. Oh wait, you need to get the "Download Manager" to download it for you. Grrr. And you sure do a lot of waiting on all these bloody programs... and then it tries to do the update thing anyway! Screw it, too much trouble.

Now, down to business: the instant-gratification eBook I rashly bought yesterday only lets me print 20 pages of it per month, which seems to me to be a strange compromise between the real world (fair use?) and what's possible with electronic authoritarianism. I found this mechanism is indeed easy to defeat.

A moment's reflection tells you that it is common (UNIX) courtesy for an application to only fiddle with stuff in your home directory, which you (of course) have free access to. (It could do nasty things if it's SUID or using OS DRM services, and that's surely in the post.) The hope is that by swapping some files we can reset the print counter, and that is indeed the case. On Mac OS X, simply, if inconveniently:

  1. Kill Adobe Reader. I assume you haven't used any of your print quota.
  2. Copy your ~/Library/Acrobat User Data somewhere safe. It seems to be a bit sensitive to a few things, so I suggest:
    cd ~/Library
    tar cfv ~/AUD.tar Acrobat\ User\ Data/
  3. Fire up Adobe reader, print as much as you're allowed to.
  4. Kill Adobe Reader, save the new state and extract the old:
    cd ~/Library
    mv Acrobat\ User\ Data/ /tmp/AUD.old
    tar xfv ~/AUD.tar
  5. Go back to step 3.

If things screw up you can move your saved state back into place and things should work as they did before. The standard disclaimer applies to all of this: it worked for me, I hope it works for you, don't sue me if it doesn't.

I see I'm not the first to think of this.

John Gall: Systematics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail

/cs | Link

I've been trying to acquire a copy since reading an excerpt in the knowledge book with some intriguing assertions about general systems. Alibris has screwed me around twice but now someone has put it on the 'net.

Australian Copyright.

/noise | Link

I'm not at all sure things have gone as Laurence Lessig hoped with this eBook gambit; the one I bought seems to be loaded up to the gills with DRM with precious little thought given to usability and future-proofing. I've spent too long listening to RMS, I know.

More interesting is the question of whether I'm violating their copyright (rather than simply bypassing their DRM) by trying to print it. I guess I'd have made a copy, then, even if the digital original just sits there and bitrots until Adobe evolves to the point where it can't read it any more, or I buy a new computer or something equally inevitable.

According to the Australian Copyright Council I'm allowed 10% (in pages) or a chapter of the work, which comes out at roughly 20 pages, but no mention is made of a time period.

Also in that document is the curious:

If a book is no longer published, can I copy the whole book for my research?

Generally, yes. However, if you are aware that it is about to be republished within a reasonable time, it is unlikely you can copy the whole book.

Ah, I almost forgot — anything that limits your rights must certainly be a Technological Protection Measure, implying that futzing with it is probably a crime. I'm getting fonder of dead trees the more I read about this... so perhaps Rudd is right to sacrifice all those beautiful trees in Tasmania afterall.

I'm beginning to think I should have been a lawyer (or married one).

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Mid-afternoon swim at Gordon's Bay, against a graying sky.

A Scanner Darkly

/noise/movies | Link

At the Verona with Jen. An improvement on his earlier Waking Life, in the same style.

iPod Shuffle Gripes

/hacking/mac | Link
OK, I've owned the damn thing for about a month, time to put the boot in. :-) What I like:
  • Unplugging the headphones makes it pause. Perhaps all iPods do this, but my iRiver didn't.
  • The control is much better designed than my old iRiver.
What I'd like:
  • Some audible warning that it's out of juice. The little all-purpose LED glows red, I think, and that's that.
  • A way to delete songs on the player itself, so I can fill it up with random crap and on-the-spot nuke the annoying stuff, rather than having to tediously go through it afterwards in iTunes at home.
What I don't like:
  • The dinky dock. My old iRiver had a standard mini-USB port, which happened to be the same as my Canon PowerShot A75. One cable was all I needed. Moreover I have no way to recharge it without having the iBook plugged in and running — there's no juice on the USB bus when it's suspended.
Ars Technica killed theirs by running a car over it. This program may yet liberate me from iTunes inanity.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Early evening dip at Gordon's Bay. Quite pleasant, some surf.

Alan D. Taylor: Social Choice and the Mathematics of Manipulation

/choice/social-choice | Link

This book is linked from a lot of social-choice related pages on Wikipedia (a great way to advertise your book, for sure), covers an impressive selection of topics and got a good review. It's available as an eBook for $US20, or I could pay more, wait a month and get a dead tree from Alibris. What the heck, I think, how good can PDF DRM lockdown be these days?

Adobe sicle I paid my money, Adobe Reader's iceberg functionality kicked in to download the book in a very mysterious way, and then crashed. No worries, I download it again, and this time it works. Not confidence-inspiring, and apparently has had plenty of experience on that score.

After futzing around with it for a while, the cons of the Digital Editions DRM become apparent. It seems to be locked to this machine. No other PDF viewer groks the file. The DRM-removing tools tend to not work for eBooks. Ultimately this means I cannot print the whole thing (which is as the publisher intends) or share it as one would by loaning the dead tree to someone. The pros are that one saves about a third of the cost and doesn't have to wait on the post, neither of which justifies such a loss of utility to me.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Leisurely early evening swim at Gordon's Bay. Loads of cars down at Coogee.

Powering the iBook from the car.

/hacking/mac | Link

I trudged all over Sydney CBD today looking for a new pair of Docs and something that would let me recharge the iBook from the car. It seems the old Docs shop on Pitt St Mall has folded, and the joint down George St that for years proudly advertised cut-price Docs has gone for the factory- (China-) direct brand instead. I'd forgotten what a hassle it is shopping on the street.

Anyway, to cut a long ramble short, I ended up buying a "Powertech Plus Cat. MP-3463 3.5 Amp Universal Step-up DC/DC Converter for Notebook Computer" from Jaycar on York St for $40. The sealed-in cardboard says it was made in China and is distributed by Electus Distribution, and I can guarantee you that the cardboard was printed there too. I can't find it in either of their catalogues. There is also a 6 Amp version for those who have something hefty.

It works, with one small wrinkle: the iBook-sized plug adaptor is wired backwards! Fortunately the iBook is up to that game, simply ignoring a reverse-polarity 24 volts. The solution is to wedge the plug adaptor onto the cable backwards. For the curious these Italians have the details, or you can try to figure out what Apple is on about.

Sen's Liberal Paradox.

/choice/social-choice | Link

This proof is pretty straightfoward, but its implications are tricky to fathom. I tend to think that his notion of liberalism is pretty weird, and there's plenty of discussion on it. Again, while even Isabelle is convinced that the theorem is an analytic truth, there is plenty of doubt that Sen's mathematization is right.

For the keen there's an entire volume of Analyse & Kritik (1996 (18) Heft 1) dedicated to this topic. Eventually I hope to get around to looking at fellow Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan's criticism.

Onwards! — to the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Late afternoon swim at Gordon's Bay.


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The Commonwealth Chief Scientist speaks at UNSW.

/noise/talks | Link

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Early evening swim at Gordon's Bay.

The beginnings of a proof of Arrow's Theorem in Isabelle.

/choice/social-choice | Link

On the side I've been chugging through Amartya Sen's classic Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970), trying to convince Isabelle of some of the classic results in what is ultimately a theory of voting. As Richard Routley observes in his Repairing Proofs of Arrow's General Impossibility Theorem and Enlarging the Scope of the Theorem (Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, Volume XX, Number 4, October 1979):

The importance of a logically adequate proof is in no way diminished because, as it fortunately turns out, the theorem is correct under the intended (if often inadequately formulated) conditions. But that makes it easy to say that it is trivial to fuss over quantificational details of the standard proofs (proof failure comes ultimately in every case from quantificational errors, omission of necessary quantifiers or mistaken orderings of quantifiers, both major sources of invalidity in logic and mathematics) for every economist knows what is meant by the theorem, that it is essentially correct and its proof intuitively clear, and that a rigorous proof can be produced. The claim is false, as will emerge, even of the economic textbook writers. The textbooks have failed to produce what it is essential to have, especially in the case of a theorem with such far-reaching consequences (even if it is after all only an exercise in second-order quantificational logic), namely a correct and rigorous proof. The history of mathematics is replete with cases where what everyone was thought to know proved false, or where what was intuitively clear turned out to be mistaken or correct only under restrictive conditions.

In other words, perfect for formalisation in Isabelle.

At this point I have formalised the definitions given by Sen (and others) and shown Arrow's General Possibility Theorem (commonly known as Arrow's Impossibility Theorem) and the positive result about Social Decision Functions (SDFs). It's a huge space and there's plenty more to do.

Pan's Labyrinth

/noise/movies | Link

At the Verona, with Jen. A freebie from Hopscotch via The Program. A fairy tale for adults, who would have thought. Beautiful, but the violence was a bit too graphic for me.

I tried to make some sense of it through the prism of Franco's Fascists versus the insurgents / freedom fighters / communists / concerned citizens but my history is a bit weak. I think the ending is supposed to imply Spain's reinstatement of the monarchy was broadly welcomed. Doubtlessly there were other allegories that I missed.

Raymond Smullyan: Some Interesting Memories (A Paradoxical Life)

/noise/books | Link

Smullyan's autobiography-of-sorts, or extended ramble through his interests. I quite enjoyed it, probably because I was fully prepared to indulge him, though it could have used a decent edit (quite a few typos). I don't think there are any new puzzles in this book.

Peter Garrett, ALP frontman.

/noise/politics | Link

Somewhat amazingly K.Rudd has managed to get Peter Garrett, my local member, onto his front bench as the environment and climate change spokesmodel. I find this slightly perplexing as Garrett is already a polarising figure, and modern politics is purportedly all about appealing to the middle in marginal seats, people who are probably worried that climate change will kill the last tree before they do. As the arts spokesmodel he looked harmless enough, and if they really wanted him for the greenie gig they could have parachuted him in after the election.

I hope I'm just being cynical here.

Take a gander at the political compass questionnaire. It's an oldie but a goodie. I come out as more libertarian than leftie by a small amount, though extreme in both directions. I'm not sure that's justified, given there aren't "I don't have an opinion on this one" options.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Late afternoon paddle at Gordon's Bay. Loads of people there, some even in the water.

Helen Garner: Monkey Grip

/noise/books | Link

Somehow I ploughed through this book. Again, Garner is repetitive and so little changes from one angst-inducing event to the next that I lost interest in the questions she fails to answer, such as what she sees in the men she feels compelled to be with. (She says a lot about how she feels and how communication fails, but not much on the non-horizontal shared experience.) The characters that wander in and out of the narrative rarely have independent lives and few have any identifiable impact on the story, beyond being competitors for a man, or a man. Her engagement with junkies and drugs is drab and uninspiring, never failing to point out the obvious failings of each, while the transient benefits, the "why?" of her narrative, goes mostly unshared.

Historically this novel may be of interest insofar as it brings an Australian (if unenlightening and unerotic) bluntness to matters sexual and narcotic in 1977. Anne Summers must have seen a lot more in it that I did, in branding it the nation's best novel of that year.

I wonder if the Anglo fascination with the I Ching made it out of the seventies; Douglas Adams made hilarious use of it in The Long Dark Teat-Time of the Soul in 1988, so I guess it must have. (You can try an internet incarnation of Adams's version here).

The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover

/noise/movies | Link
Another Helen Mirren vehicle. If only they'd spent what they saved on the sets on the script.

John Clarke: The 7.56 Report

/noise/books | Link

These are the scripts for John Clarke and Bryan Dawe's recent 7.30 report shows on the ABC. Some are just plain funny but most serve better as keys to remembering the original interviews.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Late afternoon dip at Gordon's Bay. Some people took one of the row boats out. No bluebottles in sight.

Puppetry from my childhood.

/noise | Link
Finally got around to watching ABC TV's fifty years of palaver, which featured the good old Rubbery Figures from the 80s. Even better, the artist has put up some old episodes. Enjoy!

Casino Royale

/noise/movies | Link
At Fox Studios with Jen. I bet her a coffee there'd be at least five mobiles go off during this distended action poker romance, only to realise that it had been perfectly crafted for these audiences: loud and cheesy. One could, and probably needed to, hold a conversation through most of it without disturbing a soul.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Tried to go for a late-afternoon swim at Gordon's Bay but ran into some things that looked suspiciously like blue bottles. Can't properly tell without my glasses...

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Mid-afternoon swim at Gordon's Bay. Beautiful weather, quite calm.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Mid-afternoon dip at Gordon's Bay. Beautiful day for it.

Belvoir: The Golden Ass

/noise/theatre | Link

Tuesdays are give-us-ten-bucks-or-more at the Belvoir, downstairs at least. Even after the refurbishment that theatre remains a bit of a dungeon, serving as a home to their outre B Sharp company. The bar and ticketing area is all smiles and soft couches, and presumably it was all sweetness and light at the Keating! production upstairs.

This play is an adaptation of an apparently unique Latin novel. It rambles. Its not entirely coherent. Its ludicrous. Its quite long, at about three hours with three intervals. Well staged, well performed, though the macro narrative made merry with my empty stomach and eluded my grasp. It's terribly unsubtle, but what fun.

David Malouf: Every Move You Make.

/noise/books | Link

Another excellent collection of short stories from David Malouf. I especially liked Valley of the Lagoons, Every Move You Make, Elsewhere and the closing The Domestic Cantata. He's at his best in Australian settings, mining the coming-of-age and kitchen-sink drama.


/noise/movies | Link
At the Academy Twin.

Age of Consent

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Finally got around to watching this film based on an old Norman Lindsay story.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Managed to get in a quick paddle around 1pm at Gordon's Bay, before the thunderstorm. A little rough, a little cooler than earlier in the week.

Helen Garner: The First Stone

/noise/books | Link

mrak remarked, several years ago, apropos the author:

I only know her from the controversy over The First Stone. Feminists hate her like poison, apparently.

and I can see why, after reading it. A quick Google will turn up any number of snarky responses. I don't have a background in feminism and no real interest in the infighting, and as she herself says often here, the danger of overly codifying relationships is that the joy goes out of them. (A class of response seems to be that normal flirtatious interaction between men and women is fine... except when it isn't. Not such a helpful characterisation.)

Garner's prose is heartfelt and open, even as the central narrative is frustrated by a lack of cooperation. Her take on relationships, the university life and the stultifying effect of institutions (amongst other things) struck me as insightful and worthy of further development. I was a bit irritated by the repetition and the waiting-for-something-to-happen anecdotal structure, but I finished it in two sittings so I must be nickpicking.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick dip at Gordon's Bay around lunchtime (and then a late lunch).

GPLv3 Workshop at the Cyberlaw Centre.

/cs | Link

Most of the workshop was quite technical, as I expected. Andrew Tridgell gave a good talk on his appreciation of the GPL, and Eben Moglen was quite amusing while arguing multifarious legal details.


/noise/movies | Link

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Back in 2004 I went to Stockholm with my Mum, and somehow picked up the idea there was an ABBA museum in that city. It seems I had just got a bit ahead of myself.

/hacking/mac | Link
André pointed out Terminator to me, a cross-platform terminal emulator written in Java. It sounds promising; the only things tying me to are XEmacs, a DVI viewer and xterm.

/noise | Link
Iemma tries to stitch up the Martin Place geek vote by promising free wifi in central Sydney on the never-never (beyond the next election). I wonder how they'll make this fly; my expectation is a Windows-only port 80 effort.


/noise/movies | Link

A freebie courtesy of the Darlinghurst Theatre, at the Dendy Opera Quays with Jen. In the style of Dogville, sans Nicole Kidman.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Noonday swim at Gordon's Bay. Not as hot as the BOM's forecast led me to expect.

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

/noise/movies | Link
The songs are great but the performances tend not to be. It's a shame they didn't just make a straight documentary on the big man. There are plenty of thoughtful comments at IMDB.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Swim in the early afternoon at Gordon's Bay.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: Freakonomics

/noise/books | Link

Quite entertaining, but watch out for those "it turns out that..."s. I would have preferred something that made the research accessible rather than this overly-simplified popularisation. At times they get ahead of themselves, using the technical terms "controlling for", "correlated" and "causal" for most of the book before giving a rough explanation.

Levitt's talk at TED is well worth a watch. Indeed, the economics of a Chicago drug gang is the best story in the book. (The effects of baby name choice bored me senseless.)

New Theatre: Laughter on the 23rd Floor

/noise/theatre | Link

Again it was free-for-the-unwaged evening at New Theatre. Similarly to the previous production I saw here, this one is slick and hilarious.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Swim in the late afternoon at Gordon's Bay.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Swim around 6pm at Gordon's Bay.

The Prestige

/noise/movies | Link
At The Ritz.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Early-evening swim at Gordon's Bay. Oh yes, if you want to go snorkelling in Sydney then that's the place to go... and Clovelly, and Little Bay.

Félix Lajkó: YouTube to the rescue.

/noise/music | Link

Ages ago, Jon lent me a copy of The Wire where a sound-test of Warren Ellis from the Dirty Three included some work by this Hungarian violin maestro. I couldn't find much on the net about him at the time, but now strangely enough, there are videos of him on YouTube:

(and, I note, some short samples of his work on his homepage.)

Napoleon Dynamite

/noise/movies | Link
A sort-of halfway house to Todd Solondz's excruciating oeuvre (specifically, Welcome to the Dollhouse).

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick dip at Gordon's Bay late in the afternoon. While it was hot around noon, the wind cooled things off by the time I got there.

TAP Gallery: Below

/noise/theatre | Link

I hadn't been to the TAP Gallery for years, and it is was a review in The Program that brought me to this beaut production in the warmly embracing theatre, beyond an art-strewn corridor running beside the main gallery. Tuesday is their pay-what-you-can night, and I can't help but think a better policy would be a $10 bums-on-seats and a pass-the-hat-around afterwards.

The two blokes (Andrew Bibby and Rodger Corser) are fabulous, and Lotte St Clair is destined to become a Home and Away favourite. The drama is tight, fluid and mostly unaffected, founded in Andrew Bibby's heroic acting in the role of Dougie. Definitely worth seeing. Keep an eye out for their company, Ground Up Theatre.

(Just a small nit about Nick Marland's otherwise spot-on review: Sarah's father did not cark it in a mining accident, and the manner in which he did die plays the major part in the resolution of the fraternal friction.)

New Music

/noise/music | Link
Got my order from Chaos:
  • An erratic compilation of old Ennio Morricone music scores.
  • Jarvis Cocker's new album, imaginatively titled Jarvis. It's quite weird, somewhat like an Elvis Costello second-CD where he tries out all the kinds of music that didn't make him famous. Very endearing.
  • Leonard Cohen: Ten New Songs, with the sublime A Thousand Kisses Deep (thanks to Dave for the pointer). Now I have to scare up I'm Your Man. I note that both he (a big man of words) and Raymond Smullyan (a big man of logic) were drawn to Zen.

    Even so, I can't get past the full version of the incomparable Waiting for the Miracle from The Future:

    Ah I don't believe you'd like it,
    You wouldn't like it here.
    There ain't no entertainment
    and the judgements are severe.
    The Maestro says it's Mozart
    but it sounds like bubble gum
    I haven't been this happy
    since the end of World War II.

    and so forth.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick late-afternoon swim in a surprisingly cold Lake Coogee. The place is filling up with accents. Incredibly flat surf.

Easing into the 21st Century.

/hacking/mac | Link
Met up with André in Newtown for a coffee and some lunch, and being the unpaid ambassador for Apple that he is, we ended up in the Apple store on Broadway and I parted with $119 for an iPod Shuffle, a replacement for my venerable 256Mb iRiver iFP-390T I bought in Boston at the end of 2003. I can't see why it needs an on/off switch.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

/noise/movies | Link
With Rob at the Verona.

The Zero Effect

/noise/movies | Link
On Dave's recommendation.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Big trek over to Centennial Park for a coffee and newspaper perusal, then off to Gordon's Bay for a lazy late-afternoon paddle. A beautiful day in Sydney, supposedly 22 degrees and dry enough not to raise a sweat.

Rupert Murdoch: putting the boot in.

/noise/politics | Link

Hosting a faux-News Ltd. general meeting in Adelaide, Murdoch uttered a whole string of things I more-or-less agree with:

  • The tax system is a shambles. I think there's a greater need for clarity and fairness reform than a general decrease in rates, but still.
  • The government surplus is somewhat useless, being, to my mind, really a John Howard re-election fund.
  • Broadband internet in this country is crap. I don't know if the government should pay to improve the situation, but surely he's right to say that the crappiness will bite us on the arse in the long run. Our communications minister is unfortunately clueless on these issues; now it's not so much about availability as cost and quotas. As I say to anyone who listens, I used to pay $30 a month in Göteborg for a 100Mb/s connection connected to a gigabit-ethernet backbone with a traffic quota of 15Gb per day. Yes, you could and did pull eight megabytes a second on that thing. That was in 2004, and things can only have improved in Sweden by now.

    We may be the second fastest country in the OECD to take up broadband, but I'm sure every other country really did take up broadband.

  • On Mrs Clinton, blue sky Madame President:

    "I can tell you she's running and I'd bet heavily on her winning the nomination but I wouldn't bet on her winning."

Who would have thought.

Beazley was stoked to have someone of import attacking the government, but as the big man's policy is to only back winners he couldn't expect a pat on the back himself.

(There's some more details at The Australian. Yes, he's trying to feather his own nest. It just so happens to be mine too, in this instance.)

CSIRO's wireless patent.

/cs | Link

The CSIRO finally got a decision on the legitimacy of their wireless patent in the US, and perhaps it will solve their perennial funding crisis. As this is about hardware protocols I'm not altogether sure it's a terrible thing, being close to the original intended use of patents and all that. Anyway, I'm all for another Microsoft-esque tax on corporate America. Let's just hope they use it for more than beer and skittles.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick swim at Gordon's Bay in the mid-afternoon, trying to beat the rain. (It didn't show up until nightfall.)

Asimov: The Caves of Steel

/noise/books | Link

Lucky Number Slevin (The Wrong Man)

/noise/movies | Link
Late afternoon screening at The Ritz with Jen.

Asimov: The Naked Sun

/noise/books | Link

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick late-afternoon swim at Gordon's Bay, as the front passed through.

Flags of our Fathers

/noise/movies | Link

I didn't know the story of the iconic American flag-raising photograph, so I found it riveting. Jock Alexander drew an apposite counterpoint back in 2004.

Jock Alexander's The war in Iraq

Ennio Morricone: Crime and Dissonance

/noise/music | Link

I picked this up at the Westfield at Eastgardens. It's a mix of experimental movie noises and his sweeping movie scores.

Dijkstra: Under the spell of Leibniz's Dream

/cs | Link

Courtesy of Manuel.

Asimov: I, Robot

/noise/books | Link

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Went snorkeling with Rob at Camp Cove, from the beach there, along the rocks, around to (the infamous nudist) Lady Bay Beach on the harbour side of HMAS Watson. Got a bit sea sick after a while, and there were heaps of little white jellyfish in the water. Beautiful day for it.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick swim at Gordon's Bay after work, at 6:30pm.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
A dangerous surf warning sent me scurrying to Gordon's Bay. Full of crap after the recent rain, more bluebottles than I've ever seen strewn on the beach.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Tried swimming at Coogee with Ben (up here for APLAS) but it was too rough. Off to Gordon's Bay for us.

Donald MacKenzie: Mechanizing Proof II

/cs | Link

After finishing this book it struck me that it's helplessly Americentric; such giants of the field as Thierry Coquand and Gérard Huet, the entire COQ project, the notion of a "logical framework" (thank you Gordon Plotkin and friends), and sundry other influential things fail to rate a mention. (OK, Per Martin-Löf gets a guernsey as the godfather of neo-constructivism, though the entire Swedish-west-coast movement he inspired goes unremarked.) The problem of having to manually provide variable instantiations (due to the undecidability of higher-order unification) is alluded to (p270), but where is the follow-up pointer to the pragmatic resolution used in e.g. Isabelle, with linear patterns, stylised rules and all that?

The continual reference to the issue of proof and to mathematical practice as normative or indicative is misleading; the issue is how to engineer computer systems as rigorously as we do other artefacts, such as bridges and planes, and most of the epistemological issues involved are not unique to computer science. Similarly we need not think of these proof assistants as oracles so much as mechanisations of other people's expertise, in much the same way that structured programming and libraries (or even design patterns if you like that sort of thing) guide us towards best-practice, and employing algebraic structures leads to all sorts of nice things, like compositionality.

Putting it another way, why would one ever think that a computer system can be engineered to be more reliable than a motor car?

Still, the book does have some interesting discussions on just what a proof is. John Barwise's conception of formal proof as an impoverished subclass of mathematical proof rings true to me, though the particular example (p324):

... [C]onsider proofs where one establishes one of several cases and then observes that the others follow by symmetry considerations. This is a perfectly valid (and ubiquitous) form of mathematical reasoning, but I know of no system of formal deduction that admits such a general rule.

is a bit weak: in Isabelle, one could prove a case, prove that the others are in fact symmetric variants of it, then draw the conclusion. If the symmetry proof were abstract enough it could be enshrined in a library.

Wallabies v Wales: 29-29 at Millenium Stadium (Cardiff).

/noise/sport | Link
What a fiasco, a 29-all draw. The Welsh number 13 is a magician. Playing Giteau at number 9 was a bad move. Larkham came off sometime around the 60 minute mark rubbing his shoulder, so it may yet be holidays for him. Latham was the only back to shine.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Again, too many bluebottles for me at Coogee, circa 5:30pm. A dripping Scotsman promised me there were plenty out there, that the sting lasted for but a wee minute. I figured that Gordon's Bay was worth a try, and so it was, even if there's not much happening without the snorkeling accoutrements.

Martin Amis: London Fields

/noise/books | Link

Purportedly his best book, and yet, at 470 pages, a solid third of that is flab. Things go well for the first half only to slow right down as the mysterious, inevitable, clearly flagged climax is delayed, put off, sent to fetch some cigarettes, have a pint and be disappeared for seven days by the AFP on suspicion of sedition (or perhaps horrorism). At best his facile humour is laugh-out-loud, and that holds for most of it.

Andy's On-line Self-Help Call-for-Help.

/noise/blogging | Link
The problem with a public blog is that is has to be interesting, or it languishes, as this one does, reader-less, apart from the odd Google misfire that sends people looking for the best seat in some Ticketek venue this way. At the end of the night it's hard not to verb the noun, not to non-sequitur. Others are voluble so that I may be taciturn. Andy, who apparently runs a plethora (or perhaps a cliché) of blogs, appears to be outsourcing the authorship of his self-help book.

Donald MacKenzie: Mechanizing Proof I

/cs | Link

I stole this from Tim's shelf while he wasn't watching. I find it really patchy, perhaps because the main reason I picked it up was his potted history of proof assistants (Chapter 8). Here's some notes:

Chapter 6: Social Processes and Category Mistakes

I'm quite partial to James H. Fetzer's position that claiming computer programs can be verified is a category error. (I remarked to Kai a few weeks ago, self-evidently I thought, that proof at best assures us that our reasoning about an artefact is sound, and that the disconnect between what we talk about and the actuality of putting the artefact in the environment can only be bridged by testing, an issue our breathren in the empirical sciences have been ruminating about for centuries.) Note that I am firmly of the opinion that formal proof of just about anything is good if one can get it, the effort of comprehending what's being said aside. This is about the epistemology of computer science, of examining the so-rarely articulated general issues of moving from theory and practice.

My impression is that his position is dismissed (see, for example, this terse rebuttal by the usually erudite RB Jones) as being a category error itself; software-as-mathematical-artefact, hardware-as-physical-process, read-the-proof-to-see-what's-proven. In context here, though, Fetzer's claims are set against the blue-eyed optimism of those who want to make the correctness of their system contingent only on the laws of physics (p236):

"I'm a Pythagorean to the core," says Boyer, "Pythagoras taught that mathematics was the secret to the universe." Boyer's dream — not a hope for his lifetime, he admitted — is that mathematical modeling of the laws of nature and of the features of technology will permit the scope of deductive reasoning to be far greater than it currently is. "If you have a nuclear power plant, you want to prove that it's not going to melt down ... one fantasizes, one dreams that one could come up with a mathematical characterization ... and prove a giant theorem that says 'no melt-down.' In my opinion, it is the historical destiny of the human race to achieve this mathematical structure ... This is a religious view of mine."

Unusually for me I'll say no more until I've read Fetzer's paper.

Chapter 8: Logics, Machines and Trust

  • MacKenzie doesn't say anything much about the logic employed in PVS; this is another point of departure from the Boyer-Moore theorem prover (beyond the approach taken to automation). My understanding, from Kai, is that it uses a version of higher-order logic.
  • Cute: there's a "mathematically natural" example of a statement that is true but does not follow from the Peano axioms (cf Gödel incompleteness). Check out the Paris-Harrington theorem.

More as I get around to it.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Aborted the circa-5:30pm swimming attempt due to bluebottles. Truckloads on the sand, at the edge of the receding tide. I'm way too blind to play that game.

/noise/politics | Link

Oh, the irritation, the irritation: John Howard on Lateline, putting up climatic strawmen. Paraphrased, symbolic gestures won't help, signing a piece of paper won't help, nothing will help except nuclear f'ing energy. (Does anyone else have a Denis Leary flashback?) I fear we're screwed until the last boomer carks it.

The show was redeemed somewhat by Martin Amis talking about his two-month-old essay The Age of Horrorism. (Could there be another writer more diametrically opposed to Islam's philosophy of modesty?) As always there's no real debate as neither Tony nor (to a lesser extent) the big man has any faith that the audience has a clue. He looked remarkably uncomfortable the entire time, almost as if he was in danger of sobriety. Watch out for the VODcast, email me if you're desparate for a copy.

(Aside: I'm reading Amis's London Fields (1989) presently, where he has a huge preoccupation with crappy and extreme weather.)

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Another late-afternoon swim. More decent waves. It's still a touch cold, difficult to stay in for more than half an hour.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Swim in the late afternoon (isn't daylight saving grand?). Some big waves (purportedly 2m), all classic neck breakers.

Suburban Mayhem.

/noise/movies | Link

At the Verona. I also signed up for their movie club: it costs $12 for a student, you get two free tickets per annum and the ticket price drops to an unbelievable $8.50 for oneself and one's friend. I'll make that money back in a month.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick swim in the late morning at Coogee. Flat as, a little cold.

Barry Jones: A Thinking Reed

/noise/books | Link

Took me a while to get through this one. Barry's writing style is a bit opaque, and the dry humour is welcome but unfortunately sparse. He has a tendency to explain his experience by referring to others', and then omitting concrete descriptions for those of us unfamiliar with his references. The book overflows with a self-aware immodesty, and the publisher's gamble is that the paying readership will indulge him on the basis of his historical place in the nation's bosom.

The last chapter is quite out of place in an autobiography, being a commentary on the post-reason, post-Enlightenment politics of 2006. Good to see John Quiggin get a guernsey though.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick morning swim at Coogee, a big swimming pool. A little cold.

Children of Men

/noise/movies | Link
At the Greater Union at Bondi Junction Westfield with Jen.

Soylent Green.

/noise/movies | Link

A Prairie Home Companion at the Orpheum.

/noise/movies | Link

Ah, dear old Mr Blue wrote a movie. His schtick is timeless. It's a bit trying if you like a strong plot or dislike bumpkin-ism. Directed by Robert Altman, and his last.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Drove up to Queenscliff, just for some variety. If Surfcast can be believed it was about 19 degrees in, with some fairly small "one metre" waves. Beautiful day north of the Harbour.

The Departed

/noise/movies | Link

Very well edited but the plot is a bit paint-by-the-numbers.

Jarvis Cocker edits the Observer Music Monthly.

/noise/music | Link
Wow, he's back making noise again. Link courtesy of Jon.

Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males, The Maladies at the Annandale.

/noise/music | Link
Met up with Jon for a few pre-gig beers at the Courthouse and an Indian at Tamana's. I hadn't been to the Annandale before, and after seeing The Maladies give their least laid back performance yet, I got the impression that people expect rock when they go to the Annandale. Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males, nephew of Paul Kelly according to a guy I met at the bar, was also a bit harder-edged than I had been lead to believe. The Tucker B's put on a strange mix of sort-of-punk and soft rock, somewhat similar in my hazy memory to Metallica's ambit.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Went for a swim late-morning at Coogee. By about 11:30 the classic shore (read neck) break was in operation, and getting out was (relatively) hard yakka. A little cold but so damn hot out. Fortunately the sand isn't yet scorching my feet. Coogee: a big swimming pool one day...

Ensemble Theatre: Are You There?

/noise/theatre | Link

I scored some free tickets from The Program. First time at the Ensemble Theatre, a tiny theatre on quite a pretty little stretch of the harbour at Kirribilli. Met up with Jen at Milson's Point train station and had a drink at what seems to be the only pub in the area; it pulls a strange cross-section of punters, that's for sure. We had a quick dinner at Luigi's (Italian, in the hub of restaurants) and hurried down the backstreets to be there just in time.

The play itself was a pretty standard exploration of themes surrounding relationships, e.g. as listed in this review in the Smage. I found it stultifying for extended periods, though the actress provided great relief whenever she was on stage. I just can't imagine too many new things to be said in this format, and a retreat to novelty as happens here is a bit of a cop-out. The social upheaval in Argentina over so many years could surely yield something more than this.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Dr Gonk popped over for lunch, and we went for a swim at Coogee before that. A bit cold with the standard dumpers. He's off to England come December 1. Lunch at Coffee and Things, a beer at the Royal.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Quick swim at Coogee, late morning. The classic dumpers rolled in the whole time, and were a bit stronger than they have been recently. A bit chilly.

David Malouf: Every Move You Make at Gleebooks

/noise/talks | Link
Another book-launch of sorts. Malouf is in fact slight in stature; I always envisaged an amiable six foot string bean. I especially liked the glasses-for-reading and glasses-for-looking-at-people.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Swim at Coogee, late afternoon. Supposedly the max was nineteen degrees, but I'm sure it was warmer at midday. A bit choppy with a persistent off-shore wind, bloody freezing getting out.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Went for a snorkel with Rob at Gordon's Bay around 11:30am. Started out quite flat and warm but descended into some whitewater when a blustery north-easterly sprung up. Didn't see much. Had lunch at Paris Seafood at La Perouse.

Holly Throsby, @newtown.

/noise/music | Link
Review, eventually.

Blade Runner

/noise/movies | Link

Yep, I feel like some cyberpunk right now. The plot makes little sense. (e.g. How could Deckard not know that replicants have a limited life span? — surely if there was blood spilt on Earth over these things then the resolution would have been broadcast to reassure the citizenry.) Heck, we're not watching it for the plot though, are we? It's all about noir in a dyspeptic future.

William Gibson: Neuromancer

/noise/books | Link

This was quite a lot better than I remembered. (The copy I have cost me $3.50 back in the early 90s.) I can't believe it hasn't been made into a movie, well, excepting The Matrix of course.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Yet another swim at Coogee circa midday. Some surf, a bit warmer. Quite a crowd for early October, perhaps due to the school holidays.

LTL-to-Büchi Genealogy

/cs | Link

How cool is this, someone's organised a family tree of Linear Temporal Logic (LTL) translations. Who would have thought there's so damn many.

Barry Jones: A Thinking Reed book launch at Gleebooks.

/noise/politics | Link

This is Barry's long-in-coming autobiography. The launch itself was another in-conversation-with Jennifer Byrne, who surprisingly managed to get some words in edgeways without talking over the big man. Bazza's schtick has always been to ramp up the geek in a self-deprecatory and seemingly oblivious fashion, though it is a pretence that he can't keep all the time. His anecdotes (e.g., roughly, "the return of Halley's Comet may well be the single greatest achievement of the Hawke government", uttered to the press gallery in his role as Science Minister, circa 1987.) make him human, but he also likes to use the ramble to avoid answering uncomfortable questions. Still, it's more entertaining than the bald dissembling and visionless blandness of the current mob.

Interesting in the light of Petro Georgiou's recent spray was his claim that Bob Menzies, late in life, gave up voting for the Liberals and went for the DLP instead.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Swim at Coogee around 11am, hardly anyone about. Some waves relative to the past few days, a bit warmer, quite comfortable.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
A quick swim at Coogee around midday. Pretty cold, about the same in as out. Some waves, hardly anyone else at the beach.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Dave was up for the long weekend, attending a dance party at the lake out the front of Fox Studios. We went for a swim at Coogee in the mid-afternoon. Incredibly flat, a trifle cold.

New Theatre: The Voysey Inheritance

/noise/theatre | Link

Again, students and the unwaged gain free entry to New Theatre, it being the first Sunday of the month for these godless socialist types. My last two visits had proven less than exciting, and so it was with a what-the-heck sigh that I put my bum on the seat this time.

The play itself is an update of a century-old tale of inherited avarice, and examines the angles a family may take on ruin: honour, nonchalance, legalism, morality. It works. The cast was large, dynamic, well-used and effective. The narrative was a bit unwieldy at times, and the love sub-plot betwixt Alice and Edward suffered a bit in this abridged version, though what is there is funny enough.

Definitely worth a look.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
A quick swim at Coogee, early afternoon. Not as busy as one would expect on a warm Sunday arvo. Flat as, slightly cold in places.

Asimov: The Stars, Like Dust

/noise/books | Link

Urk, a sci-fi romance. Not one of his memorable works.

AFL Grand Final: Swans lose to West Coast, 85 to 84.

/noise/sport | Link
Irritatingly the Swans came home very strongly in the second half, readily making up the circa-twenty-point deficit of the first, but not quite enough to win it.

Greg Egan: Teranesia

/noise/books | Link

Another from mrak's shelf. Again he goes in for the flaccid ending. I don't know enough biology or quantum mechanics to be too upset by the fast and loose narrative arc. Post modernism gets a big serve but the portrayal is too ludicrous to serve as a critique or satire.

artery: improv at the Old Darlington School.

/noise/music | Link

Jon told me about this rather obscure little gig in a seemingly obscure building on the Sydney Uni campus, organised under the NOW now aegis. The attraction was Chris Abrahams hammering sundry stringed, percussive instruments. As it turned out the first set from the "special guests" — Dale Gorfinkel and Robbie Avernaim, from Melbourne — pushed my buttons with their heavily augmented vibraphone. Their key innovation (for my money) was the re-introduction of rhythm via the little motors they applied to the vibraphone's bars to keep a steady but not monotone ambience.

After that I slipped into my usual semi-detached disinterest when Jon Rose (violin, strangely expressive saw), Clayton Thomas (double bass) and Chris Abrahams (harpsicord, organ, ??) launched into the usual improv schtick. The last set was an at-most-three-at-a-time ensemble job.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Another swim at Coogee, flat as a flounder. A bus had rammed into the side of a car at Alison / Carrington, cops attending.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Another swim at a Coogee. The waves were bigger but no stronger than usual, and the crowd thin. I reckon it was warmer in today than on Sunday.

Grand Challenges in Computer Science

/cs | Link

Tim told me about this talkfest. I've only watched half of Amir Pnueli's presentation so far, and it seems to be mostly a recapitulation of old, old stuff (cf Kai's presentation in his undergraduate concurrency class).

Anyway, the big problem is the downloadable videos don't include the slides, so it's pretty tedious trying to follow what's going on. I'm told the streaming versions don't suffer from this.

Sydney Uni emeritus physics prof endorses the Hilmer approach.

/noise/politics | Link

Today in the Smage, Emeritus Professor Harry Messel suggests cutting the uni management staff by 50%, hoping to reduce the buzz word bingo. Whilst I applaud the sentiment I can't but think that the unis are just reacting as well as they can to the Fed's bums-on-seats policies, which Barry Jones so rightly sheets home to Dawkinisation. (That's not to say that the Liberals have done much to help things in more recent times.) Perhaps we can conclude that the AVCC is now just a cheese, wine and Jaguar club after all the good it's done in the last ten years.

Any attempt to reshape education has to address the skills shortages, and that means getting serious about TAFE. A Federal education minister with a half-life of more than a year and an eye for public policy might also help.

There's a great article by the University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glynn Davis in a recent Griffith Review on these problems. I must have missed the ensuing "intense debate".

Update: Ross Gittins says something similar about the broader skills shortage.

TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

/noise/talks | Link
There's a whole bunch of interesting VODcasts over at TED. Daniel Dennett's is a little disappointing as he only reacts to a creationist tract — he's capable of a lot better than that. Steven Levitt's is hilarious.

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

/noise/quotes | Link

Urk, yet another round of Elvis Costello reissues.

/noise/music | Link

Supposedly Universal is releasing yet another round of reissues of Elvis Costello's early (read good, deserved reputation-building) records. The completists must be tearing their hair out.

I take the attitude that once one has punted $AU30 on the deluxe double CD Spike (etc.) reissue then future musical upgrades should be free.

Greg Egan: Luminous

/noise/books | Link

A bunch of sci-fi shorts lifted from mrak's shelf. Some are kinda cute, pushing my latent geek boy buttons. I liked Luminous itself, modulo the manifest inconsistency of allowing theorems to change their apparent truth assignments after they'd been examined. It is these small noise-making holes that keep me from reading too much more of this. The last stories, Our Lady of Chenobyl and The Planck Dive, were somewhat irritating as they concluded tepidly.

For A Few Dollars More

/noise/movies | Link

Peter Carey: Bliss

/noise/books | Link

This came as a pleasant surprise after an abortive attempt at Oscar and Lucinda. I found his prose largely prosaic, but he does turn out a decent sentence every so often. The opening one:

Harry Joy was to die three times, but it was his first death which was to have the greatest effect on him, and it is this first death which we shall now witness.

seems to leave one unresolved by book's end.

This review makes the obvious connection to Vonnegut and I echo some of his qualms.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
So I've been swimming at Coogee for the last four days straight. The water is still cool to cold, but with the land being thirty degrees and more with a blustery northerly it's actually harder to get out than stay in. Today's waves were the biggest yet, large but without power. No necks snapped in the time I was there.

The Maladies at the Hopetoun Hotel

/noise/music | Link

In my role as fanboy #2 I, with much help from Sean, swelled the crowd for what proved to be one of their tightest gigs yet. Jon was impressed by the cover song they did, which I now so thoughtlessly cannot recall the details of. Dan did record the gig at mrak's behest, so here's hoping something comes out of that.

Their next one is at the Hopetoun Hotel on November 4.

The ALP: Full of "Factional Daleks"

/noise/politics | Link
Senator Robert Ray seems to think that the modern post Hawke, post Keating ALP has no need of a DLP to keep them from power — they're perfectly capable of doing that to themselves, keeping everyone inside the tent pissing on each other. I wish I knew what Peter Garrett has been doing since he got into parliament. Perhaps he's been enjoying the surf at Maroubra.

Dirty Three: Horse Stories and Dirty Three

/noise/music | Link

Finally turned up in the post today. No time to listen now, must ... well, yeah.

First swim of the season.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
I braved the supposedly 19 degree water (if I'm reading the BOM's sea surface temperature map correctly) and early Irish tourists at Coogee in the early afternoon, sans wetsuit. Quite pleasant, once I got the shoulders in.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

/noise/movies | Link

At the Greater Union at Westfield Bondi Junction. Quite enjoyable. The first half or so was a lot less fluidly edited than the latter half.

Dresden Dolls at the Roundhouse.

/noise/music | Link

I promised mrak that I'd say a few words about this, and as always, the following was written well after the face-paint and bowler hats had been removed.

I'd quite intentionally never heard a Dresden Dolls track before going to this gig, trusting mrak's impeccable taste and plumping for a ticket blindly. (Originally it was supposed to be at the Gaelic Club, and I got in when they shifted it to the much larger Roundhouse.) Andy reckoned they were good, Jon just wrinkled his nose, and Dave mumbled something about it being emo but — when pressed — warned me off expecting a trashing of the Roundhouse ala Fear Factory back in '96.

It was all ages, so one had to drink plastic beer in plastic cups in the specially marked zones. Wow. The first thing I noticed when I found where the smokers lurk were some pearl earings, making me think she had something to live for. The rest of the crowd seemed standard apprentice-zombie and prototype-vampire inner city types, some obviously out after their bedtimes. (Some, as I later found out, were also out of their biochemical tolerances as well.) Curiously there were some older punters, older than me even, and I don't want to ponder that too much.

Some of the value-maximisers had already scored the tour tshirt, branded "Punk Cabaret is Freedom" on the back with the tour dates. Apparently there were two gigs in Melbourne versus the singular here. I don't for a minute doubt that Bleak City, being world class and all, pumps out more enthusiasts for this kind of schtick than we do, but still it hurts.

All this before the music began (I'd missed the support). I scoffed my Tooheys Extra Dry (urk), politely muscled some younguns out of the way on the upstairs balcony, in order to listen to... a man with an accordion, encouraging the underagers to spin about on the spot to simulate drunkenness with a somewhat obtuse Irish knock-off drinking dirge. Unfortunately it lasted quite a long time.

Anyway, the Dresden Dolls themselves, a bloke playing drums and a girl on the piano and singing. I'll get the unabashedly positive stuff out of the way first: I like the format, and the drummer is excellent. The tunes are mostly solid. The drummer's shirt lasted all of two songs, at which point the crowd went crazy, though I just couldn't get as excited as when that happened at The Thaw's gig a month ago. The girl's accent drifted, from Scots to upper-crust English before settling (somewhat) on a Boston sort-of-Irish lilt.

Now to quibble, as my training requires me to: cabaret? Well, maybe, I wouldn't know. Punk? Surely not, except in that 90s thrash faux American style. I found a lot of it to be just a good fusion of recent noise, progressive Brit-Pop melded with elements of neo-punk. It seemed to me that this juxtaposition of soft melodies and hard-edges is but an update on the Guns'n'Roses patina of my youth: to wit, Axel's combination of sandpaper vocals and a face that would earn him megabucks at the Cross.

In comparison to Pulp, one might take the Dresden Dolls' Coin Operated Boy (by god do they love their gratuitous profanity) against Live Bed Show or Underwear or something of that ilk, even his latest solo effort; in short, Jarvis Cocker has more to say and says it. Their piano rock-outs reminded me of Elvis Costello's (or perhaps more fairly Steve Nieve's efforts on) Strict Time. One of their songs sounded like a direct knock-off of the Pixies' I Bleed, specifically the fem vocals.

No, I wasn't trying to hate them. Late in the gig, after some ultra-repetitive thrash had sent me in search of a beer and led to the discovery that the upstairs bar had closed, they launched into a bloke-on-guitar, girl-on-vocals cover of Port of Amsterdam, last heard by me performed by David Bowie. Spooky, a hairs-raising-everywhere experience. (It's an old folk song, right? — "He'll drink to the health / Of the whores of Amsterdam / Who've given their bodies / To a thousand other men".)

Up to then I would've said they were post-irony; not over-serious but at least earnest and unhumorous, except in that way you can be with blindly adoring fans. (mrak's puppy dog eyes are classic on that front.) And yet... around this time the drummer peeled off a country riff, showing some awareness of the transgressive and inherently uncool. That would have been a good time to leave: for their house-lights-are-on-next encore they rolled out Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, which was surely older than most of the crowd. I was re-educated as to why people used to cringe about the 80s.

One last weirdness: the funny thing about a sound-triggered light show is that sound ends up travelling faster than light, which makes me wonder about the punters' mental processes.

For the desperate JJJ recorded the concert and took a lot of photos. I'm not in any of them.

Second snorkelling effort for the season.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link
Rob and I headed down to the south side of Little Bay. Finally all my gear seems to work OK. Not much to see.

A Fistful of Dollars

/noise/movies | Link

Will Self: Cock & Bull

/noise/books | Link

I think the New York Times review is spot on; this is dross. Another from mrak-in-Qatar.

Dirty Three: Cinder and Ellis's 3 pieces for violin

/noise/music | Link

I led Vijay on a merry chase through Sydney CBD expecting (at least) Red Eye to have Horse Stories. No joy. I settled for these other two instead, and bought Horse Stories and their self-titled effort from their website. Wow, not only usable but cheap.

On a first listen I think I've hit the point of diminishing returns, to which I attach the caveat that almost all of their other material has similarly failed to excite on a first listen.

A new track from Jarvis Cocker.

/noise/music | Link

Fellow Pulp fan Jon told me that Jarvis Cocker has put out a new track, purportedly the first from a forthcoming solo album. Check out MySpace (urk), or ask The Hype Machine; it follows every fad, no matter how naff.

Ah, it's good to see him articulate the Hobson's choice of intolerance: "If you don't like it then leave". For Australian expats that also means shaddup.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House: Belkin Plays Tchaikovsky.

/noise/music | Link

Vijay was keen to see a concert at the Sydney Opera House, so he suggested this, a matinee. We got cheap seats (circa $35 each) in the Choir section. Thoughtfully they put "Rear View seating behind the Stage" on the tickets and emphasised that we would be facing the conductor, which was quite daunting. Still, I did get a first-hand lesson as to why they put the loud instruments up the back.

The program's main bit was Tchaikovsky, of course, Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, with the Russian violinist Belkin doing the classical equivalent of lead guitar. They opened with Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro: Overture and closed with Beethoven's Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 Eroica, presumably to keep the punters (largely oldies and student-types) from rioting. All of it was new to me.

Darlinghurst Theatre: Terrorism

/noise/theatre | Link

The Darlinghurst Theatre has $18 previews, invariably on the Wednesday before the show opens. That's why I was there tonight.

The play was billed as "The Presnyakov Brothers' black comedy", and this production certainly is black if not so very humorous, apart from some cringe-bringers worthy of the The Office. The (relatively) large cast were uniformly great, and ambient sounds were well-used to create spaces (the automatic door of the airport in particular) on an otherwise static set.

Structurally the ambit was to recount a series of loosely connected stories that show the permeation of terrorism through people's lives, from the impersonal, the public to the intimate, and exhibit the range of responses, of fatalism, neuroticism, revelry and marginalisation. The characters remain nameless throughout. Effective? Perhaps. Worth a look? Yep.

Google knows about plenty of reviews of other productions; here's one from the Smage.

/noise/quotes | Link

Gilles Kahn, French Computer Scientist of some renown, ends his seminal paper The Semantics of a Simple Language for Parallel Programming (Information Processing 74, Proceedings of IFIP Congress 74) with the following:

Our last conclusion is to recall a principle that has been so often fruitful in Computer Science and that is central to Scott's theory of computation: a good concept is one that is closed

  1. under arbitrary composition
  2. under recursion.

Joseph Heller: Good As Gold

/noise/books | Link

Heller reputedly said:

"When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch-22 I'm tempted to reply, 'Who has?'"

I can't find an attribution for that so I thought I'd verify it by reading this one, stolen from mrak's bookshelf. It is, unfortunately, about as good as one would expect from the quote rather than would hope from Catch-22. There are some cute ideas and turns-of-phrase but these are the window-dressing of a shop where everything has been purloined.

Actually, some of the best comedy comes from the reviews on the back:

  • "I have little hesitation in hailing it as a masterpiece" — Auberon Waugh.
  • "Such is the dreadful power of Good as Gold that it requires us to revise our own imaginations." — New York Times.

and I did also like this, from p133, as Gold gets it on with his society girl:

Again, he was at a loss as to how to proceed with a girl like her. He moved his lips about her ears and neck as though in thirsting search of an erogenous zone. A waste of time, he knew from experience. Erogenous zones were either everywhere or nowhere, and he meant to write about that too, when neither Belle nor his daughter would be scandalized by his knowledge. With a guilty start he realized his mind had been wandering...

Rugby: Wallabies v Springboks in Johannesburg

/noise/sport | Link
Being the final Tri Nations fixture of the year, the hype outstripped all other aspects of this game. The Springboks did the All Blacks last weekend so I held little hope for the Wallabies. As it was they did their best to lose, once again failing to support each other and to capitalise on some fairly good set-up play. The ref was both blind and imaginative, so I expect there'll be some backroom brawling over him in the weeks to come. 24 to 16, not really worth staying up for.


/noise/movies | Link

First snorkelling effort for the season.

/noise/beach/2006-2007 | Link

With Rob I finally managed to buy a wetsuit at the Surf Dive 'n' Ski at Bondi Junction: an O'Neil spring suit (short arms and legs) that seemed to fit well. It cost $229.95.

After a lot of flaffing about — mostly in suffering delusions about buying such a thing at Bondi Beach — I lasted all of five minutes in Gordon's Bay before one of the lenses in my goggles fell out. I expect that some fish with a -3.5 eye can now see properly. Not happy! The wetsuit and gloves (purchased in Melbourne last weekend) worked fine, though.

New Theatre: Family Stories

/noise/theatre | Link

The first Sunday of these New Theatre productions has free entry for students and the unwaged, that's why I went. The spiel for this show was:

A war is over. Or maybe not?

There are demonstrations on the streets, politicians are publishing self-help books, and children are left unsupervised in concrete playgrounds. From this chaos, parroting the ways of adults as observed by the uncritical and receptive hearts of children, springs a game called Family Stories.

Four adult actors play children who in turn play mums, dads, sons and daughters in a cyclical family saga spanning a decade of civil war. Every scene is a metaphor for the fear that results from living in a society without free media or civil liberties under a government at war with itself.

Family Stories is a game of 'playing house' that becomes a thrilling, hilarious, devastating allegory of a post-war society.

I found the "metaphor" somewhat threadbare; it was as if we were voyeurs in a stereotyped and somewhat violent Serbian household where the entreaty to stop thinking and articulating (to ease survival in a police state) was both predictable and non-unique to the troubled time of the former Yugoslavia. The gibbering dog / broken girl was a curiosity that went under-used and unresolved, perhaps providing a link with New Theatre's previous show, The Man Who.

The Lady From Shanghai

/noise/movies | Link

Tooheys New Cup Final: Randwick v Sydney University.

/noise/sport | Link

The big game at Aussie Stadium (née the Sydney Football Stadium). Unfortunately Randwick played like a mix of the Wallabies teams of the past five years — some flashes of brilliance and occasional complete incompetency at basic things, like passing the ball. It is almost as if they thought the competition ended when they comfortably took out the minor premiership. Not to take anything away from Sydney University, it was a game where one team clearly lost.

The final score line was 16 to 10, with Randwick putting in a heroic after-the-siren Wallabies-from-2001 drive to score a winning try. The push came to an end with a colossal knock-on, which aptly summarised the afternoon.

Julian Barnes: The Lemon Table

/noise/books | Link

Well yes, I did read it through to the end. Here he refracts old age through his eternal preoccupations — sex and francophilia — in a series of short pieces. The splashing on the book's cover of an edited favourable sentence from an Esquire ("Man at His Best"?) review says enough.

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.


/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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Passenger (1975)

/noise/movies | Link

Aiming for Leone, achieving Spaghetti. At the newly refurbished and re-opened Chauvel with Rob.

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 $EMAIL |
   ssh "cat - > /backups/$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.

NICTA Systems Verification Workshop 2006

/cs | Link

Gerwin has been busy again.

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;

/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.


/noise/movies | Link
At The Ritz.

Ten Canoes

/noise/movies | Link
With Rob at the Academy Twin.


/noise/movies | Link

/noise/movies | Link
Hard Candy at The Ritz.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2

/noise/movies | Link
At The Ritz.

Tristram Shandy

/noise/movies | Link

With Dave at Electric Shadows.

Bara prata lite

/noise/movies | Link

"Just a Little Chat", roughly. Another brutal Moodysson, setting the tone for his later feature-length efforts.

Superman Returns.

/noise/movies | Link

Parker Posey, Frank Langella, always good to see. Brando rambles like it's 1979.

/noise/movies | Link
Hal Hartley's The Girl From Monday. I've been wanting to see it for ages, being his last released movie. Next up: Fay Grim, a reprise of Henry Fool. Any day now.

/noise/movies | Link
Gettin' Square.

/noise/sport | Link
Watched Australia beat Ireland 37 to 15 in Perth, with mrak at the Cheers sportsbar on George St. The Irish are pretty good but need to play a full 80 minutes of football, and perhaps that's just a matter of fitness or having a holiday. The backlines of both teams was pretty solid, making for one of the most exciting games with Australia in it since before Eddie Jones (2002?).

/noise/movies | Link
Factotum at the Verona.

/noise/sport | Link
Australia scores its first three goals in a World Cup against Japan after spending 84 minutes one-down.

/noise/sport | Link
Australia beats England 34 to 3 in the rugby. Our fowards are much improved but our backs need to meet each other.

The Girl on The Bridge

/noise/movies | Link

25th Hour

/noise/movies | Link

/noise/movies | Link
Once Upon A Time In The West.


/noise/movies | Link

/noise/movies | Link
X-Men 3 with Rob at The Ritz in the early afternoon.

Peter Singer: The Ethics of What We Eat

/noise/talks | Link

As part of the Sydney Writers' Festival (2006) at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place Sydney.

Candy at the Academy Twin.

/noise/movies | Link

An Australian Trainspotting? Ack, who could say such a thing. Abbie Cornish's histrionics just expose the meaningless, heartless core of this movie. She's better here than in Somersault, but that is just saying that water is wet, or heroin is addictive.

How and why did this couple get organised? Oh, they just did, didn't they... in some pre-movie pre-heroin romance. How very insightful. The cliché is that chemistry postgrads cook up recreational pharmaceuticals to supplement their meagre incomes, so it's good to see some innovation on that front, even if it leaves A/Prof Geoffrey Rush in a shallow, monied, godfather role. Yes, Ledger does well. Yes, Abbie looks great, but there is no novelty in her empty, meaningless fits of rage.

The whole baby sequence is reminiscent of Angel Baby, deprived of redemption. The ending compounds that. It lacks the impact of baby Dawn, but most things do, I guess.

Where the Scots movie used humour to make the characters human, this one merely focusses on their weaknesses, their inarticulacies, their dead-endedness. If the pretension of art is to increase the scope of thinkable things, this aims at humility. Perhaps it is an unwitting rejoinder to Australian Heartlands.

(Let me just add that it's not terrible, and it might have been the UV coating on my glasses that lead me to divine the words "kick me" in most scenes. Others in the cinema presumably saw "charity" and chortled at some of the yeasty moments.)

Brendan Gleeson: Australian Heartlands at Gleebooks

/noise/talks | Link
Went to Gleebooks in the evening to listen to Peter Garrett and Brendan Gleeson talk about the latter's Australian Heartlands: Making Space For Hope In The Suburbs. Elizabeth Farrelly makes some interesting comments about it, but some are a bit off: yes, the book did win the John Iremonger Award for Writing on Public Issues (surely that's not his real name?), and that was why it got published, at least I understand it.

/noise/movies | Link


/noise/movies | Link

/noise/movies | Link
Live and Become at the Greater Union in the brand-spanking Westfield at Bondi Junction. Beautiful.

/noise/movies | Link
Carlito's Way.

/noise/movies | Link
Combien tu m'aimes? (How much do you love me?)

/noise/movies | Link
Basic Instinct.

The Squid and the Whale

/noise/movies | Link
At the Academy Twin with Rob and Sean.

/noise/movies | Link
Dr Strangelove.

/noise/movies | Link
Re-watch: Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America. Just as good the second time around.


/noise/movies | Link

Screened by AID. A Jake-and-Barb and Glenn and Anthony production.

/noise/movies | Link
Inside Man at The Ritz with Sean and Fabian.

Happy Endings

/noise/movies | Link
With Rob at The Ritz. Four people in the theatre for the 9:25pm session.

V for Vendetta

/noise/movies | Link

With Ben and Dave at the Greater Union in Civic, Canberra.

John Hurt played Winston Smith in 1984, and here he does the crazy-old-man thing as the Big Brother equivalent. (Just in case you missed it.)


/noise/movies | Link

Lord of War

/noise/movies | Link

With Rob at the megaplex on George St. Not bad. A pastiche of Fight Club (and sundry others) narrative style and a Leaving Las Vegas-esque performance from Cage. Good to see Jared Leto again, last sighted by me in Requiem for a Dream so many years ago.


/noise/movies | Link
At the Academy Twin with Sean, as part of the French Film Festival.

/noise/sport | Link

I see that France has beaten England 31 to 6 in the Six Nations Rugby, in France. One must begin to think that France will win the (rather scrappy) competition this year, and is on track to thrash all comers at the next world cup.

I hear they're playing rugby in the Southern Hemisphere presently but there's no way I'm following that until it's cold enough for a blanket on the bed.

A History of Violence

/noise/movies | Link

At the Verona. A tad predictable and unreal, seemed a bit (too) disjunctive, not quite sure what it wanted to be. A fleshing-out of the short. Viggo convinces as the wide-eyed Indiana (or Oregon) boy, less so as Mr Philadelphia (too wooden). The last half is pretty much paint-by-the-numbers. Somehow pretty good for all of that, but not a patch on the David Lynch movie it was trying to be. Directed by David Cronenberg.

Fight Club

/noise/movies | Link

Match Point

/noise/movies | Link
At the Academy Twin. Scarlett stole the show, as is increasingly her wont. Not helped by some clunky editing and touristic cinematography.

Per Olov Enquist: The Visit of the Royal Physician

/noise/books | Link
A gift from Cath in September 2005 (read in Feb/Mar 2006).

/hacking/mindstorms | Link
Wow, a computer-controlled back hoe.


/noise/movies | Link

At the Verona. For some reason the last session of the day was on early, at 8:20pm. Earnt Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar.

/noise/movies | Link
Syriana at The Ritz with Sean and Rob. I had trouble following it and wasn't particularly satisfied when I did.

/noise/movies | Link

/cs | Link
The Full Abstraction Factory. What a great name for a website.

/noise/movies | Link
Jarhead at The Ritz. It's a rehash of so many other (Vietnam) war movies, with some of the tributes verging on plagiarism (the drill sergeant's schtick from Full Metal Jacket's is raided beyond belief), others just straight cut-and-paste (an iconic sequence of Apocalypse Now is played to a roomful of marines, and the general torpor and specifically the arachnid fight of The Odd Angry Shot is evoked). I could go on. It's a bit of a shame as the themes the narrative explores are worthy ones.

/noise/talks | Link

Philip Wadler gave a talk at the University of Technology, Sydney today on the subject of his Links programming language (or more precisely, some details of his plans for it). I'm not sure just why he's in Australia; I heard along the grapevine that he was visiting Peter Stuckey (associated with NICTA) at the University of Melbourne. As Manuel and Gabi are in New York presently there was no UNSW connection, and the Sydney NICTA nodes aren't doing functional programming in any serious way. So... that leaves the category theory angle, of course, and that leads the Sydneysider to C. Barry Jay's door.

The talk was probably no different to any of the others he's given on this topic. What I find interesting is that the project is inherently messy, building on a lot of people's work rather than trying to investigate self-contained super-specialised research problems. It is as if Philip Wadler (amongst others) now thinks the question is not so much "how do I do X?" but "how do I do X for practical instances of X?". I wish them success from afar.

Sean told me that he also gave a talk at Macquarie Uni yesterday, which I didn't hear about - roughly on the unusual effectiveness of logic in CS, I'd hazard to guess.

/hacking/mindstorms | Link
I tried building one of the pneumatic pumps in CSSoh catalogue but was sorely disappointed by the lack of pressure I got out of it. It's possible that my Nickel-Metal-Hydride rechargeables do not provide enough voltage to make the motor run quickly enough. There's plenty of torque, just not enough air pressure...


/noise/movies | Link

At The Ritz.

/hacking/mindstorms | Link

My big haul (in a little box) of LEGO™ bits turned up. I bought them from the Brick Artist Depot, run by a very pleasant and accommodating bloke in Atlanta. Very happy. Go and make him a rich man.

I now own another two motors that look identical to those that come with the Lego™ Mindstorms kit. Slightly worrying is that these are known to fail. Conversely the four turntables should come in quite handy.

/hacking/mindstorms | Link
Allen Smith recently released an updated version of Bricksmith. It's an excellent LEGO™ CAD tool for Mac OS X.

Lilja 4-Ever

/noise/movies | Link

Another Moodysson. He almost reaches von Trier-levels of blackness here, and once again proves he is worth keeping an eye on.

Romeo is bleeding.

/noise/movies | Link
Gary Oldman, Lena Olin, what's not to like?

/hacking/mindstorms | Link

This looks interesting: a Wikipedia-style collaborative robotics textbook. Sounds like a great idea.

A three speed automatic transmission built out of LEGO™. Wow.

Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve, State Theatre Sydney.

/noise/music | Link

With Peodair. The crowd was serious. I remember him blowing the outro to I Want You.

/noise/movies | Link
A Hole in my Heart. Quite (intentionally) banal.

Isn't darcs great?

/hacking | Link

I've put off trying out darcs for ages, indeed, longer than I've been putting off checking my stuff into a crusty old CVS repository. My main operations are diffing (to see if I've screwed things up more than I'm aware of) and finding that little bit of code from ten revisions back that hacked around that little problem that came back. pcl-cvs in XEmacs was good for the former, and I just dug around in the repository itself for the latter.

It seems there's a pcl-cvs-equivalent for darcs in the pipeline, and moreover is being actively hacked. Find the repo here, darcs'ed, of course.

Well, it works, and that's a good start. A Haskell program doing useful things? Unheard of!

/noise/movies | Link
Corpse Bride.

Ghost in the Shell

/noise/movies | Link

Russian Dolls

/noise/movies | Link

With Sean at the Academy Twin. If they'd billed it as a RomCom I could have saved myself $12. Audrey was her usual ace self, the rest more-or-less forgettable. As far as I could tell there's only one plot point, and Xavier (the French stud who incidentally writes screenplays for this sort of pap for a living) chooses the predictably capricious path of cliche purely so that the movie can last a respectable amount of time. Everyone loves being told what they already know...

/hacking | Link

I've been meaning to get a new X-server for a long time now, as the one I have is bug ridden. I thought I'd managed to upgrade it in the past, as the build process for these servers continues after fatal errors... and restarting with make World kicks off a big clean, which makes this behaviour both misleading and somewhat useless to non-hardcore hackers.

The short story is that at this point in time R6.9.0 does not readily compile on Mac OS X 10.4 (using GCC 4.0), but R6.8.2 does after you do some fiddling. Most of the trick is to replace the files that fail to compile with their updated selves in a R6.9.0 tree, and the rest is a small tweak to darwinKeyboard.c. Here's a patch that does it for you. Apply it with:

patch -p1 < patch-Xorg-R6.8.2-OSX-10.4.3-GCC-4.0.1

in your <build-dir>/xc/ directory.

Thanks to Torrey Lyons for the pointers.

/hacking/mindstorms | Link
LEGO™ pneumatics: what else could be said? The extensive survey of compressors is great.

Hal Hartley: Kimono

/noise/movies | Link

Too arty for me.

Fay Grim — a sequel to his masterpiece Henry Fool? Could it be?

/hacking/mindstorms | Link
LEGO™ intends to release a new version of Lego™ Mindstorms in the third quarter of 2006 — here's the press release, and Slashdot has some links.

/noise/movies | Link
Broken Flowers with Lucy at the Palace in Leichardt, and much later in the evening, Magnolia.

/noise/sport | Link
Went to watch South Africa play cricket against Australia at the SCG with my Dad. The SA batting was fairly tedious — they are masters at slow scoring, as they proved in the first Test in Perth. The last hour or so saw the collapse of the Australian top-order, which was perhaps a bit over-eager, understandably so given the crappy weather on the first day and an exhausting day in the field today.


/noise/movies | Link

On Cath's recommendation. Very Swedish. The subtitles I had seemed to leave out a lot of nuance.