peteg's blog

Yosemite National Park with Penka and Rajat.

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The super moon from Glacier Point, Yosemite.

Penka and her husband Rajat took me to Yosemite for the weekend. We did a lot of driving. Tonight we ended up at Glacier Point at sunset, and got a fantastic view of the (almost) super moon. Rajat observed that it was in strange confluence with the winter solstice.

Monsters University

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Penka extended her friend's invitation to this freebie screening somewhere in Palo Alto. (Prerna works for Disney games and her husband Ashish is at Google, tweaking AdSense, and is an erstwhile classmate of Rajat.) We got a pile of popcorn and the 3D technology seemed different to what I'm used to in Australia, though the effect was subtle enough that I didn't really notice it.

I can't remember the original too well, so perhaps I didn't see it. This one was OK but not great, being heavy on the American values of brotherhood and all that, and compounding the self-reliant myth of making it from the bottom. The New York Times review says more than I could be bothered to.

Afterwards we went to dinner at an upscale Indian place in the heart of Palo Alto.

Computer History Museum in Mountain View

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An ancient mechanical totalisator from NSW.

Penka dropped me off at this mecca of dead hardware. Entry was $US15, despite the sponsorship of Bill Gates, and lunch was the same again. The story begins with Babbage's difference engine (with a part of a replica made by a Dutchman on show) and proceeds through wartime computation and Turing's contribution to the halcyon days of big iron (IBM's stretch and so forth) and the time when Cray's supercomputers really were super. My childhood was summarised in a single room (of consumer microcomputers); I didn't see an Amiga 500 (just the original 1000) or the classic Atari 600XL/800XL they had in primary school in Orange. There were several old Apples: a ][ but not a //e, a Lisa, an original Mac. They had a panel of old toy robots, but I expect there is a far larger collection out there in private hands.

Australia's (or perhaps New Zealand's) contribution was a totalisator manufactured by George Julius's Automatic Totalisators Ltd; a part of it had pride-of-place in a perspex box just in front of the entry door in the foyer. There were also some fragments of CSIRAC (I think) of the JOHNNIAC lineage, on loan from the Victorians.

Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore

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The view from Alamo Square Park.

Kate suggested I read something by her favourite author; while in Berkeley I found that Vijay had read it as well ("I enjoyed it as a story."). I finished it off while huddling from the wind blowing across Alamo Square Park after a sushi lunch with Peter Eckersley. The view of San Francisco down towards the Embarcadero is legendary.

This book is essentially a long rambling narrative in the magical realism tradition. There is quite a bit of sex and gender politics, with something of a Lolita arc with the gender roles switched. The best bits for me were when Nakata talks with cats. (Upon reflection I also see the truck driver as an echo of Kipling's Kim, with Nakata so obviously being the Tibetan Lama.) Most things got sufficiently resolved by the end, but I didn't invest enough effort to fathom the symbolism: what happened to Johnny Walker? What was with the Colonel? (Or was it Hồ Chí Minh?) What was with the iguana-like thing getting stranded? The gesturing at postmodern-ism and idealism (Hegelism, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, etc.) left me cold. I wonder if he wrote it to be enjoyed or studied.


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The excursion for the ExCape Synthesis Summer School was to Alcatraz. I went with Sean and didn't take any photos. It was a beautiful day for it, with the wind not too cold on the bay.

Pixel Sounds Festival

/noise/music | Link

I headed out to the Cambelltown Arts Centre with Ben. It's a strange little sub-genre: making danceable music with Gameboys. The last guy (cTrix) was pretty good and 10k Free Men kind-of funny in an aggressive ocker sort-of way.

Mohsin Hamid: Moth Smoke

/noise/books | Link

This is Hamid's first novel. The opening trial structure a bit weird and ultimately merely parenthetic. The accounts of the "witnesses" are less fully realised than Daru's strong voice. There is a limp twist at the end. The structure is the same as his other two: boy-meets-girl amongst calamity (here the 1998 Pakistani nuclear tests). I liked the heroin-laced aitches, replacing the stoner's jays. The worst of the three but still not bad.

/noise/beach/2012-2013 | Link

Mid-morning snorkel before the rain and cold set in. I saw the blue Blue groper and a large stingray, and loads of the usual suspects.