Thursday, June 30, 2005

So ... how about the weather

It's been a little hard finding the time and motivation of late to blog, as I am in the depths of writing a conference paper which is consuming all my mental resources (so what I am really saying is, I haven't been blogging because I am actually doing work).

Here are some random bits of news and forthcoming blog entries.

I am currently writing another review which should be blogged by the end of the week. A friend and work colleague of Aff's, Tim Windsor, has commissioned my services for the writing of a review of his band's CD launch which happened last Saturday night (and if you think I enjoy saying that, you'd be right!). He wants something like what I did with Aff's choir concert, but I'm finding this to be quite a challenge.

Tonight, another Postgrad Association social event is happening, a Rock'n'Roll night! Complete with the A.C.T rock'n'roll club in attendance to teach us all some moves. I am not directly involved in the organisation of this event, but will certainly be putting on the blue suede shoes for the big occasion. I have told Aff to start stretching now, if she wants to keep up on the dance floor tonight. I'll certainly report back on this event in the coming days.

We have another Melbourne visitor on the way, Claire. In an unprecedented decision by a non-family visitor, Claire has opted for the week long Aff'n'Chris rancho relaxo package! Carnivale` Claire` will kick off this Saturday morning.

Finally, the following weekend, Aff, Claire and myself will be driving down south to a town near Mansfield called Tolmie. Our friend James has a house there. Incidentally, another friend of mine, Cassie, also has a house there, which probably means I know more than half the town's population!). We are meeting up with other Melbourne friends for a bit of a hiking and general catchup weekend - and yes, to keep warm - perhaps a small nip of brandy will also be involved ;)

It appears driving insane distances has become Aff and my new hobby.

... and as for the weather

Canberra has had rain almost everyday since the infamous camping trip to Bright on the Queen's B'day weekend. That was over two weeks ago! Apparently now, Canberra's rain fall patterns resemble something more like it was 100 years ago. I am still waiting for an official word on when I may start voicing complaints about getting wet every day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A hard day at "The Office" for Channel 10

Wow, talk about knee jerk reactions. Channel 10 have decided to axe the American version of "The Office" after just two episodes. This was apparently due to poor ratings.

You might think a hard core fan of the orginal BBC series like me would be pleased to hear of its axing. Well, to be honest, while I didn't support the American remake, I still think it would have been one of the more watchable television shows on commercial tv, which admittedly, isn't saying a whole lot.

.. and what have they decided to replace it with? I hear you ask

A tried and tested American favourite - re-runs of "Everybody loves Raymond"!

.. now isn't that better? ... nice and average again.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Geek Warning for Canberra and the ACT

News just in.

The ANU's robotics and computer vision research group has just organised to go to a pub this evening for what has been described by the organiser as "a social event". Canberra residents, particularly those in the Civic area around 5pm tonight, are warned not to try and speak or make eye contact with anyone who looks "socially awkward". Rumour has it, the pub of choice is the well known "Wig'n'Pen". The bar staff rostered on for tonight have been warned to stock up on orange juice, and in accordance with A.C.T. regulations, section off an area at the back of the pub, away from regular pub patrons. The A.C.T. first introduced the controversial "geeks off the streets" legislation in 1986, in response to the last known computer science social event to have occurred in Canberra. More updates as news comes to hand.

The American version of "The Office" - what's your view?

There is no doubt in my mind that the BBC comedy, The Office is one of the great television comedies ever made. From conversations I have had with many people, opinions on the show appear to fall into either a love, or hate basket. Interestingly, the reasons for loving it or hating it appear to be the same .. David Brent, the main character who embodies all that is sad and pathetic in an office manager, is excrutiating to watch. Love or hate its comedy, no one can doubt the show is very insightful, cleverly written and beautifully produced.

So the question is: why then do the Americans feel a need to remake this classic ? In my opinion, this reflects much of what is saddest about main stream American culture. How is it that a show that has already received so much accolade, needs to be remade in an American context, in order to have it accepted by an American audience? Sure, the BBC version has a lot of British references, and uses some slang that may require a moments thought, and yes, sometimes Finchy's accent can be a little hard to understand, but really, doesn't it just seem a little bit pathetic (and that is not to say I am at all surprised, as I am well aware this is not the first time).

.. but is the American version any good ?

Thankfully, reviews of the American version sound promising, and apparently the show does not follow the same events as the original (despite last night's version looking very much like a cheap imitation). It is also good to know that the American production team includes Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, who co-wrote the original BBC version. Hopefully the yanks haven't stuffed this up, and in particular, have not sacfrificed the all important ingredient of subtlety that so often is missing in American comedy. Or is it that the subtlety in American comedy is usually just too subtle for non-American to notice :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Festiva De Mick

There is no doubt that on any given day, many important people fly into our nations capital. Of course, these people come and go, and are usually given little attention by the 300,000 of us who live here and go about our Canberra lives. But every now and then, a certain caliber of person arrives, who commands a little more notice and respect. A certain someone who provides a break from the usual entourage of politicians, diplomats and public servants. And so this was, when Mick Moylan, a good friend from Melbourne, arrived on an early morning flight from Melbourne last Friday.
Indeed, it has been sometime since Canberra airport has seen such a prestigious figure arrive, however, the airport did seem somewhat under prepared for the event. There was no orchestral welcome, no long winded speeches or any sign of the national guard to welcome Mick. Instead, Mick was welcomed by a rather more modest ceremony, involving Affrica and myself sprinting into the arrivals area after arriving later than expected, just as Mick began to walk aimlessly around the airport in search of us. And so at 8:45am, Friday June 17, Festiva De Mick did begin.

It was a three day event, where Mick took on the great challenge of visiting all Canberra's many fascinating attractions. Of course, for his hosts who in addition to Aff and myself, also included Imogen (another recent arrival from Melbourne), the challenge was to find three days worth of fascinating attractions to show him. And to our nation's capital's credit, we achieved this in great style. From the war memorial, to Canberra wineries - from Canberra night life, to quiet lake side walks (nursing hangovers) - from "Belco" mall, to the national museum - Mick saw it all.

I give a very rough summary of events below ...

On Friday afternoon, Mick and I decided to go for a tour of the Australian institute of Sport, which enticed us both with the promise of an elite athlete as our tour guide. I would, however, be lying if I said we weren't a little dissapointed with who they gave us. With all due respect to our tour guides, two unknown pimple-faced 17 year old walkers, we were perhaps hoping for someone of a little more notoriety. However, one good thing that came out of the tour was that I can now officially say I know where Canberra's answer to piss weak world is .. the "interactive sports centre". As part of the tour, you get put in a room of "sporty activities" for about 30 minutes. I was particularly keen to try out the wheel chair basketball, which I had been told about. Well, I found it - in a little sectioned off basketball area (about 4m x 3m), containing only one wheel chair which was disappointingly bolted to the ground. So while it was possible to spin the wheels on the wheel chair, you couldn't actually move anywhere. Other highlights included a "throw the rugby ball through the hole", a mock up Olympic medals ceremony podium which when you stand on it, starts up a voice over the PA system that announces your gold medal triumph, followed then by the sound of a cheering crowd. Of course, being the show pony I am, I milked this for all it was worth and stood on the podium for quite sometime waving at my fellow AIS guests. Mick eventually suggested I get off, and let someone else have a go. I will spare you the details of the rest of the interactive sports centre, but simply say that it was not quite the sporting experience I was hoping for. The AIS tour itself was kind of interesting, if only because you get to hear the crazy training schedules these athletes are subjected to.

In complete contrast, earlier that day we had visited the war memorial where the tour guide was exceptionally good. In fact, he was so thorough that after 90 minutes, Mick, Aff and I had to leave because of time constraints. This tour guide had a few stories to tell, and boy did he tell them. I suspect the tour may still be going.

Saturday was quiet. Mick and Imo were nursing hangovers from their Friday night drinks. Chris was also nursing a hangover from a separate Friday night event. Aff looked remarkably chipper for someone who didn't get home until 3am, and who had to get up at 9am for a shift on a drug support hotline (volunteer work she is doing). I thought it might be funny to ring her and ask whether Panadol or Herron was better for my hangover, but then thought the joke may not go down so well. I was probably still a little drunk at the time. We met up with Mick and Imo later that day. Because we were all tired, and still a little hung over, we decided to cook dinner at our place, and watch a DVD (dodgeball) that night.

Sunday provided a variety of activities and events. Mick and Imogen both stayed the night (our first over night guests in our new house). The morning started somewhat awkwardly when Imogen and myself managed to find a bit of a loop hole in the current protocol for having a shower in our house. You see, the shower has two doors, one that leads from the master bedroom, and one that provides entry for the rest of the house. Both these doors are opposite each other. On Sunday morning, Aff got up first and had a shower. After Aff finished, I thought I would be the polite host and wait a little while, to allow anyone else the chance to have a shower before me. After ten minutes, however, I decided this window of opportunity had passed, and so went for it. Now, without giving too much information, at this point it is important to know that I sleep best when clothed very minimally. Given I have direct access to the shower from the bedroom, I thought it unnecessary to put on extra clothing for the 5 second journey from the bed, through the walk in robes, and to the shower area. Of course, what I did not count on when I slid open the door to the shower, was that Imogen would also be entering the shower area through the opposite entry. Imogen, who was wearing a pair of Aff's pajamas (which probably added a couple of seconds to my reaction time), was no doubt horrified with the sight that very briefly lay before her. To her credit, however, she maintained her composure and did not run screaming from the house. I, however, was like a rabbit caught in the spot light, and did not display quite the same composure. Instead, I let out a high pitch squeal, then scampered back to my bed and hid under the doona. Thankfully, Imo saw the humour in the incident. No doubt this story will be told in pubs and around camp fires for many years to come. I would just like to assure any future Canberra visitors that an inquiry has been launched into the incident, and the current shower protocol is likely to undergo significant changes. Or at the very least, I will just go and buy myself some pj's.

After the events of the morning, the rest of the day was much more dignified. We had Yum Cha in Dickson, and then went on to tour some of Canberra's finest wineries (well, three of them anyway). This was followed by an early dinner, followed then by a very speedy race back to the airport to put Mick on a plane, and send him home. And so ended Festiva De Mick, and I look forward to some more visitors in the next month or so.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My name is Chris, and yes .. I'm a blogaholic

Since I started my own blog, I of course have become more interested in reading blogs of other people. This, I have found to be a most intriguing pass-time, and I am now realising, a dangerous one as I clock up many a "wasted" hour of PhD time reading the fascinating views of the world at large. Of course, if a PhD is meant to be the ultimate opportunity to broaden ones mind, then surely this is not really wasting time. However, I suspect my supervisory committee won't quite see it the same way come my six month progress report.

I have just recently added some links to a few blogs of friends of mine (on the right side bar). All are worth checking out. I will add more as I start to find them.

Also, I found Democrats Senator for Queensland, Andrew Bartlett's blog via Rob's blog a couple of weeks ago. It is well worth a read, and a great way to get a snap shot of life as a parliamentarian (regardless of your political persuasion, or lack thereof). It will be particularly interesting to read his views in the coming week, as a heap of senators who lost their seats in last years election leave, making way for the governments new senate majority.

I particularly admire Senator Bartlett's frankness on many important issues, as well some of his more personal posts. It's true, some politicians (maybe even most) are actually human!

Oh well, back to blog reading .. sorry ... I mean .. PhD work .... really ;-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

waiting for thankyou

Aff, Kev, Amy, Jason and myself are awaiting our official thankyou from all farmers in South East Australia, particularly those near Bright, for the rain we clearly brought with us by choosing to go camping this long weekend!

My question is - at what point may us city dwelling Aussies be allowed to resume complaining about rain ... it's hard to love the rain when you're camping in it, and driving home in it:)

Friday, June 10, 2005

"The spit was flying" - A review of Aff's choir concert

Moments after I sat down at the ANU Arts centre theatre, the lights dimmed and my excitement grew as 105 (or there abouts) people streamed out from stage left. All were dressed in black, seemingly emotionless, avoiding eye contact with the 300 people waiting patiently in the audience. If it wasn't for the fact that the audience knew this to be a choir performance, and that the female singers (including Affrica) all wore bazaar white floral scarves around their necks, one could have been forgiven for mistaking this for some sort of re-enactment of a medieval battle scene. After the 105 strong black army had taken their position, lining up in four very orderly rows, they were followed by four very decorated knights (apparently known as soloists), dressed in shining, sparkling robes. This was no doubt to instill great fear and intimidation in those who sat before them. Then, the King himself arrived, dressed in humble black robes, much like his devout army - a nice touch from a King I thought. He wielded a stick, apparently a symbol of His Excellencies dominance and claim to these here lands. It was an awesome sight. In response, all we could do was applaud, and applaud we did, for quite sometime, prolonging the onslaught. This battle, however, was inevitable, and as the last audience member completed their final clap (I never know when to stop), the King then turned to his black army, raised his big stick, and commenced his attack. And so began the choral charge of SCUNA (ANU choral Society backwards).

Aff had managed to snare the most prominent position in the entire choir. She was standing front row and center, her only shield from the audience being a big trombone in the orchestra, which blocked the far right of the audience from a clear view of her vocal work. I, however, had a seat in the more central regions of the theatre, and so had a perfect view of everything. The choir performed two works from Mozart, enticingly titled "Requiem" and "Mass in C Major". Now I know nothing about music, particularly classical, but boy did the spit fly across the theatre when these two masterpieces were belted out. I suspect Aff may have landed one right in the conductors eye, but he didn't seem to care because he was drenched in sweat anyway. It was intense, and the choir was in full throttle. Well, all except one. I don't want to make any wild accusations, or start a scandal, but I suspect SCUNA has a mimer in their midst! After the show, I discussed this at length with Aff, and was prepared to bring it up with the man in question in the interest of maintaining quality in the choir. Aff, however, advised me against this.

After the concert was the post-concert party. You may remember critical news reports that surrounded the British alt-rock band Oasis when they first toured Australia in the mid 90's. Reports claimed Oasis partook frequently in wild parties and post-concert antics which plagued their entire tour. Well, I can tell you now, those Oasis boys have nothing on the wild childs of SCUNA. The SCUNA post-concert party, hosted by a member who's parents had gone away for the weekend, got off to a wild start with the offering of Turkish bread and dips. It wasn't long before the Brie and watercrackers were being passed around in an orgy of cheese, dips, and sausage rolls. Then someone opened a beer (me), and it was on for young and old. People sat around talking, someone even got on a piano and started playing, followed then by someone else putting on a CD (Delta I think). The party was wild. If I wasn't trying to find my way through the crowds of people to the cheese platter, I was trapped in conversation with someone with a rather deep and disturbing knowledge of Doctor Who. I barely remember what happened (and I only had one beer ... but I can tell you that Doctor Who comes from the planet Gallafrie, and has two hearts. What a night!

So all in all, a great performance by SCUNA, and in particular by their front-centre star soprano, Affrica.

(Concert was Sunday June 7, 2005 @ ANU Arts Centre)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

An hour I'll never get back

I don't know why I expected anything different, but I decided this morning to go along to a seminar given by a person from the careers centre here at ANU. The talk was on strategies to develop your career, aimed specifically at research younglings like myself. In my experience, careers centres rarely have anything useful to tell me. To be blunt, I sometimes wonder just what sort of expertise people have that offer such careers advice. Bare in mind, this is a personal opinion, based solely on my own experiences. Judging from some of the nodding heads in the audience of this seminar, many in the room thought this information was relevant. I, however, found the talk to be one of the least inspiring talks I have heard on the subject.

Firstly, the speaker had no direct experience with my field (by this I mean Engineering). She seemed to have a very Arts/Humanities take on academia, which was exposed on a number of occasions. Secondly, she loved to talk about allocating time for everything - and I mean everything. I can't say I have ever thought to block off time in my week for "networking" activities, or for trawling through the on-line job advertisements. The way she was talking suggested if you weren't already doing these things, you might as well give up now and start practicing how to say "do you want fries with that" clearly. But the final nail in the coffin, and I couldn't help but sigh (a bit louder than I actually planned to), was when she mentioned the words "career goals and plans". She even mixed in a reference to the old cliche' "where do you see yourself in 10 years". Uninspired to say the least.

You might think I am being a little harsh, but I really am opposed to this as the basis of career development. I am not opposed to having career goals as such, but for me, career goals are not in the form of "I want to be a Professor" or "I want to be the highest publishing academic in my field" (as she would want it to be). To be completely honest, I have little ambition to climb ladders like this. This is not to say that I am opposed to doing so, just that I don't see that as a motivation for my career. My career goal is simple, I want to do something interesting, that contributes and pays the bills (with a little left over). If I spend my life doing jobs like this, I am tipping I will die a happy camper. So what I would love to see is a careers adviser who does not predict doom and gloom if your not doing every extra curricula activity or course, and not allocating "career planning time" each week. Rather, I would prefer to hear someone say something like: "do the things that interest you, and always keep an eye out for opportunities". I would also love to hear an adviser say something like: "never discount the possibility of change in your career", rather than the usual uninspired "career plan" crap. I may be young and naive, but my experiences since finishing my undergrad degree in 1999 have certainly not been what I ever really planned for .. and if I do end up working at MacDonald's, it will be because I choose to do so.

Monday, June 06, 2005

You know you're a geek when ...

... you feel a little homesick after accidentally sending a print job to a printer you left behind in Melbourne :(

... I'll always remember you "lp.6NorthEast"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

chalk (another) one up for the galactically stupid

While the mailing of a potentially fatal "biological agent" to the Indonesian embassy is just shocking (the first attack of such a kind in Australia), what disturbed me even more were reports that the embassy (and other Indonesian consulates around the country) have received hate mail and death threats for weeks over the Corby case. We are, of course, worried what effect this will have on our relations with Indonesia - maybe they'll think we don't really like them. The truth is, for an alarming percentage of Australians it seems, this is exactly the case.

And the demand to take back money donated for the Tsunami relief - its clear that emotion over reason is rife in Australia.

We are not the clever country ... let no one convince us otherwise.


This week I have played 3 games of netball, 1 game of basketball and am playing squash at lunch time today ... I think I can now safely say I have reached my sporting limits .... everything hurts.