Sep 2004

Breakfast is Good


That is all.


Music to Eat Strawberry & Ice Cream Waffles To

Or, music to enjoy on a beautiful Toronto morning:

  • Dido: White Flag, from Life for Rent
  • Dido: Stoned, from Life for Rent
  • Energy 52: CafÈ del Mar (Solar Stone remix)
  • Way Out West: The Gift (Club remix edit), from Elven Sundays
  • Andrew Sega (a.k.a. Necros): Orchard Street, from Elven Sundays
  • Donna Lewis: I Love You Always Forever, from Elven Sundays
  • Orbital: Halcyon+On+On (edit), from Elven Sundays
  • Chicane: Autumn Tactics (Chicane’s End of Summer edit), from Elven Sundays
  • Enzso & Boh Runga: One Step Ahead, from Elven Sundays
  • Delerium: Love (featuring Zoe Johnston), from Chimera
  • Sarah McLachlan: Path of Thorns (live), from Mirrorball
  • Paul Oakenfold: Southern Sun (DJ TiÎsto remix)
  • Dido: Don’t Leave Home

Toronto, Pt 1

My flight from Los Angeles to Toronto was thankfully rather uneventful, which meant no free upgrades to business or first class (yeah, like that was going to happen), but no baggage lost or overbooked flight either, which is equally as good. I landed at the inappropriately-named YYZ airport on time, picked up luggage, and met up with the ever-fun Dom and Zoe, who I haven’t seen in nearly two years. They have an absolutely lovely place right in the heart of downtown Toronto, but it’s in a quiet area since it’s on one of the rare one-way streets in the city.

Toronto is lovely: its downtown is segregated into a number of districts, such as the fashion district, the entertainment district, the financial district, the distillery, Chinatown and little Italy. Dom and Zoe’s place is in the middle of the fashion district, which borders the entertainment district, Chinatown, and the financial district: i.e. absolutely perfect for me. The fashion district provides plenty of shopping opportunity, the entertainment district provides, well, entertainment, Chinatown provides awesome cheap food, and the financial district provides lots of commercial shops to check out. Downtown looks much like New York and feels a bit like it too: square blocks, lots of commercial shops, food places and cafÈs interspersed with each other, and an energetic, alive atmosphere. Outside of downtown, I’ve ventured out to Danforth Av, a.k.a. the Greek district, a.k.a. the place where they filmed My Big Fat Greek Wedding (a totally excellent movie, err, or so I’ve been told).

One thing which is a contrast between Toronto and Sydney (or even Australia in general) is that stuff in general is cheap: a very filling meal can be had for around $7, compared to around $10 for the same thing in Australia. Clothes, electronics, CDs, etc are all significantly cheaper. About the only thing which is similar to Sydney’s prices is renting a place (not to be confused with buying a place, which is cheaper). But in general, your dollar goes a lot further here than in Australia, even with the 15% GST which isn’t included in the prices.

Speaking of dollars, I managed to find quite a few goodies in the city, including quite a few CDs:

  • Amon Tobin: Live in Melbourne
  • Juno Reactor: Odyssey 1992-2002
  • The Best of Delerium
  • Satoshi Tomiie & Hector Romero: Undulation 1
  • LTJ Bukem: Earth, Limited Edition CD+DVD

and also Saturday Night Live: The Best of Will Ferrell (Volumes 1 and 2) and Christopher Walken, and to top it all off, quite a number of new Luis Royo books and portfolios. Yeah baby.

Our night life mostly consists of chilling at home watching movies and venturing out for some supper or tea, although we did watch Resident Evil 2 the other night since one of the guys that Dom works with did the special effects for it. Total schlockfest, but so much fun — especially if you like seeing Milla Jovovich and similarly sexy girls going kung-fu on zombies, which I quite like. We also saw Dr. Strangelove, which is even more amusing the second time around.

I’ve also been managing to mix play with work: making some (slow) progress on making a proper xine framework build on Mac OS X. But for now, I’m about to head out to CN Tower and see if I remember anything from my visit there when I was a young’en. Tomorrow, I’m hopefully meeting Wolfgang Thaller in Hamilton to talk Haskell geek stuff, and buggered if I know what I’m doing on the weekend (besides heading out to Boston for Monty’s on Sunday, that is). Coming soon!


On Windows Marketshare

John Gruber writes a good article titled Windows Versus the World:

Most regular people donít even realize that there exist any choices other than Windows. Itís not they havenít heard of Apple or Linux, but that they donít really understand what they are. Part of Appleís stated reasons for launching their own retail initiative a few years ago was simply to raise awareness that the Mac even is an alternative to Windows PCs.

The article’s a little bit Apple-centric, but that’s quite OK considering that John’s blog is largely about Macs. I think he’s completely right that desktop Linux distributions will start overtaking Macintosh marketshare in the next few years, though (if it hasn’t already).


Los Angeles: Shopping, Shopping, Shopping

First, my apologies for not writing any blog entries in the past half a week. I’ve just been having quite a lot of fun, and have been rather tired (as in, falling asleep in 5 minutes) every day after coming back home and chatting with Dominic and Zoe. But before I jump ahead and start yabbering about what I’ve been doing in Toronto for the last few days, first, Los Angeles …

Mmm, the City of Angels, with unique Calcium Water™, freeways which defy belief and reason, and lots and lots of good, hard shopping. Next time I come to Los Angeles, I’ll be sure to bring at least two bags, because the one poor duffle bag I’ve brought along this trip just went from about 70% full to about 92% full, mostly consisting of new gadgets and new clothes (although it would be about 10000% full if I could buy out the entirety of Brookstone — man, that store is so evil). I’m quite scared thinking about how much money I spent only going to Fry’s, the Beverly Center, and The Grove; that list doesn’t even include the two usual shopping malls I venture to whenever I hit L.A. (Westside Century City). Somehow, I managed to restrain myself to buying no more than about 7 new items of clothing (a-ha, but not all of them are for me!), and less than USD$350 worth of gadgets.

What to do when you have clothing stores such as Banana Republic, Club Monaco, and of course, Victoria’s Secret (yeah baby)? Not to mention other stores such as the Sony Store, Borders, Barnes and Nobles, and real Apple Stores (transparent staircases, yum!), all selling stuff that’s far less than you could get stuff back home in Sydney, if you can in fact get the thing in Sydney at all! Since describing what clothes I got would make me look like a girl (along with watching Suddenly 30, of course), I won’t bore you with those details. Instead, I’ll bore you with what gadgets and goodies I got instead:

  • A very very tiny Vakoss USB hub, (as in, it’s just a tiny bit bigger than a CompactFlash card) because everybody needs a USB hub. Hey, at $10, I think I was quite justified!
  • A 5-1 in one flash card reader, which reads the usual plethora of memory card formats, but it’s a PCMCIA card, so it’s much smaller than other flash card readers. As a cool bonus, it has a PCMCIA to USB adapter, so in case you’re not working with a laptop (_as if_ you wouldn’t have a laptop, haw), you can still use it anyway.
  • Another classy 4-in-1 pen. Gotta have more clasy 4-in-1 pens. (Those of you who went with me on the ski trip this year will know exactly why I want another 4-in-1 pen :-). Black pen, highlighter, 0.5mm, and stylus. Wicked.
  • A Brookstone blue & white LED torch which is small enough to fit on your keyring. Like a Maglite, but LEDs never break unlike torch bulbs. Hooray!
  • A mini tripod. Who doesn’t need a mini tripod, I tell you? I should probably mention it was about A$10. I was very happy considering I saw the exact same model in another store for $25. Glee.

I also got a Logitech Mouseman Traveler, which was unfortunately broken, so I had to return that. I also bought and returned an Iomega Micro Mini 256MB USB flash drive, but returned that too, because I really wanted the 512MB or 1GB version. The Micro Mini is awesome, though: it’s the first flash drive I’ve seen that really is small enough to fit on your keychain.

Other than the shoppingness of L.A., I’ve of course been enjoying myself catching up with my cousins. I also played the first real game of tennis I’d played in a long time, and let me give you some advice: never play tennis (or basketball, or any other high-impact sport) in crappy $10 shoes. Your knees will be whimpering for a while.

So, Los Angeles has been fun, as always. I’ll have to come back next time with 2 nice large suitcases, and a bigger credit card limit …


Life is Good

Blog updates soon, I promise. In the meantime, since I’m sure you all miss me (hallo?), here’s what I’ve been up to in a nutshell:


On-The-Go Playlist from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles

Hmm, looks like I’m in a heavy heavy rhythm mood today:

  • Tool: Eulogy, from Aenima
  • Tool: Stinkfist, also from Aenima
  • James Brown: Ain’t it Funky Now, from Love Power Peace: Live at Olympia
  • The Prodigy: Break & Enter, from Music for the Jilted Generation
  • Iio: Rapture (Armin van Buuren mix)
  • Jaded Little Pill: Accelerator (Hybrid mix), from Remix and Additional Production By …
  • Energy 52: CafÈ del Mar (Hybrid remix), from Remix and Additional Production By …
  • NevÈ: Sacrifice (Starecase remix)
  • Juno Reactor: Conga Fury (Animatrix mix), from Animatrix: The Album. (Incidentally, the Animatrix mix is far better than the version on Bible of Dreams, IMHO.)

Frequent Flyers' Tip: Non-check-in Baggage

It seems that at least United Airlines lets you bring “medium-size” carry-on bags. By “medium-size”, I mean bigger than a backpack, but smaller than a suitcase. Instead of checking them in, bring them through security and to the gate. When you board, you can get a little green ticket, and pass the bag to some dude on the passageway to the plane. So you don’t actually bring the back with you to the cabin, but the nice thing is that you can pick up the bag right outside the door of the aircraft, rather than having to go to baggage claim and waiting nine hours for your bag to (not?) turn up. I don’t know if this applies to US domestic flights, all flights, or just United, but it’s a neat party trick.


ICFP, Days 2 and 3, and the Haskell Workshop

The last three days of Snowbird have been pretty routine: breakfast, conference, dinner, sleep. I’m not saying the routine’s bad, of course; quite the opposite. Breakfast at the Atrium has been awesome every single day. Who can go past a breakfast buffet of bacon, sausages, poached eggs, (lots of) salmon, pancakes, french toast, fruits, an exhilarating view, and the company of Manuel, Gabi and cute liddle Leon? I found the talks at ICFP pretty good, and the Haskell Workshop talks were great; there wasn’t a single boring talk from the latter. I did skip a couple of talks at ICFP to mingle with the other conference attendees, do a bit of shopping and/or general admin stuff (like confirming flights etc).

There’s a pretty amusing picture which was taken when I skipped one talk to hang out with Don Stewart, Ganesh Sittampalam and Arthur Baars. Since I was the only one who paid to get Internet access at the Cliff Lodge, I of course decided to share my much-loved Internet connection with Don and Arthur. So, half a minute later, there was an ethernet cable running from my Powerbook to Don’s Thinkpad laptop, and another Apple-white Firewire cable running from my laptop to Arthur’s Powerbook. (If you’ve never tried networking via Firewire, it works very well, and even works between Mac OS X and Windows.) To top it all off, Arthur was using my shared Internet connection to talk to his dad back in Holland on a bluetooth headset via Skype. The Internet still amazes me sometimes!

While at the conference, I managed to meet lots of new people: the whole mob from Chalmers University in Sweden (Pete, why didn’t you come along you slacker?), guys from Melbourne Uni and the National University of Singapore, the Oxford/Cambridge/York folks, and of course I met up with some old friendly faces too. My alcohol-loving friends will be proud to hear that I drunk at least one beer every night: from memory, I had a Pyramid Kezefasomething (see last blog entry for details :-), Sapporo, Becks, and two Pilsner Urquells, not necessarily in that order. There was a funnily-titled beer named Polygamy (which came with the amusing subtext of “Why have just one?” printed on its label), but I wasn’t game to try it: funny name, but probably tastes like crappy American. Will have to ask the Swedish folks to see if they liked it or not.

Probably Snowbird’s only small disappointment is that there aren’t very many restaurants around: amongst the four hotels there, there are six or so restaurants. This would be OK if the food was amazing (like the High Plains Lodge at Dinner Plain), but it’s not amazing: the food’s rather average. Not a big problem, but I imagine the food might get a tad boring after a week or more. Apparently lots of people head down to Salt Lake City during the ski season to sample the finer foods that Utah has to offer.

The only real tourist stuff I did was take the tram up to the top of Hidden Peak mountain, along with Don, Arthur, Ganesh, Tom and Duncan. Hidden Peak had an elevation of 11,000 feet, and was completely white with snow when we got there. Crazy Tom was only wearing a t-shirt up there, which made him quite the Man considering it was 20 degrees fahrenheit. Quite a few people also decided to skip some ICFP talks and hike up there during the daytime, which takes around 3 hours, but I wasn’t quite passionate enough about hiking to do that. Check out the photo gallery for some pictures of Hidden Peak, though.

So, overall, Snowbird was fantastic: ICFP’04 was pretty good, the Haskell Workshop was excellent, and breakfast (very important), the accommodation, the social life, and the view were all awesome. I’m so coming back here one day.

P.S. I’ve decided not to post notes about the talks ICFP’04 on my public website, since I don’t really want to offend any of the speakers by saying who was crap ;-). Email me if you’re really interested about the talks.

P.P.S. Adrian, you’ll be glad to know that I asked around about Suddenly 30, and the general consensus was that if, indeed, a guy asked another guy to see it, most people I asked thought that former guy would indeed be unequivocally gay.


ICFP Day 1 Hacking and Wind Down Music

(Guess where the “winding down” stage started)

  • The Future Sound of London: Expander, from Accelerator
  • Orbital: Doctor Who, from The Altogether
  • Satoshi Tomiie: Up in Flames, from Gatecrasher: Disco-Tech
  • Bedrock: Heaven Scent, from Gatecrasher: Disco-Tech
  • Alaska: Sacrifice, from Gatecrasher: Disco-Tech
  • Chicane: Live at Palladium (yeah, the whole thing)
  • Yoko Kanno: Sweet Feather, from Macross Plus OST 2
  • Dido: Here with Me, from No Angel

Griffin SightLight

If you travel alot and want to be able to video conference with iChat AV properly, the Griffin SightLight is an awesome little gadget. I’ve now had numerous iChats which would have been crap without the SightLight, and worked very well thanks to it.


ICFP Day 1 Wake-Up Music

Ah, wake-up music. There’s nothing quite like having good wake-up music for getting into the Zone at 6:30am:

  • Sarah McLachlan: World On Fire, from Afterglow
  • Delerium: Love, from Chimera
  • The Beloved: Sweet Harmony (Live the Dream mix), from Delicious the Album
  • CJ Bolland: The Tower of Naphtali, from Electronic Highway
  • Dido: Sand in my Shoes, from Life for Rent

ICFP, Day 1

I’m not quite sure if I’m jet-lagged or not: I woke up this morning at about 4:30 feeling quite refreshed. While I quite like getting up early, 4:30 is definitely a bit earlier than I had intended, but hey, I felt perfectly OK, so I thought I might as well just run with it. There’s nothing quite like being productive for a few hours before the day starts!

Right now, I’m really quite happy that I got a Powerbook rather than a PC laptop, the motivating reasons being the iSight and iChat AV. It’s amazing how much seeing a face adds to the conversation: Michelle and I were talking face-to-face for half an hour this morning, and just left the video feed going for over 2 hours when we were both doing our own work. This is what’s possible when you have high-speed, unlimited-bandwidth Internet connectivity! While there are still moments where a PC laptop would be really handy (such as doing Symbian mobile phone development work on the road), right now, an iSight and iChat AV are really a totally killer reason for buying a Mac.

I caught up on email and hacked around with some Haskell stuff (the “Typing Haskell in Haskell” module, if you’re a Haskeller) after chatting with Michelle, before meeting up with Manuel and Gabi for breakfast at the Atrium Breakfast Buffet, on the bottom floor of the Cliff Lodge. This place continues to impress me: just check out the view from the Atrium to see what I mean. How often do you get to have breakfast with that kind of a view? And the breakfast buffet was good, too: I had lots of bacon, 2 sausages, scrambled eggs, watermelon, grapes, pancakes with maple syrup (yep, pancakes on buffet, freaking awesome), and to top that all off, about 10 pieces of salmon. I was full after that. I mean, really full. As in, I was walking around exclaiming “man, I’m full”. That kind of full. I think I might just have to do this breakfast buffet thing again tomorrow: for $13, I’m fairly certain it beats room service, and I don’t think there are too many other breakfast places around.

The conference itself started at 9: I won’t bore non-programmers with the details here; if you’re interested, see the ICFP archive for my notes about the actual talks. The succinct summary, though, is that they were very good, and the invited talk by John Launchbury on industrial use of functional programming was excellent. After the morning talks, we headed out to lunch at Snowbird Central, which is a five minute walk away from the Cliff Lodge. Lunch was buffet-style standard conference food: not too bad nor not too good. That’s OK, I’ll just have ultra-yummy breakfasts at the Atrium instead :-). The talks after lunch were OK: I think I nodded off a few times in the talk straight after lunch, but my excuse for that is that it was straight after lunch :). (I’m glad that our talk isn’t straight after lunch!)

I skipped out on the last two talks in the afternoon since I glanced at the abstracts for them, and either had absolutely no idea what on earth they were talking about, or just plain not interested. (Sorry, backtracking theory just doesn’t turn me on that much!) After the session concluded, we did the geek-circling thing and chatted to each other for a while, and decided to meet at the Keyhole Junction restaurant for dinner that night, where Manuel, Gabi, Leon and I ate at the night before. I wasn’t complaining in the least since my steak burger was pretty good, but we ended up going to the Aerie Bar for food since the Keyhole was absolutely packed.

Food at the Aerie was pretty average: I had a caesar salad with some slightly-too-hard croutons, but I did have a pretty decent American wheat beer named Pyramid Kezef … Kezefasomething. Andy Moran (who works at Galois Connections) gave me a quick rundown on American beers: in a nutshell, all the big commercial beers (e.g. Bud, Miller) suck hard, and there are lots of smaller breweries around which try to imitate the big breweries; they also suck. However, there are plenty of microbreweries around (mostly in the north west of the US, apparently) which do produce some very good beer. I guess an analogy with Australian beers would be Fosters and VB (the big breweries) vs Coopers and James Squire (smaller breweries). Utah also has some interesting liquor laws: it seems that you cannot order alcohol at a restaurant unless you also order food to go with it, and they’re not legally allowed to give you the alcohol list unless you specifically request it.

Dinner was pretty good: I was chatting to Andy Moran and his fiancÈ, Don, and Simon Marlow for most of the night, mostly about non-geek stuff like Portland and how nice it is to have mountains as a backdrop for a city. The atmosphere was very relaxed and comfortable, and I think everyone headed to bed after that since they were all quite tired, myself included. So, end day 1 of ICFP. ‘twas good.


Mein bag! Mein bag!

Looks like Delta airlines baggage staff have redeemed themselves and found my bag. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy to see my toiletries bag in my life.


Snowbird, Utah and the Cliff Lodge

All I can say is: Holy. Crap!

The one-line summary is that I am so coming back here again. It’s absolutely stunning. Scenery totally abounds: unfortunately I didn’t carry the camera in my pocket on the way from Salt Lake City to Snowbird so I didn’t snap any shots, and the camera on my phone simply won’t do the scenery justice at all. Utah has some truly magnificent mountains, and the colours of the trees in autumn are simply spectacular: you get ranges from that pine-tree forest green, to near-tropical darker shades of green, but also very pretty browns and yellows which just aren’t seen in Australia. It’s a breathtaking sight if you don’t see mountains and pretty green-yellow shades very often, which I don’t.

As for the Cliff Lodge where the ICFP conference is being held and also where I’m staying, well … I’ve never seen a better hotel bargain in my life. This place is very much up there amongst the more luxurious hotels I’ve stayed at, at around three cheaper than what I would expect to pay (especially considering Snowbird is a ski town, and ski towns aren’t renown for being cheap). My room has two double beds, a huge desk, a refrigerator, two plonk-your-arse-in chairs surrounding a posh marbly table, a full-size wardrobe, a sit-down place to put on your shoes, and a freakin’ leather sofa. Not bad considering it’s less than $100/night. The view out the room looks out onto the mountains, too, which is really damn nice: I promise I’ll take a photo tomorrow when the sun’s up. Even cooler, the bathroom has a clear window out into the room (though there’s a shower curtain you can zip across if you want some privacy), and from some conversations I overheard over dinner, that’s so you can have a shower and enjoy the mountain view at the same time. Very clever. Must remind self to design clear shower window out into room with a mountain view if I ever get around to designing a house (along with designing the mountain view, of course).

The skiing here looks pretty damn awesome too: you can see the ski trails carved out on the mountain even though there’s no snow. Ski bunnies, we absolutely have to come here. The skiing looks totally carving. I swear I’d be missing a day or two of the conference this week if it were still snowing here …

After basking in the awe for about half an hour after I arrived at the Cliff Lodge, I de-plane-ified a bit (had shower etc) and then met up with Manuel and Gabi for dinner. We found a pretty decent little bistro downstairs named the Keyhole, and I did the traditional American thing and got me-self one Angus Steak Burger. It Was Good. Along with burger was a Pilsner Urquell: let it be said that Urquell was also good, but drinking beer when you’re 8,000 feet makes it noticeably harder to breathe properly, or at least it did for me. Don didn’t come to dinner since he didn’t get much sleep from Sydney to Los Angeles, so he crashed at about 6 o’clock. Manuel and Gabi didn’t get a whole of sleep either, but they appeared in good spirits. Leon (their one-and-a-half year old son) was also looking in good spirits, and was being very cute and wanted me to read him a German picture book. Now I know that the German word for ‘bear’ is ‘bear’.

So now it’s post-dinner, and I’m just listening to some Lamb on the laptop waiting for my big bag to arrive from Delta: hopefully it’ll get here in about half an hour. So far, the international flight was fine, domestic flights sucked, but Snowbird and the Cliff Lodge has totally made up for that misadventure. I am so going to use the Cliff Spa while I’m here — in fact, I’d probably be there right now if I had my board shorts … aww jeah, it’s looken’ good.


Tom Bradley, Terminal 8, Terminal 5 ...

Well, my impression of the American airline industry just gets better and better: my United flight to Salt Lake City at 1:19pm was cancelled, so they shoved me on a Delta Airlines flight at 3pm instead. Oh vey, another 2 hours of killing time at Los Angeles airport! (Though I admit I’ve actually been productive and have been hacking on TextExtras as I intended to in the last blog, so it wasn’t much of a waste of time.) At least the staff are pretty friendly: they do seem quite sympathetic to the numerous screw-ups that keep happening. I don’t think I’ve had a single trip to the USA in the past 2 or 3 years where something didn’t go wrong.

The good part of the story is that I managed to book myself on an earlier Delta flight which left Los Angeles at 1pm, so oddly enough I ended up catching an earlier flight than the one which was cancelled. The bad part of the story is that means I had to move terminals yet again. My Qantas flight into Los Angeles arrived at the Tom Bradley International terminal, from which point I walked with Don to Terminal 5 since I was killing time and didn’t have anything better to do. Then, onward to Terminal 8, where my cancelled United flight was, and then back to Terminal 5 for my final Delta flight. In conjunction with the Auckland stopover, that meant I’d gone through security screening four times. Fun, fun, fun.

The really bad part of the story is that my baggage didn’t travel with me on the flight and got misdirected somewhere between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, although the baggage assistant dude who helped me claimed that it’s very likely coming on the next United flight, which lands in Salt Lake City at 6pm. Since there’s not much else I can do about that, I’ll just pray it does come, otherwise I’ll be wearing my Afterglow long-sleeve shirt again tomorrow …


LAX On-The-Go iPod Playlist

So I might try a little experiment with blog posting and see whether people like it or not: here’s what I had on the On-The-Go playlist on my iPod today when I was lining up for about 17 days in the United check-in queue …

  • Peace Orchestra: Who Am I? (Animatrix mix), from the Animatrix album
  • Sarah McLachlan: Fallen, from Afterglow
  • Sarah McLachlan: World on Fire, from Afterglow
  • Venus Hum: Hummingbirds, from Big Beautiful Sky
  • DJ Shadow: Live! In Tune and On Time, yeah, the whole album. Mmm, vocoded Lonely Soul mixed into Guns Blazing so does it for me …
  • Way Out West: Stealth (Quivver mix)
  • Junxie XL: Beauty Never Fades (Animatrix edit)
  • Juno Reactor: Conga Fury (Animatrix edit)
  • Energy 52: CafÈ del Mar (Solar Stone remix)

Hey, I figure if what I’m listening to is totally uninteresting (which it most likely is unless you frequently discuss music with me), you can just ignore the post right? :)


LAX, Trial the 1st

Ah, LAX, my favourite airport. You know, the whole LAX experience thing would be so much more enjoyable if you just didn’t have to queue up for 3 hours when just transferring from an international flight to a domestic flight. Some sort of priority system for international to domestic transfers (and vice versa) really would almost make it enjoyable. I’m just looking forward to having to line up for 3 hours again when I leave later in the trip from Los Angeles to Toronto. E-tickets (which I don’t have for the domestic North American flights on this trip) really speed things up.

I’m pretty nonplussed about the whole thing though; having an iPod or any sort of MP3 player makes things much more tolerable. Fidgeting and being totally bored in a queue is quite sucky compared to bobbing your head up and down because DJ Shadow is going off. I also had friendly immigrations and security officials (for once!), which made things much more pleasant. One tip for those who travel frequently: if you’re like me and carry around lots of metallic thingys in your pocket, empty it out into your backpack (neÈ handbag) before you reach the front of security. Security checkpoints are much more pleasant when you can do things at your own pace relaxedly, rather than having loud, American-accented security guards telling you for the nth time that you really should take your shoes off while you’re trying to empty your pockets.

I also succumbed to American pop culture and got a white chocolate mocha. I figure that since I’m in the land with totally s**thouse coffee, I might as well make the most of it and absolutely 100% guarantee that what I have is off the wall and sweet. I’m really quite tempted to ask for an Orange Mocha Frappucino from Starbucks :-).

Anyway, just killing time until my flight leaves for Salt Lake City … the geek in me is calling out to go hack on TextExtras so that I have proper Emacs dynamic abbreviation in every Mac application. Mmmm, let’s just see.


From Sydney to LAX

This is coming to you live from QF155 (well, if by “live”, you mean “at the time it was written”, anyway :-). The flight’s been rather nonplussed: we had a pleasant 2-hour journey or so from Sydney to Auckland, and stopped over in Auckland for around 30 minutes or so before jumping back on the plane. Of course, I decided that since Auckland was quite possibly the last place I was going to get a decent coffee for most likely the next entire month, I just had to grab my last mocha at Auckland airport. Executive summary of coffee experience: (1) mocha in New Zealand is good, (2) New Zealand accents are giggly funny, and (3) New Zealand currency is the same as Australian, but different. Hey, I’d never seen New Zealand currency before, so I thought it would be worthwhile to withdraw $20 from the nearby ATM. Pretty colourful notes! Oh, and I also bought an Ecuadorian banana. All good.

The only unpleasant part of the trip was getting back on the plane. It looks like the Auckland Airport security staff don’t trust the Sydneysiders to give their passengers a good cavity search, so they made us go through the whole security checkpoint rigmarole garbage again. (Mind you, I don’t blame them: the only good cavity search is one done yourself.) So, that added a rather unnecessary 30 minute delay or so.

Back on the plane, I had a fairly reasonable choice of movies. Being the hardcore action flick guy that I am, I of course had to watch Suddenly 30, starring Jennifer Garner. Nah, actually, that was a joke (sorry if you brought out some Johnny Walker at that statement, Foo.) I really watched “The Girl Next Door”, with one tasty Elisha Cuthbert, a.k.a. Kim “I am the most pretty-looking trouble magnet ever” Bauer in 24. It was rather average: I didn’t quite expect such a teeny flick, though. I guess it’s not particularly mainstream Hollywood to produce movies like the Opposite of Sex (Christina Ricci), which I was more expecting than an American teenage romantic comedy. Note to the girls though: the main guy in the movie is pretty hot, in an American innocent-boy-with-possible-use-of-brille-cream kind of way. Your Mileage May Vary.

Don and I geeked out a bit after our respective movies (I am informed that Don watched Tom Smith, which “was pretty good”), and proceeded to pull out our laptops to hack on Haskell code. For the Haskellers reading this, I tidied up a nice swishy GUI example so that it works with his latest version of hs-plugins, which I’m hoping to present in his talk, because nice swishy GUI examples are great for talks. For the non-Haskellers amongst you, just let it be said that there was a CAT6 network cable running between our two laptops (that I’m sure attracted some stares from the poor passenger sitting next to us), and it was fun. I also managed to catch up on personal emails, though I’m still 200-300 messages behind on mailing lists, and played one of the Qantas in-flight games named “Professional Gold Digger”, which is totally unashamed clone of Lode Runner, except that it has a more crappy name. Really, c’mon: Lode Runner vs Professional Gold Digger? What were they thinking?

Anyway, off to read more email now, then either chill out to the iPod or sleep for a while. (I should probably mention at this point that I did catch some powernaps between movies and coding, so don’t worry about the lack of sleep, mum and dad :-).


Hotham 2004 Photos

I’ve put up the photos from our skiing trip to Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain. It was one of the best holidays of my life, and the best skiing I’ve ever done. Three days later, and I’m still on a high from it. We’re already tossing around skiing in Arlberg next year :).


The Perfect Father's Day Present



If you just can’t get your fingers away from those magical Emacs C-a and C-e keys and you’re using Windows a lot, XKeymacs might just be the thing for you:

XKeymacs is a keyboard utility to realize emacs like-useability on all windows applications. With XKeymacs you can use emacs keybindings with any windows application. You also get bash-like command completion in your DOS shell.

The only serious missing feature is the magical M-/ key (Dynamic Abbreviation), which is unfortunately one of the biggest reasons that I love Emacs so much. Even so, it’s pretty damn nice having those familiar keys available in Windows applications, from Notepad to Visual Studio.