Life & Travels

It Gets Better

Pixar’s latest short film. I’m so proud and honoured to be working with such an amazing group of people.


Six Months in San Francisco

I feel like there’s been four stages to my life. The first stage was being a youngling at primary school: I don’t remember much from there except that I fantasised about handball being an olympic sport. The second stage was the PC demoscene, where I grew interested in many things that I love today about computing: art, music, and my first experience with a community and culture that you could love and immerse yourself in. The third stage was my twenties: an introduction to university, Linux, coding, the Mac, Haskell, research conferences, industry conferences, the working life, and balancing it all with healthy doses of relaxation, food and the beautiful world that Sydney had to offer. The fourth stage was tearing myself away from that fairly sheltered life and my emotional base, and moving to San Francisco.

I’ve been here for six months. It’s felt like two years. It has been a truly wonderful experience: making new friends, learning a new culture that’s both significantly but subtly different, and doing it all without my family nearby, who’ve been my anchor and support for the past three decades. Part of the motivation was proving to myself that I could make it on my own: prove myself worthy in the eyes of my peers, be social enough to make genuine friends here who I cared about and who cared about me, living on my own and simply paying the rent. Part of the motivation was to shake things up from a cruisy life in Sydney and experience new things. I’m glad to report that the experiment’s going pretty well so far.

San Francisco is a city of immense contrast. For every stupid hipster who thinks that owning a Prius absolves them of their environmental debt to society, there are remarkable individuals who understand and challenge the daunting realism of politics, lobbying, energy, transformity and limits to growth. For every poser upstart get-rich-quick guy chasing after VC funding for Facebook apps, there are the quiet anonymous developers at Apple, Google, and startups you’ve never heard of who work on all the amazing technologies that the entire world takes for granted today. The Tenderloin, so unpleasant to walk through, has some of the very best restaurants and bars that the city has to offer. The nouveau shiny high-rises of South Beach contrast with the destitute run-down feel of western SoMa, only a few blocks away.

It’s a make-or-break city: rents are insanely high despite the rent control laws, and there’s no lower-middle class population here because either you’re flying high, or you’re not flying at all. It’s natural selection in action: either you keep up with the pack and continue being successful, or you fall and become left behind. And so, in contrast to the relaxed lifestyle of Sydney, San Francisco is full of ambition. While it lacks the non-stop pace of New York or the late-night industry of Detroit and Chicago, the people here want to change the world, and they have the innovation, the smarts and the determination to do so.

The tech industry here is simply amazing. Despite being here for half a year, I’m still floored when I go to a party and every person I meet there ends up being a Web designer, or a coder, or a sysadmin, or a DBA, or a network engineer, or a manager of a bunch of coders, or a VC funding a tech company, or a lawyer or accountant or marketing or PR person working for a tech company, or a level designer or artist working for a games company. Even the girls. It boggles me. It’s like the entire Bay Area simply exists to build software and iPhones and tech solutions. I was truly daunted in the first few months to find out that everyone around me was, well, just like me. A few months ago, I was at my favourite little tea shop in San Francisco decompressing and minding my own business, when three people sat down next to me and started talking about VGA BIOS exploits. (Turns out that they work for VMware.) I mean, seriously?

I wouldn’t say that I’m totally acclimated to the Bay Area yet, and perhaps I never will be. Visiting Australia just a month ago reminded me just how different the two cities are in their lifestyles. People are always doing something in San Francisco: there’s so many interesting people there that you feel like need to divide your time between groups, let alone having time to yourself. Even the serious introverts there are out on most schoolnights. The people here are always switched on; even at a party, there’s an air of networking going on and the feeling of opportunities to be seized. You almost always end up talking shop at any event, because people here are defined by what they do: one of the very first questions you’re usually asked is “Where do you work?” or “What do you do for a living?”. In Sydney, asking that question so soon would just be a little bit weird. You usually save that for far later in the conversation, when you’re running out of things to say to the pretty girl to try to hook up with her. (And don’t even get me started about the American dating scene.)

And so, for all the wonderful parks, bars, tacos, restaurants, pirate shops and museums of the city; the incredible beauty and varied terrain of the North Bay; the charm and chilled suburbia of North Berkeley in the East; and the innovation and serenity of Silicon Valley just south, I still miss Sydney and the culture I grew up with for twenty years. I don’t mean that in a yearning way or mean to imply that San Francisco is somehow inadequate, because it rocks: I’m having a wonderful time experiencing new things, and it was the right decision to move here. This is where I should be at this stage in my life. Sydney will always be where my heart is, but right now, San Francisco is home, and it’s as fantastic as I hoped it would be.



I think my current plan of being self-employed is arguably working out pretty well. I get to work on RapidWeaver and LittleSnapper, two kick-ass products with a ton of users who love it. I’m friends with the lovely baristas and staff at my local café, where I normally work during the day. However, nothing beats taking a weekday off to chill out at my favourite café in Sydney, perhaps catching some waves at Bondi Beach and then playing some tennis afterwards, only to put my head down and code at night when the distractions are minimal. Life, as they say, is pretty peachy.

So, just before my 30th birthday, it was with both great apprehension and excitement that I made the decision to give up my current lifestyle and my current job. In five days, I move from the comfort of Sydney to magnificent San Francisco, to start work for a company that I’ve loved so much ever since I was a kid: Pixar.

To say that this was not where I expected to be in my life is quite an understatement. I was always the guy who thought that things would fall into place if he found the right girl, and that career would work itself out later. I fell in love hard when I was 21, was about this close to deciding to get married when I was 26, and when things went south, it took countless numbers of D&M talks with my close friends (thank you thank you thank you), another wonderful relationship with one of the most amazing people I know, and over three years to truly recover. I spent weeks in self-reflection pondering what life was about, what the day-to-day drudgery meant, and what I had accomplished during my second decade on Earth while so many of my friends were growing by leaps and bounds in their own relationships.

Meanwhile, my career was working out just fine. I worked on one project that will hopefully have the success it deserves with the release of Firefox 3.1 and perhaps take the lead in the important area of open-standards video on the Web. I’ve worked on other projects that are all tremendous successes in their respective markets, and along the way, I made a ton of genuine friends in the demoscene, Haskell, Linux and Mac OS X communities. Nonetheless, I still felt that I failed to meet my own expectations, since I’d never considered my career to be a measure of success. Despite the fantastic lifestyle that working remotely for Realmac afforded me, I was still restless, and still felt incomplete in my personal life.

Last year, I travelled a lot, not as a means of escapism, but because I had a ton of conferences to hit, and also wanted to visit some of my best friends who were now overseas. As I hopped from the UK to the USA to Singapore, I spent a lot of time alone, as travel does to you, and reflected on life. One day, I spent eight hours by myself in my favourite tea lounge in San Francisco, mixing feelings about the past decade and all its ups and downs: perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps I concentrated too much on things that would simply work themselves out. By the time I returned to Australia’s beautiful shores in December, I was exhausted from too much reflection, too much living out of a duffel bag on the road for months, and too much melancholy from thinking about the past and too much searching without answers.

However, something else happened in those months of travel: all of those worries slowly felt more and more like experience. I figured that, hey, my third decade was looming; either I start my thirties by continuing to be subtly haunted by those worries of the past decade, or I could treat those worries as learning experiences and forge a new outlook that relished any challenges the future could bring. As Steve Jobs says, “sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” And so, just as I started to feel happy when I finally returned home, Pixar came knocking. I flew to San Francisco just a few days after arriving back in Sydney from months of travel; it would be my last trip for 2008. I did the interview thing, and a week later when I was back again in Sydney to wind down for Christmas, I got The Phone Call. When would I be able to move to San Francisco to start work there?

I thought hard about my current lifestyle of cafés and working remotely, and how I loved working at a small company like Realmac where I was directly responsible for the welfare of a much-loved application. I anguished over all the friends I had made in Australia and how much I’d miss them, and how much I’d miss my family. I thought about how I made my life here: how I went to school here, University here, met all my lovers here, and how this was, well, home. In the end, though, how could I turn down the opportunity of a lifetime, working at a company that married art and science so perfectly, and inspires so much love & passion in everyone? (Also, I hear there’s a lot of hot Asian-American girls in San Francisco.)

There’s no moral to this story: it just is, and I thought it needed telling while I still had the guts to tell it. So, as of next Wednesday, I leave my wonderful memories here to explore life in a new city. I’ve traditionally used this blog to communicate my thoughts on computing and technology, but I’ve always admired and enjoyed reading other people’s blogs that were much more personal (without being totally emo). Hopefully I’ll transform this blog a little to have a far more personal feel, so I can keep in touch with all the people I know & love around the world; thank you all for being a part of my life and enriching and defining me. See you on the other side of the Pacific!


Coherence & Groupthink

Charles Petzold, one of the most famous authors of Windows programming books out there, wrote a great entry on his blog over a year ago that I’ve been meaning to comment on:

Once you’ve restricted yourself to information that turns up in Google searches, you begin having a very distorted view of the world.

On the Internet, everything is in tiny pieces. The typical online article or blog entry is 500, 1000, maybe 1500 words long. Sometimes somebody will write an extended “tutorial” on a topic, possibly 3,000 words in length, maybe even 5,000.

It’s easy to convince oneself that these bite-sized chunks of prose represent the optimum level of information granularity. It is part of the utopian vision of the web that this plethora of loosely-linked pages synergistically becomes all the information we need.

This illusion is affecting the way we learn, and I fear that we’re not getting the broader, more comprehensive overview that only a book can provide. A good author will encounter an unwieldy jungle of information and cut a coherent path through it, primarily by imposing a kind of narrative over the material. This is certainly true of works of history, biography, science, mathematics, philosophy, and so forth, and it is true of programming tutorials as well.

Sometimes you see somebody attempting to construct a tutorial narrative by providing a series a successive links to different web pages, but it never really works well because it lacks an author who has spent many months (or a year or more) primarily structuring the material into a narrative form.

For example, suppose you wanted to learn about the American Civil War. You certainly have plenty of online access to Wikipedia articles, blog entries, even scholarly articles. But I suggest that assembling all the pieces into a coherent whole is something best handled by a trained professional, and that’s why reading a book such as James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom will give you a much better grasp of the American Civil War than hundreds of disparate articles.

If I sound elitist, it’s only because the time and difficulty required for wrapping a complex topic into a coherent narrative is often underestimated by those who have never done it. A book is not 150 successive blog entries, just like a novel isn’t 150 character sketches, descriptions, and scraps of dialog.

A related point I’d like to make is that people tend to read things that reinforce their viewpoints, and avoid things that go against their beliefs. If you’re a left-wing commie pinko in Sydney, you’re probably more likely to read the Sydney Morning Herald as your newspaper; if you’re a right-wing peacenik, you’ll probably prefer The Australian instead. If you’re a functional programming maven who sneers at C, you probably hang around Haskell or O’Caml or Erlang or Scheme geeks. If you’re a Mac programmer, you talk all day about how beautiful and glorious the Cocoa frameworks are, and probably have a firm hatred of C++ (even though there’s a decent chance you’ve never even used the language).

Hang around with other cultures sometimes. Like travelling, it’s good for you; it broadens your perspective, and gives you a better understanding of your own culture. The human nature of seeking confirmation of your own viewpoints, combined with Petzold’s astute observations about learning in bite-sized chunks, means that it’s incredibly easy to find information on the Internet that only explains one side of the story. How many people on your frequented mailing lists, IRC channels, Web forums or Twitter friends have similar opinions to you, and how many people in those communities truly understand other systems and have been shot down whenever they’ve tried to justify something valid that’s contrary to the community’s popular opinion? I’m not saying that hanging around like-minded communities is a bad idea; I’m simply saying to be aware of groupthink and self-reinforcing systems, and break out of your comfort zone sometimes to learn something totally different and contrary to what you’re used to. Make the effort to find out the whole picture; don’t settle for some random snippets of short tidbits that you read somewhere on the Web. Probably the best article I’ve ever read on advocacy is Mark-Jason Dominus’s Why I Hate Advocacy piece, written eight years ago in 2000. It still holds true today.



R. A. Salvatore, Road of the Patriarch, p. 280:

The point of self-reflection is, foremost, to clarify and to find honesty. Self-reflection is the way to throw self-lies out and face the truth—however painful it might be to admit that you were wrong. We seek consistency in ourselves, and so when we are faced with inconsistency, we struggle to deny.

Denial has no place in self-reflection, and so it is incumbent upon a person to admit his errors, to embrace them and to move along in a more positive direction.

We can fool ourselves for all sorts of reasons. Mostly for the sake of our ego, of course, but sometimes, I now understand, because we are afraid.

For sometimes we are afraid to hope, because hope breeds expectation, and expectation can lead to disappointment.

… Reality is a curious thing. Truth is not as solid and universal as any of us would like it to be; selfishness guides perception, and perception invites justification. The physical image in the mirror, if not pleasing, can be altered by the mere brush of fingers through hair.

And so it is true that we can manipulate our own reality. We can persuade, even deceive. We can make others view us in dishonest ways. We can hide selfishness with charity, make a craving for acceptance into magnanimity, and amplify our smile to coerce a hesitant lover.

… a more difficult alteration than the physical is the image that appears in the glass of introspection, the pureness or rot of the heart and the soul.

For many, sadly, this is not an issue, for the illusion of their lives becomes self-delusion, a masquerade that revels in the applause and sees in a pittance to charity a stain remover for the soul.

… There are those who cannot see the stains on their souls. Some lack the capacity to look in the glass of introspection, perhaps, and others alter reality without and within.

It is, then, the outward misery of Artemis Entreri that has long offered me hope. He doesn’t lack passion; he hides from it. He becomes an instrument, a weapon, because otherwise he must be human. He knows the glass all too well, I see clearly now, and he cannot talk himself around the obvious stain. His justifications for his actions ring hollow—to him most of all.

Only there, in that place, is the road of redemption, for any of us. Only in facing honestly that image in the glass can we change the reality of who we are. Only in seeing the scars and the stains and the rot can we begin to heal.

For Rebecca, who holds that glass of introspection higher than anyone else I’ve ever known. Thank you for everything.


The Long Road to RapidWeaver 4

Two years ago, I had a wonderful job working on a truly excellent piece of software named cineSync. It had the somewhat simple but cheery job of playing back movies in sync across different computers, letting people write notes about particular movie frames and scribbling drawings on them. (As you can imagine, many of the drawings that we produced when testing cineSync weren’t really fit for public consumption.) While it sounds like a simple idea, oh boy did it make some people’s lives a lot easier and a lot less stressful. People used to do crazy things like fly from city to city just to be the same room with another guy for 30 minutes to talk about a video that they were producing; sometimes they’d be flying two or three times per week just to do this. Now, they just fire up cineSync instead and get stuff done in 30 minutes, instead of 30 minutes and an extra eight hours of travelling. cineSync made the time, cost and stress savings probably an order of magnitude or two better. As a result, I have immense pride and joy in saying that it’s being used on virtually every single Hollywood movie out there today (yep, even Iron Man). So, hell of a cool project to work on? Tick ✓.

Plus, it was practically a dream coding job when it came to programming languages and technologies. My day job consisted of programming with Mac OS X’s Cocoa, the most elegant framework I’ve ever had the pleasure of using, and working with one of the best C++ cross-platform code bases I’ve seen. I also did extensive hacking in Erlang for the server code, so I got paid to play with one of my favourite functional programming languages, which some people spend their entire life wishing for. And I got schooled in just so much stuff: wielding C++ right, designing network protocols, learning about software process, business practices… so, geek nirvana? Tick ✓.

The ticks go on: great workplace ✓; fantastic people to work with ✓; being privy to the latest movie gossip because we were co-located with one of Australia’s premiere visual effects company ✓; sane working hours ✓; being located in Surry Hills and sampling Crown St for lunch nearly every day ✓; having the luxury of working at home and at cafés far too often ✓. So, since it was all going so well, I had decided that it was obviously time to make a life a lot harder, so I resigned, set up my own little software consulting company, and start working on Mac shareware full-time.

Outside of the day job on cineSync, I was doing some coding on a cute little program to build websites named RapidWeaver. RapidWeaver’s kinda like Dreamweaver, but a lot more simple (and hopefully just as powerful), and it’s not stupidly priced. Or, it’s kinda like iWeb, but a lot more powerful, with hopefully most of the simplicity. I first encountered RapidWeaver as a normal customer and paid my $40 for it since I thought it was a great little program, but after writing a little plugin for it, I took on some coding tasks.

And you know what? The code base sucked. The process sucked. Every task I had to do was a chore. When I started, there wasn’t even a revision control system in place: developers would commit their changes by emailing entire source code files or zip archives to each other. There was no formal bug tracker. Not a day went by when I shook my fist, lo, with great anger, and thunder and lightning appeared. RapidWeaver’s code base had evolved since version 1.0 from nearly a decade before, written by multiple contractors with nobody being an overall custodian of the code, and it showed. I saw methods that were over thousand lines long, multithreaded bugs that would make Baby Jesus cry, method names that were prefixed with with Java-style global package namespacing (yes, we have method names called com_rwrp_currentlySelectedPage), block nesting that got so bad that I once counted thirteen tabs before the actual line of code started, dozens of lines of commented-out code, classes that had more than a hundred and twenty instance variables, etc, etc. Definitely no tick ✗.

But the code—just like PHP—didn’t matter, because the product just plain rocked. (Hey, I did pay $40 for it, which surprised me quite a lot because I moved to the Mac from the Linux world, and sneered off most things at the time that cost more than $0.) Despite being a tangled maze of twisty paths, the code worked. I was determined to make the product rock more. After meeting the RapidWeaver folks at WWDC 2007, I decided to take the plunge and see how it’d go full-time. So, we worked, and we worked hard. RapidWeaver 3.5 was released two years ago, in June 2006, followed by 3.5.1. 3.6 followed in May 2007, followed by a slew of upgrades: 3.6.1, 3.6.2, 3.6.3… all the way up to 3.6.7. Slowly but surely, the product improved. On the 3rd of August 2007, we created the branch for RapidWeaver 3.7, which we didn’t realise yet was going to be such a major release that it eventually became 4.0.

And over time, it slowly dawned on me just how many users we had. A product that I initially thought had a few thousand users was much closer to about 100,000 users. I realised I was working on something that was going to affect a lot of people, so when we decided to call it version 4.0, I was a little nervous. I stared at the code base and it stared back at me; was it really possible ship a major new revision of a product and add features to it, and maintain my sanity?

I decided in my naïvety to refactor a huge bunch of things. I held conference calls with other developers to talk about what needed to change in our plugin API, and how I was going to redo half of the internals so it wouldn’t suck anymore. Heads nodded; I was happy. After about two weeks of being pleased with myself and ripping up many of our central classes, reality set in as I realised that I was very far behind on implementing all the new features, because those two weeks were spent on nothing else but refactoring. After doing time estimation on all the tasks we had planned out for 4.0 and realising that we were about within one day of the target date, I realised we were completely screwed, because nobody sane does time estimation for software without multiplying the total estimate by about 1.5-2x longer. 4.0 was going to take twice as long as we thought it would, and since the feature list was not fixed, it was going to take even longer than that.

So, the refactoring work was dropped, and we concentrated on adding the new required features, and porting the bugfixes from the 3.6 versions to 4.0. So, now we ended up with half-refactored code, which is arguably just as bad as no refactored code. All the best-laid plans that I had to clean up the code base went south, as we soldiered on towards feature completion for 4.0, because we simply didn’t have the time. I ended up working literally up until the last hour to get 4.0 to code completion state, and made some executive decisions to pull some features that were just too unstable in their current state. Quick Look support was pulled an hour and a half before the release as we kept finding and fixing bugs with it that crashed RapidWeaver while saving a document, which was a sure-fire way to lose customers. Ultimately, pulling Quick Look was the correct decision. (Don’t worry guys, it’ll be back in 4.0.1, without any of that crashing-on-save shenanigans.)

So, last Thursday, it became reality: RapidWeaver 4.0 shipped out the door. While I was fighting against the code, Dan, Aron, Nik and Ben were revamping the website, which now absolutely bloody gorgeous, all the while handling the litany of support requests and being their usual easygoing sociable selves on the Realmac forums. I was rather nervous about the release: did we, and our brave beta testers, catch all the show-stopper bugs? The good news is that it seems to be mostly OK so far, although no software is ever perfect, so there’s no doubt we’ll be releasing 4.0.1 soon (if only to re-add Quick Look support).

A day after the release, it slowly dawned on me that the code for 4.0 was basically my baby. Sure, I’d worked on RapidWeaver 3.5 and 3.6 and was the lead coder for that, but the 3.5 and 3.6 goals were much more modest than 4.0. We certainly had other developers work on 4.0 (kudos to Kevin and Josh), but if I had a bad coding day, the code basically didn’t move. So all the blood, sweat and tears that went into making 4.0 was more-or-less my pride and my responsibility. (Code-wise, at least.)

If there’s a point to this story, I guess that’d be it: take pride and responsibility in what you do, and love your work. The 4.0 code base still sucks, sitting there sniggering at me in its half-refactored state, but we’ve finally suffered the consequences of its legacy design for long enough that we have no choice but to give it a makeover with a vengeance for the next major release. Sooner or later, everyone pays the bad code debt.

So, it’s going to be a lot more hard work to 4.1, as 4.1 becomes the release that we all really wanted 4.0 to be. But I wouldn’t trade this job for pretty much anything else in this world right now, because it’s a great product loved by a lot of customers, and making RapidWeaver better isn’t just a job anymore, it’s a need. We love this program, and we wanna make it so good that you’ll just have to buy the thing if you own a Mac. One day, I’m sure I’ll move on from RapidWeaver to other hopefully great things, but right now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. We’ve come a long way from RapidWeaver 3.5 in the past two years, and I look forward to the long road ahead for RapidWeaver 5. Tick ✓.


FOMS 2008

The Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) workshop took place last month, from the 24th to 25th of January. FOMS is a rare opportunity for open-source multimedia developers and industry folks to get together all in one place, and the result is two days of intense discussion about issues such as encapsulation formats, codecs, video and audio output APIs, media commons, and metadata—not to mention sharing a common hatred of Flash. The first FOMS was held last year in 2007, and was a great melting pot for people from very different open-source multimedia projects, such as xine,, GStreamer and Nokia, to get together. This year’s FOMS proved to be just as successful; this time with folks from Sun, Opera and the BBC joining the fray.

One wonderful thing about this FOMS was that a large number of the folks (Monty, Derf, Rillian, Jean-Marc and MikeS) were all there. are one of the main providers of freely available multimedia standards, and it’s rare that their members have an opportunity to meet in person. It’s a little strange that they met in Melbourne rather than in the USA where the majority of their members are, but hey, I’m sure they won’t complaining about that!

For me, there was a bit of an ominous atmosphere leading up to FOMS due to the recent outbreaks of “discussion” in December 2007 about the HTML5 recommended video codec. (I use the one “discussion” lightly here, since it was a lot more like hearing one’s angry neighbour trying to break down a brick wall with their head, for about a week.) It seemed obvious that the HTML5 video codec problem would be discussed at length at FOMS, but I hoped that it wouldn’t dominate discussion, since there were a lot better things to do with the combined intellectual might of all the attendees than talk about issues that were mostly political and arguably largely out of their hands to solve.

I’m glad to say that the HTML5 video codec problem was definitely discussed, but with a great focus on finding a solution rather than wailing on about the problem. Ogg Theora and Dirac, represented by and the BBC at FOMS, are two of the contenders for the HTML5 baseline video codec recommendation, and it was excellent to see that people were discussing technical aspects that may be hindering their adoption by the W3C, always keeping the bigger picture in mind.

There were also breakout groups that threw down some short-term and long-term goals for the FOMS attendees: I personally took part in a discussion about metadata, text markup of video (subtitling, closed captions, and transcriptions), and video composition and aggregation (“video mashups”). Shane Stephens would present a great talk at a few days later about Web 2.0-style community-based video remixing; if you’re interested at all in video mashups and video mixups, be sure to check out his talk!

If you’re interested at all in the open-standards multimedia space, the proceedings of FOMS are available online thanks to the FOMS A/V team, with a big thanks to Michael Dale for bringing his incredible metavid video content management system to the humble FOMS site. (You may also be interested in the W3C Video on the Web Workshop Report that was very recently released.) In an area that’s as complicated as multimedia, FOMS is tremendously valuable as a place for open-source developers to meet. It was a great complement to, and here’s hoping it’ll be on again next year!


The Australian Open 2008

On the 19th of January, I left Sydney’s beautiful shores for a holiday in four parts: the Australian Open, the Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) conference,, and Kiwi Foo Camp. I’m in the middle of writing up about the conferences, so this is the first small blog entry in a series of four.

The Australian Open had upset-after-upset this year, being the first one in a very long time where neither the first nor second seeds made it through to the final. We had a five-day ground pass that we didn’t quite use all five days of, but still managed to catch a couple of fantastic matches on it:

  • James Blake vs Marin Cilic: all brawns and no brain. There’s so much to like about two big guys always serving stuff at over 200km/h, and the only tactic is to just hit stronger and harder than the other guy. (“If violence doesn’t solve your problem, you’re not using enough of it.”)
  • Hanley & Paes vs Bopanna and Ram: It’s amazing watching the top double seeds’ reaction speed at the net: you realise just how much innate talent these guys have, because no amount of training is going to make you that quick.
  • The Woodies vs Pat Cash and John Fitzgerald: I’m glad I got to see Woodbridge and Woodforde play at least once in my life. Now I’d just like to see a mixed legends pair of Agassi and Graf…
  • Rafael Nadal vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Ah, our precious semi-finals ticket. I expected this to be a three-set match; I just didn’t think it’d be a three-set match where Nadal lost. (When was the last time Nadal lost in three sets to anybody?) Tsonga was playing quite possibly the best tennis I’ve ever seen in my life. Even The Scud playing in his best form couldn’t have matched Tsonga that night.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Lleyton Hewitt regains a better reputation amongst Australians after this year’s Open, thanks to his marathon five-set win against Marcos Baghdatis that finished at 4:33am. It’s amazing how much the media can distort reality: most people forget that Hewitt was #1 in the world for two years running, before Roger Federer came onto the scene, and is probably Australia’s best player in the past thirty to forty years. Pat Rafter never made it to #1; Pat Cash never made it to #1. Arguably Hewitt created some of the controversies himself, but I’m still amazed that so many Australians hold serious animosity toward him.

Tennis is one of those sports where watching it on TV doesn’t give you any indication of just how fast the balls are flying around, how fast a 200km/h serve really is, how fast the players are moving on the court, and how fast they’re reacting. I’m very glad to say that two friends I went with to the Australian Open had never seen a live tennis match before, and both of them loved it.

As well as plain ol’ tennis, we did of course take in a lot of the Melbourne culture, visiting many of the fine cafés and rustic alleyways in the city, heading north to the Yarra Valley for a day, going to the markets at Southbank, and eating pancakes at Stokers. One highlight was seeing James Morrison and Deni Hines at the Palms in the Crown Casino. I think our little group of four at the Palms were the youngest people in the entire audience… by about a decade. Morrison’s amusing obsession with his new vocoder keyboard and Deni Hines’s majestic voice made for a fantastic night of jazz.

All in all, my little Melbourne holiday proved to be a ton of fun and be incredibly relaxing at the same time. This was all good days indeed, since I needed a ton of energy to survive through the next week…


Conferencing, January 2008

I’m going to be doing a small bit of cityhopping in the next few weeks:

  • 19th to 23rd of January: in Melbourne for the Australian Open,
  • 24th to 25th of January: in Melbourne for FOMS (Foundations of Open Media Software),
  • 26th to 28th of January: more Australian Open in Melbourne,
  • 29th to 31st of January: in Melbourne for,
  • 1st to 3rd of February: in Warkworth, New Zealand for Kiwi Foo Camp.

If you’re reading this and will be in Melbourne or Warkworth on those dates, drop me an email and let’s go drinking be civilised!


All's Well That Eats Well

In the past two weeks, I’ve been wining and dining it up indeed…

  • 30th of September: Dinner at Capitan Torres in the CBD, one of the finer Spanish restaurants in Sydney. Their paella and grilled octopus tapas are godly, and their chorizo is ohhhh mmmmm yumm.
  • 1st of October: High Tea at the Gunner’s Barracks in Mosman, with stunning views of Sydney harbour, lovely tea, and a perfect 30° day.
  • 5th of October: Lunch at Forty One at Chifley Plaza; $35 for melt-in-your-mouth salmon, and stunning views from 40 levels above Sydney (even from the bathroom!)
  • 6th of October: Breakfast at Echo on the Marina in Roseville (near Echo Point park). An excellent place on the North side to go to for brekky; for the Eastern suburbs yuppies, I also love Trio at Bondi Beach.

All this after recovering from a ski trip where I had the best cabernet savignon and raspberry strudel in my entire life (thanks Matt)! Of course, I’d also interspersed fine restaurant samplings with visits to the best gelato place in the entire freaking world. So life ain’t too bad right now.

For the Sydneysiders, remember that October is Good Food Month! Make sure you check out the Let’s Do Lunch deals, where the best restaurants in town do $35 lunches. (Well, except for Tetsuya’s…) There’s also night noodle markets markets at Hyde Park… sigh, what a shame I’ll be off to Singapore this month and will miss out on the festivities. Oh well, I suppose heavenly dumplings, $2 chicken rice and chilli crab will have to do instead; boo hoo, O woe is me, etc etc.


WWDC Craziness

  • Meet new people (✓),
  • Catch up with fellow Aussies I haven’t seen in years (✓),
  • Go to parties (✓),
  • Behave appropriately at said parties (✓),
  • Use the phrase “Inconceivable!” inappropriately (✓),
  • Work on inspiring new code (✓),
  • Keep up with Interblag news (✗),
  • Keep up with RSS feeds (✗),
  • Keep up with personal email (✗),
  • Keep up with work email (✗),
  • Installed Leopard beta (✓),
  • Port code to work on Leopard (✗),
  • Successfully avoid Apple Store, Virgin, Banana Republic et al in downtown San Francisco (✓),
  • Keep family and friends at home updated (✓),
  • Mention the words “Erlang”, “Haskell” and “higher-order messaging” to puny humansfellow Objective-C programmers (✓),
  • Write up HoPL III report (✗),
  • Find and beat whoever wrote NSTokenField with a large dildo (✗),
  • Get food poisoning again (✗),
  • Sleep (✗),
  • Actually attend sessions at the conference ( ✗).


Today is a Good Day

First, fuel costs are down:

Second, I actually finished an entire tube of Blistex before I lost the stupid thing. I believe this is the second time in my life that this has happened:


Fourth, my personal inbox looks like this right now:

Zero messages, baby. Yeah! (Well, OK, my work inboxes still have a ton of messages… but zero personal mails left is really pretty nice.)

Plus, this is being published from Auckland airport, on the way to San Francisco. Not a bad day at all.


Doctor Doom, eh?

Your results:
You are Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
The Joker
Lex Luthor
Mr. Freeze
Green Goblin
Poison Ivy
Dark Phoenix
Blessed with smarts and power but burdened by vanity.
Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test

Lest We Forget

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” — Thomas Jefferson

I never did modern history at school, so I was spellbound by Wikipedia’s entries about World War I and World War II. I hope that Company of Heroes will be the closest thing that I ever get to experience to a real war.


Geek Culture and Criticism

What’s happened to Kathy Sierra, and what she wrote about angry and negative people, inspired me to write a bit, so let me indulge myself a little. I live in the computing community, with other like-minded geeks. Computing geeks have a (deserved) reputation for being a little negative. This is not without cause: there’s a lot of things wrong in our world. A lot of the technology we use and rely on every day is brittle and breaks often, and as Simon Peyton-Jones says, we’re quite often trying to build buildings out of bananas. Sure, you can do it, but it’s painful, and it’s downright depressing when the bricks are just over there, just out of reach. Our efforts for releasing software is often met with never-ending bug reports and crash reports, and it’s quite sobering looking at our task trackers.

It’s impossible to resist ragging on something or abusing something. This is part of geek computing culture. We have to work with a lot of crap, so it’s easy to be critical and complain about everything around you. However, from this day forward, I’m going to try to at least make any criticism not totally destructive. (I don’t think I’m vitriolic, mind you, but I’ll make a conscious effort to be more constructive now.) Wrap it up in some humour; offer some suggestions or alternatives. Resist using inflammatory language as much as you can when you’re personally attacked, or simply walk away from it. Re-read everything you write and think “Is what I’m writing simply making people more bitter? Is it actually worth somebody’s time to read this?”

Be more gentle with your language and kinder to your fellow netizens. Don’t participate in flamewars. Don’t join the mob mentality and rail on Microsoft or C++ or Ruby or Apple or Linux when everyone else does. (You’re meant to be a scientist after all, aren’t you?) Break away from that self-reinforcing sub-culture that often comes with being a geek.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, back to work!


Thoughts to Kathy Sierra

For those of you who were fortunate enough to see the magnificent Kathy Sierra keynote at this year but don’t read her blog, she’s received death threats and sex threats from some anonymous bloggers and comments. It was serious enough that she cancelled a presentation at an upcoming conference, and the police have been informed.

Wikipedia has some updated information on her harassment. Dave Winer, in a remarkably objective post, reckons it’s just a bunch of trolls and that those kind of death threats are nothing new. I think it’s a little too early to tell yet exactly what the hell is going on, but even if it is “just some trolls”, it’s still outrageous behaviour. Be sure to also read her update on the situation if you’re checking out the other links.

Lesson learned: don’t start a Web site that encourages abusive behaviour unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences. In fact, just don’t start a Web site that encourages abusive behaviour at all. As Kathy herself says, angry and negative people can be bad for you. I wonder whether it was that article that triggered off some power-hungry kid’s frontal lobe.

Godspeed, Kathy. The world needs more people like you. Hopefully whoever made those comments will be punished—and redeem themselves.


Computing Heroes

I was chatting to a mate of mine about a remarkable book that I found the other day:

One of the greatest intellectuals of our century writes about computing systems and fundamental aspects of the brain. What’s there not to like here? I’m only halfway through the book, and it’s already got so much worthy material in it that I will recommend it to any other computing folks. It’s worth it for the Foreword alone.

Alas, von Neumann passed on a while ago. Right after our discussion, I find out that John Backus passed away last Saturday. Phil Windley comments that “Computer Science has always been a discipline where the founders were still around. That’s changing.”

Arguably computing’s most famous face-person right now is Bill Gates. I don’t see Gates being famous as bad: after all, the guy is a multi-billionaire, which naturally gives him a little bit of a reputation, and his philanthropic acts are to be admired even if one despises his business tactics. However, what does the greater public know about our real heroes? Alan Turing? John von Neumann? Grace Hopper? Alan Kay? John Backus? Donald Knuth? Edsgar Dijkstra? Doug Engelbart?

I remember when John Shepherd taught me CS2041 at university, he spent 5 minutes at the start of each lecture talking about “famous geeks” and what they did for our industry. We need to educate ourselves as an industry and learn and respect what these folks did; go back to our roots; respect our elders. I’d wager that a lot more mathematicians know about Bertrand Russell and Leonhard Euler than self-described programmers and computing geeks know about Alan Turing and Edsgar Dijkstra.

If you’re a programmer (or even if you’re not), go to Wikipedia’s list of Turing Award winners sometime and just start reading about people you don’t know, starting with the man who the Turing award’s named after. (I’m ashamed to say that I only recognise a mere 22 out of 51 names of the Turing Award winners, and I’m scared to think that I’m probably doing a lot better than a lot of other folks.)

I understand that people such as Knuth and Dijkstra made specialised contributions to our field, and that the greater public won’t particularly care for them (in the same way that a lot of the general public won’t know about Bertrand Russell or even Euler, but they’re known by pretty much every single mathematician). However, there are lots of computing legends who we can talk about at dinner with all our non-geek friends and family. Go get Doug Engelbart’s Mother of All Demos or Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad demo and show it to your friends. Tell your family about the role that Turing played in World War II, and the amusing story of Grace Hopper finding an actual bug inside her computer.

As Dijkstra said, “in their capacity as a tool, computers will be but a ripple on the surface of our culture. In their capacity as intellectual challenge, they are without precedent in the cultural history of mankind.” Computing is one of the most important things to emerge from this entire century. I hope that in twenty years’ time, at least Alan Turing will be a household name alongside Bill Gates. Let’s do our part to contribute to that.


FOMS and 2007


FOMS and 2007 absolutely rocked the house. I go to my fair share of conferences each year, and even though I’m mostly a Mac OS X user these days, I can heartily say that there really is nothing that matches the flair, co-operation and vibrance of the Linux community.

The Foundations of Open Media Software mini-conference and workshop took place the week before to discuss problem areas in open-source media software and how to tackle them, and a number of worthy goals came out of it. One really important project is the advancement of totally free multimedia codecs that sites such as Wikipedia can use for their video: we’re gunning for Theora (video) and Vorbis (audio) support out-of-the-box for Firefox 3, which means that everyone will finally be able to watch video in a Web browser in a non-patented, totally open format without installing plugins or any other nonsense. Putting all the faces to names and seeing all the different projects co-operating to improve open-source multimedia and hit common goals is fantastic. was just as stellar: the atmosphere was vibrant, talks were casual and informative, the organisation was the best I’ve ever seen for any conference, the parties were great, and the community just wonderful. Kathy Sierra’s keynote about Creating Passionate Users was the best keynote I’d ever seen at a conference, even rivalling Steve Jobs’s famous reality distortion field (and Kathy’s was arguably better, since she was actually delivering a ton of information rather than just unveiling “ooo shiny iPhone!”). As jdub would say, awesome. Thanks so much to the amazing Seven Team for organising the best conference I’ve ever been to, all the volunteers and helpers that made it go so smoothly, the A/V team that preserved the talks for all eternity (plug: including mine, of course :-).

Now to catch up on these 700+ RSS articles that I’ve abandoned reading for the week and await the return of life to normality. See you all at FOMS and next year!


Merry Christmas!

It’s been an introspective journey this year. But at least I have a new web site! Woo baby!

Here’s a public thank you to all my family and friends for always being so supportive, and all my workmates at Rising Sun Research and Rising Sun Pictures for a wonderful working environment and teaching me a ton about software development (as well as contributing so much to some awesome movies).

2007 is looking good already. See some of you kids at in January! (You are going, right? If not, why not?)

Merry Christmas everyone, and have a safe, relaxing and happy end-of-year holidays to bring in 2007!



I’m not too sure that I can go much farther
I’m really not sure things are even getting better
I’m so tired of the me that has to disagree
I’m so tired of the me that’s in control
I woke up to see the…

Sun shining all around me
How could it shine down on me?
You think that it would notice that I can’t take any more
Had to ask myself,
… what’s it really for?

Everything I tried to do, it didn’t matter
Now I might be better off just rolling over
‘cos you know I try so hard but couldn’t change a thing
And it hurts so much I might as well let go
I can’t really take the…

Sun shining all around me
Why would it shine down on me?
You think that it would notice that I no longer believe
Can’t help telling myself
… it don’t mean a thing.

I woke up to see the…

Sun shining all around me
How could it shine down on me?
Sun shining all its beauty
Why would it shine down on me?
You think that it would notice that I can’t take any more
Just had to ask myself,
… what’s it really for?

—Yoko Kanno and Emily Curtis, What’s It For

Trust in love to save, baby. Bring on 2007!


Dumb Money

I love this phrase. Dumb Money. As in:

a lot of “dumb money” will be pumped into the MMOG market by investors hoping to cash in on the next big thing…

The next time I have the chance to berate some obviously stupid business idea, I can just say “dumb money”. Schweet.

(The quote’s from a short news article by Inside Mac Games, if you’re really interested.)


Los Angeles and New York

After the inspiration and buzz experienced at WWDC in San Francisco, chilling out in Los Angeles and New York was a welcome (and much needed) change! I stayed with my cousins in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, and was thus exposed to the privileged, the luxurious, and the affluent. I’m not exaggerating when I say that practically every car you see is a Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Lamborghini, or something equally upmarket, expensive, and very sexy. Even the humble Ben Sherman’s presence in the Beverly Center is quite a bit more styled than what you would find in Sydney. I had a taste of the Ermenegildo Zegna and Prada stores along Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive, the former of which had a beautiful suede jacket for the mere price of USD$4600. Driving up Coldwater Canyon in Bel Air revealed enormous houses, each of which is at least as majestic as the biggest properties in Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill in Sydney; all of them are replete with lush gardens and fountains that they look like miniature ecosystems from the outside. It’s another world over there.

So, Los Angeles turned out to be a wonderful unreality of luxury, and seeing my cousins and family again after the intense week of San Francisco was great! I did my usual shopping rounds, dropping by Banana Republic, Borders, Barnes and Nobles, Club Monaco, Baby Gap (for my two cute nephews, not me!), Fry’s Electronics, the Apple Store, Best Buy, and more. Thanks to me being in holiday mode, I am now the proud owner of:

… amongst other goodies that I probably shouldn’t reveal in public. (No, nothing from Victoria’s Secret…)

The one thing that struck me on this trip was the sheer amount of stuff the USA offers, from clothes to gadgets to media content. Australia certainly offers a reasonable amount of variety and choice in its shops, but it’s nothing compared to the USA. You are simply overwhelmed the first time you walk into a Borders that occupies the entire building; it’s six floors full of nothing but books. I looked around for a long time in Australia for a book on the history of mathematics and found one or two; in a single Borders or Barnes and Nobles in the USA, I was spoiled for choice, having found no less than a dozen at every store. Fry’s Electronics features more than sixty cash register checkouts; the CDs at Amoeba Music in San Francisco has shelves and shelves of just movie soundtracks, and it’s mind-boggling to browse just the TV Shows section of any large store that sells DVDs and wonder where the section actually ends. Every satellite city in Los Angeles will have a mammoth shopping centre bristling with mini-economies, and every block in New York will be home to one or two major brand label stores, stacked full of Yet More Stuff.

And then, of course, there’s the crazy-go-nuts 24-hour Apple Store in New York, which I visited with Isaac at the excellent time of 1am. The culture that Apple have managed to create at this place is amazing: the store was full at 1am. It wasn’t like a can of sardines, but it was full enough that almost every single iPod, MacBook and iMac stand was being used by someone, and you had to avoid bumping into other people when you were browsing the shelves. I’m sure the live DJ playing reasonable dance music was part of the reason people flocked to the store at 1am, but there were also a ton of people who were just there sitting around just to be there and wanting to be seen there (in somewhat typical New York fashion). The Genius Bar, where people go to for support and service, really is like a bar: people sit down and start chatting up their neighbour, and since there’s no beer in the way, it actually is easier to start conversations with strangers. It’s all a slightly surreal experience if you haven’t been there before. (I was most amazed that I actually left there without buying a single thing…)

Outside of shopping, that week was time well spent indeed: I got to catch up with my cousins in Los Angeles very well (though spending three days there was far from enough), and my time in New York staying with Manuel and Gabi was wonderful: I managed to catch up with them a lot, found some to finish some projects I’ve had in the works for months since I finally had some time to myself, caught up with a few other friends in the two cities, and even babysat for them for the first time ever so they could have a night off. One highlight of the trip was visiting the absolutely spectacular New York City Museum of Natural History, which I highly recommend for any visitors: you could spend more than two days in there, and it’s one of those shrines that has been constructed with such thought and love that it really does inspire you to become a marine biologist, astronaut or geologist. In a time when the world is increasingly perceiving the USA as a country that’s somewhat fallen from grace, the Museum is a smiling reminder that the United States has also contributed so greatly to the advance of science and human civilisation.

As a small aside, I find it quite interesting that all the progressive cities and states tend to reside on the coast of the USA, with the inland states all being conservative (sometimes to a rather scary extent). Apparently the coastal folks like to distinguish between “America” and “Central America”. I dunno, maybe seeing chicks in bikinis swimming at oceanic beaches makes people more progressive or something. That sounds all good to me.

So now I’m back in the land of take-away instead of to-gos; back in a land where you can actually distinguish a $50 from a $5 by its colour (thank God), and back in a land where I can walk into most coffee shops and expect a good coffee instead of hunting around for Illy logos. The R&R in Los Angeles and New York has been wonderful, and a great wind-down to an intense week in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to getting back to reality and normality now that I’ve had my fair share of excessive consumerism and opulence!

(Go to my WWDC 2006 gallery to find all my photos from Los Angeles and New York).

Los Angeles to New York Playlist

  • Zauron: Lovelight
  • Thievery Corporation: Marching The Hate Machines Into The Sun (Featuring The Flaming Lips)
  • Way Out West: Mindcircus
  • Queens Of The Stone Age: No one knows (U.N.K.L.E. reconstruction)
  • Necros: Orchard Street
  • Chuck Biscuits: Outlands
  • Chicane: Overture
  • Tool: Parabol
  • Tool: Parabola
  • Underworld: Pearl’s Girl
  • Cass and Slide: Perception (New Vocal Mix)
  • Layo and Bushwacka!: Ladies & Gentlemen
  • Baby D: Let Me Be Your Fantasy
  • Radiohead: Karma Police
  • Bedrock: Heaven Scent
  • Faithless: God Is A DJ
  • Tool: Forty Six and Two
  • Badmarsh & Shri: Day By Day
  • Sunscreem: Change (Angelic Remix)
  • New Order: Blue Monday (Hardfloor mix edit)
  • The Seatbelts: Butterfly
  • Massive Attack: A Prayer For England
  • Itch-E & Scratch-E: Transit
  • Vision 4/5: Stormtrooper

WWDC 2006

Right, I believe I have found a no-frills formula for how to make your body think it’s going to self-destruct in an imminent fashion:

  1. Attend Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) thing
  2. Attempt to socialise and meet up with as many people as possible
  3. Attempt to keep up with all the latest and greatest tech news and world news whilst at WWDC
  4. Have three to four coffees per day thanks to the surprisingly excellent (and free) espresso service at WWDC
  5. Combine said three or four coffees per day with beer, wine, and beer (in that order — yes, ouch, me dumb dumb) at night.
  6. After having coffee, coffee, coffee, beer, wine, and beer, we then attempt to stay up at night to:
    • catch up on the deluge of urgent email (as opposed to merely the important emails, which I can deal with later),
    • install beta Apple operating systems,
    • attempt to actually do some coding (ha ha ha),
    • catch up with the folks back home, and
    • rip those 15 new CDs you bought at Amoeba records to your bling iPod (fo sheezy, yo)
  7. Repeat everything the next day

It has been a full-on week indeed. This is the third World Wide Developer Conference that I’ve attended, and it’s by far the best one I’ve been to so far. It was interesting seeing the Internet’s lukewarm response to Steve Jobs’s keynote on Monday morning, although the excellent Presentation Zen site gave it some credit. As the Macintosh developers who attended the conference know, there’s actually a monstrous number of changes under the hood not spoken of in Jobs’s keynote that are really cool (which would be all that “top secret” stuff in the keynote); Mac OS X is truly coming into its own, both as a user experience and a developer’s haven. Apple’s confidence is starting to shine; let’s just hope that it doesn’t turn into arrogance. (I’m praying that Windows Vista doesn’t suck too much and actually gives Mac OS X some serious competition.)

And, of course, it wasn’t just the daytime that providing intellectual nourishment: I met up and chatted to dozens of people outside the conference, from successful Mac shareware developers, to low-level Darwin guys, folks from the LLVM and gcc compiler teams, other Australian students from the AUC, passionate open-source developers, visual effects industry folks, a ton of Apple engineers, oldskool NeXTSTEP folks, and even second cousins.

While the food at WWDC wasn’t particularly stellar this year, they did have a ton of these things:

Yeah baby, bananas! $12/kg back at home? How about take-as-many-as-you-frigging-stuff-into-your-backpack over here. I’m sure it was the Australians that were responsible for the entire table of bananas vanishing in around 90 seconds. (Not to mention the free Ghirardelli chocholate :).

There was something to keep me occupied every night of the week: even before WWDC started, there were Australia and New Zealand drinks organised on Sunday night, where I met up with a huge host of other Australian students and professional developers (some of whom got really, really drunk, and weren’t representing Australiasia particularly well in the international arena, I might add). On Monday I headed out to have the best burritos ever at La Taqueria on 25th and Mission with Dominic and Zoe, headed to the Apple Store and Virgin Megastore (oh dear Lord they are such evil shops to have in such near proximity to the conference centre), and met up with the one and only Chuck Biscuits from my old demogroup along with the Darbat crew to catch up on old times. Tuesday and Wednesday night was spent heading to dinner with some fellow RapidWeaver developers that featured some bloody good steak, and Thursday was the big-ass Apple Campus Bash, where I had wine, bananas and chocolate for dinner, and then proceeded to raid the Apple Mothership Store of far too many goods. (Put it this way: I travelled to the USA with one half-full bag, and now, uhh, I have two bags that are kinda full… oops.)

During the week I ended up discovering the totally awesome Samovar Tea Lounge in the Yerba Buena gardens thanks to Isaiah, where I not only had some Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy tea (seriously, how freakin’ awesome is that name?), but also snarfed up a handful of Scharffen Berger chocolate. (Hey RSR/RSP folks back home, have you guys finished those damn chocolate blocks on my office desk yet? Of course you have!) Amit Singh of Mac OS X Internals fame was also at the Apple Store at Thursday lunchtime giving a talk about his excellent 3kg 1600-page book, which I briefly attended before deciding that an afternoon of live true American jazz with Dominic was a much more tasty option on the platter.

And, just as I thought the outings were about to calm down when the conference finished on Friday at midday, I end up meeting a like-minded video metadata fellow in the lobby of the W Hotel San Francisco of all places (swanky as hell lobby, by the way), and ended up hanging out of a cablecar on the way to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, where a bunch of NeXTSTEP folks were having dinner. I seriously don’t understand how my body’s managed to cope with all the activity so far. But hey, at least I managed to avoid San Francisco’s rather dodgy Tenderloin district (warning: highly amusing but possibly offensive image on that page) :).

So, now that the week’s over, I currently have 31 draft emails that I need to finish writing: time to get cracking (sorry friends and enemies, I’ll get to you shortly!). Of course, clever me managed to get an entire hour of sleep before heading off to SFO airport for the next stop in my trip: Los Angeles. Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel…


Welcome to UTC -7

Ah, Berkeley: the quintessential American student town, where the young gather on the road’s median strip to sit on the grass (in cheery violation of the “Keep off the median strip” signs). Berkeley’s also home to Dominic and Zoe Glynn, my dear friends who I haven’t seen in far too long and have had an excellent time re-acquanting myself with again. It’s been a perfect warmup to the intense and crazy week that will be the Apple World Wide Developer Conference.

So, Friday was spent re-exploring Berkeley with Dom: for those who remember, I was here at the start of 2004, and it brought back good, good memories seeing the University of California at Berkeley, and the intersection of Bancroft Ave and Telegraph where all the froody 60s peace-out stalls are. Mahreen, if you’re reading this, you’ll be pleased to know that everything was pretty much exactly like we remember, except it’s a bit warmer right now!

After grabbing some lunch at Saul’s where I was reintroduced to American-size portions in the form of a West End Massive Corned Beef Sandwich, we stopped by the very dangerous and evil Amoeba records on Trafalgar, where I picked up no less than 15 CDs:

  • Propellerheads: Propellerheads (the prequel to Decksanddrumsandrockandroll: a collector’s item, and I got it for an entire $1)
  • Propellerheads: Spybreak!
  • Sasha and John Digweed: Communicate
  • James Lavelle: Fabriclive 01
  • Future Sound of London: Lifeforms EP
  • Future Sound of London: Lifeforms
  • Photek: Modus Operandi
  • Rˆyksopp: Melody A.M.
  • Thievery Corporation: Babylon Rewound
  • Monk and Canatella: Do Community Service
  • Lamb: Remixed
  • DJ Shadow: Preemptive Strike
  • U.N.K.L.E.: Never Never Land
  • Battlestar Galactica Season 1 soundtrack
  • Battlestar Galactica Season 2 soundtrack

See, despite spending $150, I actually ended up saving money because for the price of those fifteen CDs, I could have bought a mere five CDs back at home. YA RLY! Hey music industry: price your stuff reasonably and people will buy them! Screw this $35 for an album crap back in Australia; I quite like the $8 I pay for a CD at Amoeba. I should add that I only looked at the Electronica section too; the damage to Dinga would have been far worse if I had bothered to wander through the House section, not to mention all the DVDs.

For dinner, we dropped in to none other than Pho Hoa, the famous Vietnamese Pho Bo shop on Shattuck St. Mahreen, no doubt your memory will be triggered by this as well: you’ll be pleased to know that I did, in fact, get the crazy-big serve of Pho Bo and finished all of it, and I of course had to have some Taro Bubble Tea. After that it was time for some beer and a good catch-up chat with Zoe and her cousin Andrew, which ended up going until about 5:30am when we all reluctantly crashed.

Saturday was even better: we had a cruisy late morning double-falafel for breakfast at the Fertile Grounds cafe in conjunction with some genuine Illy coffee. This was followed by an afternoon consisting of insanely great Cheeseboard Pizza, white wine, and hours of conversation up at Indian Rock, which provides a beautiful scenic view of Berkeley and the Bay Area. I love summer.

Meanwhile, Dom and Zoe’s place here rocks. The rent they’re paying is unbelievable good considering how nice the place is, and they even have the same comfortable futon that I slept on while I was staying with them in Toronto. Dom’s love for gadgetry shows: their Robot vacuum cleaner means they never bother vacuuming the house normally, and their little Prius automobile is awesome. I am so getting one of those as my next car: any car that has a Power button, voice recognise for GPS and telephone dialling, and does 5 litres per 100 kilometres has my vote.

Later today I’ll be meeting up with Yannis and Violette for Yum Cha, and after that it’ll be time to check in to the Courtyard Marriott at San Francisco, where I’ll be heading off to the Australia and New Zealand pre-WWDC drinks. Oh yeah, life is good right now!

(You can find all the photos from the first few days of my Berkeley expedition in the gallery.)

Sydney to San Francisco and Berkeley Playlist

  • James Brown: Ain’t it Funky Now
  • Massive Attack: Angel
  • Seal: Crazy
  • Rˆyksopp: Eple
  • Tears for Fears: Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • U.N.K.L.E.: Lonely Soul
  • Tool: Stinkfist
  • Yoko Kanno: Fish-Silent Cruise Part 2
  • The Wallflowers: One Headlight
  • U2: All I Want Is You
  • Vogue: Ambient Energy
  • Freeland: Big Wednesday
  • Yoko Kanno, The Seatbelts and Steve Conte: Call Me Call Me
  • Faithless: Bring my Family Back
  • Propellerheads: Cominagetcha
  • Sunscreem: Cover Me (Trouser Enthusiasts mix)
  • Yoko Kanno: Dujurido
  • Decoder Ring: Escape Pod
  • Tool: Eulogy
  • Jazzanova: Fedimes Flight (Kyoto Jazz Massive remix)
  • Starsailor: Four to the Floor (Thin White Duke mix)
  • Lamb: Gabriel
  • Handel: Lascia Ch’io Pianga (performed by Single Gun Theory)
  • Cliff Martinez: Helicopter
  • Mono: Hello Cleveland!
  • Radiohead: Where I End and You Begin
  • Thievery Corporation: Warning Shots
  • U.N.K.L.E.: Unreal
  • Depeche Mode: Useless (Kruder and Dorfmeister mix)
  • Radiohead: Planet Telex
  • Shpongle: …But Nothing is Lost
  • Zauron: Lovelight
  • NuBreed: One Day
  • Way Out West: Pulse of Life
  • Leftfield: Release the Pressure
  • Sting: Shape of my Heart
  • Yoko Kanno: Some Other Time
  • Barakka: Song to the Siren
  • Lamb: Trans Fatty Acid (Kruder and Dorfmeister remix)
Comments, Day 6 (Saturday)

Ah, the last day of LCA: it’s been a killer week, and definitely one of the best technical conferences I’ve ever been to. Personally, I think this ties with in Adelaide and Brisbane as the best LCA yet: I didn’t find the talks as invigorating this year, but the social side of things have been the best ever, with action typically going well past midnight every night. It’s finally started to take its toll on me, though: I left early tonight to both do some private hacking, and to catch up on that “sleep” thing that I’ve been missing out on for the past week.

Thankfully, the last day of the conference wasn’t too hectic: a late start, a keynote, one talk, followed by some best-of talks, a panel and the conference wrap-up. Of course, even though there was a late start, I still got up early since I wanted to get a ton of personal work out of the way, and I’m glad to say that I had enough time to do both that and have the usual leet-bix breakfast at Pia and Jeff’s again. Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote — which I thought would be rather controversial or about Ubuntu vs Debian — turned out to be completely not about Ubuntu vs Debian, and was excellent. Mark was pushing the whole notion of distributed revision control systems as the future of the entire open source movement, and possibly even computing in general. I do agree with Mark: distributed revision control is an incredibly powerful tool, and it has enough potential to change the whole underlying way that entire operating systems are constructed.

The only thing that soured Mark’s keynote was a barrage of incredibly irritating comments in question time, initiated by people in the audience who seemed to want a microphone for themselves. You always get these kind of morons at conferences: those folks that can ramble on at length about some completely unrelated topic in an attempt to show their supposed intellectual superiority, and who think that anything they can think of is important and worth nothing. Of course, in Alanic fashion, they just end up looking like idiots rather than looking intelligent, and unfortunately also waste everyone else’s time. These are the same dropkicks who consistently interrupt the speaker in a talk to offer “helpful hints” and “advice”; I had one such mongrel in the svk talk yesterday which nearly prompted me to show my skillz of an artist and exclaim “Let the speaker get on with his talk you stupid f***!”. There’s nothing quite like a super-enthusiastic babbling dumbass. Anyway.

The rest of the day wasn’t such a headspin as the past few days: we had a shaving session held at the same time as the lunch BBQ. Explanation: at last night’s auction, numerous silly people, such as Jeff Waugh, Greg ‘Groggy’ Lehey, Dave Miller and Rusty Russell, volunteered to have various bits of hair shaved off them if the bidding reached a certain price. Of course, with the UNSW cartel reaching a bid of $10000, we hit that price, and so it was decided that the shaving would be done in public, today, at lunchtime. I tell you: Rusty without a moustache is just weird. He’s, like, totally not the same guy. Jeff, Greg, and Dave all look the same, but Rusty… he could even, like, pick up chicks and stuff now. Brr!

The rest of the day was spent socialising with the other geeks and attending the panel, prizes and conference close. That was all a pretty standard affair, apart from the very sad fact that I lost my favourite silver long-sleeve Banana Republic jumper some time that afternoon. (Weeps with the moon.) Oh well, I guess that’s an excuse to do a little more shopping the next time I hit the USA…

MySQL were holding drinks that night at the Captain Cook tavern, but unfortunately I didn’t attend them since I was sadly looking around for my jumper. (Weeps with the moon yet again, this time with violin music in the background.) So, I joined Erik, Matt, Shane, Jaq, Ashley and a few other folks at none-other-than The Terrace for dinner again. I tell you: a mixed grill of lamb, chicken, pork and beef on hot rocks doesn’t get boring, and neither does a Barmaid full of beer. By this time, the five hours of sleep that I’d been getting per day really hit me, so I retired at about 9 o’clock to head back home and sleep.

So it’s been an excellent wind-down to one of the most awesome conferences I’ve been to. Next year’s organisers will have to work hard to top this one, but from (very) early indications, that prospect looks promising already. Thanks to all the organisers who made it such a educational, inspiring event to attend, and all my friends there who made it a serious boatload of fun!

P.S. For those of you that know of Andrew Tridgell, he was quoted in the Otago Daily Times (that most excellent of newspapers) as being a Jim Carrey lookalike. Truly awesome.

Comments, Day 5 (Friday)

Ah, a good start to the day: I got up nice and early so I didn’t have to rush through the morning routine, and joined a few other geeks at Pia and Jeff’s apartment for breakfast. After downing our daily intake of leet-bix, we went with high expectations to Damian Conway’s keynote, titled “Sex and Violence: Technical and Social Lessons from the Perl 6 Development Process”. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Damian’s a brilliant speaker, and today was the best talk I’ve seen that he’s given. Not too many public speakers I know can take pokes at everyone from Guido van Rossum to type theorists and get laughs from the people he’s paying out, weave in slides featuring S&M pictures and Web pages from What Would Satan Do, give good, practical advice to people managing any sort of project, and inspire the audience about Perl 6, all at the same time.

Along with Gus, I was lucky enough to have a good chat to Damian afterward about the interaction between the Perl and Haskell communities, the awesomeness of the amazing Audrey Tang, and thank him for taking Perl 6 in what I consider to be the right direction. One of the greatest things about these conferences, and in particular, is that you do get to rub shoulders with the best and brightest in the world.

(Warning to my non-geek friends: geek content in this paragraph!) The rest of the day turned out to be the most educational one so far: Conway’s keynote taught me many useful things about project management, and I learnt plenty from the other talks too. For revision control geeks who somehow missed svk on their radar: go check it out. All I have to say about it is that you can work in a distributed manner (e.g. offline) with any existing Subversion repository, in a very simple, darcs-like way. Very nice indeed. Van Jacobson’s talk about optimising the networking stack in the kernel actually drew a standing ovation from the crowd, and he proved that he’s still a networking God after 20 years: he had some incredible tables and graphs to show just how well he managed to optimise networking performance on Linux. (I was quite amused how their optimisations made 10Gb Ethernet peak out at 4.3Gb/sec because that was the peak limit of DDR333 RAM…) Interestingly enough, Shane and Jaq pointed out that the guys at the Gelato project at the University of New South Wales have been researching and advocating this approach for years, except that they did their research on that evil M thing that’s so hated in the Linux community (“microkernel”). Not to discredit Van Jacobson in the least, but it’d be nice to see the KEG, NICTA and Gelato guys get some due credit for their work too!

So, after yet another afternoon of more fun geekness, it was time for the LCA conference dinner. This year’s affair was pretty standard for an LCA dinner: that is to say, very good, with lots of drinking, plenty of socialising and chatting, and, of course, an auction. This year, they auctioned off the the John Lions book on the annotated source code for the AT&T Unix Version 6 kernel, autographed by some of the most renown UNIX hackers in history: Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, Marshall Kirk McKusick, Eric Allman, Peter Salus, Linus Torvalds, Van Jacobson, and all the speakers and conference organisers for LCA 2006. I am proud to say that thanks to the great generosity of the students, lecturers and alumni at the University of New South Wales, UNSW won the bid for the book. As such, the Lions book will return to the shining halls of UNSW in its rightful resting place, where John Lions lectured and inspired so many students for so many years. Kudos to all those who contributed in the bid for this piece of history, and thanks to Benno and John for organising it!

That wrapped up the night quite nicely for me and set me in a hell of a good mood for the rest of the evening. Thankfully, I decided that I had quite enough drinking for the evening (you know, since I actually had to pay for my drinks that night), and that more than four hours of sleep before another full day on Saturday might be an idea…

Comments, Day 4 (Thursday)

After the big night last night courtesy of Google, I woke up more-or-less on time this morning with no hangover, which was a bit of a small surprise considering I’ve never quite drunk that much before. (Whoo!) I didn’t quite early enough to make it to Jeff and Pia’s place for breakfast before heading off to the keynote, but I made up for that by grabbing a rather nice ham and cheese roll a bit later in the morning.

(Warning: geek content in this paragraph.) Dave Miller’s keynote was pretty good, and thankfully I understood a lot more in his talk today than his original TCP zero-copy talk at CALU in 1999 (gee, my technical knowledge has increased a bit in the past seven years — who would’ve thought?). The other talks that day didn’t set me off too much, with the exception of Rusty Russell’s talk on talloc. Here’s my take on talloc: if you absolutely have to use that portable assembly language named C, think of talloc as a gift from God. Memory management with talloc still isn’t completely painless, but it makes it nearly as nice to use as if you were coding in Objective-C with Cocoa, or in modern C++ (using references everywhere so you don’t have to new/delete everything). At any rate, it’s a hell of a lot better than using malloc/free. If you use C, use it: you will be much happier.

Since Rising Sun were kind enough to send me as a professional this year, that also meant I got to go to the professional delegates’ networking session (a.k.a. dinner). OK, if that was the professional delegates’ networking session that I attended, I’d love to see an unprofessional delegates’ networking session, because we had a riot of a time. The presence of the boisterous Aussies in combination with Australia Day led to quite an awesome night indeed: our dinner was held at the beautiful Larnach Castle in Dunedin, with yet more free beer and wine for the entire night. This, of course, led to plenty of singing and more singing on the bus back home, with even our beloved Linux Australia Vice President, Pia Waugh, quite energetically (and somewhat drunkenly) joining in our Australia Day celebrations.

So, chalk up another damn good day at — so far, it’s been four out of four (or five out of five if you count Sunday night, which I do). I’m a lucky man to be here!

Comments 2006, Day 3 (Wednesday)

Right, it’s definitely shaping up to be one of those kind of weeks. I finally managed to catch some sleep this morning by missing the morning tutorials: considering I had a huge three and a half hours of sleep last night, about 6 hours the night before, and no sleep on the night before I flew off to New Zealand, I think it was about time to let my poor body recover for a while. I normally feel rather seedy and tired (in that unproductive-tired way) when I wake up at midday, but it was all good today.

So, I got my lazy ass over to the conference (O, the hardship of 5 minutes’ walk through beautiful university grounds) and actually managed to see all the talks that day, huzzah. Andrew Tridgell’s talk on Samba 4 absolutely rocked as you’d expect, even if you, like me, weren’t interested in Samba 4 at all. Being able to write Javascript to script server-related Windows RPC calls is crazy enough, but remotely editing a Windows’s machine’s registry via an AJAX-style interface in your Web browser was something else. Oh yes, and my little tip about inverting your screen to make it more readable also really saves your battery life: I was easily getting over 3 hours of battery out of my 3-year-old Powerbook. The temperature today’s a bit more like what the forecasts predicted, too: much cooler, being around 14℃ in the morning and night, and around 22℃ in the afternoon. I’m glad I brought along some long-sleeve tops!

Of course, it was after the conference proper when the fun started. Google were holding a round of drinks for conference delegates at night at the Bennu bar in Dunedin, so of course a lot of people came along to try to completely empty out the bar. It was meant to go from 9-10 only (so hurry up and get completely plastered in an hour) but it turns out that offering only beer for free makes a tab go a long way, so we were all still drinking courtesy of Google well past midnight. I managed to get several rounds of free vodka shots off the Google folks too, so overall, I didn’t do too badly considering I’m a Cadbury’s boy: four beers and three vodka shots left me in quite the happy mood when we left there some time after midnight. It was, again, damn good to catch up and socialise with everyone, and even more so when free beer’s offered! It’s a good week to be in Dunedin indeed :).

Comments 2006, Day 2 (Tuesday)

One interesting rule of thumb that Damian Conway mentioned in his presentation skills session is that, on average, it takes 8 hours of preparation per one hour of talking. I initially raised by eyebrows at this figure, but it turns out that Damian’s likely right (as usual): I ended staying up until around 4:30am to finish off our slides, and got up rather excruciatingly at 8am to grab breakfast at Jeff and Pia’s again. For those interested: Weet-bix + three pancakes (although I made a token attempt to be too polite to have their lovely pancakes, since I’d already had the weet-bix…). Ah yes, and the excellent Otago Daily Times’s front page story today was about how all the poor Dunedin citizens were all pasty-white thanks to a lack of sun this summer at the beach. I read this as a very nice excuse to slap pictures of three hot chicks in two-pieces on the front page of the paper.

I actually decided to skip the morning talks that day to work on the slides, so I ended up holing myself up in the (lovely) apartment until around 12. Yes, I think Damian’s 8 hours of preparation was correct indeed: Anthony and I probably spent around 10 hours of prep in total, though I’m fairly type A when it comes to making sure all the details are nailed down right.

I ended up having an energy bar and a Coke for lunch (sorry about that mum!) and managed to catch the end of Conrad’s talk on CMMLWiki when I got back, as well as watch parts of Keith Packard’s hilarious talk on Linux-powered rockets (complete with pictures of rockets hitting the earth at 800KM/h, and stories of their failed recovery of a CompactFlash card inside said rocket…).

I’m glad to report that I think our talk went pretty well: we had around 30 people attending, and Anthony and I got to chat afterwards with some people who were pretty interested in the stuff we were doing. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a videotape of it some time in the future, and I can place it here as a contribution to embarrassing myself more.

Since the talk was over, we decided that having some dinner was in order soon. No-one had any plans, so I made an executive decision to meet up at the Terrace at 7 o’clock, and the 4 or 5 folks who decided to go there grew to 8, then 10, then about 18. Hooray for lots of company! I had a most excellent mixed grill on hot rocks and more Speights beer for dinner, and enjoyed the merry company of all the other geeks until around midnight. Catching up with everyone here is truly great; since I’ve moved over to using a Mac as my main platform, I’m not so involved with the Linux community these days, and I forget from time to time how awesome everyone is (both from a social standpoint, and just how damn good these people are at what they do).

P.S. Linus is here, for those fanboys who are interested. The more amusing thing is that he’s really sunburnt. For the serious geeks, Van Jacobson (yep, that Van Jacobson) is also giving a talk. You can bet I’ll be attending that one.

Comments, Day 1 (Monday)

I’ve had not a bad start to the day at all. Anthony and I went to Jeff and Pia’s apartment — a whole 30 steps away from our apartment, them being directly below us in the building — for an excellent bacon and eggs breakfast this morning. The Otago Daily Times newspaper is also an excellent contributor to a good start for the day, where the front page features stories such as Mexico’s guns for computers program. I look forward to what’ll be on the front page of that paper tomorrow.

So, after breakfast, I trundled along to a three-hour talk by Doctor Damian Conway about presentation skills, which I’m happy to say was very worthwhile. Damian’s one of the best presenters I know of in the Linux community (rivalling Andrew Tridgell), and an opportunity to take some presentation skills from somebody who’s damn good at it wasn’t one I was going to pass up. I ended up taking away 3 pages of notes from it; let’s see how many of those points I can apply to our talk tomorrow!

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Digital Arts miniconf, which had some very cool sessions, though I was pretty familiar with both Annodex and Flumotion since I was one of the Annodex developers at my previous job, and was part of the team maintaining Flumotion servers at last year. The weather’s been ranging between quite cool in the morning (~15℃) to reasonably hot in the afternoon, being around 28℃ right now (although I think today’s hotness is an anomaly) — I’m hoping that tomorrow’s a bit cooler!

The Digital Arts miniconf organisers also were holding a jam that night at the Arc Café (whose name will no doubt amuse those of you who are involved with any Ogg/Vorbis/Theora discussions on the mailing lists), so Anthony and I rocked along to that. Lo and behold, a lot of people turned up that I knew — Conrad, Silvia, Erik, Horms, Shane, Hal, Gus, John, Jaq, with about 40 people in total. I got to meet and socialise with a lot of new folks, too, and had three or four beers of Tui’s (not to be confused with Tooheys, which is much, much worse). There was some rocking psytrance-style electronica being played on the big PA system there, which set the mood quite well for the night. It makes me wish I’d finished the DJ mix I’ve been working on for the past week or two, so I’d have a chance to play it on the big speakers there too. Ahh well, now’s the time to set a goal to have a mix of mine played at next year’s LCA digital arts mash-up!

Anthony and I ended up heading back a little early at around 11:30pm to work on our talk (mind you, 11:30 over here is only 9:30 Sydney time). Conrad and Silvia (who were organising the Digital Arts miniconf) confirmed with us pretty much today we’d be giving a talk at the Digital Arts conference tomorrow on the use of Linux at Rising Sun Pictures, so we thought we’d actually try to make it half-decent and actually prepare for it :).

Oh yeah, and New Zealand TV seems to be filled with bizarre saucy phone sex advertisements at night… like, all the time. As in, they’ll be the entire regiment of advertising on the night. Coupled with the New Zealand accent (“cæll now!”), it was just plain weird.

So I’m predicting a bit of a late night tonight to prep for the talk tomorrow: we don’t want to have a bored audience, after all…

Comments 2006, Day 0 (Sunday)

Wow. I was already looking forward to in New Zealand this year, but it’s even better than I expected, and it hasn’t even started yet.

Dunedin, the host city on New Zealand’s south island, is incredibly picturesque (I’ve taken a few photos of it for those interested) with beautiful mountains and glittering lakes for a backdrop, and lovely wooden architecture that reminisces of the wooden-style buildings that are characteristic of the types of snow houses in Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain.

Oh, and in honour of being in New Zealand right now and to blend in with the locals, I am replacing all a’s with ae’s. After all, a thing that you put stuff into is a bæg according to New Zealanders, not a bag.

I ræn into plenty of friends from the Linux community æt Sydney æirport thæt mæde the trip there quite enjoyæble indeed: Jæmie Wilkinson, Conræd Pærker, Silviæ Pfeiffer, Shæne Stephens, Mætt Pælmer, Ændrew Cowie ænd Erik de Castro Lopo. Of course, we æll decided to stopover æt the bær æt Christchurch æirport while we were wæiting for our connecting flight from there to Dunedin, ænd hæd our first tæste of New Zeælænd beer. I tried æ Speights, which I’m glæd to sæy is excellent. It’s not quite my fævourite beer (thæt privilege still belongs to Bluetongue), but it’s certæinly up there with the better ones I’ve tried. Those who know me mæy be surprised to know thæt I hæd five beers todæy ænd wæs still stænding æt the end of it (ænd I even mænæged to remæin reæsonæbly diplomætic; sorry for disæppointing you on thæt front, Seæn!).

Our little residence in Dunedin is the Woodlænds lodge, which, like Dunedin itself, is very chærming ænd quæint. We hæve æ spectæculærly big æpærtment for $70 per night: two stories, one room with two single beds, ænother mæssive bedroom with æ single ænd æ double bed, æ lærge living room with æ dining tæble ænd some pretty comfortæble sofæs, æ kitchen ænd fridge, ænd even æ combinætion wæshing mæchine ænd dryer. The lodge is less thæn 10 minutes’ wælk æwæy from the building where the conference is locæted, so it’s ælso in æ greæt locætion.

Æfter ærriving ænd checking in, we met up with the æforementioned geeks ænd went to æ most excellent bær ænd grill in the Octægon (Dunedin’s næme for the town centre) næmed The Terræce. Mmmmm: $18 steæks on hot rocks, ænd æ veritæble beer tæp on your tæble. Let it be known thæt the steæks there were æwesome; I don’t believe I’ve ever hæd steæks thæt good for $18, let ælone steæks-while-U-wæit on cræzy-hot volcænic rocks; the beer tæp (thæt wæs full of Speights, which we læter leærned is æ locæl Dunedin beer) wæs ælso ultræ-tæsty. Most of the geeks retired æfter dinner, but my workmæte ænd I ended up dropping in on Jeff ænd Pia’s æpærtment in our lodge ænd cæmped out there for the next hour or two. They’ve mænæged to find some more Speights in six-pæcks from æ 24-hour supermærket less thæn five minutes’ wælk æwæy, so we sæt there mærvelling æt Christiæn Bæle in Equilibrium on the TV, ænd continued to drink ænd be merry until I hit the hæy æt æbout 1æm.

Some New Zeælænd triviæ I leærnt ælong the wæy: blue milk is stændærd milk, while green milk is ‘trim’ (skim) milk (so næmed becæuse they’re the colour of the contæiners they they come in). Cold wæter tæps ære usuælly on the left hænd side ræther thæn the right hænd side, with hot wæter tæps on the left. (Yes, this is weird.)

Æll in æll, possibly the best prelude I’ve ever hæd to æ geek conference. I’m looking forwærd to tomorrow!


To the Australian demoscene and ANSI scene folks

Prompted by a good friend of mine, I dug out a little bit of mid-90s history and found myself staring at ANSI login screens for my old BBS, Mindflux, along with an Oz96 announcement. After a while, I even managed to track down many art packs from old art groups I was in (DiE and fORCE), and remembered a lot of old aliases I haven’t heard of in years from all over Australia.

And so, for old times’ sake, here’s some shouts out to some folks that I had some damn good times with: Squirt, Pulse, Chuck Biscuits, Black Artist, Squidgalator, Hunz, Rogue and Void/Reality, Firelight, HB, Yannis, Mick Rippon, Astrid, Sudden Death, Entropus X, Frozen Time, Legend, Mandalas Zarich, Flick, Clef, Acme, Caliban, Jedi/Oxygen, Maral, Jase, Countzero, Ranger, Turrican, Maeve Wolf/Tatharina, and Anubis. Sincere apologies if I’ve forgotten you — it has been ten years, after all…

If you were in the Australian demoscene, music scene or art scene at all and know any of those names (or even better, if you are one of those names!), or you remember any of Oz96, Mindflux, Bloodnet, DiE, fORCE, Alternate Reality, do me a favour and drop me an email (especially if you were a Mindflux or Bloodnet user!). I’m still amazed that the Internet’s managed to preserve quite a lot of the scene history (especially the Australian scene history) if you look hard enough for it, and I have the odd feeling that a lot of the demoscene folks have moved into the Linux and Mac developer communities.

And for those of you who used to be in the scene in Sydney back in the day, here’s something you can reminisce on:


IHT on Nguyen Tuong Van

I normally don’t post about current affairs, but there’s an excellent article on the International Herald Tribune about Nguyen Tuong Van’s execution, and its effects on the minds of the Australian public, and Australia-Singapore relations:

Singapore’s dawn execution Friday of Nguyen Tuong Van, a convicted Australian drug smuggler, may ultimately raise fewer questions about Singapore’s rigorous penal code than it does about Australia’s readiness to integrate with rapidly developing Asian neighbors that do not share its views on human rights and other basic issues.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled tech blogging…


WWDC, San Francisco, Tuesday

Not much news other than geek news again, I’m afraid. (I guess attending a conference from 9-6:30pm saps most of the day away!) The day was pretty uneventful, though I did sneak out to visit the Apple Store and CompUSA during one session time slot where I really wasn’t interested in anything that was running. You’d all be very proud of me: I picked up quite a few things at both places, but put them back down before I bought them. Fear my willpower.

One thing I did forget to mention on Monday was one awesome demo at the end of the day. During the Graphics and Media State of the Union talk, a DJ was invited up on stage to show off some of the new graphics features on the Mac. A DJ showing off graphics, you say? He demonstrated completely live, real-time “sequencing” of visual compositions of movies, and had hooked up visual effects to effects he was running on the music. e.g. Mixing between two songs would blend two different videos together, and applying a grinding resonance filter to the music would make the screen warp and distort. It was all very, very cool stuff: something I wanted to do quite a number of years ago when I was actively doing mixing. Apple is really being a bad boy and inviting me back into some of my old habits! The DJ there is playing at a local San Francisco club on Thursday: I’ll so be there.

At the end of the day, I ran into Ashley Butterworth, one of the other people at WWDC from my own Uni who I hadn’t met yet. We ended up going back to his room and randomly nattering about various geeky things, from Cocoa development to Objective-C vs Haskell. After that, I retired to my hotel room and flopped into bed, and that was that. Zzzz …


WWDC, San Francisco, Monday

Geek news first: I guess all the geeks have heard the news that Apple’s switching to Intel x86 processors. I won’t offer any particular opinion of mine here (at least, not yet …), though I will warn that there are plenty of totally crackpot theories flying around. If you’re not a long-time Mac user (or possibly even a Mac developer), it’s far too easy to believe some outlandish theories that so-called respectable people are crying about. Probably the two most balanced and accurate things I’ve read so far about it is John Siracusa’s editorial, and (somewhat surprisingly) MacRumor’s Intel FAQ. I’m waiting for the hype to die down (and also to play with one of the Intel Mac developer systems) before I make any judgements.

The rest of the day was pretty good too, though quite uneventful. The sessions that day were relatively interesting (yep, that means I actually attended all the sessions, aren’t I a good boy?), and I retired back to the Courtyard Marriott early since I’ll have plenty more times in my life to come back to San Francisco and party like it’s 1999. (Nothing to do with how I have plenty of work to do, email to check, and sleep to catch up on, I swear.) I seem to run into all the other Australian students when I’m least looking for them, too: no sign of them for almost the whole day, and then when I’m just about to leave, I run into about ten of them.

All in all, a pretty cheap’n’cheerful day for me, with the small exception of that small announcement by Steve Jobs, of course. Sounds like fun, if you ask me! I’m all about fun.


San Francisco, Saturday and Sunday

I left Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon (to the great sadness of my cousin’s kids: sorry Kevin and Kallista!) for the windy city of San Francisco. For the first time evar, LAX did not completely suck. Traveller’s tip: if you can, try catching an afternoon flight from LAX. There are no queues. Since I’m sure frequent LAX travellers will be stunned after reading that, let me repeat that: no queues. I had maybe five people in line before me at the check-in counter, exactly two people in line before me at security, and that was it. I was a very happy camper on that LAX visit.

The flight itself was fine: a tiny little aircraft (three seats per row; one on the port side, two on the starboard side) with complementary beverages (I love Coke, Cokey Coke Coke, Here It Goes Down, Down In My Belly, Mmm Mmm Mmm). I arrived in San Francisco around 4:15pm; strangely enough, that was one hour ahead of schedule, but I ain’t complaining. By the time I arrived at the hotel (the Courtyard Marriott, for those interested) and settled in, it was about 6pm. The Moscone convention centre where WWDC was held was kinda very hard to miss (that’s the 2004 image, but 2005 is more-or-less the same), so I grabbed my fancy WWDC badge from there, and had dinner at the Sony Metreon building across the street. (What is it about the USA that gives rise to meal names such as “croissandwich” and “chickenshroom”?)

After that, of course, I visited the Apple Store, which was a mere 5-minute walk away from the Sony Metreon building. As usual, I didn’t end up buying anything there, but it was just one of those mandatory things I had to do when you’re in a North American city. What was more intriguing was the Virgin Megastore that was right next to the Apple Store: after spending around half an hour there, I picked up a James Lavelle Global Underground mix CD (Barcelona #023, not the more popular Romania #026 one), and the new DJ Rap album named Bulletproof: we’ll see if the oldskool jungle and drum’n’bass girl is still as good as she was in the late 90s!


Los Angeles

Shopping, shopping, shopping. That sums up L.A. pretty nicely for me: all those fun boutique shops that haven’t come to Australia yet (Banana Republic, Club Monaco, Zara, the Apple Store, Barnes and Nobles, and of course, Victoria’s Secret), and the one-and-only Fry’s Electronics, the biggest place I know of that has such a craphouse website.

I guess Dom and Zoe were feeling like they needed a small break, so they actually came down to visit L.A. with me, which was awesome: I introduced the two to The Grove, the only place that I absolutely have to go to while I’m in Los Angeles. Sun, outdoors, great cafÈs and eateries (hello Cheesecake Factory!), movies, girls wearing tank tops, free wireless courtesy of an Apple Store … yep, my kinda place. I’m a tad (but only a tad) ashamed to say that I spent far too much money there for my own good. But hey, you only live once, right? (At least my credit card still works, which means that I haven’t used up my credit limit yet …)

My relatives in Los Angeles took me to a totally awesome Japanese BBQ retaurant for dinner on Friday: think Korean BBQ, where you sit at a table with a fire-making stove thingy in the middle of the table, but Japanese intead. Of course, this may not have been the best decision after my cousin and I ate at Tony Roma’s for lunch and thus overstuffed ourselves with ribs, but somehow I still managed to scoff down the huge piles of beef and veges. Very, very yum; very, very good.

All in all (much like this blog entry), my trip to Los Angeles was too short. It was great catching up with my cousins and being able to see Dom and Zoe for a bit longer, but really, one and a half days just isn’t that much time to do anything, particularly in a city as diverse as Los Angeles. Ahh well, considering that the Apple University Consortium scholarship more-or-less paid for the trip over here, I guess I can’t complain too much!


Toronto, 27th May to 5th June

First, apologies for the lack of posts. I’ve been a pretty busy boy, and the few hours I’ve had to myself, I’ve either had to do Uni work, CSIRO work, or sleep (usually in that order :).

How do I sum up Toronto? It was one of the most busy and best one-week holidays I’ve had. For those of you who don’t know, the main reason I went there was to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was a traditional Hindu wedding (you can find some photos on my gallery site) and was absolutely wonderful. It was possibly the only wedding reception that I attended where we had two hours of speeches and dancing before dinner was served at nearly 10pm, and I wasn’t bored in the least. I got to meet and catch up with cousins who I haven’t seen in 15 years; you know when you meet up with some friends from your childhood and you’re so relieved and happy that you just click with them? That’s what it felt like — one of those natural highs that keeps you going for days, multiplied by every single one of them I met.

Apart from meeting up with the relatives, I of course also visited Dom and Zoe, who are very much settled in and happy in Toronto. I got an excellent reminder of just how nice it is to live in the heart of a city: a 10-minute walk brings you to fantastic cafÈs, excellent shopping, and even the water (for those Australians who miss seeing the ocean glitter during a sunny day, like spoiled old me).

Amongst other things, I met up with the esteemed Wolfgang Thaller, the Glasgow Haskell Compiler Mac maintainer, all-around far-too-clever person who knows a hell of a lot about everything, from World War I to Alpha Centauri to s Objective-C and C++ wizardry. Plus, Wolfgang didn’t even yell at me when I was half an hour late to meet him at the bus station (oops). Nice chap, he is! We ended up soaking up the sun on a rare sunny Toronto day at Harbourside, which is just south of CN Tower, drinking lattÈs, tea, and beer, and consuming a most excellent 600oz steak for dinner. (I still don’t get Canada’s units of measurement, by the way: make up your mind whether you use metric or imperial! Metric preferable.)

The other surprise to come in Toronto was meeting up with an old friend of mine, Astrid Fauchon, for those of you who knew me 10 years ago and remember her. For those who want the details, feel free to email me, but I’m happy to say that it was really good to see her again, and that it gave closure to one of the only bits of my life that I felt never really wrapped up nicely.

The most interesting bit of the trip was really feeling all the events happen together: I just had a great time. I was getting probably an average of 4-6 hours of sleep every day, and while I was a little stressed at times, I was really glad I was kept so bu. Catching up with cousins and old friends and just clicking with all of them felt wonderful, and drove the point home that friends and family really are the important things around. I’m really lucky to be able to see all of them again, and I guess it changed my perspective on things a little. A trip like this reminded me that making the trek halfway across the world to see friends and family is so much more than worth it, and all the nervousness of not seeing them in 15 years and worrying about whether you’ll get along well is often gone in the first few seconds. Here’s a toast to good mates!

Update: I’ve posted some photos online of Toronto in general, Jennifer and Ashish’s wedding, and meeting up with my cousins.


Off to North America

I’m off to North America for the next 2 weeks: Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco, in that order. If any readers are attending WWDC in San Francisco, drop me an email and let’s meet up!


Australian Open 2005

I just wanted to make a short comment to say how absolutely awesome the tennis in the Australian Open has been this year. The level of play is fantastic and the competition has been great (a crazy number of five-setters!). I don’t ever remember an Australian Open which has been this good. I only wish I were in Melbourne!


New York, Sunday to Tuesday

Conrad, Felicity and I took an Amtrak train from Boston to New York without any dramas, which is nearly always a good thing when you’re travelling. One nice thing about taking the train (apart from missing the ten-hour airport queues and security checkpoints) is that you get to see all the gorgeous scenery along the way. Since it’s autumn in the USA right now, I got some very picturesque scenery of gorgeous brown and yellow tree leaves. I unfortunately didn’t see any autumn-like scenery in Boston, since the city’s a bit too warm for the browning leaves, so all the nice autumnness is out in the countryside. Mmm, soothing scenery good.

We unloaded at Penn(sylvania) Station in New York City on 34th Street: I was planning to catch a taxi to my hotel (on 77th and Broadway), but since Flea is a native New Yorker and knows the subway lines pretty well, navigating the subway to the hotel was simple with her help. I’m really impressed by New York’s subway system: trains tend to be very much on time, there are subway stops very frequently (at least in Manhattan), there are lots of signs posted up everywhere telling you what platform you’re on and what platforms you can transfer to, transferring is really simple, and the trains are fast. (Express trains actually run on a completely separate line rather than sharing a line with slower trains; what a concept! :-) It looks like the designers of the subway managed to make it cope with the population increase very well: in the few times that we’ve caught the subway in rush hour, the trains weren’t all that full, and trains came once every two or three minutes. If only Sydney had a subway system to match New York’s!

As for the actual conference that we’re attending here, that’s been great so far. Conrad and I gave a demo and a poster session (short paper) on Tuesday, and both of them went well: we had over a dozen people talk to us in the demo session, of which a few seemed genuinely interested in the work we’re doing, and around ten people visit us in the poster session. I also managed to finish off an initial implementation of what hand-wavingness we were discussing in our short paper about 10 minutes before the poster session started, which ruled. Flying by the seat of your pants is always fun. There were some very cool other posters and demos around, too, including a very cool one on graphing relationships between various sorts of music and musicians (which was admittedly mostly very cool because it was graphing relationships between bands I like, such as DJ Shadow and Faithless …). There was even one poster was on algorithms for maintaining consistent global state for online multiplayer games; buggered if I know what that has to do with multimedia, but it was appropriately awesome, nevertheless.

Columbia University, where the conference is being hosted, is gorgeous. I promise I’ll put some photos up in my gallery soon, but for the time being, I can try to summarise it as: renaissance-like, neo-classical, generally pearl-white coloured, peaceful, inspiring feel. Like Cambridge, MIT and Harvard, it makes me wish I was five years younger and doing an undergraduate degree again. :) (Though New York isn’t quite as much of a meat market as Boston is. Very important factor, you know.)

Anyhoo, now that all our demos and presentations for the conference are over, we can wind down a bit and relax: attend the conference (and/or satisfy my shopping fix) during the day, and head to the clubs and pubs at night. We did go out to two cool pubs on Sunday (Fez and some-other-name-I-can’t-remember) since it was K’s birthday that day, but I’m sure I’ll be dragged out to be sufficiently intoxicated later in the week too. Yay, work bit over, time to play!


Boston, Part the Second

You’ll all be glad (I hope) to know that our presentation at the MIT Media Lab went quite well. We spoke with some of the folks there, including Ted Selker (inventor of the beloved (?) red-nosed pointing device popular on the IBM Thinkpad and Toshiba laptops), Henry Lieberman and Barry Vercoe (inventor of Csound), and gave a presentation to around 10 people which went quite smoothly. I definitely felt humbled at MIT: they have a lot of smart people there, who do a lot of rather smart things. Whether the media lab is part of the smart group, I’ll reserve judgement on that and leave that decision for the Internet rumour-mongers ;).

Since that was the major task for the week all over, I’ve have had two pretty cruisy days on Friday and Saturday: both days involved beer, learning a bit about baseball, exploring Boston, and chatting to Monty. On Friday lunch (neé breakfast), Monty took us to an awesome little Chinese restaurant named Mary’s, famous for their Dun Dun Noodles, which were apparently so beloved by the Boston community that they somewhat regularly pack them into dry ice containers for their customers to take on plane flights to other cities. (True story. No coincidence that Mary’s carries the Annals of Improbable Research magazine, I’m sure.) On the rest of Friday, Conrad and I visited the MIT Coop campus store, which, in America, is pronounced “Kupe”. As in, the things which chickens go cluck clik in. Riiight. We also visited the Harvard Coop book store (since we were too manly and/or stupid to find the actual Harvard Coop campus store), which disappointingly did not have any Luis Royo nor BattleTech books in stock. After that, we met up with Monty at home for some Tex-Mex flava dinner, where I had a Corona, a Tequila shot and another beer later on. It was all good until I was wiped out at eleven o’clock, and decided to hit the hay early. (I’m sure the Tequila had absolutely nothing to do with that, too.)

Today, Conrad went to the GNOME Summit at MIT, so I’ll let him tell you about that. I instead went to the Lord of the Rings exhibition at the Museum of Science, only to find out that the first ticket available was for 5:15pm. That turned out to be pretty good timing, since I also wanted to visit the Cambridgeside Galleria shopping mall and, err, do a bit of window shopping. Of course, window shopping turned into non-window shopping since I found a Brookstone store there, as well a Best Buy. All I can say is: I am now the owner of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, Volumes 1 and 2, special editions. Awesome.

After non-window shopping, I visited the Museum of Science again to attend the Lord of the Rings Exhibition. In a nutshell, it was fantastic. You get to see all the costumes, armour, weapons, models, and behind-the-scenes techniques behind the film, for every character from goblins to Frodo. It would be worth going to just to see the incredible amount of love and care put into the costumes: the painstaking amount of work done by Three Foot Six Studios and WETA in New Zealand really are worthy of being exhibited. (For all the guys, yes, you get to see Arwen’s gowns, and for all the girls, you can all see Galadriel’s gowns :-). Some of the armours, weapons and models take your breath away.

I think it’s a fitting end to a wonderful week in Boston: closing the week with the exhibition of the revival of a classic tale suits the city so quaintly.



Boston’s a really pretty, quaint little city: a population of 600,000, mostly to support students (including masses of computing geeks who own far too many Powerbooks and iBooks — more on that later), with gorgeous harbours and peninsulas, and awesome neo-classical architecture which permeates the heart of the city. MIT and Harvard would be absolutely fantastic places to study: like Cambridge in the UK, Boston really makes me wish I was five years younger again, staying at a college, and studying at a great university. The surroundings really are inspiring, and even though the city is a bit old and squalid in some places, the neo-classical sandstone architecture which forms downtown just gives it a really awesome classical charm. The public transport system here isn’t too bad either, despite Monty’s attempts to convince me that it’s a load of crud. The subway system seems to be quite reasonable, and one interesting design aspect of it is that there’s about a kilometre between the subway stops located downtown — meaning that a subway station is never more than about 5 minutes walk away if you’re in Boston proper. Very convenient: while that means that trains stop more often in the city, it sure beats Sydney’s 15-odd minute walk between Town Hall and Central.

So far, Conrad and I haven’t explored too much, though this is partially because Boston really isn’t all that big: the population is only around 600,000 people, after all. We’ve walked around the city quite a bit, and covered some of Cambridge and MIT (but not Harvard — yet). Since we are officially here on work business, we’ve both been good boys and done quite a reasonable amount of work during the day. Rather than hacking at Monty’s, we’ve been enjoying the facilities provided by the fine Diesel CafÈ: reasonable coffee, wireless Internet access, power points, and comfortable seats for hours of hacking. I’ve mostly been working on our (Symbian-based) mobile phone multimedia browser, since we’re demonstrating tomorrow at MIT. So, it’s been hacking during the day with beer and socialising at night. Not that we’re reinforcing the Australian stereotyping by bringing back two cases of beer back to the house every day and polishing it off. (Though I’ve been a responsible boy and have only been drinking one or two bottles per night, yes sirree.)

For now, it’ll be a bit more Symbian hacking, and then hopefully we’ll go visit Harvard tomorrow followed by a big successful demo at MIT. All good.


Toronto, Part the Second

Well, CN Tower isn’t very exciting when you don’t ride the elevator to the top. It is rather impressively tall and everything, but I didn’t feel like paying the $30 to ride up to the top with no Michelle. (Cue “awwww” sound here.) Ditto for visiting Niagara falls: I’m really quite keen to go there, but I’ll bide my time until I’m there with the Better Half. (It’ll make my experience there more rewarding: yeaaaah, that’s right!) So, instead of sightseeing, I mixed with the locals: walked around Toronto a bit more and explored the city during the day, and went to the pub and played pool with some of Dom and Zoe’s mates. (I actually lost to Dom at pool, which was apparently quite an effort — I blame the excellent beer.) Since we were all feeling a little bit knackered by the end of the night but not quite ready for sleep yet, we sat down to watch The Lion King (the movie, not the play), which was absolutely excellent. If you haven’t seen it, ‘tis highly recommended: definitely one of Disney’s finer creations.

I visited Herr Wolfgang Thaller the next day in Hamilton, Ontario, which is about an hour away from Toronto via bus. I found Hamilton to actually be a little bit more seedy than Toronto, which was odd considering that Hamilton’s population is much smaller, but it was still felt reasonably friendly and safe. After a long lunch and coffee (as in, coffee took the entire afternoon), over which much Haskell discussion took place, Wolfgang and I headed back to Toronto to grab some dinner and do some GHC hacking. More accurately, I introduced Wolfgang to Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (possibly one of the greatest creations known to humankind), and then encouraged him to do GHC hacking while I surfed the web and reaped the fruits of his labours. What can I say? Distributed code development is excellent when you’re a lazy sod. We ended up staying up until a respectably late hour (~2am), and the next day, did the geek thing and went gadget shopping. All I have to say about gadget shopping is: how on earth do those little dozen or so Yum Cha Asian computer sweatshops within about 10 metres of each other manage to stay in business?

And so, that was Toronto. Cheap, awesome food, got to catch up with Dom, Zoe and Wolfgang, meet some dudes who worked on Lord of the Rings (“Dudette, do you know who I am?! I worked on Lord of the Rings!” works quite well as a pick up line), explore a great city, and generally had myself a ball. Next stop: Boston!


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!


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

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 :).


Paper Napkin

So here’s the scenario: You’re out at a bar, riding transit, or even just walking down the street, and some bozo who desperately wants into your pants starts up a conversation with you. Rather than make a scene or make them upset, you’re polite and at least nod at the proper times. Then, of course, they ask you for your number. Except this is 2004, so maybe they ask for your email address instead. That’s where Paper Napkin comes in.