22 December 2005


A while ago I helped out at a conference and I scored a voucher for dinner at the unsettlingly expensive Jordons restaurant in Darling Harbour, Sydney. As is the way with things, this voucher languished at the bottom of a forgotten drawer; however, we were able to dig it up in time and last weekend Briony and myself sauntered on down to the waterfront for dinner at Jordons.

jordons restaurant

Jordons is famous for it's seafood, a point which was lost on us as Briony and myself are mostly vegetarian. The food itself was quite reasonable - with a restaurant with such a high turnover, I guess you can't expect everything to be really fresh.

view from jordons

Using some high tech tomfoolery I was able to get off a decent shot of the view from the restaurant into Darling harbour. With the voucher's contribution, it was easily one of the best $10 meals that we've ever had :P

manly beach

Next on the menu for the weekend was a trip down to Manly for a Christmas BBQ at the bosses place. Given all the recent entertainment on the Southern beaches, Manly beach was extremely quiet. Councils are confident that people will dribble back to the beaches over the break. However, I don't think that the stand-offish atmosphere in the beachside suburbs are doing much to help. The cultural makeup of the lab is reasonably diverse, and we couldn't help feeling a little out of place in the pubs and clubs around the beach. The hoteliers were understandably nervous (they didn't want to see any sort of trouble, and hence were quite paranoid) - but it's still weird feeling out of place in the city you call home.

blue gem concert

On the other end of the scale, however, we capped off our weekend by going to the most surprising Christmas Caroling gigs I have ever been to. Blue Gem Shining Amongst The Stars was led by Briony's singing teacher, Nadia Piave. In stark contrast to the weirdness out near the beaches, this was a musical and cultural blender unlike any I have experienced before. There were performers from a huge range of backgrounds, including Persian, Italian, Sicilian, Yidaki (Australian Aboriginal), French and even performances in Old English. It really was incredible listening and watching performers cover classic, seasonal (the whole Yuletide thing) and traditional songs with a variety of instruments. There were even a familar face on the guitar and piano accordian (seriously, is there anything that he can't do?).

In particular, the traditional Persian music (vocals primarily by Massoud - all I know is that he is Persian, based in Lakemba, and has a voice that blew me away), performed with the superb acoustics at St. Saviours Church had me totally enthralled. The whole gig renewed my faith in the fact that the whole cultural melting-pot thing works just fine (thank-you-very-much), and I'm looking forward to going to similar gigs in the future - I got a real kick out of it.

15 December 2005

we're men.. men in tights

Those famous Sydney Opera House sails

First off - Ray's pictures from the weekend down at Vincentia are up online - thanks for that Ray :)

Briony took me out to the Opera House last night for the production of Sleeping Beauty, mostly for a fun night out but partly to attempt to get me slightly more cultured.

What I was expecting was opera - and what I got was ballet. So, there were a few niggling little things that might have got to me. Whilst I could get into the technical aspects of the performance - people in tight clothing basically hurling themselves and others all over the damn stage like a precision driving team - I was at a complete loss to follow the story. Briony tells me that this is fairly normal for an opera, so there we were madly reading the program with a flashlight whilst the performance was running trying to work out what was happening. The music was very dainty, there wasn't a lot of oomph to it - and the ballet itself also involved industrial strength doses of yet more fluttery daintiness. I was unsurprised to discover that this wasn't my thing. Maybe one day when I'm older I might appreciate it :P

Despite mixed reviews, the house was packed, so presumably lots of people did get into it. More power to them, I say. All said and done, it was a night out on the town, and it was at the Opera House (which is always cool). Now I can conclusively say that I've tried watching ballet, and, well, the tight tights just give me the creeps.

Since I've ruled out Ballet from my list of upcoming entertainment, what's up-and-coming on the idiot box? Well, first off the rank is the Dr. Who Christmas special (Dec. 25 2005), then the next episode of Battlestar Galactica (Jan. 6 2006 - wooo!), and finally the ever-so-confusing continuation of Lost (Jan. 11 2006). I'm not a nerd. Not me.

The next couple of weeks will involve a lot of traveling around Sydney for family and friends Christmas functions; it's nice to know that the moderate voices in Sydney's famously unbalanced media have been keeping things orderly in the light of all the fun that's been happening out Cronulla way. It's all been staggeringly stupid, I hope the upcoming weekend will be a bit quieter.

ps. I'd like to say a big hello to the only two people in the world who are visiting this blog. Hi. Hows it going.

6 December 2005

salvador dali's magic castle

Update: Briony's take on events.

The Canberra Invasion Force invaded the quiet south coast town of Vincentia, in Jervis Bay last weekend. There was a rubber chicken. There was taboo. There was a sandcastle. In fact, gentle reader, there was enough to keep us out of trouble for the best part of three days and I hope a good time was had by all.

Myself, Briony, Marc (whom was our driver for the weekend - much thanks again), Ray, Mos and Tuan arrived on Friday night, with Adelina and Amanda arriving on Saturday morning. While we were waiting around on Saturday morning, we indulged in some high-speed chicken photography:

Subsequently we traveled to nearby Huskisson for lunch and a bit of Ray-casting.

After heading back to Vincentia, we built a monstrous sand-castle.

This was followed by a movie and some board games:

Next morning, the sand castle had been washed away :( I think Mos cried :P

We cleared up, and started making our ways home:

On the way back, we stopped in at the surprisingly vibrant centre of Woolongong for an excellent dinner at Ghedia's.

A complete gallery of the weekend can be found here.

Of course, my geeky side followed my down for the holiday, and thusly I found myself mucking about with my brand new tripod, my camera and the hugin stiching tools. The below links either link to a larger image or to a java panaroama viewer (java required for these :P).

The beach house (image link here):

Ray is absolutely beside himself in Huskisson (image link here):

Orion beach at Vincentia (image link here):

The completed sand-castle (non-java):

How Salvador Dali might have viewed the sand-castle:

View out into Jervis Bay (image link here):

Anyway, that's enough for me today. I probably should get some sleep :)

30 November 2005

This spoon is too big

First off, on a somber note - this is fucked up. Sorry for the strong language, but there are precious few other ways of putting it. Enough debate has been had on the topic, so this once I'll add my voice to the clamour - capital punishment isn't any means to any end >:(

On a lighter note, I did get my phone, only two days after the bloke from Vodafone telemarketing had called me. The V600 case is a little flimsy, but once you chuck it in a phone jacket it feels fairly robust. The camera is quite nice, and the java3D stuff actually runs at a reasonable speed. I haven't really had time to muck about it all that much.. I'll use it to take a couple of photos on the weekend and you can judge for yourself.

If you have a bit of bandwidth to spare, you might want to check out rejected (41Mb!) for amusement value. It's a nifty little short film, and I highly recommend you watch it first before finding out a bit more about it.

As a note to sign off with - I've been trying to use this geotargeting tool for tracking site visitors (see little button at the bottom of the page). So far, the only hits I've gotten tell me that all the visitors are reading my blog from in the middle of the road on Cleveland Street near the centre of Sydney :| Hopefully it'll register something a bit more interesting in the future :)

23 November 2005

dwarf bread

v600 - courtesy of clubsonyericsson.com

So I was having a sub-optimal day yesterday, faffing around with algorithms to try to estimate surface features on arbitrary objects (hooray!). Things are busy as usual, so when I received an unsolicited call on my mobile from vodafone marketing, I was two seconds away from saying 'no thanks, too busy'.

But, for a fraction of a second, I thought, what the heck, this guy on the other end of the line is just doing his job, and probably makes a commission from every sale he makes.. why not give him a go? 'You've got five minutes', I said. I'm glad that I did, because ten seconds later he's thanking me for being a long-term customer of vodafone and giving me a free mobile for it.

It wasn't a crappy one either; Sorny Ericsson v600, which stacks up quite nicely in terms of features, and, for free, I can't complain. Presumably the marketing push is to get customers to use their new 3G service. I can't blame them for trying hard. 3G service uptake has been quite poor up to this point, and aside from the niftiness factor of being able to make a video call, its ambiguous as to whether it is good value for money (yes, I know it's an old link) and, anecdotal evidence seems to point to 3G reception being quite patchy, especially around the hilly parts of Sydney (where I live).

I'm getting the phone couriered out to me in a couple of days, so we'll see how it goes :)

My attempt at making damper

We ran out of bread last night, so in a fit of culinary insanity I made some Australian damper from a simple recipe that I found on the inter-web. Damper is a type of bread that you can make in a hurry, without yeast and little equipment. It's a traditional dish, made by campers and rugged folk.

It certainly looks edible enough (see picture above). I kept the oven heat too high right through the cooking, so it didn't quite bake properly in the middle. Briony, on a scale of 1 to 10, gave it a rating of Guide camp, so I think I have some way to go. Nevertheless, I think that if all else fails, I can use the resulting foodstuff as a weapon.

20 November 2005

Bunty Gosh

Long time since the last post, so here is a pile of stuff to make up for it :)

Nano goodness

iPod Nano

Well folks, I was only actually able to last a couple of months with the iPod mini. Now, I am the proud owner of a shiny black 2Gb iPod Nano :) But I'm not quite as avaricious as one lacking ipoddy goodness may believe; I had the nano awarded to me as a prize for the best paper (on day one) of an internal ICT conference at the lab. Can't complain (though the director seems to have some trouble with my name.. Bunty Gosh??), I never dreamed that I'd end up with a nano before I finished my PhD :)

The only thing it lacks is a sleeve; these are a bit hard to get hold of at the moment, so I'm gingerly carrying around the little bugger so I don't crack the screen. The emphasis here is on little; the nano is absolutely tiny, really not much bigger than the shuffle, very light and absolutely easy to lose.

Mandriva 2006 (warning: explicit geekiness follows)

I got over waiting for the downloads to become freely available and I bought the x86 and x64 versions of Mandriva 2006. It was a big jump from the hacked-up Mandrake 10.1 beta I was running before, especially on my laptop. Whilst I'll always be a command-line freak, KDE 3.4 has proven to be an absolute gem. I'm getting quite used to using folders again, and using the various kioslaves for mounting remote filesystems (notably fish:// for scp) is an absolute joy.

I know it's been around for a while, but USB automounting/unmounting is another thing I'm very pleased with. 4th generation ipods simply mount and unmount without any insane mucking about needed - you just plug it in, and off it goes. Amarok seems to get better with every version; I'm quite happily using it to organise the ton of meta-information that comes with my music collection.

Hardware compatibility has also been quite good; once the system was configured, most hardware worked straight out of the box (though I still have to try out the new laptop-compatible ATI IGP drivers). My only gripe was gcc-4, and a minor one at that - it's so bleeding edge, a lot of our old legacy 3rd-party apps (notably wxgtk-2.4) simply keel over and break under the strain, especially at the linking stage. A quick install of gcc-3.3.6 fixed up that problem for some apps, but it'll be a rocky road upgrading to gcc-4 compatibility in the future.

hugin and panotools

My street: the panorama

One of the many excellent apps that came bundled with mandriva 2006 was hugin, which I knew nothing of until a recent review of mandriva pointed out its existence. Using panotools, it stitches a series of photographs that make up a panorama into a full panoramic image. There is a lot to say about it, so I won't go into detail about it today (maybe I'll even post up a tutorial in the near future), but the results have been superb. There's nothing quite like generating a seamless image 12-thousand pixels across :)

A couple of examples of some panoramas that I made are below, and you'll need java to view them (they open in new windows). I have used the excellent PTViewer java class to display the images; just pan with your mouse, and use the +/- keys to zoom in and out.

my street 181105 pano 0
my street 181105 pano 1
concord park 191105 pano 0
concord park 191105 pano 1
the nano

More to come soon (hopefully with some added extra HDRI goodness) :)

21 October 2005

Fidel Castro: friend to all creatures

Fidel Castro

Well folks, we were frankly stunned to have been recently visited by Fidel Castro, socialist revolutionary, friend to all creatures, on a rescue mission. You see, Briony was heading home and she found, quite out of his tree, the capitalist sympathiser, Clifford:


Delusional, and a bit lost, we observed Clifford for a short while. However, night was falling and, well, we weren't quite sure what to do with him. We called up WIRES for a bit of advice. Turns out what we probably should have done was let him work out his political alignment on his own, but the way it worked out, we ended up taking him home for the night to keep him away from cats and the like. Fidel weaved his own magic, lulling him to sleep with words of common ownership and inciting him to throw off his shackles and initiate a workers revolution.

Briony giving Clifford a send-off

The next morning, Briony took Clifford back to were we found him. He chirped away quite happily, and we let him do his thing, promoting Marxism and decrying the free market economy.

Fidel educating Clifford in socialism so he may bring it back to his peoples

Anyway, it's off to Canberra tomorrow to see these folks... looking forward to it :)

10 October 2005

will the real bjoshi please stand up?

I am in the rather enviable position of having a reasonably unique first name. Weirdly enough, there exists the aptly named BHAUTIK physical analysis toolkit for FE analysis, which pre-dates my PhD but is quite close to my PhD topic! But that's not what this rant is about.

Google and ebay conspiring together for added humour value
My surame, Joshi, from the part of India it originates from, is as common as Smith; it's a popular family name with a long history. Given that my first name is sometimes a little difficult for western tongues to process, given a choice, my username for email accounts is bjoshi; it's been this way ever since I got my first email address over ten years ago (incidentally, it's flooded with spam, but still going).

So when I was lucky enough to get invited to open an account at gmail, I created my bit of abstract real estate by choosing bjoshi as a username. This opened me up, however, to the new (for me) experience of getting a flood of misdirected personal mail in my direction. For some reason, people either can't enter their address correctly into a form, or just assume that the person that they are trying to correspond with has a gmail account and that their username is, well, bjoshi.

Amongst the flood of stuff I get:

  • Password reset requests (yes, you, whoever you are, it's taken; stop trying)
  • Numerous CV's and resumes
  • Job offers(!!)
  • Various emails regarding an internal SAP migration (whatever the heebejebus that is)
  • Press releases from a lieutenant Colonel in Kashmir(!)
  • Account setup information for an ADSL account

I often wonder who these other bjoshi's are.. it's nothing if not just amusement for me, but I'm assuimg that these unsuspecting individuals are losing out on something... I hope for their sakes that they get it sorted out. Whoever they are.

3 October 2005

spring loaded


Figure 1: (a) Lobster + rabbit
(b) Cutaway of mesh of brain

Figure 2: Ducks, ok?

Figure 3: Cake stab

It's been a good long while since I have last posted, so here I am again, the other side of a rather extended self-induced journal-paper-writing stupor.

The PhD work I've been doing on adaptive mesh generation has been plodding along quite nicely; two examples are in Figure 1 to the left. Figure 1(a) does indeed demonstrate a lobster squeezed into a rabbit (any resemblance is purely coincidental, really); 1(b) is a rather shiny cut-away view of a volume mesh of the brainweb head; the cortex is in blue, the white-matter underneath is red.

However, in the real world outside, spring has truly exceeded our ability to describe it, showering us with an assortment of miniature versions of other, small, sad, but nevertheless endearing flightless birds (see Figure 2).

Just over a year ago big thing happened to myself and Briony. It's been a wonderful year, and to celebrate we decided a) take everything out of the house, b) clean it, c) put it back, and finally, d) throw a party (see Figure 3). Thankyou to all you wonderful folks who could come, we had a great time, and thanks for all the hellos from all the people that couldn't.

Speaking of Briony - she puts up with a lot; and has caved into a desire to write about it!. Sort of.

Thusly I present to you: Diary of a PhD widow!

18 August 2005

Spiderbait 1, Radiohead 0: science says so!

Ian Salmon (pronounced sammon, damnit!), a research engineer at Qantas has been developing a thin-film 'buzzer' that vibrates wings on small aircraft to help prevent stalling. Pretty nifty research, but the really interesting thing it proves is that if Spiderbait and Radiohead got into a fight, Spiderbait would win.

Not that it needed proving or anything; I mean, Kram would probably just cleanly bite Thom Yorke's head right off.


15 August 2005

city to surf - results

So, as the official website said this morning, here we are with -2 days to go until the city to surf 2005:

:P :P

As might be readily apparent, I ran the City To Surf last Sunday, and it all turned out a lot better than I expected. I've just read my official time in the paper; a not-too-shabby 106 minutes and 49 seconds :) Sure, it's not a world beater (I'll comfort myself with coming in at position 23 thousand and something - a bit above average :P), but its well under my target time of two hours and close enough to a 100 minutes which was at the upper end of what I was expecting.

Turns out all the effort was worth it ;)

So, a quick little tour of the day that was as far as City to Surf went:

The order of the day in town on Sunday would have been a UK resident's delight; each step of the day usually involved waiting in line for something or the other; this shot was of the hundreds of people running in and out of the underground carpark near Sydney Grammar to get their bibs with their race numbers on, a little like..

..this. This was my bib, stylishly pinned on at a skewed angle.

Before the race, there were, I kid you not, thousands of people queuing up to use the small banks of portaloos scattered around Hyde Park. Rather than cram myself into one of those tiny little plastic receptacles, I walked to nearby Centrepoint to get some light relief before the race.

Speaking of Centrepoint, here it is, close-up and personal near the start of the race at Hyde Park. Just take note, it'll factor in a bit later on in the post.

Shoulder-to-shoulder at the before the start of the race, there were people as far as I could see . Given my height, I admit, I couldn't see a lot, but I was assured there were about 60 thousand people at the start line.

These are my feet. Don't ask.

About half-way along the race, looking across Rose Bay (I think) to the city. Centrepoint is now a heck of a lot smaller. I really didn't feel like taking many (any?) photos during the race, as I felt a lot more like running. Actually, it was more like walking, until I came to a downhill slope, in which case I ran like mad, but in any case, it worked out. Yes Ray, next time, I'll train properly.

So this is my time card at the end of the race; I started in the second group, so there was a 8 minute 8 second delay in the starters gun, so my actual time was 106 minutes and 49 seconds ;)

The race ends up at Bondi Beach. Mainly to be contrary, I actually do like it a lot more than Manly beach :P

St. John ambulance were there as usual. Briony tells me that they deal with the massive task of handling first aid for the day by classifying the event as a national emergency.

All in all, the day was great fun. I got a reasonable time, managed to nearly destroy my running shoes, and get a blinding headache in the bargain :) I really did enjoy the day, and with a little bit more training, I'm very much looking forward to next years run as well.

11 August 2005


The proceedings for SIGGRAPH05 have recently been put up online, and have provided a bumper crop of shiny computer graphics papers. There's a pile of papers there on meshing to keep me busy and out of trouble for a couple of days at least; and a very interesting section on Geometry on GPU's (though I have to admit, it still drives me nuts at how much people expect of GPU's at this stage - they're not standard CPU's, and are not simply a CPU substitute!!).

I also got around to noticing that the SIGGRAPH 2006 call for papers is up and running; its going to be in Boston next year :)

I'm dead keen on getting a full paper submitted to SIGGRAPH06. Given their traditional rejection rate of somewhere around 80%(!), it'll be a fairly ambitious venture but one well worth pursuing. I suggested to my lovely wife that I would quite happily submit our first child to the SIGGRAPH program committee in exchange for acceptance of my paper submission. It doesn't actually state anywhere in the submission guidelines that they won't accept an infant as supporting material for a paper submission, however, Briony was quick to point out that:
  • The scheme raises some small ethical issues
  • The papers committee probably won't know how to review and rebut a screaming, Fed-Ex'ed infant
  • We probably won't be able to manufacture a complete infant in time for the submission deadline in January '06 anyway
  • It is unlikely that any of the reviewers will be evil enchantresses named Dame Goethel
  • The infant is unlikely to be named Rapunzel (though it has already been decided that our fifth child is definitely going to be called Roflburgers)
Well, I thought it was a good idea at the time.

10 August 2005

Free, as in beer

I have a confession to make. Whilst procrastinating (I'm supposed to be writing my journal paper), I have been geeking my brains out. Mainly just for the purposes of being difficult, I use Linux for pretty much everything, and I have gradually been moving the things that I regularly do to Linux clients.

We use an Microsoft exchange server at the lab for handling mail; however, contrary to all expectations, there are superb clients out there that can happily handle the bizarro communications needed to handle mail on it. However, to be difficult, I insist on using creaky and ancient text-based pine for reading and writing email. That's right, folks, old school text based email.

Pine is great because you can get right in there and muck about with the headers of the email before you send message; surprisingly enough it's not too hard to get it to connect to exchange, and since it works in a text window it works wonderfully when your available bandwidth is choked with other stuff. Even though its under a proprietary license, for working purposes, its free (as in beer) to use.

The user-base for pine is still large and active, and there are plenty of resources out there for doing stuff with pine that you would have never imagined. A good place to look is the Pine Information Centre, where it has detailed instructions for using pine for gmail, advanced folder handling, and even methods for turning your incoming mail into an RSS feed(!).

Free calls

By far the geekiest recent activity of mine has been using Internet Telephony services under Linux. I was nuts over skype for a while, especially given its great Linux support, but I've moved on.

VoIPBuster is a (fairly new) internet telephony service. The thing to note about it is that while it isn't quite as full featured as Skype, it offers free calls out to land-line phones in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Australia and more.

Free, as in beer.

At the moment, land-line calls are limited to one-and-a-half minutes, but if you sign up and put on 1 euro (that's A$1.62 at the moment) worth of credit, the calls are un-timed. If nothing else, this will justify the exorbitant rates you are probably paying for broadband at home ;)

Of course, this wouldn't be any good unless it all ran under Linux. Whilst they don't provide a Linux client (but suggest one will be on the way when they get out of beta testing), you can quite happily connect an IAX-based telephony client to it, such as Kiax. The screenshot below is me giving Hiren a call in Germany for free ;)

Instructions for getting it to work on linux/mac/solaris/BSD are here. I had some trouble with the Kiax RPM packages from pbone (that'll learn me for not compiling from source); I'd highly recommend getting the binaries from the Kiax sourceforge page.

29 July 2005

dictionaraoke and other free music goodness

While the Recording Industry vampires representatives fret and shake over the shiver of the state of illegal music downloads, there is plenty of legal and willingly shared free music out there on teh inter-web.

Case 1: Dictionaraoke
The venerable Dictionaraoke is back up and running, with its music newly hosted over on archive.org. The basic premise is that nefarious (bored?) individuals take a song (generally as a sampled MIDI), and re-add words to it as spoken by the pronunciation guides in online dictionaries. The results vary between vaguely disturbing to hilarious. Of particular note is the cover of Astrud Gilberto's muzak classic, the Girl from Ipanema (with its bizarre last verse about the Girl with Emphysema), and a sublime cover of Underworld's Born Slippy.

Case 2: IUMA
The Internet Underground Music Archive has been an absolute goldmine for free music for a good long while. It's a giant repository of hundreds of unsigned artists. I don't even know how to give a hint as to where to start looking for music in their archive - just pick a genre you like and go nuts. By-and-large the music quality is excellent and I've downloaded numerous albums over the years ;)

Case 3: JBT@archive.org
The John Butler Trio have an archive of their live gigs hosted with those folks over at archive.org. If you haven't heard of JBT before, the band is basically a completely independently managed and run group; if I were to give it a crass categorization I'd say it was 'folk rock' but really it defies description. Give it a listen you'll understand why I'm addicted :)

24 July 2005

Recent roundup

Last week I gave the last review presentation of my PhD before I have to hand it in, in about 11 months time(!). Suffice to say that it was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience but I'm glad to have it (and all the time it chewed up) out of the way.


We were pleased to host the Canberra Invasion Force at our place the weekend before last for trifle and scrabble. Not sure what the heck was going on, but Mos kept on alternating between dimensions:

(or maybe I should learn how to take pictures properly). Full gallery is here

Last Sunday I briefly visited the Rocks Coffee Festival. I was expecting it to be cold, but Sydney turned on a beautiful warm and sunny day; a few of photos of the Rocks area and the event can be found here.

Battlestar mania

Saturday meant another episode of Battlestar Galacitca. Sadly bereft of Boomer, the episode only made for good (not excellent) viewing. It contained the compulsory sci-fi element of stuff blowing up:

..and not too much else. Unlike the first series, there are many characters in many different plot threads, with (what I think is) not enough focus on any one. However, the writers did mention that they'd like to focus on some of the other characters - and this isn't a terrible way of doing that. I'm just hoping that the threads will eventually come together coherently.