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.

17 July 2005

Battlestar Galactica: season 2

I watched the first episode of the next season of the very excellent remake of Battlestar Galactica on the weekend, and I'm pleased to say it met or exceeded my expectations :) It picks up with a cracking pace from where the last season left off; Bill Adama (played by old time favorite Edward James Olmos) has been greviously wounded by Sharon "I'm not a cylon" Valerii (the ridiculously pretty Grace Park).

As with the first series, the show is very character driven, with cylons, prophecies and stuff blowing up being almost incidental. This episode focuses around Colonel Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), who, in command in the absence of Adama, loses the fleet and must race against time to find it.

There's plenty of soul-searching and self-doubt about suddenly being in command; but, far from being a cheesy tale of self-flagellation and redemption, it tortuously expolores character in a way that is uncharacterisitic for modern-day science fiction television.

The musical score for the series is remains fresh; it's composed and orchestrated by Richard Gibbs. I'm not sure if they decided to finally go with the UK version of the title music (with the beautiful vocals sung in Sanskrit in a verse from the Upanishads) or with the crappy US season 1 version without the vocals (apparently it sounded too 'middle-eastern' or something silly like that).

I'm looking forward to the rest of this seasons episodes (20 of them!), and heres hoping that the show will remain as edgy and sharp all the way through.

15 July 2005

Pottering around

Yes folks, I'm embarrassed to admit it. I went and bought 0.674kg worth of Harry Potter 6 (Attack of the Clones). I bought it for Briony, really, I did. Not for me. But you'll never believe me, will you?

So, shredded dignity aside, I was told that this morning, bookshops across the nation would be opening their doors at 9 a.m. sharp to hordes of people all simultaneously scrambling to get a copy of this most precious of tomes. I was expecting children and parents alike to be madly screaming, claws at each others throats, tearing off bits of flesh and gnashing their teeth in their frothing mouths as they fought for the last copy. So, to avoid being completely trampled, I waited a whole extra half-hour, and then I headed down to the local Dymocks.

9.30 am. Where was the queue? Where was the fighting and screaming? I woke up early on a Saturday morning expecting to be entertained by a the sight of some mindless mob killing each other, and I all I got was this?

At the end of the non-existent queue were two shop assistants, perhaps completely underwhelmed with the response. A small but steady stream of people, mostly parents, headed into the shop, handed in their pre-order voucher, and were given a copy of the book in a non-descript paper bag.

I don't think J.K. Rowling is a particularly good author. I have actually read the potter books, and whilst the first few were reasonably amusing children's books, the last few have read like rambling, incoherent science-fiction novels. She's not quite as bad as L. Ron Hubbard, but seems to oscillate somewhere in-between Robert Jordan and Mills and Boon. When Briony is done with it, and when I've finished my journal paper (somewhere at t=infinity), I'll give it a read and maybe I will change my mind. Maybe.

11 July 2005

Populating my office

My mum works in the building right next to mine, and popped by today to help populate my office (with no direct windows out to the world outside) with some greenery. She gave me a superb little good-luck pottery elephant with some easy-to-care-for bamboo, along with a box of chocolates which were much enjoyed by myself and other, ravenous individuals in the lab. The easy-to-care-for part is especially important, as, so far, my experience with nearly every plant that I have looked after is to end up killing the poor bugger. If I don't kill the bamboo, I might be ready for growing the Red Savina Habanero chilli seeds that I have this summer.

Two long-time residents of my office can be seen to the left. At the top is my wee-little paper model of a shambler (created with the assistance of Pepakura designer - but more on paper unfolding obsessions another time), the design for which I shall put up online sometime. Below is the little wooden tiki that Briony brought back for me from her last trip to New Zealand. The tiki is an awesome little ornament, warding off nearby stupidity and causing nearby paper models to spontaneously unglue and fall apart.

Canberra Invasion and Macquarie Move

For today, a large post.

It's been a busy couple of days, with the group I work with moving offices from suburban Marsfield to the site at suburban Macquarie University. The move was fairly uneventful, the new offices are spacious (if not a little dark) and I'm sure we'll make adjustments to make it like home again.

The Canberra Invasion Force went off without a hitch, and great fun was had by all (I hope!). The three-hour drive (which took a bit longer on Friday because of the insane rain) was well worth the effort, allowing for catching up with family and friends alike. A big shout of thanks has to go out to Gertrude (and gorgeous little Sophie) for letting us invade their house for a couple of days, and to Adelina for housing last-minute travelers and for lending us her place for the many, many hours of entertaining games, tim-tams and conversation.

I have previously been a bit down on Canberra, but have quickly gotten quite attached to the place. Yes, it's cold, yes, it's a lot like London, but it has the charms of a small down hastily mushed together with the functions of a big city. I'd highly recommend the Argentinean food stand with it's hot Churros at the Old Bus Depot Markets on Sundays, and the drive from the War Memorial to Captial Hill (notwithstanding the aluminum Bird On A Stick) is genuinely quite nice.

I've been driving everyone insane, going bazakas with my digital camera, taking photos of everything that happened. Being a long-time linux nerd, I have recently been searching for good image management software, and I found Album Shaper, which works superbly well under KDE. It isn't iPhoto, but it is slick and it generates very swish looking online albums, as can be seen in the links further down this post.

So, for those of you whom have patiently read through my rambling - pictures. The gallery for the Macquarie Move can be found here, and the gallery for the Canberra Invasion Force can be found here.

7 July 2005


Most of you folks would be aware of the trouble going down in London at the moment. It's not a whole heap of fun, but if any city in the world would be designed to cope with such a stress, London would be it. I've spoken with family and friends (including one who missed catching one of the ill-fated tube trains by managing to sleep in yesterday morning), and as usual the Londoners are dealing with it with calm, playing down the incident rather than ramping it up.

Speaking of terrofication - local TV station, channel seven is now screening the most recent series of angry' Kiefer's flagship show, 24. The central plot orbits around an 'ordinary' Arabic family who are actually a sleeper cell. The series is executed controversially, playing up Arab stereotypes, leading to a clumsy apology from Fox. They introduce a raft of new characters, only to replace them with ones from the previous series because of a viewer backlash against them. It leaves a pile of loose ends (hint: there is no motive for the 'terrorist' activity, its just 'extremists'), Kiefer Sutherland dies (again), is brought back to life (again). Don't waste your time, folks.

5 July 2005

The backstroke of the west

Not content with mangling Lord of the Rings (FOTR and TTT), another episode of another recent trilogy has been engrish-ified ;) Click here for Episode III, Backstroke of the west. It's like watching two movies at once, only.. better.