7 December 2006

HDR tomfoolery

Last post for the day - I've really got to head out soon. Big hello to both my brother-in-law and water-fowl obsessed brother who are in town visiting from Europe.

After handing in the draft, I walked from Gladesville to Pyrmont. Along the way, I upgraded my photo geek level by going from panorama to HDR imaging.

There are oodles of filters out there to tone-map acquired 32- or 48-bit images back down to formats viewable on ordinary screens.

On the left is the Fattal filter, on the right, the Drago filter. The awesome thing about all of this high-range geekery is that the images above were 100% processed under linux, which makes a refreshing change. I'll write-up how that was done in a post in the near future. More images here.

Future employers: click here!

Well folks, for the benefit of future employers, whom I am sure are carefully combing this site right now - hi. Note the special care I've taken to avoid posting any incriminating or controversial material. Isn't that nice.

Using a search engine to vet future employees does seem to be a de rigueur pre-processing step for hiring individuals for jobs. Even if you aren't active online, participation in a wide variety of activities in the real world do leave a traceable, online footprint. In the time I spent working at CSIRO, I've read through a good few CV's and sat in on a number of interviews, and this footprint was critically important.

The first step taken for every applicant was a quick trip to Google. Common names, often considered immune to casual googling can be quickly narrowed down using the information on a CV - universities attended, sporting clubs and the like. Instant death for many applications came from loony posts to message boards. New graduates especially can be tainted by poorly constructed, overly revealing posts on social networking sites (for example, myspace, which I consider the visual dysentery of the modern era). Posting stuff and pulling it later isn't going to necessarily save you either - there's always someone, quietly taking notes while you aren't paying attention.

That said, there's plenty of room on your actual CV to make a mess too. There was the one guy who applied who had a fantastic set of qualifications, but put down "I like girls" in his list of interests.

He didn't make to the interview stage, funnily enough.

My immediate future is starting to finally come together, and I don't think I have to worry about future employers trawling this site at the moment. It has been a fun few years at the lab - though squeezing in working and PhD stuff simultaneously has been a bit of a trial at some points. I can't really divulge what is going to happen next as it hasn't really formally been put together yet - suffice to say, I'm looking forward to it :)

chapter 7: conclusion

Burning the candle at both ends, dousing it in kerosene and then taking to it with a blowtorch helped me sail past the deadline only 24-hours late. My thesis draft (beta2, 'MC-Hammer' edition, for those that take an interest) has been sent to the supervisor-A for reviewing and editing. That will come back to me, endure a few days of fairly heavy fixing and corrections, and will be bundled off overseas and locally for final assessment before the end of the month (this will be beta3, 'Fresh-Prince' edition).

In Australia, unusually, there is no PhD defence process - you write your thesis, and it's sent off for review overseas. A few months later, it comes back with requests for corrections, and then you can go and wear the silly hat for graduation (I'm going to keep that hat, probably nailed above the doorframe of the lavatory of whichever house we finally end up getting).

The most tedious part of my PhD work is now well behind me, and I'm slowly resuming normal life. I can't quite describe how it is not having that nagging feeling in the back of your mind all the time, telling you that you should be running an experiment, or writing up. I don't think I'll be able to fully count it as 100% over until I send my final version in, but it's extremely close and I'm sufficiently unwound now to enjoy life. Five years is an awfully long time to have been doing anything, and with this whole combined working and PhD thing, I seem to have been doing a bit of everything. It's good to be done.

21 November 2006

On the TV

Well folks, if you're keen, keep next Tuesday (28th Nov.) free - I'm going to be on the TV :D

I got referred to Good Game (the show by gamers, for gamers ;) ) over on Auntie-II, and they came into the lab a few weeks ago to interview me about my papercraft obsession.

It'll be on at 8.30pm next Tuesday night. Those of you who can't get to a digital TV tuner (or are outside of Australia) can grab the episode for download here (it'll be episode 11 when it comes up online).

Looks like I win 1e6 nerd points :D

2 November 2006

Dude. Seriously.

Really, I'm alive. I'm even writing a blog post :P

End-game for the dreaded T-word is fast approaching.

Other things have been happening, but I really, really haven't had time to write about them. A quick peek at flickr will fill you in, if, for some reason, you desperately need to know.

I'll see you folks on the other side of thesis-land - soon.

6 August 2006

Attention internet lynch mob.. this way please

Some sad individual has senselessly plagarised a review from the excellent Dans Data. If you have any spare bile or venom to donate, please send it in this direction. Why do I mention this? Well, I'm a longtime reader of Dan, and the comments are curtly summarised by Anonymous:

"Ahhhh - the eloquence of all these comments is enough to bring a tear to mine eye...and you know what? I agree with every word. Scumbag..."

Five minutes with google seems to indicate not a single thing on this crappy blog is original or attributed content, and is merely a large collection of (poorly done) cut-and-paste jobs. The entire site clearly is in violation of its advertisers content policy:

"Kontera does not work with web publishers that promote, contain or link directly to the following content.. ..Material that violates intellectual property rights of third parties."

Remember folks, the internet is full of stupid people.

26 July 2006

Linear vs. Nonlinear FEM in biomechanics

The situation goes like this: in a biomechanical FE (Finite Element) simulation, the actual mechanical parameters of tissue are difficult to accurately determine. You can't just go poking tissue inside a live human being to get parameters because, well, they're alive. Dead tissue in cadavers responds differently, and the use of data from animal tissue is debatable - as well as having its own ethical problems.

So, given the issue of modeling tissue using near-real- or real-time FEM, is it worth using a more accurate mechanical model - say, nonlinear elasticity - over a simpler model, such as linear elasticity, which is easier to simulate?

Unless the deformations are really small, my own take on it is to use nonlinear FE (such as Neohookean elasticity) if at all possible. This is not because of precision, but because of better behavior under large strains. Let's look at an example.

Here I've meshed the infamous Stanford bunny using my own octree-based meshing technique into about 22,000 tetrahedra. I've fixed anchor points at the top of the left ear and near the lower rear of the bunny. Gravity is applied to the object, and we observe what happens as the FE-solver (in this case, a modified version of salmon by Nienhuys) converges to a rest-state (which is never completely reached, for the sake of brevity). The visualisation is done in VTK and computed on a 3.2Ghz Intel PC running kubuntu.

Linear Elasticity:

Initially, the solution is great, but eventually, the volume blows up. Not much practical use.

Neohookean (nonlinear) Elasticity:

Much better. The right ear makes a concerted effort to flop about a bit, and we see the mass of the object roughly rotating around the axis formed by the left ear and the anchor points in the bunny's rear end.

Oh noes! The press!

It certainly looks like the papercraft work has taken a life of its own, and word of it has moved out of the blog domain and reached real publications (*gasp*)!

There's an article about the papercraft (and me!) on the excellent, Melbourne-based online Jumpbutton magazine.

There's also another article (mirrored on flickr) with a copy of page 24 from the August 2006 edition of Computer Gaming World :)

w00t :)

17 July 2006


tipu chomping the snark

OK, so I couldn't really delay this any longer. Half-Life 1 papercraft is ready to go - see here.

11 July 2006

xfig for the civilised world

I've been using xfig a lot whilst I've been writing up my thesis. For making technical, vector based drawings that are frugal and functional, it's been my friend for a long time (since first year uni!).

However, it's default startup options are enough to make you go completely potty. For example, the program starts using imperial measurements (seriously, who uses those any more?), US letter pagesize (same again) and has an infuriatingly crappy splash screen complete with a redundant, seizure inducing animation.

It finally drove me around the bend, so I took the time and read through the manpage and worked out a good set of startup options. If you want to start xfig with some shred of decency, go to your ~/.bashrc and add:

alias xfig='xfig -me -pap a4 -po -nosplash -startg 2'

This will start xfig with metric units, a4 paper size, in portrait mode, a 5mm grid and no splash screen!. My rant is now done.

11 June 2006

conversations with a bagel

There aint nothing you can do to make me talk mister. Nuh-uh. Never!

No! Not the knife! OK boss, I'll talk! I'll talk!

I'll... yeaarrrrgh!!! *gurgled scream*

Don't talk to your food, folks.

Apologies to these guys; you might also want to see this collection of oddness (check out the 'how-to' archive, very funny). And then, there are these links :)

9 June 2006

the hunting of the snark



I was in Melbourne last week, looking neat and tidy on a bit of random business (those who know about it, know about it). Seriously folks, Melbourne is a blast. You'll find a few grumbling Sydneysiders giving Melbourne the odd, friendly broadside, but, on the whole, its a nice city to be in. For a little while, at least :)

I spent a pile of time around Federation Square, sort of an cultural and arts hub in downtown Melbourne, just adjacent to the river. The buildings around the square sported a pinwheel aperiodic tiling pattern, not-so-subtly reminding me of all the computational geometry write-up that I still have to get around to finishing for my thesis write-up. If you are in Melbourne, set aside half-a-day or so to have a peek around - especially if you've got an interest in film & tv or game development (who? me?).

I've made some small updates to the Quake papercraft models page, adding instructions for the player (ranger!) model. A big thanks has to go out to Spirit from quaddicted for providing additional hosting for the .pdf files (yes, I know, rapidshare sucks). [edit: fixed spelling - Qantas, Quantas, its bloody ruined my command of English :P]

On that topic: to answer a question I've got a few times - yes, I do have Half-Life papercraft models in the works. I've actually finished two unfoldings (the indefagitable(??) snark and the indestructible crowbar), but I haven't tested building them yet. When I've done the test builds, I'll post 'em up online. And that will be early July at the earliest - sorry folks, but thesis writing takes precedence :)

20 May 2006

boing boing boing boing boing boing...

Just a quick message for all those visitors from Kotaku, boingboing or wherever you are from all corners of the world wide inter-web:

Leave a comment below if you'd like say hello ;)

Thanks to the penguinista for the phone call from Germany(!) advising of the boing-boingification :P I hadn't quite realised how many people were using news aggregators - it's fairly impressive. As of 0900 Tuesday, Sydney time, it looks like lots of people have dropped by to say hi :)


Movers and Shakers


Folks, all of you who arrived to help me and b1 move last weekend: thank-you! We hadn't realised just how much junk we've accumulated since we got married, so all your help with packing, labeling and moving boxes was an absolute gift. Once we've disposed of our random detritus, and I've finally handed in that bloody thesis, we owe you all a big ole BBQ at the very least.

Speaking of thesis: well, not long to go now. The current plan is to hand in very soon - probably in a couple of weeks. So, if you don't see or hear much from me in the next few weeks, it's because I am genuinely hiding under a desk to get my write-up complete.

B1 has recently started a new job in a trendy part of town. The view from the pier on which her workplace is located is superb:



The area all around Pyrmont is all pretty old, industrial, and in certain rare conditions, quite photogenic - more Pyrmont.

25 April 2006

bouncing back on an Olympic scale

Over dinner the other evening, the discussion turned around to sports - specifically, the Olympics. Admittedly, it can be reasonably entertaining watching people run around in a circle really fast. But this gets boring quite quickly - so how to improve on matters?

The central thesis of this post goes along the lines of: all Olympic sports could be a lot better if you include a good length of bungee cord. For example, take the swimming - in lap racing, the competitors just have to swim to one end, and just relax on the return as elastic tension brings them back to the other end. Or the 100m sprint with a 75m cord (which would be amusing in itself). Imagine the hammer throw when the hammer is tied to a rubber band? Or you could combine javelin with sprinting - throw the javelin, and run as fast as buggery to make sure you aren't where the javelin will be when it comes back!

Folks, the possibilities are endless.

17 April 2006

must cut back on the caffeine intake

A couple of days ago, I think I may well have overdosed on caffeine. Recently, I've actually been managing to get enough sleep, but I haven't yet completely adjusted my caffeinated beverage intake to match. We'd popped out of the lab one morning to get some freshly brewed coffee; what I had forgotten was that I had earlier on consumed one of David's evil penguin mints, which on their own contain an obscene amount of caffeine. By lunchtime I was actually breaking out in a cold sweat and was a little too excitable. The practical upshot of all this is that now I can't drink a lot of coffee without feeling weird, and I've actually cut back my intake to maybe a cup of coffee a day, and am drinking a pile of tea instead.

I wonder.. what would Jack Bauer be like on a caffeine overdose? :P :P

Post-phd plans at this stage are still a bit vague (for those of you who might be interested). So far, I only have confirmed one activity I will definitely be partaking in - the rest is still a bit up in the air, including this fabled world-trip myself and Briony will be (eventually) taking. Speaking of spoiled plans - beardquest fizzled out with a whimper rather than a bang. I got a nasty rash so the beard had to go. The progress made before I had to bail out can be seen here.

5 April 2006

the replacements

New and old

The hinges in my venerable nc4000 finally gave way a few weeks ago - specifically, the small die-cast pieces that connected the stiff hinge axis to the base simply shattered into a couple of annoying fragments. This meant that the laptop lid simply hung free, so I had to prop it up against a backing (wall, stack of books, iron, Stonehenge, whatever) to use it. This situation quickly became absurd, so I went to see my dad, who is an expert with fixing all things electrical.

My first suggestion was to glue the broken parts together. As I discovered, contrary to popular belief, two-part epoxy doesn't fix everything. So, what to do? Well, we made replacement parts. This involved finding an L-shaped piece of aluminum, a bandsaw, a file, a drill and of course, a dremel. They were quite fiddly to make (see pictures to the left), but the case only needed minor modifications so that the parts could fit. They are back in place now, and the laptop is ticking away quite happily without any need for any dodgy backboard. If you'd like more details on how it was done, just leave a comment or send me an email :)

In other news, some people seemed to like the quake paper models ;) In particular, see here for a particularly good example of how to get the model built right. I got a great big spike in traffic when the models hit the front page on planetquake. Also: alientrap and thetangentbundle. I'm really glad people are enjoying the models.

27 March 2006

Quake paper models: done!

Ok folks, the Quake paper models are done :) Downloads and instructions can be found here: http://cow.mooh.org/paper

Enjoy ;)

26 March 2006

paper quake models...

..are on the way!


I finished test-building the player model this morning, and it turned out OK. As you can see in the picture, I haven't spent as much time as I should have building the models (notice the dodgy seams on the shambler), but that was partly because the card stock I used was too heavy and quite difficult to work with.

I documented the build process by taking photos at critical stages; with a bit of luck, I'll have the whole lot (models, instructions, pictures) posted up online later today.

beardquest 2006

Last Wednesday, myself a couple of the blokes at the lab decided to kick off Beardquest 2006. There really isn't any particular reason for it.. for some bizarro reason we've all spontaneously decided to not touch a razor for a month or so. We're from a big ole melting pot of ethnicities, so some will end up hairier than others. As promised, here I am over the course of 6 days.

edit: pictures too hideous to put on the front page! See here instead :P

Frightening, isn't it? I've gone from the spiky stage (which b1 was not a huge fan of) to the incredibly annoying itchy stage, which, so far, I've never had the patience to get through. Anyway, I've committed to this course of action, and we'll see how I end up in a couple of weeks time.

Besides, I've heard rumours that a prerequisite for any sort of academic career if you are male is facial hair (remember: biology - brown beards, physics - black beards), so I'm going to test drive this whole beard thing while I'm cooped up writing up my thesis and less likely to terrify anybody with my carpeted visage.

19 March 2006

of someday shambles

With the last paper in, and a long stretch of thesis-writing ahead, I decided to fill the brief gap in-between with some much-needed distractions. First cab off the rank was upgrading my AMD64 desktop machine with an obscene amount of shiny memory.


Yes folks, that's a total of 3Gb of primary storage for my automated thinking device ;) I'm fairly sure this will do me for a good long while, until the urge to pointlessly upgrade bites me again :P

At the pleasant behest of Andrew B., we spent Sunday afternoon in the Eastern suburbs enjoying the sounds of some great American composers (you know, for a long time I never even knew such a thing existed!) at a performance by the Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra. It was particularly interesting seeing Rhapsody In Blue being played - you get to realise just how difficult the signature clarinet solo at the start is to play. It's nice actually going to a gig to see orchestral music being played; instead of hearing music with just your ears you feel it with your whole body, and it's something I'd like to do more often.


Last cab off the rank are the paper models of Quake characters I've been working on :) I've designed and successfully made a paper model of a shambler. It supercedes the previous model in that it is a lot bigger, and a lot easier to build. I'll be posting up a .pdf of the model sheet and instructions on how to build it in a couple of days. I'm planning to add other quake models too; I have the player model sheet done, but I'm yet to test building it. For those who have been itching for it, stay tuned.. it'll be here in a couple of days :D

12 March 2006

cows fly like clouds but they are never completely successful

Woo! Thats the last one! I've submitted my last paper before my thesis-write up (which begins next week), so, for the moment at least, Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly.

In the throes of trying to write my last masterpiece, I turned to one of my old friends, MegaHAL, for some advice:

me: i hate writing papers
MegaHAL: You worry about your reward. If money is all that you can go about your reward. If money is all that you love, then that's what you're best at, isn't it?

Whilst I felt that a meaningful exchange had occurred, I found it hard to forget that MegaHAL also thinks Life's but a green duck with soy sauce. MegaHAL isn't exactly the most useful thing ever, but its mildly psychotic rantings can be fairly amusing when you are searching for inspiration.

On the other hand, useful things under KDE are numerous. Two favourites of mine at the moment would be the nifty application launcher, katapult (mandriva rpm's), and amarok, which play nicely together.

Amarok in particular is a bit of a killer app for me; it will catalogue, play and work out the context of whatever song I'm listening to. The smart playlist feature is pretty nifty way to organically browse through a large music collection. Moving files on and off my nano is also easy to do, and with the next release of libgpod it should be possible to copy the cover art over to the nano as well.

Did I mention that I like big sparks? They've got the touch? They've got the pow-eee-eeerrrrr!

28 February 2006

Degrees of separation

There are, supposedly, six degrees of separation between any given actor and Kevin Bacon. Of course, in our connected age, it didn't take long for a bunch of geeks to colonise the concept and to associate a numerical quantity with the concept. Hence the Bacon Number, which goes along the lines of:
  • Kevin Bacon has a Bacon Number of zero
  • An actor/actress whom has appeared in a movie with Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number of 1
  • The Bacon number of any individual actor/actress is then is defined as the minimum of the Bacon numbers of all the co-actor/actresses he/she has appeared in a movie in, plus one

(Induction, woo!)

The concept got an honourable mention at this years sci/tech Oscars ceremony; it's probably too much to hope that it'll get a mention at the main awards this weekend.

Incidentally, the concept of the Bacon Number is derived from the Erdős number, which is the minimum distance by co-authors via publications to the late mathematician Paul Erdős. Blowing my own trumpet, at the moment, I have an Erdős number of 6 (see here - requires mathscinet access). The link was provided via a paper I co-authored with Mikhail Propenko, who has an Erdos number of 5. There is such a thing as an Erdős-Bacon number; informally, the lowest number is, in fact, held by an inanimate Baseball (in rod we trust!).

Degrees of separation feature strongly in research into social networking, often going hand-in-hand with work in graph theory. The nifty thing about it is its broad area of application; an example of which is the Wikipedia degrees of separation calculator which has been sucking up a lot of my nonexistent spare time :P

15 February 2006

The queue

You'll have to pardon me if I've been a bit incomprehensible recently, I've been busy writing yet another paper. Hopefully this'll be the last one before I start my write-up in earnest. The basic gist of it is that I'm writing a paper on squashing brains, which always makes for some rather confusing after-dinner conversation.

Anyway, I've been wanting to keep up with Hiren's stream of consciousness dissertation on programming, so here's my attempt at turning your own brain to a liquefied pulp.

I've had the recent displeasure of needing to build ATLAS, LAPACK and CVMLIB, which all together provide an optimised library for linear algebra, needed for our real-time simulation work. Building on x86 presents few problems, with ATLAS only needing three hours to build (!!), giving me a bunch of static (.a) libraries which I can happily link against. For me, a good set of optimisation flags for gcc, on pentium4 processors are:

-O3 -pipe -march=pentium4 -ffast-math -mfpmath=sse -msse2

On pentium-m (e.g. laptop/centrino)

-O3 -pipe -march=pentium-m -ffast-math -mfpmath=sse -msse2

On x86_64 (notably, on AMD64, such as Athlon and Opteron), it's a whole different kettle of fish. Here, I've discovered, if you build your libraries as shared (.so), then you need to build the libraries you link against also as shared libraries, and build the objects with position independent code. This is complicated by the fact that LAPACK, ATLAS and CVMLIB's build scripts are written to mostly generate static objects :|

The solution lay in manually adding -fPIC to pretty much every compile line in building the libraries (usually by editing the top-level make include file), and then repackaging the ordinary static libraries as shared .so files. This can be achieved using a small shell script:

mkdir tmp
cd tmp
ar x ../$1.a
gcc -shared *.o -o../$1.so
rm -rf *.o
cd ..

To create foo.so from foo.a, simply run:

./conv foo

It's a little ugly, but it does work. Additionally then, I've found the set of optimisation flags on x86_64 that work for me are:

-fPIC -funroll-loops -march=k8 -ffast-math -fpeel-loops -m64

The -m64 does make a significant difference; I've found that, in practice, the linear-algebra routines I run (matrix inversion etc.) run about 10-20% faster with -m64 on AMD platforms. If I had time, I'd like to properly check that out. Oh well.

I've also been keeping up on building a variety KDE packages for Mandriva 2006; the latest selection of (mostly eye-candy) RPM's are here, including a 1.3.7 build of the comix window decoration.

And now, since the medium of blogging seems to demand it: indulge yourself with some alternative entertainment.

6 February 2006

What would Cthulhu do?

Well, I'm over whatever funk I got into about my PhD. Tis all back to normal again, and now I'm merely tearing my hair out over the paper I'm currently trying to write.

Anyway, clearing the backlog of what I've been up to.. back to LA. I had Saturday afternoon to kill, so I went and re-walked along Long Beach; I didn't go as far as last time, but I did get to that pier again (map). It wasn't all that satisfying really - I've seen both sides of the Pacific now, and it looks pretty much the same from both sides. I still had a little time, so I asked myself - what would Cthulhu do? So I headed back inland.

Not far into my sojourn back downtown, I was wolf-whistled at. This was not a bad start, so I looked around to find the source of this welcome attention, and it was..


..a god-damned parrot. Sitting on this dude's shoulder. Bloody pirate. Ego crushed, my inner geek took over and I caught the bus to the nearest bit of big engineering - the Queen Mary.


Its a big ole boat, and apparently the last big Atlantic liner in its class that's all in one piece. It serves as a floating hotel now, but the sheer size of it is still quite impressive. There was plenty going on around the place (including a cheerleading tournament), so the area around the ship had a friendly buzz which was distinctly lacking on my last visit. If you wanted to, you could go for a tour around the area on a segway scooter. These bizarre vehicles are truly weird to watch, and now that I've seen people scooting around on them, quite unappealing.

However, something that stopped me dead in my tracks, something that sucked me in by its sheer monstrous kitsch tackiness, was an outlet of the Outback Steakhouse:


Folks, this was kind of surreal. I have to confess, I've never been to an Australian theme pub (and there are quite a few of them around), so visiting an 'Aussie' theme restaurant was a little startling. The food and the service was nice enough (and yes, export Fosters is actually barely drinkable) - however, the interior of the place was a sight to behold. The place was literally infested with kangaroo and koala motifs, with surfboards and boomerangs liberally nailed to walls. It was a little unsettling, like stepping into a version of what I imagined Australia was like before I moved there.


However, the decor had nothing on the menu. "Bonzer times start with awesome Outback Tucker" - I can't make this stuff up. The signature dish was this abominable giant fried onion thing (an Australian ab-original!), coupled with such rarities as the "Too Right French Onion Soup" and "Prime Minister's Prime Rib". On the drinks menu, they even managed to insert a 'h' into 'Bondi'. It was, for the little time I was at the restaurant, like being in another world.

In an even stranger turn of events, this theme restaurant franchise is now opening restaurants in Sydney (yes, that's an American-based Australian theme restaurant operating in Australia). The local menu isn't quite so hideously kitsch ("no rules, just right - g'day mates!"), but it'll be interesting to see how it is received in the long run.

Anyway, now I should get back to writing that paper ;)

31 January 2006

bloody phd :(

I know how Hiren feels. Goddamn PhD >:( If you get a choice - don't waste your time with such a stunningly frustrating academic exercise. Grr.

Oh well, at least vtk 5.0 is finally offically released :D

27 January 2006

MMVR 2006


So yeah, I'm in LA, and I went to MMVR2006. I got called in at the as a last-minute stand-in to present a paper on some of the physically-based modeling work we've been working on at the lab. I took a couple of photos; all I've got so far is here.


The flight was fairly turbulent, but I managed to sleep through it ok. Crossing the international date-line from east to west meant the whole arriving-before-I-left thing happened, which is always amusing :)

Anyway, the conference went well; it finished a couple of hours ago. With certain commitments, jetlag, giving a talk and running about trying to find out about possible life post-PhD, I'm industrial-grade tired. The talk was well received, and I got to meet all sorts of crazy folk from the all the big simulation groups - notably Stanford, Harvard and MIT.

The hotel I'm staying at is the Long Beach Hyatt, and the view out of the window isn't too bad:


That's the Queen Mary outside in the left of the picture, next to the giant-dome thing which used to be the hangar for the Spruce Goose. A good account of the Gooses' rather sad demise can be found here.


LA is big, smoggy, and a little bit daunting if you are unhinged enough to try and see it on foot. I did that last time I was in Long Beach (from the previous MMVR, which was also here!), it took me a good couple of hours to get from the upper end of the actual beach on Long Beach down to the other end, which was as far as I could work out I could go on foot ;) Anyway, I've got the day in LA tomorrow before I get on a plane back home; I'll wander around with the camera and take more happy snaps. I'll write that up when I get back. Anyway, probably time to get some sleep :P

24 January 2006

i'm in LA

Alrighty then. I'm in Los Angeles. Much less than a week ago, I didn't even know I was going to be here. There were come complications at the lab, and I'm a stand in to present a paper at MMVR14. I'm quite streched for time, but I took lots of happy snaps.... I'll update soon :)

8 January 2006

battlestar galactica season 2: redux

Battlestar back on the box

Battlestar Galactica is back on the telly, and I wasn't disappointed with the start of the second half of the second series (??).

Family meeting time on Colonial One

Things have already taken quite a dark turn, and as the episode progresses, things seem to keep on getting darker. If you take any of the scuttlebutt seriously, there's plenty of nuggety plot in store for the rest of the season.

Stuff not blowing up

Disappointingly, unlike previous pyrotechnically inclined episodes, there wasn't a whole heap of stuff blowing up. However..

This thing probably will blow up. Eventually.

..I think they were building up expectations for an earth shattering kaboom. The storyline seems to be focusing on the whole human vs. human thing (us lot seem to be good at it), and if rumour is to be believed, there is a pile of cylon vs. cylon stuff coming up as well.

Doctor what?

Sat down and watched the Dr. Who 2005 Christmas special, and I reckon it was a bit of alright. It's not exactly the most stimulating of dramas, but thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.

David Tennant, looking alarmed in his jimjams.

David Tennant was a bit creepy, but I think that might have been the idea. Christopher Eccleston tried to be a bit menacing in the last series, but, eh.. I wasn't really convinced. We'll wait and see how this turns out when it re-starts in full in a couple of months.

In the meantime.. draw your own conclusions:

Dr. Hiren? He will be (eventually) :P

4 January 2006

i've completely fallen out of my tree

Yes indeed folks, I think it's safe to say that I'm perilously close to completely falling out of my tree. Certain things have been conspiring to keep me exraordinarily busy, so the blogfodder has accumulated over the holiday (what holiday?) break. In keeping with recent history on this blog, this post is likely to be another long one.

Before I go any further though - thanks to all for the new stuff I have acquired over Christmas, notably to our favourite nerd for this gem.

ROTJ tree

that's right folks, as Briony mentioned, we have a Return of the Jedi-themed Christmas tree in our loungeroom. It's got a full complement of ewoks, vaders, shield generators, whiny-mark-hamill types, and our now-traditional Death-star.

Yes, that is a Darth Vader pez dispenser.


heeeeeeyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!! (ahem)

Week before last, I got a call from the best-man of an old uni friend of mine, Trevor (who is getting married to his longtime girlfriend, Annie, this weekend). Various bucks days activities were canvassed, and to my own surprise I found myself less than a week later plunging vertically downwards out of a plane. Given the recent trouble the Australian skydiving industry has had, Briony wasn't terribly impressed about the idea. Nevertheless, it's something I've wanted to do for ages, so she did get behind it. With Briony's well-founded reservations in my head, off I went.

The jump was a tandem-jump (that is, I was strapped to an instructor) from a height of a little over 4200 metres up (that's 14000 feet for the metrically-challenged). The amount of training needed to jump was pretty minimal (i.e. how to land without breaking your legs), and not too long after arriving at the skydiving venue at Penrith (in north-west Sydney) we went out to the air-field about 30 minutes drive away along the M7.

We bundled into the small aircraft, and the first surprise was that there weren't even bench seats - just two long padded foam blocks, which we sat upon, vaguely strapped to the instructors behind us. Which brings me to the second point - no seatbelts, no straps - which nicely complemented the fact that the little flying station-wagon we were in had no door, either.

This slightly alarming lack of things to keep us in the aircraft (well, I guess we were all going to jump out anyway) was a lot scarier than the jump itself, which was, by comparison, a piece of cake. All I had to do was to swing my legs outside of the aircraft (probably the bit that made me the most nervous), and the instructor pushed us both out of the plane. Easy. Ahahahaha. Er.

The parachute landing area

First thing I remember seeing when bailing out of the plane was tumbling head over heels 3 or 4 times, and seeing the plane being further and further away on each rotation. The initial freefall lasted for 60 seconds (by the end of which we had picked up a reasonable speed of 230km/h), and let me tell you, the ground comes up to you pretty damn fast. At about 1300m up (4500 feet), the parachute was deployed, and we sauntered on down at a still quite alarming pace, until we glided in for a landing.

The instructor had a camera strapped to his hand, so there is a video of the whole event. The whole damn page is overloaded with macromedia flash junk, so I'll try to post a cleaned-up version of the video from that site up here as soon as is practical. If you are clever (hint hint), there is a link to a .flv file in the source for the video page - you can download this separately and just watch the video without annoying background music.

New Years Eve 05

Much closer to the ground was the 05/06 New Years celebration. This year we were back with the crowds at the Sydney Opera House as Briony was looking after first-aid for the venue there. Briony got there a little earlier than I, and, despite the heat, we camped out at a good spot from about 4pm onwards. Coming along for the show was Tomaz, Ray, and my cousins Shaunak and Poonam (who is visiting from the UK).

crowds on the opera house forecourt

The 9pm fireworks couldn't hold a candle up to the midnight fireworks, which were fairly awesome. It was a buzz to be in town again for new years, and the atmosphere was great. We waited around for a while afterwards, so I went nuts with my tripod and entered a state of panorama psychosis. A couple of shots (including a trademark pano-ray-mic(TM) photo :P :P) are below, and the full gallery contains yet more (uploaded using kflickr, for all you kde nerds out there).

fireworks and a few of those little squares of light

Ray and Ray and Ray and Ray and Ray and Ray in front of the opera house