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Thu, 2004-Dec-30

The Incredibles

This is the third film in my review series, and hopefully this will round out the style of movie I prefer and what I look for in the mind of the gentle reader.

Byron Ellacott writes "Best. Movie. Ever.". I tend to agree.

I really can't think of anything negative to say about this film. The animation was excellent. Clearly they had the capability for photorealism in a number of scenes and had to pare back the level of detail to maintain their preferred level of characture. This worked wonderfully. The storyline was classical, but applied very nicely to the premise. The premise itself was lovely and carried the freshness that Pixar have become known for.

I'm somewhat of a Pixar fan. I enjoyed the two Toy Story movies. I quite enjoyed A Bug's Life. Monster's Inc was not at the top of my list of favourites, though. It was too cutesy. I'm greatly relieved to see they've take a different turn with this film (although the opening pixar short might lead to to beleive otherwise). While this film had a baby to make use of, it didn't become the centre of attention. The two children in the story were well portrayed for their supposed ages and talents. The parents were both nicely played. Even the super villian was cleverly-conceived.

This isn't shakespere, and the motivations of some characters were left largely-unexplored and potentially unbelievable. On the other hand, the central characters were no more infallable than you would expect from this kind of film. I give this one 10/10. Any failings are weaknesses of the genre, not of this specific film.

Thu, 2004-Dec-30

A Series of Unfortunate Events

As a primary-school library technican my wife has read and is a fan of this series of books by Lemony Snicket. She describes it as being "for budding goths everywhere". That is an apt tagline, and this sweetly humourous film lives up to the books nicely.

A Series of Unfortunate Events the film actually covers the first three books in the literary series. It ties them together quite nicely as newly-made orphans see their guardians cut down one-by-one as an evil uncle tries to steal their inheritance. Don't bring the younger children to this one. Although there is no gore on-screen two murders are portrayed sensitively but directly. Some scenes may be a little too much.

The shining light of this film is the performance of australian Emily Browning as Violet. She plays the role perfectly, and clearly knows how to act. The acting of her on-screen brother Klaus (played by Liam Aiken) is not quite so good, but this is only obvious in an early monologue. The directing of Klaus, Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine, and even Jim Carrey as Count Olaf is sublime. Despite Jim hamming his opening monologue slightly he is kept in check admirably thereafter.

Once past those early difficulties and having bought into the movie's style you can expect to enjoy the film immensely. It is well-constructed and I found my disbelief suspended nicely throughtout the latter stages of the film, until the very final scenes. I give this one a 9/10.

Benjamin

Thu, 2004-Dec-30

Phantom of the Opera

I have seen a few movies over the last couple of weeks, so I'll do a quick write-up on each in separate blog entries

I didn't go to this musical in the best mindset to see a musical. I was somewhat cynical about it from the start. Hearing Carlotta's (Minnie Driver) opening set didn't shift me from my mood, but it wasn't supposed to. I only really woke up when Emmy Rossum as Christine lit up the stage. At that point I was engaged and began to really enjoy the film.

It's a musical, and let's face it: If the music doesn't sweep you away the lyrics and the plot surely won't. A musical is a story read to the emotional inner child that doesn't care whether or not the show is something that should be worth enjoying.

The point where the Phantom (Gerard Butler) began to sing was where my inner child first really cringed. He doesn't have the voice for it. He doesn't have the acting skills for it. It just went on, and on. Let's just say that my emotional connection to the character wasn't being reenforced. Emmy's acting in the scene didn't help, either. In my opinion the whole exchange was poorly conceived, and terribly directed.

But another high-point: The letter opening scene. This is where Minnie shone to the point that I consider her contribution to the movie to be the best of any actor. My second choice goes to Miranda Richardson (Madame Giry) and Emmy would rate at best a third, despite her perfectly lovely singing voice.

In the letter opening scene we see chorus work done well. It was lovely and light-hearted as well as serious and foreshadowing. If the rest of the film had lived up to the quality of this scene I'm sure I would be rating this at around the eight out of ten mark.

As it was, the next (or nearly next?) scene was "Masquerade". Awful. Just awful. I wanted it to end. Not only had they decided to interpret the "robot" as a classical dance step, but they decided that blair-witch-style camera work would help enhance the audience's thrill of the night. No. That really doesn't help. That left the music alone to carry the scene, and let's just say that I don't consider that score one of man's greatest accomplishments.

So it was all downhill from there. Perhaps I was just lagging due to the late screening, but I did feel the rest was overly-long and uneventful. Nothing else occured that recaptured the emotional appeal. This left me wondering about the silly caracatures that made up a cemetry's monuments. It left me cringing at the obvious use of CGI to make the phantom's cloak move idiotically on the roof of the opera. It left me hoping that my companions (my wife and brother-in-law) were also critical of the film so that we could bag it together.

Overall, I'd probably still give it 4/10. The directing was inept. The casting was poor for two of the three leads. The music was familiar and broadly acceptable. The lyrics were best not thought about too much lest one lose one's suspension of emotional disbelief. The props and scenery were often lovely, and the supporting cast was a major saving grace of the film. If you're picky you won't enjoy the film. If you're not, you may find it strikes you in the right mood.

Benjamin

Tue, 2004-Dec-21

Tilt Train Derailment

In relation to the recent tilt train derailment in northern Queensland, Greg Black writes:

After all, if you've assembled enough technology to get a train moving at 150 km/h, then adding such safety overrides is a trivial matter.

The name for the technology usually used for this kind of thing is Automatic Train Protection (ATP).

Queensland Rail had this to say as to why ATP was not installed on the tilt train:

The ATP was designed and configured for one driver only freight trains and major problems were experienced when we trialled the system on the electric Tilt Trains.

The major concern is reliability and the fact that unnecessary, random braking can cause injuries to passengers and staff on-board.

Hopefully I'm not limiting my future job prospects by saying that I've heard this described as "We didn't want our passengers to spill their cups of coffee".

I've heard that Queensland Rail use ATP extensively on their metro system. It's only on long lines that they leave things to the organics. As noted in the article I linked to, multiple drivers and other systems should prevent this sort of thing from happening. It will be interesting to hear how these systems failed (if indeed they did).

Please note that as always any views expressed above may or may not be my own, and are very likely not my employer. I am speaking from generic knowledge only derived from press statements (including the cups of coffee quote, which came from a radio interview around the time of the derailment). I am not an expert in rail systems, and am certainly not an expert in ATP. I have no special knowledge of the workings of Queensland Rail, and any special knowledge I have of the workings of my employer or its affiliates I do not intend to divulge.

Sat, 2004-Oct-16

Blog Spam

It looks like some of us on planet humbug are being affected by blog spam. I noticed this when some of my rss feeds kept having articles being marked unread in liferea. I figured that it was probably comment-related, and found this garbage creeping in.

I suggest that humbuggers with comment-enabled blogs take a look to see if they are affected.

Sun, 2004-Oct-10

The Federal Election

I'm one of those people who like to sit home on the night of a federal election and watch the results come in. Last night, after the bowls (Ruth "Less" took the inaugural women's title in stunning style) I watched the bloodsport in real time. Bloody it was. The ABC is still showing that labour has pretty-much matched it primary vote from last time (a +.03% swing with 77.7% counted) but has consistenly lost ground in important marginals. I live in the suddenly-marginal seat of Bonner. It's a new seat based on redistributions, but it seems the sitting member Con Sciacca had his choice and believed it would be a safe bet. He's currently behind by a very small margin in counting.

It has been an interesting campaign. One based on "trust", which in politics is code for "mistrust" and for "fear". A cabbie on morning television described the situation simply with the familiar phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". It's a fair comment. When we have had a booming economy for so long, and noone you know is suffering from particularly bad times... well, why change?

In acknowledging the oncoming defeat throughout the night several Labour stalwarts talked about the Liberal interest rates scare campagin, calling it a lie. A lie that was swallowed by the electorate, but a lie nonetheless. It was a lie, but only if taken on face value. The Liberal party knew what it meant, and the electorate knew what it meant. I suppose the Labour party knew what it meant, also. It again was code. Code for "He's crazy". For, "He's got an economy and he doesn't know what to do with it!". "He could ruin everything you've built!". It was not a lie. It was simply hysteria-building. Interest rates are a great trigger for hysteria, because it is something outside the influence of individuals that they tend to have sleepless nights over. It's something that affects them far more than tax policy, but which they don't understand and can't control.

Those two messages, the "You feel safe with John" message and the "He's got a gun!" message penetrated deeply. Labour's response of "Money's not being spent on the right things", and "The rich are getting richer" didn't really have the same impact. In the economic and political climate of today, it is far easier to vilify those who aren't keeping pace than to vilify those who are too far ahead. We aren't a nation of people who want to live at the same standard as our neighbour (were we ever?). We want to be ahead.

In comes family first, and the collapse of the democrats. A polarising campaign in the Senate. To me this is the big news of the election. We knew that the democrats have been falling apart. I personally wasn't particularly aware of the emergence of family first. On the surface they appear to be the beginning of the emergence in Australia of an american-style christian right. Most commentators are comparing their probable behaviour in the senate to that of Brian Harradine.

I didn't vote for this party. It's not because I don't want to see christians in positions of political power. It's that in my opinion most christians who actively seek political power are not worthy of it. This is no doubt true of all people, but when secular politicians seek power I am not pressured to vote for them as individuals by those I know. When secular politicians make bad decisions it doesn't impact negatively on the perception of my faith. When secular politicians fail, it is not translated into a failure of my people.

I come from a grass-roots church where power is rarely sought. People are chosen, but they are not seen as gods on earth. They serve. That's what leaders are supposed to do. When service opens the door to a power trip everything starts to go to hell. I don't want to be identified with that.

I suppose now is a good time to throw in my results from a "personality test" :

One Nation 25%
National Party 27%
Liberal Party 47%
Labor Party 69%
Democrats 77%
Greens 75%

I voted pretty-much according to that table (I voted before taking this test). On the house of representitives paper I voted for the greens, democrats and labour before liberal. I had to think carefully about the last three spots. Family First scares me at the moment, but it was that against One Nation and the "Citezens Electoral Council", a US-based political cult who's policy agenda is "A national bank: A people's bank", who think that the royal family of Britain is behind the global drug trade and behind global organised crime, and who believe that everyone but them are "facists". Tricky choice.

I didn't number all 50 spots on the senate paper. I figured that believing in a strong senate and seeing a Democrats collapse I'd go with whatever the Greens wanted to do with our beloved upper house. I guess that wasn't the opinion of most, though. The real news of the election evening was that its possible that by July the government will have a real or effective balance of power in the sentate.

I'm almost looking forward to that prospect, to be honest. We've seen three terms of the Liberal government so far, but each has been tempered by moderate voices. I'm almost looking forward to seeing the Liberals in full swing. I think that that exuberance, combined with a likely downturning economy next time might just be enough to get a change of government in this country regardless of what Labour does.

Oh well. In the end it has been a poor showing for the parties I would have liked to see in power, but like many Australians the pit of my stomache is actually leaning towards the liberals again this time around. I hate what they've done with the good name of Australia internationally over the last three terms, but it's hard to argue Labour in the same position would have acted differently. I hate what they're doing to the health and education systems, but maybe if they could get their whole agenda through things would balance out. I favour their industrial relations policies to some extent. I favour some of their economic policies to some extent. I think they're the right people to have in power during an economic upswing. When it comes to the bust, though... I think Labour is the better party to have in power.

Benjamin

Thu, 2004-Aug-26

A little technical editing...

I haven't gotten much done lately on my little hobby project. I'm in the process of writing up a bit of documentation about what I want to achieve to some level of detail. I'm used to having (ancient versions of) visio and word to develop this kind of documentation with, and it has been a bit of a rude shock trying to get openoffice and relevent diagramming tools to come along to the party. Really. Is it that hard to get a few basic tables and styles functions to work in ways that don't annoy the user population?

The thing that was really holding me up for at least two weekends has been my foray into technical editing. I have reviewed the last few chapters of a book on sqlite for the friendly people at SAMS Publishing. If all goes well and their accouting department can work out how to pay an Australian citizen I should even see a little money for it.

The workload hasn't been too significant. Most of the book (I'm lead to beleive) was already reviewed by Dan Kennedy, a former co-worker of mine who has gone onto fulltime development of sqlite with its principal author D. Richard Hipp. I dipped into perl and python while reviewing the chapters associated with various language interfaces. I even got to review the chapter talking about what changes have taken place in sqlite version three. Fun and interesting stuff. If you read the book and find any technical errors I'll be sure to claim they were in Dan's part ;)

I actually don't know the title of the book, but apparently I'll receive a copy in due course. I hope it isn't too long before printing because the focus is really on sqlite 2.x and 3.x is going to emerge from beta pretty soon methinks. A lot of software that uses sqlite has already made the switch.

Oh well, even if they can't work out how to pay me I like the idea of having a somewhat tangential kind of experience to put on my resume. It's nice to be able to do something different for a while. After all: Those who can't do, teach... and those who can't teach write books... and those who can't write books become book critics... so I'm only two steps away from making an impact on society!

Benjamin

Thu, 2004-Aug-26

Everyone is talking about the control key

By "Everyone", I at least mean Adrian, Jason, and some guy named Tor that I hadn't heard of until reading the blog entries from the previous two individuals :)

Well, I might as well put my two cents in. I've been doing some pretty long hours at work lately. I've had software releases going on and a lot of documentation being written that previously didn't exist in any way, shape or form. I was starting to feel it pretty badly in my wrists and hands.

To avoid the kind of strain that requires surgery (I know at least one person who is not quite the same after that outcome) I took particular note of my posture and usage of my hands over the next few days. Making sure my shoulders were relaxed and not leaning forward made a big difference, but the biggest single impact I felt from the work I was doing was to make sure I used alternating hands for my control keys.

By alternating hands, I mean that I've been using the control key like the typing tutors teach you to use shift. When you press a captial "Q", you press the "q/Q" key with your left hand while pressing right shift with your right hand. When you press a capital "P", you press the "p/P" key with your right hand while pressing the left shift with your left hand. Simple, really, but I feel that my constant pressing of Ctrl-C, Ctrl-D, Ctrl-Z and the like using only my left hand to press both keys was a major cause of fatigue and stress on those important anatomical features.

When it comes to control keys, I don't really mind where they are so long as there are two of them. I need to have two to minimise the impact on my body of pressing those awkward combinations. Given that, the closer the control key is to "Shift" I think the more natural things are. In my opinion, any key that must be pressed in combination with alphanumeric keys should be pretty close to where we see control and alt on the old 104-key keyboard.

Benjamin

Sat, 2004-Jul-17

Welcome, Andrae

I keep my own list of the planet humbug bloggers' rss feeds in my liferea configuration, so I missed the introduction of Andrae's blog to the community (or was he always there in the first place?). Andrae is an interesting fellow with a hobby of understanding some of the fundamentals of computer science.

By way of a welcome, I thought I'd respond to a few of his posts:

Impressive rant: Hrrmm... the context quoted here is basically saying that C++ is bad because it allows class authors to protect their data. I don't find it particularly impressive. I think that code and data structures behind an API should be able to change over time without recoding the entire system. The form of object-orientation that lead to the development C++ was centred around earlier practice of "Abstract data types". The idea was that the fewer pieces of code that knew the specifics of the data structure, the less places you'd have to stuff things up. Object orientation of the C++-world kind is built around the idea that you can push this forward a couple more levels. The article does make some good points, for example the idea that you have to recompile your entire system because you've changed some part of an object that doesn't form part of the public API, but instead is a private data structure does feel like the result of premature optimisation. I guess that's why the use of privates classes is encouraged. <shrug/> Actually, I guess you are more-or-less right. Classes with a lot of private data shouldn't really exist in a true object-oriented system, and the language should support a reasonable notation for separating the two so that the private bit is really really private. Perhaps C++ could do this better. As it is, the use of private data in this way is a kind of still-born shortcut for it.

What do you do for a living?: I say "you know how a rail system has a central control system to turn on and off the power, and monitor the air conditioning, and possibly even exert some control over the trains?" "Yeah..." "Well, I make software to go into that central control room." "Ahhh...." "So I'm not just a useless abstract software person" "No?" "Yeah, I'm really kind of like a civil engineer..." "Yeah, and my father is the pope."

UML Editors: I personally use visio with the UML templates found here. They support UML2, which is a big improvement in many areas over the 1.x series of UML and don't try to be a sucky development environment.

Happy blogging Andrae, and thanks for the OO & relational CS theory links

Sat, 2004-Jul-17

My political compass

I've just taken this test, and here are my results:
Economic Left/Right: -0.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.28

Naturally, I take this mean that I'm a brainwashed fool who takes on the political and social views that are pushed on me by the education programs constantly foisted on individuals within my society

Sat, 2004-Jul-17

Catch-up 17 July 2004

G'day,

I've been extremely busy with work over the last few weeks so haven't put eny blog entries forwards. I'm sure that my many (ahem) fans will have been disappointed and I hope I can make it up to them now.

Firstly, I'd like to endorse the views of Greg Black on the French Grand Prix this year at Magny-Cours. It was a magnificent race where an agile strategy and great driver won out over a technical advantage. Things almost got interesting at the English Grand Prix this Sunday just gone, but wasn't nearly as exciting.

Things in my life are interesting. I recieved my bribe from the howard government in the form of a tax cut. The tax cut coincides with the annual salary review of the company I work for, so I have a few more dollars in my pocket this financial year.

That will end in November. Last November my wife and I bought a house in Wynnum West with a loan that included a twelve-month honeymoon interest rate. We've been pushing pretty hard financially, and are on target to get the loan down to AU$250k for when the real rates kick in. Being on 5.25% is pretty good in Australia at the moment, and when the real rate comes into play we'll be looking at around 7.5%. I don't think we'll be able to make nearly as much progress after that point.

The good news is that even if we drop back to only the regular repayments we've already cut the loan down to about 20 years from an original figure of 30 years.

Michelle had a bit of a medical issue recently. What was originally diagnosed as a miscarriage turned out to be a chunk of uterine lining coming loose instead of breaking down and dripping out as it usually does during that time of the month. We certainly weren't trying for children at the time and there don't seem to have been any perminant emotional scars from the early mis-diagnosis.

We're on schedule to start trying maybe in another 18 months. It would be nice to do so when the home loan didn't feature so strongly in our respective psyches and accounts :)

A response to a recent blog entry by Martin Pool: I don't know if this works in gcc, but under Sun's Forte compilers you can prevent warnings on unused parameters by removing the parameter name from your function implementation, eg:
from foo.h: int bar(int baz); from foo.c: #include "foo.h" int bar(int /* baz */) { ... } You can't use an unnamed parameter, so QED.

Hmm... interesting. I've just tried this out. If you run it through the C++ front-end of gcc my version works fine, but the C frontend rejects it. Oh well.

Sat, 2004-Jul-17

If we really lived in a capatalistic political system

Our political system is rife with corporate interference. Corporations and individuals donate money to our political parties in order to gain sway when issues that affect them are discussed and decided on. Politicians should represent the people, not just the shareholders of major companies, so what is the solution?

Let's think about political parties as businesses. They set out to make money so that they can have influence and they set out to have influence so they can make money... at least for the country... or something. Anyway.

If a political party is a business, it will ultimately serve whoever gives it money. The people, therefore, should essentially be the only source of income for political parties.

My naieve understanding of the current political system is that we currently give political parties money in accordance with the number of vote they get. This is obviously not enough, because political donations are a reality and skew our whole sense of politics

"What's the solution? Let them keep the surplus! What's that? Let them keep the surplus? The budget surplus? Yes! The budget surplus!"

Political parties should be able to fund themselves from the money they save the people. They should control the tax rates and ensure that they put enough margin in for themselves to make a profit, but also have a reason to push for increased productivity and lower costs.

"That's crazy", you say... and I say "Oh, let them pay for the deficit too".

Yes, I'm a crazy man, but this is something I have to write. It's been bugging me for a while. If we believe in a capitalist system we should apply the same to our politics. Existing govenment infrastructure should be privatised and used for outsourcing to the govenrment business that vie for our "four year contracts" to set our law and to provide our services.

Whenever an election rolls around, the competing political parties must prepare tender documents for their role in governing the Australian people. The tender includes a statement of the tax they intend to collect over the period, and the services they intend to provide for the money. If voted into office, a binding contract exists that the government must satisfy. Based on the taxes and services the Austrlian people will select between the companies.

To avoid having one party or the other starved while out of office, I suggest a system where we tender for different government functions. There would be one tender for defence, and another for health. One tender for education and another for environmental management. Each would be individually tendered for and won with a mix of contracts awarded to different political parties. On the ballot form we'd have something like this:

Health:
Labour$30B
Liberal$20B
Democrat$25B
Greens$35B
National$5B
Tax collection:
Labour$5B
Liberal$10B
Democrat$2B
Greens$6B
National$8B
Voters for the first time would have control over a direct link between their tax and rates and their services. Because of the increased control, voters might even become more interested in politics and take note of how the amounts change from year to year.

In the end, you have a bunch of subcontracting organisations who run various major services in Australia and real power in the hands of the people. The final element is the group of people who enforce the contracts and set the basic conditions which contractors must abide by... a kind of micro-government. This role, too, might be dealt with in the same way where the people put more money into this group when they have distrust for the other arms of government and less money in when their trust level increases.

That's my second blog entry for the day, and tangent from my usual musings. I hope I've said something to make someone think a little more about how government itself works and should work

Sun, 2004-Jul-04

The French grand prix at Magny-Cours

It's shaping up to be an interesting race tonight at Magny-Cours, to be aired on channel ten at 10:30 Brisbane time. There is only a 1.1 second gap between the qualifying positions at the front of the grid and position 12 where Australian Mark Webber starts the race, yet a full .3 of a second of that is made up between first and second positions.

Spain and Renaut's Fernando Alonso heads up the grid ahead of series leader Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari. Michael's teammate in a nearly identical ferrari is stuck down in tenth position. That's our old favourite Rubens Barrichello of Brazil. In his defence, he was unable to participate in pre-qualifying due to hydrolic problems.

The big news of this race and the previous race in America is the fate of Michael's brother Ralf Schumacher.

After a 300km/h impact with a concrete barrier Ralf was originally cleared by race doctors of Indianapolis and transported to his Germany for observation. It was only there that doctors discovered multiple fractures in the 29-year-old's back that may have prevented him being transported at all if they had been discrovered earlier. In addition to the scare it has put into Ralf, his teammates at Williams, and his many fans, his broken back guarantees he stays out of formaula 1 for between two and three months.

Replacing Ralf at the wheel this week will be Spain's Marc Gene who is in a respectable eigth place on the grid.

The race in Indianapolis was a bit of a mechnical bloodbath. Webber with his new engine suffered a terminal oil leak and was unable to finish the race, but was in good company. Only nine runners made it to the finish line. According to the race results, we had two engine failures, two gearbox failures, one disqualification to Juan Pablo Montoya for failing to clear the grid quickly enough when his car failed to start and he made a mad dash to his backup car, and an amazing six contestents out due to accidents. Many of the accidents were related to debris on the road from earlier incidents.

One of the things that makes the french grand prix interesting is the new cars or vehicle modification that tend to come out about this time of year. By this time most teams have gathered sufficient data to begin some major changes in their push towards end of season glory.

Magny-Cours is a 70 lap race with plenty of ways to run it. It's a favourite of drivers and we'll hopefully see some really interesting pit strategy. The narrrow separation of the top 12 drivers may indicate that the front runners are carrying more fuel than usual, or may indicate that advances have been made by some of the mid-level teams. Watching this unravel will be one of the thrills of this race.

Tue, 2004-Jun-22

Kiersey personality profile (Harry potter style)

I noticed Sandra put up her profile from this particular source on her blog while browsing planet humbug.

Here are my results:
Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

This is a kiersey test. Interestingly this shows me as an INTP, while several years ago I tested as INFP. Have I become more comfortable with logic and rules? This would match my DISC profile, which showed my adapted style becoming more rules-oriented. This masks my natural style of ploughing on ahead without so much consultation with past experience.

... or all personality tests could be barely-refined horoscopes. Horoscopes are ultimately successful because they tell you want you want to hear. Do personality tests simply refine their suggestion of what you want to hear based on a few questions?

Sun, 2004-Jun-20

My sporting interests

Well, it's that time of the week again. It's Sunday, and tonight is a formala 1 sunday night.

Tonight's race is the american grand prix, a fairly recent addition to the list of formula 1 tracks but not quite is recent as Barian which ran for the first time this year. I won't be staying up for this one, though. It's just a little bit late in the evening Brisbane time.

The american grand prix started running at Indianapolis in 2000, and is a big part in the attempt to broaden the f1 appeal from a fairly European focus. It should be a good race, with Rubens Barrichello in pole position next to his star teammate Michael Schumacher. From past experience we can say that it will probably end up with a Ferrari 1, 2 result again but there should be some action further down the field. Our own runner, Mark Webber is running an experimental engine which could help him show off his magnificent driving skills. He's with Jaguar, a mid-level team, but has managed to achieve consistent results since his 2002 debut and late 2002 to early 2003 move to the Jaguar family. The danger with a new engine is that it may not be reliable under race conditions.

My recollection of the american track is that it is quite wide with a lot of high-speed sections. A powerful engine could really make the difference on this circuit. Opportunities for passing should also be fairly common so lapping of back-markers may have a little less impact on the race leaders than on other tracks.

Why do I watch the formula 1 (when we already know Schumacher will win :) )?

Formula 1 is one of my favourite spectator sports. It's the one I'll watch as religiously as indoor lawn bowls. I do enjoy the real battles for position as a faster competitor shaves a tenth of a second per lap off his rival. I love seeing someone with a car that he knows is in trouble fight to keep it on the racetrack and remain just competitive enough to stay in the points. Oh, and you've got to love the blow-ups and the less serious accidents. The real reason I watch the Grand Prix, though, is pit strategy. I just love watching those masters at work. Do you pit two times, or three? How much fuel do we carry into qualifying? How many safety cars do we bet on coming out onto the racetrack. How do we change our strategy once something unexpected happens? There are some awesome strategists in formula 1 and I booming well love watching them at work.

Well, that's my first sports entry in this blog. I hope my gentle readers have enjoyed it. Perhaps I'll follow it up sometime with some Super Series bowls commentary (did anyone see Kelvin Kerkow's match yesterday? Awesome).

Fri, 2004-Jun-18

Nickelback

I just had to link to this.

Sun, 2004-Jun-13

My DISC profile

I've recently been on my first management retreat. Every such retreat needs a personality test to go with it, if only to break the ice. On this trip it was DISC.

Sun, 2004-May-09

My old weblog, as it stands

I mentioned in my first blog post this era that I've been a blogger in the past. I've collected as many fragments of the old page as I could lay my hands on through wayback machines and the like and I've collated them for the viewing audience. Most actual blog entries (the writings pages) are missing. The occasional one still does exist. If anyone reads this who has copies of old pages that I didn't manage to revive I'd sure welcome their return to be put back up.

Anyway, without further aduour: my old blog

Sun May 9 22:23:56 EST 2004

Sun, 2004-May-09

A first post

I'm actually a blogger from way back. It's been a long time. I used to do it all the time at uni, about five years ago. I've been inspired by the creation of planet humbug to start putting up a few entries again. Perhaps an old listener or two will tune in again.

I'm not very good at completing things, particularly at the moment. I've been working fairly intensively on work-related things for the past few years, and haven't used the weekends for much but recouperation. This should be understood as a backdrop to anything I say in the next few paragraphs:

I would like to write an accounting package. I've had a passing interest in personal accounting for quite some time and have records stretching back to about 2001. The records I've kept have used Quicken, and old version I picked up in I think 1999. As an open-source zealot who only runs linux on my PC's these days it would be remiss of me not to look at the free alternatives out there.

The current alternatives with the most promise are probably gnucash and kmymoney2. Both have many good points, but don't match some requirements I have for the software and neither appears particularly well-suited from an architectural perspective to adapt to something new.

My requirements are these:

  1. For practical adoption purposes, the software must run under modern Microsoft Windows variants
  2. For idealogical purposes, the software must run on a free software stack. This stack must match a definition of free that permits inclusion into the debian linux distribution
  3. The software must cater to multiple financial jurisdictions, and be built in a modular fashion that allows me to say "I live in Australia" and have it understand my tax system and gaap
  4. The software must provide excellent reporting functionality. It must surpass Quicken and other commercial products
  5. The software must be as easy to use as ms money but as easy to tune as gnucash.
  6. The software must strongly geared towards a future where an application such as itself will be able to contact local banking or financial organisations online to perform online reconciles of bank accounts and to lodge, modify and manage, scheduled (future-dated) transactions to be undertaken on the user's behalf by the institution.

I've started to draw up diagrams of how I want various interfaces to work, and I've begun to settle on a broad architecture and software framework. I think I'll be using c#, targeting the mono/gtk# platform. I figure that will give me the best combination of free platform capability and running sufficiently well under windows. I'd actually like to see this kind of thing as a way for free software to penetrate the consciousness of windows users.