Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts on the AFL Grand Final

I've never liked Qantas's sentimental advertising, trying to claim expat Aussie nostalgia for one company. Translating "I Still Call Australia Home" into an Aboriginal language makes the airline's use of the song even more obnoxious.

Just heard the national anthem, and couldn't help thinking that we've had a bit too much of that golden soil this week.

The Saints are choking big time at the start.

Riewoldt just managed the best non-mark I've ever seen.

The game's turning around - Geelong are bending, will they break? St. Kilda really need to make this pressure pay off.

St. Kilda are dominating, but that's about the fourth easy shot on goal they've missed.

And now their margin is less than a goal.

Ablett really is brilliant at everything - even milking the free kicks.

Quality match considering how wet it is.

Can you choke in front of your defensive goal? Because I think Zac Dawson just managed it.

Dawson's no longer the goat after seeing the replay. The goal umpire performed much worse.

Although Millburn's trying hard to be the goat by arguing that goal and giving away another.

Good point from the commentators - Geelong are still playing a dry weather game with all the handballs. Wonder if they'll change tactics in the second half?

Just saw an ad for the latest disaster movie. Really not looking forward to three years of hearing about the Mayan calendar's millennium bug.

Great commentary on Goddard: "He's OK, if you can can a bloody nose OK. Maybe it's even broken. In football terms it's probably still OK."

Amused by the fan who incorporated his white beard into the St. Kilda logo painted on his face.

Geelong seem to be dropping off here.

Great goal from Geelong. Shows how much I know.

Could that be the matchwinning goal from Montagne? Just feels like St. Kilda taking the lead at the end of that scoreless passage could make the difference.

Hope Geelong do pull this off. I like their open, active style of play, and if they only lose 2 out of 3 grand finals, nobody will try to play that way again.

Ooh, sunshine to go with the rain.

I don't know that Steve Johnson has managed anything productive this game.

Next goal wins, I think.

Great commentary in homage to Kipling: "Ablett kept his feet when all about him were losing theirs."

Still haven't had that decisive goal.

Now we have, and what a goal it was from Chapman. Can the Cats hang on?

Well, Johnson did well to force the ball over the line there.

Congrats, Geelong. That last goal was rubbing it in a bit, though.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Prius Ads: Why?

I've seen a few TV ads for the new Prius in the last week, which is a change. There wasn't much advertising for the earlier versions, and certainly no TV commercials. Toyota only made a few of those prior Priuses, and mostly relied on word of mouth to shift them.

Hopefully the move to TV ads show that the new hybrids have been manufactured in sufficient quantities to justify advertising. That would be an encouraging sign that the technology is going mainstream, and that we're well on the way to all-electric cars.

However the ads still seemed to be emphasising the novelty of the Prius, rather than promoting it as a great car to drive. This makes me worry that Toyota is still marketing to a very limited audience of geeky environmentalists (e.g. me), but now even this small market segment needs a big ad campaign.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pretty Steel Town by the Beach

Today a group of us from work took a trip to the steel mill in Port Kembla, south of Sydney. It was fun getting out and seeing a plant, rather than just assembling and analysing information on them. The highlight was watching the steelmaking furnace being charged with molten iron and limestone, and then seeing the oxygen blow through it and drive the slag off the top. The rolling mill was also impressive: you could feel the heat radiating off the steel plate at a distance of 10 or 20 metres.

As we were driving back, I was struck by how pleasant Wollongong is, given that it's built around Australia's largest steelworks. The stereotype of an industrial town is grim, dirty and unfashionable, but Wollongong has picturesque mountains and beautiful beaches, with enough of a sea breeze to disperse the smoke from the mills. There's something quite Australian about having a pretty steel town by the beach.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tilting at Windmills: It's Not Just Me

I've written before about how wind power is great, but that some of the opposition to it might stem from the threatening appearance of three-bladed windmills. Trust my favourite cartoonist to express the same sentiment, but in a humourous fashion.

Yoplait is Getting Brazen

I've just eaten some yogurt that had a very realistic lemon cheesecake flavour, including a biscuit crust, despite being very smooth and obviously lacking any crumbled biscuit pieces. A check of the ingredients list confirmed the absence of any actual pastry. Most fruit flavoured yogurts include a small amount of real strawberry or mango so you can pretend that the fruit is what you're tasting. However in this case it's blatantly obvious that the crust flavour is generated entirely by added chemicals.

In a way, I'm quite impressed with the artistry of this concoction, and the food scientists' ability to dissociate flavour and texture so completely. We are getting closer to the world described in a certain movie that came out one decade and one week ago.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Evening Classes

I've had six weeks of lectures for my part-time commerce degree, and they're going well. I find the evening to be a good time for lectures, as I'm fairly alert at that time of day. I actually concentrate better during a 3 hour lecture beginning at 6pm than during a 1 hour lecture beginning at 2pm. Come to think of it, I'm being paid to deal with the mid-afternoon torpor, then getting to work on my own qualifications during a peak period.

It probably helps that the subject material has been interesting. I'm particularly enjoying introductory microeconomics, which is a nice blend of cynicism and simple graphs.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thought We Were Having a Credit Crunch

Today I received an unsolicited offer to increase the limit on my credit card by 40%. I find this rather odd, because the current limit is quite high enough, and I've never used more than about a quarter of it.

I'm not sure whether this makes me feel reassured or disconcerted about the Australian banking system. Is it good that Commonwealth Bank still have plenty of money to lend, or bad that they're trying to extend credit to someone who didn't even ask for it? I wish the clowns would direct their funds (raised with the help of taxpayer guarantees) towards the businesses that could use it more than me.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Today is the first anniversary of my return to Sydney after more than six years in the U.S. and then the U.K. It feels good to be settling down, especially in the place that feels like home.

It's also good that I've avoided taking any flights in that time, after travelling a lot in the time I lived in England. While I enjoyed seeing so many European cities (particularly when work was paying!), I was rather sick of Manchester airport by the end of 2007. Today I celebrate a full year without jet lag, carbon footprint guilt, aviation security checks or economy class seating.

Monday, February 9, 2009

25 Random Things

I'm putting this Facebook game on my regular blog, so it will end up in both places. And I won't tag anybody, in flagrant contradiction of the rules.

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

1. I meditate twice a day, half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening.

2. I spent a year living in a small isolated town in the middle of the American southwest and really enjoyed it.

3. I hold a physics Ph.D. I was in Year 21 of continuous full time education by the time I finished.

4. I used to be a dual Australian and American citizen, as my Dad hails from the U.S.

5. I renounced my U.S. citizenship in April 2007, for a number of reasons:
a. I wanted to be sure for myself which country I would call home
b. It meant that I didn't have to keep filing US tax returns when I didn't even live there
c. It eliminated the temptation of joining the American military-industrial complex

6. 5.c was a distinct possibility for the intersection of 2. and 3.

7. I'm irritated by imprecise or inaccurate statements. If I stumble over my words in conversation, it usually means that I'm proofreading a comment in my head.

8. I'm irritated by buzzwords. For example, when writing about the current economy and commodity markets at work, I'm careful to avoid the word "unprecedented."

9. Apparently I'm not irritated by Facebook fads.

10. I've been to the tops of the highest mountains in each of England, Scotland and Wales. In only 1 of those 3 cases was I able to admire the view from the top.

11. I once travelled from 1398m to 3287m and back again in one day, entirely under my own power (cycling and walking).

12. I had a game published in the New South Wales Junior Chess magazine. I checkmated with a pawn following a sound double rook sacrifice.

13. I was a contributor to the second edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy.

14. My eyes are mostly blue, but each has a pale yellow ring on the inner edge of the iris.

15. I'm not into cars. The only one I've ever owned was a ten year old Honda Civic.

16. My colds almost always follow a set pattern: sore throat for 1-2 days, then blocked nose for 1-2 weeks.

17. I try to find patterns or memorable digit strings in phone numbers. For example, my current phone number is 0450, then 449 (1 less than 450), then 137 (the fine structure constant). I had some input into my mobile phone number in the US, and managed to have it finish in 2718 (the exponential constant).

18. I have an urge to pat the head or scratch the ears of every dog I see. It's a struggle not to do this to the drug-sniffing beagles at Sydney airport.

19. In fact, my first word was "Dog", pronounced "Gog".

20. I sometimes hum the theme from "Skippy" while cooking kangaroo meat.

21. Living in the UK for a year and a half helped me to appreciate ales as opposed to lagers. Then I moved back to Australia and realised that I'd turned into a beer snob.

22. I once helped to make a snow-alien, using pine cones for its oversized extraterrestrial eyes.

23. Other than sport, I rarely watch TV.

24. I don't mind train noise but do mind aircraft noise, even if the decibel level is the same. I must be some sort of noise pollution Luddite.

25. Also, I didn't take a plane flight until I was 22.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just in Time

I was lucky enough to get three weeks off from work, and I've been enjoying the break. I set myself one little project: making flyscreens for the windows in my flat, as there weren't any when I moved in.

I finished the first one on Monday, so now I can leave my bedroom window partly open at night without worrying that insects will get in. This comes along just in time, as today was the hottest day of the summer so far, and I think I'll need some ventilation overnight.