Monday, April 30, 2007

Songs I don't need to hear right now

Listening to music to improve your motivation and concentration can sometimes backfire badly.

Three songs in this morning's playlist (Nena) that I probably shouldn't have listened to:

(1) Fragezeichen [Question mark].

Lyrics: Den Kopf voller Dinge die man zu schnell vergißt/Wo fang ich an wenn's so weit ist [...] Ich seh mich um, probiere was /Ich kenn den Weg nicht so genau
[My head full of things that are too quickly forgotten/Where do I start when it's time [...] I look around, try something / I don't really know the way]

(2) Ich häng immer noch an dir [I still have a thing for you].

Chorus: Heut' schaff ich das nicht mehr und lief ich um mein Leben. /Ich warte bis ein Jahr vergeht.
[Today I'm not going to manage it, even if I run for my life. / I'll wait for a year to pass.]

(3) Ich bleib' im Bett [I'm staying in bed]. (The title says it all).

Nena is enabling my procrastination.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hit Pearl Z mp3/mp4 player (review)

While I'm doing reviews, I thought I should probably review my new mp3 player, since there don't seem to be any other reviews of this brand out there on the great wide innernets. For my usual readers this will probably be pretty boring, so go ahead and skip it.

Before I begin, I take back my complaints two days ago about it not working. Geekman (wonderful Geekman) solved all my problems. I'll give more details on this below.


The player does everything it claims to do, and is pretty, and cheap into the bargain. All the specifications advertised (e.g. here) hold up to scrutiny. The case and the screen seem pretty robust so far.

The display is very animated and cutsey. Think pink bubbles and a Hello Kitty sense of style. I'm not sure if I should count this as a bug or a feature.

All in all, for something that is a third of the price of more famous brand players, I think the Hit Pearl Z is a pretty good deal.

Good points:

Comparatively big screen (1.8 inch). While it is a lower resolution than e.g. the iPod Nano, it is extremely bright and visible from all angles, even in direct sunlight.

Lots of information displayed when music is playing (battery status, total track time, time elapsed, bitrate, playlist setting (randomise or repeat), track title and artist, volume, mp3/wma, equaliser, and even scrolling lyrics for those personal karaoke moments).

Easy drag-and-drop file transfer.

Battery recharges within about two hours and lasts around eight hours of play time. The player can be used while recharging, so if you are at your computer, you can connect it to the USB port and keep on listening while it recharges. It also ships with an adapter so you can plug it straight into the wall. I received an Australian-style adapter, so presumably you will get one for whichever country you place your order from.

Bad points:

The manual is unreadable (think the worst stereotype of Chinese-flavoured English you can imagine) and no documentation can be found online. This means that I still have absolutely no idea how to play one of the games, nor (arguably more importantly!) how to upgrade the firmware.

The player crashed and rebooted randomly almost every time I played a track when I first transfered my music collection across. I thought the player itself was broken, but it turned out that the files had developed encoding errors somehow during the transfer. The culprit may have been the extremely low battery status of the player when I transfered the files, or it may have been that I did the transfer under Linux (although the player is supposedly compatible with Linux). Either way, when I deleted the files and copied them across again with a full battery and under Windows, they were fine.

The user interface is incredibly unintuitive. For example, the "random" setting for playing music is located under the submenu "repeat", which took me several days to discover. Another hard-to-find setting is the one that determines how long a period of inactivity is required before the screen dims. The default setting is only 3 seconds or so, and when you are first trying out the interface, this is very frustrating. I would have expected to find that setting under the same submenu as the "sleep" and "power down" functions, but actually it is further up in the settings menu, under "LCD".

Incidentally there are two different menus for the music-related settings, and which one you get into depends on whether you press "M" with the current track paused or playing; but if you hold the button down for too long you get into another menu entirely. This is very confusing.

A further illustration of the unintuitive interface is that when you select "music" from the various main screen options ("video", "music", "games", etc), it launches straight into playing the first file it finds, so if that isn't the track you want, you have to go through about six menu options to log out of that screen, into the root directory, and into the folder you want, before you can play the right track.

Finally, to scroll up and down through lists you don't use "up" and "down" on the keypad. (That would be too easy). Instead, the left arrow scrolls up and the right arrow scrolls down, while "up" is "select" and "down" does nothing. This is a pain in the arse at first, but gets easier with practice.

It does not recognise older ID3 tags (i.e. version 1 tags). I had to go through and retag my entire collection with the latest version tags before it could read them. (The player uses the ID3 tags for the information displayed on the screen while a song is playing.)

The list of songs in each folder shows file names, not info from the ID3 tags. This would be okay, except that the file name is abbreviated to the first 14 characters. If your music has long filenames, you may find, like I do, that your folders contain twenty files named, "Sarah McLachla" rather than the carefully labeled "Sarah McLachlan - Adia", "Sarah McLachlan - Drawn to the rhythm", etc.

The only choice for playlists is to play either all music in your collection at random, or to play an individual folder (either randomly or in the order stored). This means that you cannot have two playlists containing the same song unless you have it stored on the player twice.

The headphones it ships with are pretty crappy.

Other features:

The voice recorder is very clear if you dictate straight into the player. It can pick up someone speaking normally from around a metre or two away. Further away than that, or someone speaking quietly, and the player picks up nothing. This does mean there is not a lot of background noise in recordings, which is a good thing.

I haven't trialed the movie function.

The e-book feature is remarkably usable for something with such a small screen and low resolution. It has pale yellow text on a black background, which is easier on the eyes than it sounds, and relatively large font. Normal .txt files are readable, although linebreaks occur randomly in the middle of words. I found I got used to that pretty fast, and although I would never choose to read files on this screen if I had the choice, I can see myself maybe loading a Project Gutenberg book or two for desperate circumstances such as a long-haul flight.

Games included are "box man" (sokoban), "bricks" (tetris), "winmine" (minesweeper), and "color bead" (I haven't a clue what this last one is). They are very small, badly designed, and the keypad is not really sensitive enough to make playing these anything but extremely frustrating. But then, no one buys an mp3 player for the games, right?

Google Reader vs Bloglines

After using Google Reader for a few days, I thought I'd briefly review what I like and don't like about it.


  • That it keeps old items (grayed out), so that you can always scroll down someone's feed to remind yourself of context.
  • That you can embed it in your personalised Google page and set it to show a few feeds right there.
  • That it uses tags rather than folders (although it displays your feeds in "folders"). This means you can have a feed in several "folders" (e.g. "grad students" and "daily reads") and it will mark it as read in both after you view it once. I'm pretty sure I had trouble having a feed in two folders under Bloglines for some reason. Either it couldn't do it at all, or it kept an item as new in one folder even if you had read it in the other.


  • The fact I have to click on "mark as read" or scroll past an item before it decides I have read it. Often I just glance at a post and know I'm not interested. Or if it's a short post, I read it without scrolling. It is annoying to move to another feed and then realise that the post I just read is still showing up as "new" in the sidebar. But maybe I'll get used to this.
  • It has trouble importing .opml files from But then again, so does Bloglines. And Google Reader can at least import Bloglines .opml files, whereas Bloglines struggles with exports from Google Reader.

If anyone has anything else to add, or if you use a different feed reader that you think is better, I'd love to know about it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy birthday to me!

I was whining earlier at Phantom's about how people forgot my birthday this year, but now that the day is nearly over, I promise I have a bit more perspective. Actually, it was a pretty good birthday after all. And I have lots of recommendations and anti-recommendations for you, so that you can share the benefit of my hard-won wisdom :)

Let's start with the negative, so I can end on a positive note and justify Rebecca's touching belief in my sunny good nature.


Cheap Chinese knock-off mp3 players. Even after you decipher the mysteries of the user manual*, you may find the device has strong opinions about your music collection. The only files that mine seems willing to play are Dido (and even then it gets bored and randomly reboots after about eight tracks—although, then again, after eight Dido songs, so do I). It won't recognise the Indigo Girls at all; it hates Michael Jackson so much that it crashes and reboots at least once per track; and the rest of my 80s music (especially Tiffany) causes it to barf every five or six minutes too. If we can't fix it by tomorrow, we'll have to send it back, but since it took three weeks to ship here, and requires return within 30 days of shipping if defective, we may not be able to get a refund. And even if we do, refunds don't include shipping costs, which in an order from Australia equates to about 30% of the total price. Sigh.

Parents. Just don't have any. More trouble than they are worth.

Underpants. As a gift for your daughter-in-law. Especially in a shade of cyan that I haven't seen since the early nineties when computer manufacturers got smarter.

Saying in your birthday card that accompanies said underpants, "I didn't know what size to get you, but I thought, 'Well, she certainly isn't small...'" (Although now I better understand the conspiracy of nature and nuture that inspired my brother-in-law's famous tact malfunction last Christmas. He gave me a bottle of anti-aging cream that promises to make its wearer look ten years younger. Me, "Gosh. Um, thanks!" Him, "Yeah. I hope it works.")


Ethiopian food. Really. Really truly. And if you are local, this place in particular. It's a little more pricey than some of the other restaurants nearby, but if you are with someone else and just have one of the two-person combination platters, that comes to a total of $50 and you won't need appetisers or desserts (although if you do, I recommend the chickpea fritters for the former, but not so much the semolina cake for the latter, which was pretty ordinary). Also, their coffee is the best I've ever had. Just try to ignore the owner scowling at you miserably from the front of the bar. I think he is watching to see whether you eat properly or spill food all down your front. (I failed).

A Geekman. One who wakes you up on your birthday by bringing you coffee and your present in bed.

Wonderful friends on the other side of the planet who send the world's most awesome present. (A dip pen! With interchangeable nibs! And fancy metallic inks! In the world's cutest bottles!) You rock! And it arrived this afternoon, just when I was feeling like a pair of underpants and a defective mp3 player was not a sufficient birthday haul to satisfy my avaricious nature.

Going shopping on your birthday. You'll find you can justify buying all the things you never usually would. Like fancy teas. And gourmet chocolates. And pretty, pretty new boots.

Blogfriends who are sweet and lovely and email you birthday wishes. Thanks, guys!


*Some gems from the user manual: "Stir or press on NEXT, blue back strip move downward to the last option and go next page to last page and go first page indicate the current activation option."
"If stop at lyric status, please return non-lyric window."
"Upgrade to realize the firmware upgrade, repair, backup function. It's in the waiting status while entering."
"As player is easily telltale, so it is very important for user to protect private secret."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What makes me read your blog

I've just transferred all my RSS feeds to Google Reader instead of Bloglines. Not because I'm unhappy with Bloglines, but just to try out Google Reader for a bit instead. While I was at it, I decided to tidy my feeds up into better organised folders, and minimise the number in my "check these every five minutes because I can't live without knowing what these people are up to" collection.

Anyway, while agonising over who to keep in there and who to demote to the "check these regularly but only after doing some work" folder, I couldn't help but notice the weird factors that influenced my decisions. Just in case you care about increasing and keeping your subscriber numbers, I thought you might like to know that:

I am almost incapable of demoting or (god forbid!) deleting your feed if:

  • We have ever corresponded by email, even once or twice.
  • I know your true identity (via google-stalking) or know you in real life.
  • You write short posts.
  • You write hilarious posts.

I will almost definitely NOT keep your feed if:
  • It has stopped working and I can't find an alternative easily.
  • You haven't updated in a month or so.
  • Your whole blog or many individual posts are password protected, even if I know the password.
  • You write extremely long posts and/or update more than three times a day.

(These factors don't mean I won't continue to stop by your blog now and then, but they do mean that an RSS aggregator is not the most appropriate way to keep up with your posting.)

On a similar note, here are some factors that influence whether I comment on your blog and/or continue to visit, whether or not I subscribe via RSS:

I won't be likely to comment if:
  • You never ever reply to comments I leave. (It makes me feel like I'm talking to a brick wall).
  • You make it hard to comment (e.g. I have to subscribe to some other service in order to do so).
  • You have a lot of trolls or scary people commenting and make no attempt to moderate the discussion.

Obviously I don't expect people to care whether I personally continue to visit, subscribe to or comment on their blogs. I'm not saying you should necessarily take notice of any of these things. But I thought it might be interesting to see if other people feel similarly about these factors, and if they have other likes and dislikes that influence whether they subscribe to and comment on blogs or not. Presumably anyone out there who is trying to maximise their readership for whatever reason might be interested if it turns out that the above factors do influence many readers' choices.

I'm trapped in the internet and I can't get out!

I just got some spam that began:

Good time of the day

It's nice to meet you here, in the Internet.

And yes, that's pretty much how I feel about all of you too, so I thought I'd pass on the love. Do you like it here in the internet? Because I do. And I like to meet you here at this, the good time of the day. (The bad time of the day, however, is another story entirely).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Speaking of mp3 players

At the gym lately, every time I spot someone with telltale earbuds, I catch myself thinking "Soon... soon... Soon I will join your ranks. I too will evolve."

We welcome our digital overlords.

Rampant capitalism or Things I aspire to own

  1. A bicycle that doesn't have anything wrong with it. (Like having no wheels, for example).
  2. A blender or food processor. Or even one of those blender-y soup-pureeing sticks. (One that doesn't explode).
  3. A sewing machine.
  4. An mp3 player (A little birthday pixie tells me this wish will be fulfilled on Friday).
  5. A DSLR camera.

I have come a long way, though. Two years ago my list would have included the above, but also:
  1. A toaster.
  2. Bookshelves.
  3. Somewhere for guests to sleep.
Two years before that it also would have included:
  1. A kettle/electric jug.
  2. A coffee maker.
  3. An alarm clock.
  4. A digital camera.
Step by step I am reaching the 21st century.

PS: Things I aspire never to own:
  1. A television. (Where would I put it?)
  2. A mobile phone. (I am hoping that by the time I get with that trend they will have phased them out entirely and we'll all just have chips implanted in our heads).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

And she wonders why I wear headphones

Questions my office mate has asked me this morning:

(1) Is there a smarter-sounding word for that thing that angels do?

(2) How do you spell "retard"?

(3) What colour is "parchment"?

Now for extra special bonus points, redeemable for absolutely nothing at all, match each of the above questions with the correct reason why she needed to know.

(a) In order to make sense of her horoscope for today.

(b) For her dissertation.

(c) Because she was writing an email to a friend describing people in our department.

Time for a parrot

Because it's been a few days without a parrot picture, and because this little cutie keeps visiting the tree outside my office window, I bring you my new friend, the eastern rosella:

And I enter day four of Operation Hello Birdies, my cunning attempt to persuade the crimson rosellas that feed on my balcony to eat out of my hand. So far I've had moderate success, in that they will let me stand a metre or so away while they feed and don't seem at all bothered. Unless I am holding something in my hands, in which case they totally freak out and won't come near me. So I can't eat or read while waiting for them, or stalk them with a camera. (I wonder if they have had bad experiences with people stuffing their friends into a sack?)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Five reasons why I blog

I got tagged by Bardiac for this meme, which is very exciting indeed. I love being tagged! I thought at first it would be hard to come up with five reasons, but when I opened up this draft post to write down the three I could think of straight away, another two sort of dribbled out without even trying. (What can I say? I'm a natural.*)

So, this is why I blog:

  1. My blog is where I keep my brain. Seriously, it's like a hard drive for my head. Pinning random fluttery thoughts to my blog to hold them still keeps my brain freer and faster for processing the stuff it actually needs to do.
  2. I am a comments whore. I love love love the fact that having a blog means people I don't even know on the other side of the world come here and talk to me.
  3. Where else would I put pictures of parrots? My family is totally over them and I suspect they now delete any jpeg attachments to my emails without even a cursory click-and-coo-at-the-pretty-birdies.
  4. I have an addictive personality. I started blogging to see if it was any fun. And now I can't stop. (Are there self-help groups for people like me?)
  5. It means I can call myself a "blogger". Which sounds a bit like "plonker". But cooler.


* Natural meme-er, dribbler, blogger. Feel free to end that sentence with whatever you think fits best.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Geekman and I went to the local bi-annual second-hand book fair today and were both overcome by an attack of frenzied book-buying. Afterwards we compared finds and were each confirmed in our belief that the other has no taste whatsoever. See if you work out our favourite genres. Bonus points if you spot the one (or maybe two) books in which our separate spheres of interest overlap.

My finds:

Albert C. Baugh. A history of the English language.
Donald J. Koosis. Java programming for dummies.
Patricia Cornwell. Cruel and unusual.
Laurie R. King. The birth of a new moon.
Barbara Vine. A dark-adapted eye.
Barbara Vine. Asta's book.
Ngaio Marsh. Swing, brother, swing.
Ngaio Marsh. Kriminal-kommissæren får bid. (Because there are few things more amusing than reading books you already know in foreign languages.)
Olof Möller. Mikro-universums gåta.
Colin Dexter. The wench is dead.
and three Swedish Reader's Digests from 1980.

Total cost: $35

Geekman's finds:

Gregory Benford. In alien flesh.
Julian May. Saga of the exiles 1: The many-coloured land. (Note: these books promise on the front cover that they "will eventually rival The Lord of the Rings". Still waiting.)
Julian May. Saga of the exiles 2: The golden torc.
Julian May. Saga of the exiles 3: The nonborn king.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The mote in God's eye.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The moat around Murcheson's eye.
James P. Blaylock. Lord Kelvin's machine.
Silas Water. The man with absolute motion.
John Horgan. The end of science.

Total cost: $24

The fair is on all weekend and they put out new books each day, so we might have to go back tomorrow. It's all half-price tomorrow, too...

Now we just need more bookshelves.


Dear random student I saw yesterday,

Walking around campus in full camouflage gear and a black hoodie with death-metal designs all over, not to mention your weird-ass (but thankfully EMPTY) thigh holster? Hood pulled up to cover half your face? Black sports bag that bulges weirdly?

So not cool.

Don't you read the news? Or are you trying to scare people?

And stop scowling. If you are going to be a scary freak, at least be a pleasant-mannered, friendly scary freak.

Yours in disgust,

Friday, April 20, 2007

This is hilarious

Sometimes local news deserves a wider audience.

Someone is having a really bad day

(With bonus points for most surreal development of a conversation I've heard in a long time.)

I overheard the following today in the photocopying room.

Necessary background: older faculty member (OFM) was collecting his print-out that had as a heading the word "sex" in large letters. (You can get away with a lot in linguistics). A friend of mine, who has a serious case of "speaks before she thinks" (SBST) was picking up some photocopying.

SBST: "Hi, OFM, how are you?"

OFM: "Terrible, thanks for asking."

SBST: "Why, what's happened?"

OFM: "Well I just got sacked, for one thing."

SBST: "Really?!? I'm so sorry."

[I'll leave out the bit where she asks for, and he gives, details]

SBST: "At least you can now go live with your [long-distance] wife!"

OFM: "Actually she recently left me."

SBST: "Oh my god. I'm so, so sorry."

[Awkward silence]

SBST, pointing to the paper OFM was holding: "Well, you could always go have sex! That would cheer you up!" (No, I don't know what she was thinking, either.)

OFM: "No, I can't do that anymore either. I've had an operation."

Thursday, April 19, 2007


A few people lately have asked me what I plan to reward myself with when I finish the PhD. And I really don't have any idea.

I think I need two rewards, though (at least!). The first is for when I complete the whole thing and hand it to my committee (which is supposed to happen at the end of April, but—my my, is that the time already?—you may have noticed that this is nearly upon us. I'm hoping to get it done by mid-May, though, at the latest). The second will be for the official submission, which is scheduled for the end of July (i.e. after my committee returns it with their suggestions for improvement and I make the necessary changes (like fixing overuse of parenthetical asides, just to choose an example purely at random)). I might also reward myself when I actually graduate, which given the university's graduation timetables and the time factored in for the international examiners to mark the damn thing, probably won't be until July 2008. And I suspect I will be totally over it all by then, so only really need two rewards.

The only thought I had had so far was that I will finally be free(er) to travel, so could reward myself with a trip to New Zealand to visit those friends and relatives who always get missed out on our duty visits to the parents. Geekman and I are also long-overdue a trip somewhere nice to use up our frequent flyer miles: we were thinking of going to the Cook Islands again, where we spent our honeymoon.

Travel might not work out so well, though, as various problems conspire to make it difficult for the next few months (including the fact that Geekman currently doesn't have a visa that allows him to leave the country and get back in again), and after July I'm hoping to be teaching again, which restricts the amount of time I can spend waltzing around the world.

So what else could I use as a reward? It can't be too expensive, since me completing this thing will also (coincidentally!) mean I no longer have any funding (and isn't that a great incentive?). But I could probably stretch to a couple of hundred dollars.

So, a question to all academic readers: if you've graduated already, how did you reward yourself at the end of it? And current grad students, what do you plan to do?

A+ for ideas; D- for proof-reading

I was just adding some references from a book I've been using into my bibliography file. Because the format of the reference list in the book only used authors' initials, and I prefer to have the full name in my files, I was checking each reference by googling it for the full version before I copied it over.

Of the nine references I checked in this way, five were incorrect! The mistakes included year of publication, authors' initials, the wrong word here or there in the title, the wrong page numbers... And I know the mistakes were in the book's reference list, not on the net, because once I discovered the first couple of errors, I went to the publishers' and authors' own websites to check the rest.

And we complain that students make careless errors!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I LOVE that this search lands you here

Okay, come clean: who's been searching for "hot syntacticians"?

(And did you find any?)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Doing autumn all on its lonesome

Monday, April 16, 2007

Seasons greetings from border control

I mean to post this last week for Easter, but totally forgot.

I got a very exciting package from America about two weeks ago, and because it contained some food items, it arrived with an attached note to say it had been opened by the Quarantine inspectors. Inside the package, they had left a very helpful brochure explaining all about what you can and can't bring into Australia.

What really tickled me, though, was this page of the brochure, with a list of major holidays and information on what they would take away from you in honour of each. (Click to embiggen).

Like a gift list in reverse.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The 9th Carnival of GRADual Progress

Greetings and welcome to the 9th Carnival of GRADual Progress!

I have decided to start and end on a positive note this time round, so with no further ado, let's move into a round-up of posts that are so helpful you can count reading them as "working" rather than "procrastination".

Tips and tricks and general helpfulness:

Psycgirl asks for tips on how to study for comps, and her readers come up with some very helpful suggestions. And when the studying isn't going so well, she survives by fantasising about life after grad school.

Now that Working Writing Wailing Mama is clear on the big issues, she discovers a new mantra that I suggest we all adopt.

Mosilager discusses the pros and cons of Windows vs Linux, especially when it comes to thesis writing.

Jim Gibbon links to a useful article on dissertating without the agony, and recommends writing before you are ready.

EA reminds us that even when you feel like you are going backwards, this is still a kind of progress. Of course, on the rare days where you wake up to find that yesterday's work is still looking good, you might as well reward yourself by going back to bed.

But a grad student carnival wouldn't be complete without some tales of angst and woe...

The dark side:

Kristen's post about a conversation with other ABDs shows that the American PhD system of coursework plus dissertation means that grad students get to experience burnout before they even start writing.

Maria's grad school applications are inducing panic.

RussianViolets is scared of her advisor, worrying that getting tenure means she has to put out or get out.

T was about to graduate, only to get a letter from the university telling her she needs four more credits.

Clevergirl wants a magic style button to solve all her formatting woes.

Video has some conversations that make her wonder why we do this to ourselves.

Breena Ronan is experiencing the joys of grad school politics, as well as the problems of putting together a committee for an interdisciplinary topic.

Anastasia has been experiencing the extra pressure of trying to draft her (symbolically structured) dissertation with a baby due any day. On top of this, she discovers that a lack of family-friendly jobs at her university means that her only options for funding next year would earn her less than a dollar an hour.

FemaleCSGradStudent has noticed that her university is playing games with her, and she doesn't want to join in. (With bonus hilarious conversation).

Finally, back to that positive note I promised to end on...

Congratulations to:

Flossie, whose comps are over. Be sure to read to the end of this post for her hilarious solution to workaholism.

Sammy, who got a teaching position for the coming year.

Twirly, who has turned in a draft of her proposal and is now spending her time writing letters to her lab equipment.

Marcia, who has completed a draft of her thesis.

Elle, who has reached two grad student milestones: submitting the first draft of her dissertation, and falling asleep in the library.

Mike Slackenerny, who is finished at last, leaving some people very disgruntled. (What do you mean, he's a fictional character? Aren't we all?)


Apologies if I missed anyone in this round. A plea to all readers to remember to tag or email in any posts they come across that they would like to see in the next carnival. It's so much easier on the host to have submissions coming to them rather than having to seek them out themselves (and it means a broader range of topics and blogs get covered).

The next carnival will be hosted by Kisha at 10 Year Plan on or around May 15th.

Volunteers to host future carnivals would be greatly appreciated and should contact me at the email address in the sidebar on the right. You can take a look here to see what hosting is all about.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Two views of the limbo that is grad school

Yesterday a fellow PhD student and I were chatting with a stall holder at the market that is held on campus every Thursday. The stall holder said business was slow because all the students are still on Easter break, and so the only people shopping were the admin and teaching staff, none of whom seem to want any of the second-hand clothing she was selling.

Then, "What about you two? Do you work here, or are you still doing the student thing?"

My friend and I replied at the same time.

She said, "Both."
I said, "Neither."

And I think that sums up the grad student identity crisis quite neatly.


Reading an article in the New Zealand news today, I came across an awesome illustration of how common Maori words have become in New Zealand English.

Speaking of a recently restored waka (traditional canoe) that had just been stolen, the custodian of it said:

"I koha-ed it to the hapu and it was looking magnificent. What do you do? Bugger it, you get wild with these thieves.

"You just don't touch those things and people have told me to makutu them. If they put it back, the tapu will be lifted."

Now the guy may be maximising his use of these words for a deliberate effect, but the point is that New Zealand newspapers no longer gloss them (except for makutu "curse", which was glossed in its first use at the beginning of the article), because they are all in frequent enough use in NZ English that almost all readers would understand them. And I think that is awesome.

(Here's the link to the story, but knowing this news site, it will go down in a day or two.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Daily meltdown

or This is what a PhD thesis does to your brain

I hate stupid Sanskrit with its stupid grammars written by old dead Germans who don't know how to use section headings or an index or even a freaking table of contents, and their stupid refusal to ever tell you EVER what order words go in, like it's possible to know a language without knowing anything about its word order* just as long as you can decline its stupid nouns and conjugate its stupid verbs, and I especially hate ones that are written in stupid French so I have to read extra slow, with no stupid glosses for the stupid Sanskrit examples, and most of all the ones with no freaking TRANSLITERATIONS like we all have nothing better to do while sitting around reading French written by old dead Germans than to try and decipher the freaking devanagari writing system just to see whether there's an adjective after that noun or not.

And did I mention stupid French grammars of Sanskrit (written by old dead Germans) that are full of examples that totally disprove my main argument for chapter six?

Because I hate them the most.


* And don't tell me Sanskrit has "free" word order. I've heard that one from the tiny number of old dead Germans who mention word order at all, and if you want me to believe that sort of assertion then I want a corpus analysis with convincing statistics (or at the very least some freaking glossed examples) to demonstrate it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I win!

Today, only four weeks* after we discovered I would have to play the same crazy immigration documentation game that took Geekman three months to master, I ticked the final box of page 13 of form 80, in which the Immigration Department cunningly tricks terrorists into betraying their identities...

... signed off all the documentation, paid (ridiculous sums of money) for my stamped signed sealed translations-by-accredited-translators, stuffed these into an envelope along with multiple copies of police records from ninety million countries and the sealed secret 28-page results of the most extensive (and expensive!) medical examinations I have ever undertaken (the outcome of which I am infuriatingly not allowed to know). This morning Geekman delivered this appetising bundle of bureaucracy to the slathering bureaucrats who requested it, and now all we have to do is sit back and wait for them to tell us we did it wrong.


* I initially predicted that this would take months and months. The main reason we managed to be so efficient this time is that Geekman had kept meticulous notes on all the steps he had gone through when he did this last year, so we already had copies of the required forms and phone numbers and addresses of the organisations and translators we had to contact. Miraculously the health screening people were able to fit me in at a week's notice and do everything in one day, whereas last year Geekman had had to wait six to eight weeks for each of his tests. Finally, we have become masters of parallel processing, and had multiple forms and requests on the go at once, unlike last time where we were too scared of screwing things up so made sure each step had worked out before setting out on the next one.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The more you go, the more you know.

It just struck me that visitors to our house might find our choice of bathroom reading rather unusual. The books on the floor by the toilet, for those wishing to make the most of their incapacitated moments, are currently Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics (Zeilik & Smith 1987) and C++ from the Ground Up (Schildt 1998).

But I bet we aren't the only ones with bathroom book weirdness.

Set my mind at ease and tell me in the comments what reading matter is available to someone caught short in your house.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Oh, procrastination, how I love thee...

It's me!

(And there's a penguin in my library.)

Happy Easter, everyone!

Have a parrot.

(Excuse shakiness. It was my first experiment with my camera's movie function.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Geekman speak

Upon hearing that a friend had called to say she would come by in half an hour, "I'd take that time estimate with a grain of sodium chloride."

Later, preparing to chop up a pumpkin, "How do you remove the skin from something with this degree of curvature?"

Sigh. Aren't physicists cute?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Why would anyone do that?

Some malicious bastard has stolen the front wheel off every bicycle in our apartment building garage. Including mine.

Thursday, April 05, 2007



The show itself was unbloggably good, but you can get an idea of it from this clip on the official website. The best thing, though, were our seats. I've marked them on this seating plan as red squares, and the people in the row in front of us didn't turn up, so we had a head-free view right down the aisle to the stage.

The performers even came right up to us at times, and at one point they hauled the guy two along from me up onto the stage to "assist" the magician.

Oh, and I will never be able to listen to Jacques Brel's Ne me quitte pas again with a straight face. (Sadly, it's not half as funny if you describe it, but I'm sure anyone who's been to the show will understand).

Unfortunately, the magical mood was tempered a little bit when we got home to discover the strawberry plant Geekman has been nuturing for weeks had been violently assaulted, had all its tender new leaves stripped off, and only evidence of the perpetrator was a colourful feather lying among the torn-off leaves. I think I heard Geekman muttering something about what he will do to the parrots when he sees them in the morning, so let's hope they have the sense to stay away for a day or two.

You know what today is?

It's going to the CIRCUS day!

The Cylons are coming

The photocopier just asked me politely to wait please, it was replenishing its toner. Then it whirred a lot for a minute or two, and told me I could go ahead.

It's kind of creepy when machines can do their own maintenance.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Desktop Meme (Take #2)

Geekman looked at all the desktops people have posted screenshots of and said something like, "Grumble grumble Windows grumble grumble LINUX." So I told him I'd post a picture of his desktop to even the numbers a little.

(I don't know what the purple thing is, but it's pretty damn cool.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reasons I can't possibly work on my thesis

Surely no one can expect me to get any work done if...

  1. It's so hot, my fingers get sweaty typing
  2. It's so cold, my fingers get numb when I type
  3. I'm too grumpy to concentrate
  4. I'm too happy to settle to work
  5. I have a meeting coming up in an hour or so (I'm too busy preparing)
  6. I just came from a meeting (I'm too busy thinking about what was said)
  7. It's nearly lunch-time (I can't work on an empty stomach)
  8. I just had lunch (I can't work on a full stomach)
  9. I've got a huge to do list of non-thesis tasks (I have to get them out of the way first)
  10. I have a totally free day with nothing to do but my thesis (I can't work without structure)
  11. It's morning (I'm not awake yet)
  12. It's afternoon (I'm sleepy)
  13. It's evening (I need time to unwind before bed)
  14. It's night time (I should be asleep)
  15. I've been really productive already this week (Why should I do any more?)
  16. I haven't been productive so far this week (I might as well give up for the week and start next Monday afresh)
  17. I haven't had any exercise for days (Sitting here at my desk is just perpetuating my unhealthiness)
  18. I have just been to the gym (I'm too tired to work).
  19. My supervisor just told me she hates my latest draft (I'll never succeed, so I might as well give up now)
  20. My supervisor just told me she loves my latest draft (I rock! I can afford to take a nice long break)
What are your favourite excuses for procrastination?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Live-blogging the immigration process

Question #23: Give details of all visits (including short stays) to countries outside Australia for the last 10 years.

This form was totally not designed for anyone who has lived in Europe. Here's a screenshot of the list I have drawn up, reconstructing trips from passport stamps, diaries, and memory, as best I could. Most weekend and day-trips are missing because, for the period when I was living 20 km from the border, I can't even remember how many times I went to France, let alone what dates I was there. I know I've been to Austria and Hungary too, but have no recollection whatsoever of the year or the circumstances. And quite a few of the dates I have given are pure fiction.

Oh, and the section of the form where I have to insert this information? They give me eight lines.

The desktop meme

Shrinkykitten wants people to post pictures of their desktops. I think it's a great idea and am very curious to see everyone else's.

My icons aren't creative like hers, as I just use the ones that come with the programs, but I love my current desktop background, which is a photo by the super-talented Grace (and which you can incidentally buy as a wall-print here).

Now I've shown you mine; I want to see yours!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

What does it mean...

... that I am starting to have nightmares about graduation?*

Is it a sign that I am almost finished? That I secretly don't want to finish? Or just that I am really screwed up?


* In last night's dream I was trying to deal with multiple friends and relations wanting to attend, not having enough tickets to go around, people getting offended that I hadn't invited them, and everyone wanting to stay at our house but refusing to socialize with any of the other visitors.** Oh, and I had forgotten to hire my regalia.

**Which is probably pretty much what I can expect in reality, too. So maybe this was just a warning.

Weekend parrots

Geekman and I just went for a walk in the snuggly autumn sunshine and I'm sure we saw every type of parrot that lives in this city: galahs, cockatoos, crimson rosellas, eastern rosellas, king parrots...

Unfortunately my camera batteries died after the first five minutes or so, but here are the few I did catch on film.