Archive for October, 2009


Sooooo. I’ve been a Bazaar fanboy for a few years now. At the time I had a pretty exhaustive look at most of the open source options, so I feel like it was an informed decision. Actually I used Darcs for a while, but eventually came to the conclusion that it was more academic than practical.

This was within maybe a year of the BitKeeper/Linux/Git thing, which I think of as the point in time when the open source community decided to get their shit together with distributed VC; so most of the projects were at about the same level of maturity, i.e. not very, but they were suddenly getting a lot of dev attention. (GNU arch had been around for a while, but everyone hated it, and more specifically everyone hated Tom Lord.) At the time, Bazaar-NG (as it was then) was a bit of a dark horse but it had the backing of Canonical (this was when Ubuntu was starting to look like king of the hill as well) and it seemed to have a better focus on usability than some of the others.

In the time since then a lot has happened, and for some reason that I momentarily forget, I decided that today was a good time to take another look at the state of the art. And I must say that Mercurial looks like it might be the new favourite. For goodness’ sake, OpenOffice just announced that they’re switching to it. (Yes, MySQL uses Bazaar. Yes yes, half the world uses Git. This is getting us nowhere.)

So I’m going to make a tentative switch to Mercurial for… you know… stuff I might be working on. Very special projects and… things. Whatever.

Stay tuned.

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Very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet

Our lemon tree has finally worked out that photosynthesis is not optional and has started growing new leaves.

Is it weird to think of a tree as being stupid? A couple of months ago, coming into spring, it burst out in flowers, some of which started to turn into tiny fruit (cf. buds, pollination). This would have been great except that, partly due to it being in the exposed corner of our balcony and taking the full force of the bizarre windy weather we’ve had in Sydney over the last year, it had maybe a dozen leaves left, many of which were in pretty bad shape. Supporting young’uns in that situation seemed like it would be a losing battle.

The tree seemed to reach the same conclusion, so it dropped the fruit and most of the flowers, even after I moved it to the other side of the balcony where it’s less likely to be stripped bare in a freak gale (although it’s getting a bit less sun now). And in the last week or so it got around to sprouting some new leaves. I’m happy for it, but I can’t help but look at it and think… why didn’t you just do that in the first place and save yourself all the trouble, not to mention our false hope that we’ll get some early lemons?

Stupid tree.


On internet exposure

Last week I put three photos on Flickr.

Green-purple-redWestpac's Batteries Are LowWithout a leg to stand on

All three were uploaded at the same time (within a minute or so). All three are tagged with “Sydney”, two to four descriptive words, the lens I used, and a location. I didn’t add any of them to any groups. All three were linked from my Facebook feed and were visible in the sidebar of this page, but as far as I can tell (from the referrer list on the Flickr stats page) that didn’t contribute more than a couple of hits.

In the three or four days since I put them up, the first and third have been viewed 6 and 3 times respectively, which is about average for me. But the one in the middle (the Westpac building) has been viewed 38 times.

38 isn’t a huge number by any standards, but it’s a very clear outlier.

No one has commented on it, or added it as a favourite, or, as far as I can tell, linked to it from anywhere else. It’s not obviously a better photo than the other two or any others that I’ve uploaded recently.

There are a few possible explanations… Maybe one or both of the “westpac” and “low battery” tags are interesting enough that thirty-odd people have searched for them, but not interesting enough for other people to have used the same tag and pushed mine off the top of the search results. (The latter part of this theory seems to be true, at least.) Another is that I’ve hit some note with the inscrutable whims of Flickr’s “interestingness” measure.

Whatever. The point is that somehow something I did got caught in a local eddy of the chaotic system of internet popularity, and attracted more attention than everything else I’ve done in the last month put together. That doesn’t count the dust storm photo, which in about two days was viewed more times (900-ish) than any of my other photos.

Of course, DMM had a photo of the dust storm that got 8605 views. But then, that made the Flickr Explore page. Of his six photos of the dust storm, it was the only one with more than 2000 views.

Where I’m going is this… Exposure on the internet seems to have a sort of exponential growth behaviour. Getting bumped from “complete obscurity” up one rung to “noticed for a brief moment” is at least an order of magnitude. And the same thing happens at every level above that – there’s no such thing as slightly more exposure, only lots more exposure. Regardless of how well-known any person is, a very small percentage of the work they’ve done will make up a very large percentage of what people have seen.

When I spell it out like this, it’s actually pretty obvious. And not at all restricted to the internet.


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Home Alone

Tina gets all the fun blogging about food.

She’s out tonight, though, so it’s my turn. I’ve been reading the Julie/Julia blog, on the back of seeing the movie, so I felt inspired to do something French. Or, failing that, something French-inspired. Or, failing that, something involving butter.

I must admit, I’ve done very little cooking in the last year or two. Having a professional foodie in the house means that, at the best of times, the greatest benefit comes from Tina in the kitchen instead of me. Add to that the fact that our kitchen isn’t really big enough for two people at once; that she knows where everything is kept, and has the occasional desire to re-arrange things meaning that I, at any given time, usually don’t; and the general human tendency to start barking orders when someone else is doing something one believes one can do better oneself (thinking of Tina and cooking, of course, but I’m sure she feels the same about me and computers) and we have a self-reinforcing cycle whereby Tina exercises her tremendous cooking talents and I make sure to thank her profusely in between mouthsful.

But, as stated, tonight it’s my turn.

One of my fallback recipes, a step or two behind the ubiquitous stir-fry, is steak with mushroom sauce. If memory serves, Tina taught me to make mushroom sauce soon after we started dating. It seemed like it could be passed off as vaguely French and would benefit from butter, so it seemed like a good idea.

It occurred to me – and a quick Google search confirmed this – that a slosh of red wine would work well in such a sauce. Our wine collection is showing a bias from buying red and white wine in equal quantities but having a strong preference to drinking red – that is, we only had a few bottles of red, none of which I’d be sloshing around in a sauce without anyone to share it with – so I went down to Dan Murphy’s to pick up some cleanskins.

A quick aside about Dan Murphy’s. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with them. Apparently they put the screws on wine suppliers in regard to price and only deal in large quantities, which is fine for the big wineries but tends to work against small producers, and having a close relationship with at least one boutique winery I can’t, in good conscience, say that I support their business model. On the other hand, as a consumer, the fact that they’re cheaper than most other places, and that they stock cleanskins that go against the usual trend of tasting like vinegar diluted with kerosene, means that I usually end up buying booze from there anyway. Plus they’re a few minutes down the road.

So, armed with a 2008 “Reserve” Shiraz from “South Eastern Australia” and a sirloin from our (excellent) local butcher, I took a rare excursion into our kitchen.

Cooking off the red wine from the mushrooms

It turned out pretty well. I cooked the sirloin in butter (heh), then used the juices as a base for the sauce, adding the mushrooms and more butter (heh heh), some sage (of which we have an infinite supply), then the red wine, then after the wine boiled off, some cream. There were about a bazillion green beans in the fridge, which worked well with more butter (heh heh heh) and the overflow of the sauce.

The finished meal.

So there we have it. Sirloin in a creamy mushroom and cleanskin red wine sauce, with green beans and a glass of said wine.

I can do this food-blogging shit. Nothing to it.

(Oh, and the post title wasn’t just a cry of loneliness; Home Alone 2 was on TV while I was cooking. It’s actually better than I remember it. Which isn’t saying a lot.)


To my immense shame, I hadn’t …

To my immense shame, I hadn’t heard about And Another Thing until yesterday. But now I do and I just bought it. It better not suck.

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Unified communication

A familiar part of being an online-dweller in the Web 2.0 world is that moment when you have to make a decision along the lines of “should I express this thought as a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook status update, an email, a forum post, an edit to a wiki, a…”

I assume I’m not the first to have the follow-up thought: “why do I have to decide?” We seem to have ended up with a handful of semi-standard ways to communicate with a wide audience, none of which serves exactly the same purpose, but with the result of having to either choose between them (which restricts the audience) or redundantly post to all of them (which fragments the resulting discussion).

Got my Google Wave invite last week, and so far I haven’t done much with it, but it does seem to be an attempt to face the problem of unifying a bunch of different ways to communicate – albeit by adding another different way to communicate.

I was about to say that the drawback of Wave is that it’s another instance of Google Owns All The World’s Data (at least we can be grateful that it’s not Microsoft), but I just checked the Wikipedia page (naturally) and apparently the plan is to eventually let anyone run a Wave server. So that’ll be interesting to watch.

Anyway, the point I was getting to was that I recently started having random thoughts about what a Grand Unified Social Network would look like. That led me to the Wikipedia page (again, naturally) on distributed social networks, but so far the term seems to refer mainly to attempts to get Facebook contact lists and whatnot into the open. Okay, maybe that’s just because the term is “distributed social network” not “distributed communication network” or something, but still.

What I’m vaguely imagining (and I’m more or less making this up as I go) is something where I post some data (say, a tweet/status-update-like message, but whatever) to my local Grand Unified Social Network Server (uh… GUSNS?) with some kind of visibility settings. Depending on the visibility settings, it pushes and/or makes it visible to other users on the same local server, and/or pushes it upstream to some kind of GUSNS hub in a vaguely DNSey way, which distributes it to other users. It might be attached to an existing message/user/object, like a conversation thread. And, unless it’s explicitly public, it’s encrypted using a key known to the circle of people to whom it’s supposed to be visible.

Okay, that description makes even less sense than it did in my head. Obviously I haven’t been thinking about this long enough.

Maybe I should go and read up on Wave and XMPP and whatnot and see if this is all just already done.

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Found open WiFi in Rouse Hill …

Found open WiFi in Rouse Hill shopping centre. Felt obligated to use it. Suckers. I heart this phone.

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Androidy goodness

Test post from wpToGo on my new(ish) HTC Hero. I may well be sitting in front of a computer that would be much easier to type on, making this a pretty pointless exercise, but hey, gadgetlust is gadgetlust.


Zendikar draft

Just got home from our first Zendikar draft, which I have, apparently, won – Mr Coker can reach equal first on points (we’ve lost one game each, but he has a game left to play against Mr Karlov), but I’ll have a higher countback. So woo yeah! Go team awesome! (That’s me. I’m team awesome. No you can’t join.)

First picksFirst picks. Alas, A2, A3 and A5 didn’t make the cut.

My card pool looked like this:

Journey to Nowhere
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Devout Lightcaster
Makindi Shieldmate
Geyser Glider
Khalni Heart Expedition
Territorial Baloth
Ondu Cleric
Predatory Urge
Bog Tatters
Vines of Vastwood
Joraga Bard
Zendikar Farguide
Relic Crush
Blazing Torch
Oran-Rief Survivalist
Baloth Woodcrasher
Burst Lightning
Kabira Evangel
Stonework Puma
Explorer’s Scope
Tempest Owl
Stonework Puma
Spire Barrage
Seascape Aerialist
Greenweaver Druid
Tuktuk Grunts
Khalni Heart Expedition
Timbermaw Larva
Turntimber Ranger
Vastwood Gorger
Shepherd of the Lost
Territorial Baloth
Summoning Trap
Hagra Diabolist
River Boa
Oran-Rief Survivalist
Joraga Bard
Frontier Guide
Seascape Aerialist
Greenweaver Druid
Sejiri Refuge

And my deck looked like this (plus, um… 12 Forests and 5 Plains):


(We use numbered sleeves so that we can reconstruct, analyze the bejeezus out of, and ultimately reverse the draft and give everyone back the cards they opened. Yes, we are that obsessed.)

Obviously there’s an Allies thing happening, plus a touch of landfall supported by the Khalni Heart Expeditions and the Frontier Guide. Removal consists of the first-pick Journey to Nowhere and not much else, so it’s definitely a deck that needs to stay on the front foot.

Fortunately it did, against everyone except Mr Shellshear, sporting a black-red deck without much synergy but with plenty of individual bombs, who beat me senseless with a huge creature with Fear Intimidate.



MVPs were Baloth Woodcrasher (can win on its own with multiple landfalls), Turntimber Ranger, and the pair of of Oran-Rief Survivalists. Play of the night was springing Summoning Trap into Turntimber Ranger against DMM who was playing a mono-blue deck built around Lullmage Mentor. (We were speaking in bad French accents at the time, which made it even more awesome. Don’t ask why.) Vines of Vastwood is very versatile as a combat trick and/or finisher, as you’d expect. Shepherd of the Lost seems good but the only time I got it out it didn’t do much (I was already on the back foot against Mr Shellshear).

Mr Coker had the honour of the first landfall.

Mr Coker had the honour of the first landfall.



Allies doing their thing. The zombie counters are +1/+1 tokens or life counters, depending on the context.

Allies doing their thing. The zombie miniatures are +1/+1 tokens or life counters, depending on the context.

My first impressions of Zendikar are definitely encouraging me to go back for second and third impressions.

We didn't <i>quite</i> find a Black Lotus...

We didn't quite find a Black Lotus...


Okay, I guess I won. Huh. Unex…

Okay, I guess I won. Huh. Unexpected.

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