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BSG to the extreme

Posted by matthew on Mar 31, 2005 in tv

In the week since I first posted about my newfound love for Battlestar Galactica, I have almost completed a bittorrent assisted, time-shifted catch up on the series so far. It was not until after I had watched the free RealPlayer stream of Episode 1 that I actually realised there was a mini-series before the current Series 1 episodes. So I had quite a lot of catching up to do.

The mini series was extremely good. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and ended beautifully. I’m struggling to think of a sci-fi TV experience that comes close to the drama and believability of this series. I particularly like the combination of old and new technologies, side by side with the duality of humans and machines (the cylons). There are moments that stick with me, like when a human-shaped cylon woman sees a baby for the first time and asks “Are you alive?” before killing it — apparently out of curiosity over its fragility, or just perhaps out of mercy because she knows that the world is about to be invaded and destroyed. Then in episode 5, the human character Starbuck asks a cylon being “Are you alive?” when she happens upon its crashed ship. She also ends its “life” — but can it be alive it it’s a machine? So there is this underlying battle between humans and the machines about which one is truly “alive”.

I really like the fact that the machines are given more and more interesting and human characteristics: questioning themselves and their motives, not knowing the full story themselves, and being vulnerable in some ways, just as humans are. A lot of time in the subplots is devoted to depicting human foibles. Mistakes, character flaws, addictions and indulgences are a very prominent feature. I feel all of this is asking us to consider whether humans really deserve to be a sort of “master race” of beings after all — but at the same time these are the characteristics that we associate with being “human”. All of these themes are very often dealt with in sci fi (how many times did we have to endure them in Star Trek?) but I’ve never seen them done in such a compelling way. They tackle the big issues, from the President who chides herself for having selfish thoughts when she finds out she has cancer to the brilliant scientist who is shamelessly susceptible to the sexual advances of what turns out to be a human-like cylon. It’s completely enthralling.

 
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Half-day Getaway

Posted by matthew on Mar 28, 2005 in travel

Our plans for a getaway for a few days dissolved as we realised it takes more planning and willpower than we possessed halfway into Easter. We compromised on a half-day trip up to Mt Dandenong. It would give us a chance to give the new car a good run and a sense of being away from the city for a few hours. After a small discussion over which particular lookout was the best to aim for, we put our $4 into the hand of a friendly parking attendant at Sky High. Everyone else had decided Easter Sunday was a good time to go up to this famous lookout, of course, so we were not alone. However when it came time to go for a short forest walk we found that it was really quite peaceful out there after all.

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On the way home we decided it would be fun after all to drop in at Mayfields and check out the Cairo Club Orchestra (an authentic 1920s dance band). As we pulled in we found Doz, Crinster and Linnea on the footpath waiting for us! The Swedes were actually about to welcome another couple of Swedes into the country so I went to help pick them (and their 7 months worth of luggage) from Spencer Street. We all went to eat at Umago in Brunswick Street before kicking it to the Cairo Club — and a fantastic night was had by all.

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Dutch brunches rule

Posted by matthew on Mar 28, 2005 in life

Regular readers might recall that we were hosting a special Dutch Easter brunch on Friday morning with 10 of our friends squeezed into our living room. Lotte went to the Dutch shop in Blackburn especially to get supplies. These are all things you’d find in the pantry in most houses in Holland. It was funny to see the reactions as people tried out various things. I think the weirdest reaction was to Lotte’s favourite — vlokken (echte chocolade!). The closest equivalent to these chocolate shavings in Australian culture is hundreds & thousands or chocolate sprinkles. However unlike the Australian version, even grown ups sprinkle these real chocolate pieces on their bread for breakfast. Remarkably civilised, you’d think, but everyone just stared at Lotte when she suggested it.

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We also spent quite a while boiling and colouring eggs with food dye. The tradition is that there are at least 3 eggs per person. When you get your egg you’re supposed to challenge someone to an egg-breaking dual. The winner gets to fight another battle while the loser gets to eat their battered goog. My super egg was the outstanding performer, winning 10 battles (5 eggs, both ends) before finally cracking. I was pretty hungry by that stage.

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Doz brought her honeymooning friends from Malaysia & Singapore to the brunch. You can see them in the background in the photo above. They were really nice. We all went down to Fairfield Park Boathouse afterwards and mucked around at the concrete pagoda overlooking the river there. It has a decent floor for dancing and we put on a mix of swing, soul and hip hop stuff on our trusty portable CD player. The Swedes decided that dancing wasn’t good enough and started wrestling instead. I think Pelle was doing the splits while Linnea helped.

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Well, it all helped work up enough of an appetite so that we could go to Doz’s place for a Mexican feast afterwards. Then everyone else played board games while I slept on the couch. It was an excellent finish to an awesome day.

 
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Easter Hop wrap

Posted by matthew on Mar 28, 2005 in dance

Thursday night was the 6th annual Easter Hop, and it was easy to organise and a big success. Around 100 people attended, all the raffle tickets sold out, and we raised $576.10 for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Along with everything else, it was a really fun dance night and a great atmosphere. Easter Hop never seems to miss on that front. The Pearly Shells Swing Orchestra played up a storm as usual and there was a friendly mix of dancers and non-dancers in attendance, which always improves the atmosphere I think.

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Battlestar Galactica

Posted by matthew on Mar 24, 2005 in tv

Last night I watched Battlestar Galactica for the first time. It was the first Battlestar Galactica experience for me. I haven’t even seen the original movie, although I did know of its existence. Odd, since I’m a sci fi fan from way back.

I really enjoyed most of the episode (105: You can’t go home again). I was put off a little by some of the camerawork, which reminded me of some of the worst of NYPD Blue’s indulgence in deliberate camera wiggling for no reason. Being a huge fan of Blade Runner I was fascinated seeing Edward James Omos in a sci fi role again. His performance was good. I liked Starbuck a lot. Celebrity crush ahoy. Apollo seemed a little nancy-boyish for my liking (sorry if that offends anyone, it’s just a feeling I had).

I think I’m going to be watching more often from now on — I might even try to track down the series on DVD because I think it’s moving to a 10.30pm timeslot which could get a little late.

 
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One ‘flu over the Easter eggs

Posted by matthew on Mar 24, 2005 in health, life

It seems that there is some kind of ‘flu going around Melbourne, and today is Lotte’s third day in a row of suffering. I seem to have been lucky to escape with a day of headaches, whle she has the full-blown symptons. So she’s back at the doctor today for an assessment. Being an asthma sufferer, she has to be careful. Unfortunately this has put a bit of a dampener on the last day of work before Easter. The Easter Hop is tonight, but Lotte will probably miss it, and then we are having a Dutch Easter brunch at our place tomorrow. She’s concerned that she might not have enough energy to do everything she wanted to do before the brunch. Our plans for a getaway over part of Easter could also be in jeopardy.

Anyway the plan for tonight is that I’ll get there around 6.15pm, set up the Easter Hop decorations and organise the raffle. I have tickets and various prizes. Just need to get an Easter hamper of some sort today (mental note). Tomorrow we’ll be boiling lots of eggs (we seem to have about 4 dozen in the fridge at home) and painting them, Dutchie style. Lotte’s also planning to make a few other Dutch treats like paasbrood (Easter bread filled with almond paste). Lekker. There should be about 12 of us at the brunch all up — quite a test for our humble abode. I’ll post pictures.

 
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Easter Hop 2005

Posted by matthew on Mar 22, 2005 in dance

The 6th Annunal Easter Hop is this week on Thursday 24th
March!! As with last year, we will be raising money for the
Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre. The Pearly Shells Swing
Orchestra will play for your dancing enjoyment.

We’ll have charity taxi dances, Easter eggs and all the
usual Easter hop fun. Matt Riddle will DJ during the
breaks.

Counter meals are available from 7pm, with the band starting
at around 8.30pm. Don’t miss this chance to be a part of one
of Melbourne’s oldest swing traditions. There is limited
dance space available, at the venue, however the floor will
be cleared of chairs and tables to maximise dance space!

Venue: The Bendigo Hotel, 125 Johnston St Collingwood.

Date: Thursday, 24 March starting at 8.30pm (dinner from 7.00pm).

Dinner bookings: 9417-3415

Entry: $12

This is a non-profit event. Part of every entry fee goes
to charity.

 
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Maintaining My Mac

Posted by matthew on Mar 22, 2005 in technology

Yesterday was maintenance day at Chez Zot. With less than 1.5% of my disk space available, my Powerbook’s hard drive was running on borrowed time. I have been strict about what gets onto it for a long time — there are no games except BF 1942, which I play almost daily, a very limited selection of Lindy Hop clips for teaching, and no pr0n! But with disk space at a critical low I needed to do something drastic. I can’t move my music (which takes >50% of the space) off the laptop because it’s my primary machine and I need it for DJing. So I needed to archive something else. I decided it had to be my iPhoto library — now including something like 3-4 years of snapshots from various trips. It’s grown to over 3.6 Gb in size in that time.

At the same time I needed to do a full backup. So to achieve this goal I decided to use the highly recommended and simple shareware tool, Carbon Copy Cloner. Good choice. After an hour or so I had backed up all user files onto an external drive painlessly. I also decided it would be a good idea to perform some routine maintenance and downloaded MacJanitor. This Freeware app runs a range of unix maintenance scripts that usually only get executed automatically late at night. Laptops like my Powerbook don’t usually run these scripts because they’re off at night, so every now and again it’s a good idea to run something like this.

As a result of these two things, I now have an extra 8% of hard disk space so that I can at least keep going for a while. In the long term I need an upgrade, but for now I’m happy.

 
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Got iPod? Get Mac!

Posted by matthew on Mar 21, 2005 in technology

AppleInsider:

Morgan Stanley today upgrade Apple Computer to “overweight,” saying it believes the Mac conversion rate within AppleĆ­s iPod customer base is roughly double what the market currently expects. …

The survey, which polled 400 consumers, found that 19% of PC iPod owners have purchased a Mac in the past year, compared to Wall Street’s expectations of 10%. These results would imply two full points of global PC market share gain for Apple in 2005, from 3% to 5%, the firm said. Going forward, the firm believes the conversion rate of the iPod customer base from PC to Mac could track closer to 25%.

 
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Sleepy Sunday

Posted by matthew on Mar 21, 2005 in health, life

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Yaawwwwn! Sunday morning was a sleepy one. With both of us feeling somewhat the worse for wear, we headed around the corner to our favourite cafe and ordered the French toast with maple syrup, stewed rubarb and pistachio ricotta. Hit the spot.

Later we went down to the Fairfield boathouse and saw lots of African and Aboriginal music. We also did a bit of dance training on our own stuff, which we like to do as often as we can. Hopefully we’ll get more time to do it in the future. It always takes a while to work things out and at the moment we’re just exploring new options for performance stuff.