6:00:08 PM|||Andrew Shellshear|||
Bugger blogger
So Ted posted to blogger OK today, while my problems persist. Looks like it might just be me. I checked out the list of common problems, and the one I'm having - unable to find the template for my blog on the server - is right at the top. They haven't figured out how to fix it. They can email people who care, when they fix it. So that's alright then. Meanwhile, let's see what life is like when friends don't know what I'm doing. I've been getting used to telling people what's been going on, only for them to say "Yeah, you mentioned that in your blog"...

Juggling Club
So I went to juggling club on Wednesday night with Paul, only to find that it was the first night in over three years that they had to cancel - a theatre group took it over, in an emergency last-minute practice session. Julian, the club's manager, was annoyed but slightly mollified by the "one-month rent free" bargain that they eventually worked out. So he took us all out to a cafe and we sat around doing magic tricks and explaining why we haven't been to juggling in about three and a half years.
Despite the unexpectedly slow start, Paul and I will be back next week for another try. Maybe it's time to get back into juggling again...
|||81861963|||7:30:12 PM|||Andrew Shellshear|||
A Time for Broken Computers
I'm pretty sure blogger hasn't been working properly since Sunday - none of the other regulars have been posting either, so I figure they're all having the same problems. And today, the network at work died mid-afternoon. Bad 'puters!

Three lanes of pain
So, continuing my dribble about the difficulty of driving to work: pretty much the entire way, I have three lanes available. I've noticed some interesting dynamics that I hadn't realised before. The left-most lane is the fastest, because most people don't stay in it in case someone ahead suddenly decides to turn left, or pull out from a side-street. You can go faster, but you have to be more careful. The middle lane is normally the slowest, because all the left-lane people cut into the middle lane when someone ahead decides to turn left etc. The right-lane is slightly faster than the middle lane, except when you're coming up to a right-turn area. In that case, it's a good idea to be in the left lane, as cars will be cutting from the right- to the middle-lane. All in all, the left lane is the fastest, and is generally full of bastard drivers who are happy to cut into a gap not much larger than a car length.
I'm really not enjoying driving. At least work is getting better and better.
|||81814550|||12:27:51 PM|||Andrew Shellshear|||
Road rage
I've been at work for a week and a half now, and the drive to and from work isn't getting any more fun. With the iPod I have access to a whole bunch of music, which is nice, and there isn't all that much traffic when I set off at 9:00am, but I'm really getting irritated by the naughty drivers. Today I gave two drivers the finger - one who cut in front of me with a single metre of clearance as I was about to speed up, another who pulled out from a side street directly in front of me, causing me to break sharply, when there was no car behind me for a good fifty metres. Feh!
|||81752471|||5:41:12 PM|||Andrew Shellshear|||
Toy cars
Saw the coolest thing today at work. In innumerable trips to Japan that seem to occur, someone brought back some remote-controlled cars. They can turn left, right, go forwards and backwards, have a battery-life of approximately two minutes, range of about two and a half metres. So what's so cool about them, you ask. Well, remember those matchbox cars that you used to play with? They're that size. Matchbox sized. They don't even have proper batteries, just a capacitor that you charge from the remote control - takes about 45 seconds to charge. And they're zippy little beasties, too. Cooool! Our project team has vowed to buy as many copies as humanly possible the next time someone comes back from Japan. The only catch: I suspect the radio frequency they operate on is illegal in Australia.
We started brainstorming about all the possible mods you could put on these things. Say: a bumper-bar on the back that turns the car off for ten seconds when it's struck. Demolition derby! Or a light sensor on the bottom that detects when you run over a lit-up object of certain colours. Then you could have a race-track with power-ups on the ground! Of course, you'd have to have a little turbo-booster, say a second capacitor, that can do cool power-up things. All of these things have been available in computer games for ages. It's time to reclaim them!

Well, I *thought* I was over the cold yesterday morning, but it wasn't the case. By the time I got home I was, as they say, fully sick mate. Seems to be better today though. Out of the runny-nose phase and into the congested phase. Yay!
|||81713283|||7:00:21 PM|||Andrew Shellshear|||
Scary Movie 2
I was slightly un-nerved by my enjoyment of Kung Pow, so when Anna rented out Scary Movie 2, I figured: what the hell. Let's give those good-taste circuits a real workout. So I sat down with her to watch it.

Godawful. I didn't laugh once. Not even the slightest twinge of guilty pleasure. I was bored and fidgety. Admittedly, I had a runny nose and a bit of a cold, but I really can't see how that would have made the slightest difference. This was probably the worst film I have ever seen.

Black Hawk Down
So I figured, what the hell, let's see if we can't get the bad memes out of our brains by watching the other video Anna got: Black Hawk Down. And it was good. All the criticisms I've read - that it portrays the Somalians fundementally the same way as Aliens - are correct, but that wasn't what the movie about. Actually, now I think about it, what the movie *was* about I dislike as well: the mantra "leave no man behind", that whole spirit of brotherhood that has been getting increasing
prominence in recent war movies. It's all true, but they're treating that whole brotherhood thing as a *positive*, y'know, because it makes men into heroes and it's all about love, innit? Which is what I find disturbing about the whole thing. Armies are able to exploit this noble impulse (which is right next to "I did it because all the other guys were doing it" and "Not dobbing on your mates") in order to make wars work. I'm not sure people would go to war otherwise.
Um, anyway, I'm not really as fanatical as this sounds, but it does disturb me a bit. I've never really enjoyed group dynamics, of which this is one of the stronger ones. It always feels manipulative (especially when applied to a volleyball game, for example).
Where was I? Oh yeah, Black Hawk Down. Given all of those caveats above, it was well-made, thrilling, disturbing, all those good emotional buttons hit square on. Would have been even more powerful at the cinema. Some exceptional cinematography - a shot from above of soldiers
descending a rope from a helicopter, in the middle of a street with the wind blowing the dust off the road in an expanding circle, the soldiers running away from the copter in another circle... very stylish. But we expect no less from a collaboration between Ridley Scott and the guy who
always did the cinematography for Krzysztof Kieslowski, Slavomir Idziak.

Work, day 6
Much better! I drew up a plan for what to do, a requirements spec and a design spec, and improved it immesurably. I was dreading having to learn ActiveX controls, and now I won't have to! Not to mention, I think I might be able to use my favorite freeware software library, href="http://www.cs.wustl.edu/~schmidt/ACE.html">ACE. Cool.

Bengal Boogie: Manly by foot, 3:45pm
I forgot to mention in the last episode of Bengal Boogie that by the time we had finished in the underground carpark, the backup battery of my camera was also completely done. In these kind of circumstances, you can usually get another five minutes out of the big battery - when you
leave it for a while it'll not exactly recharge, but shuffle stuff around a bit. Five minutes. So for the next location, somewhere near Manly beach apparently, though obviously we weren't given the address - I'd have to be very picky. After that, we were filming indoors so I'd be able to plug the camera in. Yay!
So Paul and I set off in Paul's car, a really old junkmobile like the ones I used to drive, with instructions to meet at the wharf at Manly beach. I figure, we've all got mobile phones, no worries. I get a first glimpse of Pete's car at this point. It's actually some kind of jet engine with wheels, one of those two seaters that looks like it's a ramp for other cars to fly off. I mention this purely as a character note.
The drive to Manly is quite pleasant. Paul and I are amused by the whole series of events so far. We wander what is to come, and whether, for example, we'll manage to get much filming done before it gets dark.
"No worries," we eventually concur. "We'll have about an hour and a half. Even if the dancers can't get their acts together, it should be enough time."
How naive we were.
So we find a park in Manly, then wander on down to the beach and look for the wharf. No wharf. Paul remembers that the wharf is actually on the other side of the spit. We walk over. The steadicam and camera bags are heavy. I hope that it isn't too much of a walk from the meeting place to the filming location. We arrive, find the others sitting around near the fountain, but none of the dancers present. We sit and wait for a while, and eventually they wander up. There is
tension in their muscles, glowering looks. Most of the dancers for this location have been waiting here for an hour and a half. They are angry at our Indian dancing choreographer. She is stressed to the max.

Bengal Boogie: Further co-ordination required, 4:15pm
Pete stands up and gives a magnificent speech that draws everyone together to a common purpose and fills us with joy at the film-making process. Unfortunately I did not record the occasion, but I think you may get a picture of the tone of the speech in that he calls the film "A
piece of shit" about three or four times, is relentlessly condescending towards the dancers, and to sum up, says "You're all here anyway, you might as well come along." There was some other stuff that I think he genuinely meant to be encouraging, and might have been if it hadn't been
preceded by the "Piece of shit" comments.
Anyway, energised, we are ready to start filming. Unfortunately, our choreographer doesn't know the exact address of where we are going. However, if we follow her, she will lead us to it. Fair enough. So, everyone back to their cars!
Huh? What do you mean, everyone back to their cars? Well, the plan is that we meet at the wharf, and then we go away to our cars and drive back to the wharf, and then set off in a biglong convoy to the true filming location, which is only about five minutes away, no worries. I am slightly flabberghasted at this organisational excellence, it having never occured to me that three meeting points are better than one. I must therefore lug the steadicam and camera back to the car. I think we've fully covered inner Manly now, not much left of it that I haven't walked.
So. The wharf is clearly not a good place for a whole bunch of cars to meet up, but our choreographer suggests that we meet just a bit further up the road in...that... direction, where there's a place we can stop the cars.
Trundle back to the cars. I want Paul to pick me up from the wharf but he discovers that we're actually quite close to where we parked, so lug, lug, lug.

Bengal Boogie: Manly by Car, 4:30pm
We drive to the wharf across the confusing cross-streets, and then go up to where we suspect the meeting place must be. Nobody there. We were pretty slow, so must be the wrong place. Go a bit further. Nobody there. A bit further. Nobody there. Turn around and go back to the
original suspected-meeting-place and call up Pete. Pete is not sure where exactly she meant. Pete however knows where we are, so we converge, park the cars, sit around waiting for the other cars to turn up. There are several mobile phone calls, consulations of the map, much
shaking of heads and amusement from Paul and self, faintly contained rage from Pete. Pete reveals his management techniques in another conversation I wish I had recorded: the gist is, if Pete blows his top at the dancers, we are to not take it seriously, as he is not really angry, just manipulating them into feeling shame which will make them try harder to please him. This is his preferred management technique inanutshell. He also reiterates that we are not to question him in front of the dancers. My fingers itch for a notebook.
Our choreographer shows up. We take off again, having established that the cars of dancers are just a bit further up the road. Yes! There they are! That this is a minor triumph, speaks volumes. So, we follow our choreographer. She drives for a few minutes, until we get to a roundabout, at which point she does *a complete U-turn*. We follow her. Obviously there has been a bit of a minor wrong turning. We get to an intersection that we originally turned left at. "Please don't
turn right," I say out loud. She turns right. We drive on a little, passing where she had originally been parked. "Please don't turn left," I say with a sinking feeling. Left would take us right back to where we were waiting. She turns left. Paul grins. We go past where we were waiting. Then, we go past the wharf in the opposite direction. A right turn here would take us back to the carpark where Pete and I had originally parked. "Please don't turn right," I say. She turns right,
goes past our carpark, ends up at Manly beach. "Don't turn left," I say, feeling strangely anti-omnipotent. Left would mean that she is now going along the length of the beach, instead of heading away from it in a mildly plausible direction. She turns left. We parade along the
length of Manly beach. Very pretty. At the end, she slows down and stops. "This can't be it," I say. And for once, I'm right - she's just waiting for all the cars to catch up. We continue onwards. As it turns out, our initial drive was in precisely the wrong direction. We drive for almost twenty minutes, the sky getting steadily darker. "Not much filming time left now," says Paul. "At least there won't be any problems with my batteries running out," I say. Periodically, we stop,
thinking that this is finally it, only to restart once all the cars have caught up.
I am absolutely determined to be insanely cheerful. "What a lovely location!" I say, as indeed, it is rather pretty. A bit of a pity we couldn't have converged on this location before, as we have now wasted one hour and five minutes meeting at two entirely un-necessary meeting places. The location is a rocky headland, waves dashing against it.
Also much too wet and dangerous for any dancing.

Bengal Boogie continues later at the headland, as dusk approaches! Will we get any useful footage? Will we care? Find out next episode of:
Bengalll Boooogieeeee!
|||81664366|||8:53:39 PM|||Andrew Shellshear|||
So I managed to catch Anna's cold yesterday, and today has been sitting around watching Fellowship of the Ring again, reading books and comics that I've already read, saying "Bleaugh." Pretty much like how I was most days when unemployed. I have managed a little bit of writing for the old web-pages though, so not a dead loss.

Yeah, it's a big dumb film. It's fun, lazy, but gets by on personality. There's really not a lot to say about this film - I was struggling to remember what I'd watched yesterday, so it isn't the most memorable bits of cinematic entertainment...

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
...and I'm struggling to come up with the words for this one. Not because it's bad - I actually enjoyed it, though I really wasn't expecting to from the universal critical pannings it had received. I must be one of those people with a soft spot for non-sequiters, silliness (heck, lets go further: stupidity), and goofy enthusiasm. I can't honestly recommend it to others, though. In case you haven't heard of it, it merges a modern-day actor and special effects with an old Hong-Kong kungfu movie, and puts silly dialogue over all the actors. I don't know why I enjoyed it as much as I did. The targets it picked out for satire were easy pickings. The jokes went on and on, in the Saturday Night Live sense. The funny voices weren't particularly funny. I think I was just in the right kind of mood for it. Watch it when drunk.