Category Archives: Uncategorized

Kransky in the Dishwasher

There is no BBQ in the kitchen at work. So I decided to use the dishwasher instead. 

I purchased a couple of Kransky sausages, rolls, and some sauce. 

  
Then with help of Dom, they were vacuum sealed in bags and placed in the dishwasher. 

  

The longest hottest cycle was selected. 

  
Yum!

  

Stella’s Old School

Zoe’s best friend in Australia is a young lady called Stella. She moved to Australia from Belgium last year. Stella’s Mum, Naomi, organised an unusual – and awesome – experience for Zoe. We visited Stella’s old school in Antwerp.

We didn’t quite know what to expect, and Zoe was quite nervous. We found the school and met the teacher, Miss Janice, who spoke very good English, unlike the kids.  

Miss Janice introduced Zoe in Flemish and we called Stella in Australia via FaceTime. Most of the conversation was between the class and Stella, in Flemish. Miss Janice did a good job of translating for us, but we were quite lost for much of the time. 

We tried to maintain the reputation of Australian wildlife to the kids. e.g. Koalas are vicious sharp clawed beasts and there are venomous spiders under every toilet seat. 

It made us appreciate how hard it must have been for Stella when she arrived at a new school in Australia in her second language. 

 
With Zoe’s cred as Stella’s best friend in Australia established, Stella’s friends in Antwerp sat with Zoe and they did some art together.   

I think Zoe really enjoyed the experience. It will be a pretty big memory of the trip.

Afterwards, we had lunch and found a secret tunnel under the river. It was very long. 

    

Serendipity in Paris

I went looking for some sheet music of French folk music. I went to one of the biggest music shops in Paris, which was not much different to a big instrument shop in Sydney, except for the large selection of accordions available.

When I asked for some local folk music in sheet music form, they had no idea. So I asked if they had any books of music for traditional French instruments. “Well, we have the accordion…”

It turns out that this particular music shop produces the standard repertoire book(s) for the accordion, called Musette. It’s like the accordion version of The Real Book.

  

I also discovered that there is such a thing as a clarinet mute, which might make it more practical to practise late at night. They were out of stock, so I’ll have to find one online. 

Near this music shop was a chocolate shop with a chocolate saxophone in the window. 

  
Max and I were sitting in a nearby park thinking of random words, then combining them into something to look for in Paris. After searching for “dark green fountain” we discovered something called Wallace Fountains, donated as a gift to Paris, now used as a vital water source for the homeless. We found a dark green water fountain of our own too. 

  

There are beautiful gardens hidden down alleys. 

 

And weird Easter eggs hidden in driveways. 

 
And last but not least, an opportunity for the first ever taste of Escargot. 

   
   
He liked it!

  

Rome’s Zoo isn’t Nice

We visited Rome’s Zoo, Bioparco. It sounded like a good idea at the time, especially as the kids are not particularly interested in old buildings. 

It was hot. And humid. Not a good recipe for happy kids, or happy animals. 

Watching the animals made us think that it was more like a prison yard than a nice environment for the animals. We saw some miserable baboons fighting, and some brown bears fighting. We also saw the saddest and loneliest elephant ever. 

Makes us appreciate zoos like Taronga Zoo and Australia Zoo more. 

  

All Roads lead to Software

Rome is old. Most buildings look like they are about to fall down, yet they don’t. Every structure has been repaired a million times. Often a single building is mix of old and new; as the owners have extended them piecemeal over a long period of time as needed. It seems like chaos when you first see it. But it shows a very pragmatic approach to building and maintenance. If a building needs extending, it is extended only when needed. If something needs repairing, it gets repaired so that it is good enough – just. 

One of the effects of this “as needed” maintenance approach is that if it isn’t needed or used, then it’s not fixed and eventually goes away. This implies that everything that remains working, is used and needed. There are many things that seem to be designed specifically for ease of maintenance too. 

The roads are a good example. The narrow alleys and roads of Rome are cobbled stone. In many places they are not even concreted together. At first I dismissed it as a quaint hangover from centuries past. Then I saw some workmen doing some roadwork, fixing some pipes or something. They simply removed the stones, did the work, and replace the stones like lego bricks. This left the road looking like new. In Australia, our “modern” roads are very nice and smooth when they are new, but after a few years, the inevitable road work leaves them with large chunks cut out of them and poorly matching bitumen repairs.

 The lack of concrete between the cobbles provides somewhere for the water to go. There are no gutters on these old roads, so the road is the drain too. 

The cobbled roads look primitive, but have some sophistication about them. They are still around because they work as roads, and are easy to repair.

If software was a road, then many systems are like the modern roads we have in Australia. They are very pretty when they are first made, but as soon as any work needs to be done on them they become an ugly mess that doesn’t work too well. 

I think a Roman road is the model we should aspire to. It is built for change. It isn’t always obvious how to make software so that it can be changed later. Usually, it comes with experience. Often it is quicker to make software that doesn’t handle change as well. But with experience comes the necessary cynicism and the knowledge deep in the pit of your stomach that the requirements will change. They change because we don’t know enough about them when we start. Usually we have to guess the areas where change is likely. 

If we did know everything about it, then the program probably wouldn’t be worth writing anyway. You only need to write software if it doesn’t already exist to do the job you want. So by definition, engineers should always be doing stuff they have never done before. So we should plan for the unexpected. 

Los Angeles – Day 1

Los Angeles In brief:

  • It’s a very, very big city.
  • It’s not pedestrian friendly
  • The 800 degrees pizza restaurant is awesome
  • The supermarkets are about what you would expect. Lots of sugar, but very similar to Coles. No vegemite, no Weet-Bix.
  • Hot, but not oppressivly. 
  • Apartment that Shari organised is pretty good, one of the best places we’ve been in yet. Kids enjoyed the pool.
  • Visited the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). It was fun exploring with Max. The Girls enjoyed painting lots of pictures. 

   

   

Now I’m off to register for a conference! It’s the Human-Computer Interaction International 2015. I’m quite looking forward to it. 

Quiet in Anchorage

After the cruise, we were knackered. So quiet times are just what we needed. We checked out the Minions movie (meh), and Zoe did some ice skating. We caught up with some friends we meet on the cruise for dinner. 

Shari was asked for ID. She was pleased. 

   
USA beer tip: Ask for IPA. They usually don’t know what hops is, so asking for an IPA (Indian Pale Ale) does the job to find beers that I like.

 
The next day, we walked to a creek in the middle of town with a nice bit of Bush around it. There were even salmon swimming upstream. We all had fun skimming rocks. 

   
     

 It’s weird when 11pm looks like this.