Shell spent much of yesterday with her mum (while I worked on my research proposal – such fun!); they headed into the Rocks for lunch/afternoon tea, and wandered around the Rocks Markets.
We did all have a nice dinner together though, at Basil’s Seafood restaurant last night. Basil’s is incredibly close to home, yet we’ve never actually eaten there (well, Shell has with work, but I’ve never set foot inside). When we first moved up here to Sydney, we used to think it was a mafia hang-out, since there seemed so little activity and we never saw any evidence of people actually dining there. It turns out that it’s actually a very well known, highly regarded and award-winning seafood restaurant that’s been around for many years. Suffice to say, we had a lovely dinner togther, and the food and service were both excellent – a very enjoyable evening .
Back to the grindstone today, trying to nut out exactly what it is I’m going to do over the next 5 or 6 months for my research project …
Canberra again …
Hmm … wouldn’t it be nice if work travel could take me somewhere other than the excitement capital of Australia? Anyway, another early morning start yesterday, and a typically late flight leaving Sydney. Then the usual ten-thousand-round-about-hell-ride from the airport to ANU campus. There must be something in the Canberra water supply that makes taxi drivers actually speed up to go around those round-abouts.
An interesting meeting though, so it wasn’t a waste of effort . Presented my recent work on re-architecting the retrieval API for our Myriad platform to a bunch of software engineers in our Canberra lab. I’ve basically been borrowing lots of service-oriented ideas to produce a flexible, modular, declarative API for others to hook-in interesting retrieval technologies to our platform. Ended up having some interesting discussions around web services, WSDL, genericity, and declarative configuration of Myriad, and we’ve got a reasonable plan for progressing things from here.
Finished up early afternoon, and ended up getting wait-listed for an earlier flight back to Sydney. Got confirmation of seating on that plane, but then was a couple of minutes too late to the airport, so got bumped back a flight, and ended up spending 45 minutes or so in the thrilling confines of Canberra airport (not for the first time either …). Still, I did get home earlier than originally anticipated, which was good. Most of that was negated by a 1 hour+ trip back home from the airport through peak hour gridlock though .
Shell’s mum is up for a few days, but I get the feeling I’ll hardly see her, since I’m madly trying to finish off my research proposal and presentation before the next uni semester starts next week. So much for a break between semesters!!
Paddle: Brooklyn to Spencer Return
So Shell and I had our first paddle on the Hawkesbury River this morning. Got up reasonably early to join in a familiarization paddle organised by the Windsor Canoe club. They were a very friendly bunch of people, but it’s fair to say that we were amongst the most recreational of the kayakers there – there were a lot of very serious people with fancy, light-weight boats who seemed to think a 24km paddle was a nice warm-up before breakfast! Our Dagger Trinidad seemed rather wide and bulky compared to the racing lines of many other kayaks.
The paddle was from Brooklyn to Spencer and back, although we did actually turn around just before Spencer, making the total distance somewhere around 24-26km. Thankfully, the weather was fantastic – sunny and cool with very little wind. The trip was also organised to have the tide on our side for the return trip, which no doubt helped, although I can’t say I noticed too much assistance!
There were just under 50 boats taking part, and after crowded start, the boats stretched out, and we found our pace in the back third of the group. We were quite happy to make the 12-13km mark in around 75 minutes. The trip back was probably slightly slower, at around 80 minutes. To put that into perspective for us Cooinda folks, that equates to paddling from Banksia Peninsula to Wally’s farm on the Nicholson River in around 2 and a half hours. With canoes, gears and kids, that’s normally the best part of a whole day’s paddle!
We were very pleased (and tired) as we came off the water around just after 12pm. I’m sure my muscles will be reminding me of the paddle tomorrow!
Another excellent HAIL Seminar today, this time from Liesl Capper, founder and until recently CEO of Sydney based web-search company Mooter Search.
Liesl’s talk wandered across a lot of ground, from touching on definitions of both artificial and human intelligence, through to why personalisation is really important for web searching, and what traits are most useful to use when trying to determine reliable features with which to reason about personalising information.
Over lunch, we found out more about Liesl’s background and uncovered her great passion and enthusiasm for, well, just about everything! She’s already successfully started at least 3 businesses (including Mooter), and now that she’s no longer in a hands-on role at Mooter, is considering her options for starting her next business.
I’m hopeful that our paths may cross again in the future, as Liesl expressed interest in perhaps working in a few areas that are certainly on the radar at CSIRO. Similarly, I know that Liesl has a few contacts who would be very interested in our knowledge and expertise in information delivery (including one largish search company who shall for the moment remain nameless).
I think Liesl is one of those energetic people who could really inspire herself (and others) to great things. Even within the few hours she spent with us today, it was clear to me that she has something of a tireless energy about her and that she’s very positive and sure about achieving whatever goals she sets for herself. I’m quite sure that’s exactly the kind of drive that has helped Liesl to business success.
TV star for a day …
After an executive committee meeting for ALTA this morning, my day switched gear and ended up being completely taken up filming footage for a new Channel 10 science show called Scope. It’s being produced by the same crew who do Totally Wild, and I gather it’s a similar target audience (8-14 year olds). The producer, camera guy and audio guy were all really nice people, which certainly helped put me more at ease.
My job was to deliver 3 short 90 second segments on camera, explaining 3 different pieces of technology: mp3 players, mobile phones and the internet. Sounds simple huh? Should take maybe 30 minutes? Think again!! First of all, each of those 90 seconds is split into several different grabs, each of which must be recorded at least a couple of times to give the editors enough to play with (not to mention all the times I stuffed up my lines! ). Add into that the need to select and change scenes for each of those grabs, wait for planes etc to finish flying overhead to stop messing up the audio track etc. Not to mention changing my clothes three times (once for each segment), finding a suitable location for each of the segments, and doing some voice-over recording for other footage in each segment.
I’m quite sure when the show finally goes to air that I’ll die of embarassment, especially seeing as I was coerced into “surfing” the internet in board shorts and a hawaiian shirt!! Not sure I’ll live that down in a hurry! Still, it was a tiring and enjoyable day – a different experience that I don’t regret one bit. Not sure I’m quite ready to give up my day job just yet …
Back in January this year, we hired a 4wd (a brand new Mitsubishi Pajero) for a trip to Barrington Tops National Park. After a few days of awesome 4-wheel-driving and camping, we had to unfortunately return the Pajero to the hire car company, which happened to be on the eastern fringes of the Sydney CBD. After dropping the car off early on a Saturday morning, Shell and I wandered through sleepy Sydney up to the Rocks, and had a wonderful breaky and coffee. On a whim, we had a look at the Rocks Market which was just coming alive after we finished breakfast.
We happened to wander past a stall with a bunch of original paintings, one of which happened to catch our eye. On a complete whim, we ended up purchasing two of Ronnie’s paintings. Both are musically themed – one has a piano with sheet music, and the second has a cello and a saxophone – and are painted in rich earthy tones that match our colour scheme really well. Ronnie delivered them to us about a week later (in mid-January), and ever since, they have been propped against the wall in our lounge room, still wrapped in bubble-wrap. And now to the point of this trip down memory-lane: we have finally hung our pictures! This also means that I have now used our excellent Makita hammer-drill (along with one of our tungsten-carbide tipped drill bits) to drill into our lovely red lounge room wall in order to install the hooks for the paintings, but most importantly we *finally* have our two paintings hanging on our loungeroom wall, nicely lit up by halogen spot-lights. They look fantastic