Joining ThoughtWorks

Andrew Harcourt Mon 12 Oct 2015

As of this morning, I've officially started at ThoughtWorks. My business card will read "Principal Consultant" and I'll still be based in Brisbane.

Let's see what the future holds :)

Leaving Readify

Andrew Harcourt Mon 21 Sep 2015

After over five years with Readify I've decided it's time to move on. My last official day will be Friday the 2nd of October.

It's been an honour and a privilege to work with, lead and learn from so many amazing people over the past five years. There have been some great times, through gigs both good and bad, and there are many, many stories to tell. I've made some very firm friendships along the way and am all the richer for those.

I'd like to wish everyone all the very best, whatever you do and wherever you go.

Don't be strangers :)

The boring traveller

Andrew Harcourt Mon 12 Jan 2015

So... it would appear that I've landed in BKK and am in a hotel somewhere.

This one's a short trip (work, not play) and I'm going to be the most boring traveller known to humankind.

Thailand is renowned for its:

  • culture
  • food
  • beaches
  • night life

and while I'm here I'm going to:

  • arrive when it's dark, fly out when it's dark and work in between
  • not try any too-adventurous dishes as my flight back is pretty soon after I arrive and if I'm sick for a nine-hour flight it's not going to be pleasant. And I really need to be functional when I return.
  • not have any daylight hours to go exploring
  • sleep when it's dark.

What I am going to do is take every opportunity to fill up my phone with photos. Watch this space.

An air-conditioning to swimming pool heat exchanger should be a thing

Andrew Harcourt Thu 1 Jan 2015

This is Australia, the land of the salt-water pool and the Kreepy Krauly[1].

In summer, it gets hot, in case that's a surprise to anybody. People run air-conditioning (which is inefficient) and go swimming. The odd thing is that while it can get hot enough to be uncomfortable and warrant air-conditioning, that doesn't necessarily mean that the average suburban swimming pool will be warm enough to swim in.

I've been wondering for a while why there wasn't a way to hook a household air-conditioner's heat exchanger to a swimming pool. That would solve two problems in one go: 1) It would make the air-conditioner way more efficient as it has a greater temperature differential and specific heat to work with; and 2) it would heat the pool.

This should be a thing. There is a patent for this thing. There are products like this in other countries, yet I haven't found an Australian-based company that's even heard of the idea, let alone has a product.

Why is this not a thing here?

[1] Okay, so neither of those was invented here, but that's beside the point.

Farewell, 2014

Andrew Harcourt Wed 31 Dec 2014

All in all, I don't think I'm going to miss much about 2014. It's been a big year but there's been more treading of water than I'd have liked.

I'll do better in 2015.

I miss my photography

Andrew Harcourt Sun 23 Mar 2014

I don't take my camera out for fun enough at the moment.

There are a whole bunch of valid reasons, starting with the entrance of a small human into the world almost three years ago, a whole bunch of work on and lots of other contributing factors. That said, the end result is that I'm doing far too little of something that's very dear to me.

Training myself to observe the world around me and seek out the beautiful, the incongruous, the striking and all the other images waiting to be captured was the reason I was drawn to photography back in the early 2000s. It makes me both happy and sad to think that some of my favourite images are from so long ago - happy because it means I wasn't awful at it, even then, but sad because I know there are so many I'm missing out on.

I have many (many!) thousands of images of Laura and it's a poor day when I don't at least take a handful of her, but although she's the most important part of my world she's not the only part of it, and I want to start paying attention to those other parts again.

I'm committing to myself that I'm going to take at least one walk every week and go searching for the beauty in the world. It can be a short walk between clients or a stroll at lunch, but I'm going to take a walk with no other purpose than taking photos.

If you see that I haven't posted something in a few days, please prod me. And if you like what I do post, please let me know.

A simple approach to personal prioritisation

Andrew Harcourt Wed 19 Mar 2014

Prioritisation and to-do list strategies are a dime a dozen. Mine's simple: what's stressing me the most?

There are lots of other ways to prioritise, of course, but take a step back and think about what your overall goal is. Mine is to be happy. There are lots of contributors to being happy (friends, family, health, adventure, new experiences... the list goes on) but equally there are plenty of things whose absence contributes to happiness. Happily (Ha! See what I did there?), I live in a first-world country so my list of detractors doesn't include things like famine, war, pestilence or plague but there is one #firstworldproblem that bites far too frequently: stress.

I hate stress.

That's not to say that I'm bad at dealing with it, or that I hate it more than the next person. I think the difference is that I've accepted that dealing with stress needs to be a first-class component of my life. Rather than just "being stressed" I need to identify the causes of my stress and actively seek to minimise them.

I have a task list. So do you. You probably have several, as does everyone else you know. Everything on them is probably in various states of either procrastination or overwhelmedness (if that's a word). Mine's not much better. I get through stuff fast but - and this is the problem - the list never seems to get any shorter. Every time I cross an item off, another appears to take its place. That's life, I guess, and I just have to deal with that, but it means that more important than getting things done efficiently is getting the right things done at all.

My simple rules for prioritisation are these:

  1. Identify what's stressing me the most.
  2. Do that.
  3. Repeat. Probably unto death.

If I can choose between getting five supposedly "high-priority" tasks done or one high-stress task, I'll always choose the high-stress one. If something with an apparently-lower priority is causing me more stress than a "high-priority" task then it's likely that the prioritisation is externally-driven rather than internally. If it's stressing me, it wins.

Stress is an excellent intuitive aggregator of all sorts of other metrics. For instance, I could try to consider the cost of an activity (or not doing that activity), the benefit derived, the time it will take to complete the task, who's waiting on it, who I'm going to disappoint or delight... I'm a software engineer, so I guess I could write an algorithm to collect a bunch of metrics, mine a bunch of data and figure out what I should do next, but why would I do that when I have an internal algorithm that already does a better job of it?

Every time I'm confronted with a list entitled "To Do", I cross out the title and replace it with "What's stressing me the most?" By reducing the ordering to one simple metric, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly what I need to do next. And, when it's done, there's a palpable feeling of relief and I can face the next-most-stressful item a whole lot less stressed.

This is now a thing: How to derp at email.

Andrew Harcourt Wed 28 Aug 2013

I built How to Derp at Email the other day.

The motivation was provided by... people.

The inspiration was provided by You logical fallacy is, Should I reply to all? and, of course, Let me Google that for you.

The motivation was definitely people.

Happiness is a legitimate goal

Andrew Harcourt Wed 21 Aug 2013

It's okay to put "be happy" at the top of your to-do list. It's okay to set that as a goal. And it's okay to talk about how to achieve it.

This is a universal problem but I see it a lot more in adults than children, and usually more in males than females.

I teach, coach and mentor a lot of people and it astounds me that when I ask them if they're happy with how things are going, almost invariably they say no. When I ask if they'd like to feel happy, they look at me as if I'm a Martian. It's almost as if they think that they should just be happy, and that if they're not then there's something wrong with them rather than their situation.

It takes courage to accept that you're not happy and to try to change it, because what if you fail? Then you're both unhappy and a failure? Bollocks.

It's okay to do things just because they make us happy. It's okay to change things because the status quo is making us unhappy.

Being happy is a valid desire and a valid goal.

This is Readify

Andrew Harcourt Tue 13 Aug 2013

So this is Readify. I quite like working here.

This is Readify!

This is Laura's new favourite song.

Andrew Harcourt Sat 30 Mar 2013

Achievement unlocked: rode all the way home

Andrew Harcourt Sun 9 Sep 2012

Okay, so I still suck at cycling and all I wanted to do this afternoon was go for a leisurely ride to get to know my suburb's bikeways a little better. No thrashing myself; no competitiveness (yet); just a quiet Sunday-afternoon explore.

Nonetheless, this afternoon was the first time I managed to ride all the way up the final hill to home.

Never again will I be unable to do this.


Andrew Harcourt Wed 22 Aug 2012

The main reason for this post is that I scheduled time to write something and then, when I actually sat down to write, I couldn't think of where to start.

So... start with where my head is (not very interesting) and go from there?

The last few months have been a bit crazy and I'm pretty tired but I've had a couple of really productive days over the last week or so and I've almost (I say almost) caught up with my task list. Well, at least the ones that were glowing red...

Syndia and Laura are well. More photos of them soon.

I have a respectable handful of open-source work that I'll be publishing on my other blog before long now that I've removed some blockers.

Work is good. More on that soon, too.

More on everything soon, I guess. Meh.

On professional development

Andrew Harcourt Wed 18 Apr 2012

I don't want to comment much about this topic given where I am at the moment, except to say that professional development is very, very important. You should do some. Now. Off you go :)

Home again

Andrew Harcourt Fri 6 Apr 2012

So, I'm back from my gig in Caloundra. It's great to be home - as much as Caloundra's a nice place (it's a beach-side tourist town, after all) I've missed my family.

My hosting dream-team

Andrew Harcourt Sat 14 Jan 2012

It's the new year, and lots of people are following through with their new year's resolutions. A common theme amongst these seems to be getting our online presences (blogs, Twitter accounts, web sites etc) into some semblance of order

With that in mind, I thought I'd post my current hosting dream-team in the hope that it saves other people some pain. This list is for people like me (i.e. people who know about software) so your mileage may vary.

DNS registration - Crazy Domains

Funny name, but they're actually a pretty good registrar. Not only that, but because they're Australian, I can manage both my .com and .org domains, plus my and ones. All my domains in one place, with auto-renew. Done.

AVOID: GoDaddy. Their CEO shot an elephant for sport and they support SOPA, one of the worst pieces of legislation from one of the worst periods in the USA's political history.

Don't use the Crazy Domains nameservers, though - they're expensive and don't give you good enough control. Delegate them to:

DNS hosting - Point

A free and awesome DNS hosting provider. It's written largely for programmers and is a loss-leader for the codebase code hosting platform.

Delegate your domain(s) to Point's nameservers and you're winning.

Did I mention that it supports auto-configuration for Google Apps email hosting?

AVOID: ZoneEdit. They had some major, global outages last year and their support staff responded in an utterly abysmal fashion.

Email hosting - Google Apps

Once you're registered your domain and delegated it to some nameservers, you'll want to host email. Google Apps is the hands-down winner for this. It's free for up to 10 people, supports pretty much every feature you could want and then some (including Exchange emulation for iOS), and of course includes GMail's legendary spam filtering.

Source control - BitBucket

It's hosted Mercurial (Hg). If you don't know of it, you should.

Web hosting - AppHarbor

It's free for a single instance, scales to many (many!) instances with absolute ease, is fast, will build your code and run your tests before deploying (or will just deploy a precompiled web site if that's your preference) and, best of all, their support people are awesome.

AppHarbor will also pull code directly from BitBucket, so you don't even need your own build server any more. The integration between BitBucket and AppHarbor is really nice - BitBucket will notify AppHarbor when you've pushed a new version of your code, and AppHarbor will pull it, build it, test it and deploy it. From pushing code to BitBucket to having it deployed on AppHarbor takes around 30 seconds all up.

Blog commenting - DISQUS

See my blog post on DISQUS.

RSS - FeedBurner

Hook your blog's feed (blogs' feeds?) to FeedBurner so that you can move your actual blogs around without disrupting all your subscribers.

Publishing RSS (blogs etc) to Twitter and Facebook - is a new-ish service that will post your blog articles etc. to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a whole host of others. Be gentle on your followers :)

AVOID: TwitterFeed. Their polling is erratic and their support staff are slow to respond to queries (four days at present, and counting).

AVOID: FeedBurner. The posting controls are substandard. Let's hope Google fixes this soon, but then, the last thing I want is to allow Google to tweet and post on FB as me.

So, there you have it:

My hosting dream team.

Happy New Year!

Andrew Harcourt Sun 1 Jan 2012

Happy New Year, everyone.

2011 was a big year for me in a bunch of ways; some wonderful and some pretty crap.

I hope 2012 is a good year for you all. Make of it what you will.

Syndia and Laura

Andrew Harcourt Sat 31 Dec 2011

I like this one:

Syndia and Laura

New Beginnings

Andrew Harcourt Fri 30 Dec 2011

I'd been meaning to move to FunnelWeb for a very long time, now. I tried a couple of times and never quite got things working the way I wanted - either I had to customise too much database code to make it work with AppHarbor, I didn't like the theme and had to write too much custom code or it was just all too hard. To cut a long story short, I've given up on customising it and decided to hack together my own solution.

Code should look something like this:

public class Example
    public void Foo()

Images should be hosted locally, within the same directory as the post that owns them:

some alt text

It's likely that this will break my existing RSS feed, so apologies if you get duplicates. I'll see how I go with preserving post IDs but I'm not hopeful.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to have something decent up and running in a day or two. Watch this space :)

Hats off to AppHarbor

Andrew Harcourt Thu 29 Dec 2011

This is an example of communication and customer service done right. I just raised a support query with AppHarbor and they've responded with an initial response and then a follow-up response including a bug-fix pushed to production within three hours.

Not a bad effort :)

Some thoughts on the state of the journalistic union

Andrew Harcourt Sun 23 Oct 2011

I generally don't discuss politics on this blog because I'm not available to comment in real-time on current affairs, which tends to be required for a blogger to be relevant on a topic.

This post was sparked by Laurie Oakes's Andrew Ollie Media Lecture (transcript) in which he fired quite a few shots at quite a lot of people. Laurie's lecture centred on the impact that real-time news was having on "traditional" journalism, but thankfully with a non-alarmist viewpoint.

The gist of his lecture is that while audiences have shorter attention spans, this by itself doesn't (or at least shouldn't) spell the end of traditional journalistic values. He also made four key predictions; two of which I'll discuss here as I think that they're worthy of further discussion.

Prediction 3. Political journalists will be bypassed more and more.


Prediction 4. Bloggers will start to usurp the role of determining what is news.

Also yep. Read the article for the context.

I'll say that again: read the article. Please.

The response of many people to political commentary is TL;DR ("Too long; didn't read"). So... now that you're feeling ashamed of yourself, have you read the article yet? :)

The TL;DR response leads to the straw-man argument of, "If we don't give people a seven-second sound bite then they won't listen to the message at all." In other words, that politicians need to dumb politics down because people don't listen to intelligent, reasoned debate.

Bollocks. People don't listen to politicians droning on for more than about seven seconds because most of what they're saying is bullshit. Ouch? No, not really - they know it themselves. It takes people about seven seconds to decide whether someone's a) knowledgeable about their topic; and b) not putting their own spin on it. If either criterion is not met then of course people disengage - they know when they're being lied to and they're just not interested in giving it any more of their time. They'll Google the issue instead. Anyone remember Joolya's awful "Moaving Foawud" speech?

Laurie makes the point that Australians do, by and large, want to understand the issues and have their voice heard. I suspect that he's giving the average bogan a bit too much credit on the former point - anyone who shouts "My team won!" after an election should stick to football, IMO, but that's another issue. Nonetheless, there are enough people who do want to understand the issues and their desire for insight and analysis simply isn't being fulfilled by old media.

So, again:

Prediction 4. Bloggers will start to usurp the role of determining what is news.

Absolutely. And that's because the traditional news media suck at it.

For example: the ABC News recently reported that the United States would be withdrawing all of its troops from Iraq, "despite a request for 5000 troops to remain in the country." This sounds like Barack Obama (belatedly) honouring one of his election promises. Hooray! What the ABC didn't state, however, was that the reason that the USA is pulling its troops ahead of schedule is that the Iraqi government has refused to grant US soldiers continuing immunity from prosecution. In other words, if they're going to shoot innocent people, torture "suspected" terrorists (or anyone, for that matter) or shoot from helicopter gunships at unarmed civilians and journalists - and laugh about it - then they're going to have to answer for their actions in court. That's hardly an unreasonable request from a sovereign government, is it? The ABC didn't even bother to mention the fact that these two decisions were related in any way. Dumbing down the news? You tell me.

So why would someone who's even moderately well-informed use old media to acquire news when they know it's not only slow (23 hours old? That's not news!), but also not telling the whole story and not providing any insightful commentary? Seriously? By the time the ABC News rolls around at whenever it's on, it's been out on Twitter all day, all over the blogosphere, bloggers have commented on it (obviously with their own biases), have been rebutted by other bloggers and commentators  (key point here), have engaged in debate and clarified any misunderstandings - and all of this before some talking head gets given a script on an autocue that was based on the very first reading of the tweet anyway.

So how do old media stay relevant? Well, by not being old media, for one - but equally, not trying to be the new media. There's a place for bloggers and tweeters, and some of them are excellent commentators and are very insightful. There's a very strong market for insightful, informed political commentary and this is where the "old" media need to step up to the plate.

  1. Provide the analysis and the insight that you claim the blogosphere doesn't have.

  2. Engage with people (i.e. your audience) directly. Allow them to post comments on your articles, and respond with the dignity, maturity and insight that you claim that the blogosphere lacks.

  3. Maintain your professional reputation as if your life and livelihood depend on it - because they do, and if you haven't realised that already then you really do suck at your job and you should quit. A journalist's integrity must be their paramount concern, and the reason that people hold old media in so much contempt is simply that they don't believe that there is any integrity any more. Who trusts Rupert? Or James Packer? And why on earth should they, given all the evidence to the contrary?

One last comment:

But we DON'T need to convey the impression that everyone involved in politics is deceptive, venal or useless.

Because, apart from anything else, it's not true.

I'd add to that: journalists may want to portray everyone in politics as deceptive, venal or useless, but the rest of the public sees journalists in exactly the same light.

This isn't a dig at Laurie or a few other notable exceptions, but to the wider profession: Pot? Kettle?

I honestly do worry about what's going to happen once the likes of Laurie Oakes and George Negus retire. We need political journalists who ask the hard questions, but I don't think we as a nation are going to realise just what we stand to lose once they're gone until they are gone - by which time it'll be too late for them to train a new generation of journalists in the honourable version of their craft.

Adventures with Virtual Private Servers

Andrew Harcourt Sun 28 Aug 2011

This all started because I've been meaning to move to the FunnelWeb blog engine for quite a while. It's awesome; I want it; it's open-source so I can customise it; and besides, Paul Stovell is a legend.

This means, however, that I need to move away from Google's blog hosting. Again, not a problem - I've been meaning to do that for quite some time but with a newborn in the house it's unsurprisingly been a little low on the priority list.

This weekend I've been sick. Nasty, nasty flu, which meant several things: I've been unable to leave the house; I've been unable to focus enough to code; and I can't go near my wife or baby daughter in case they catch the nasty thing.

Anyway, I've been meaning to write up a bunch of stuff about iPhone development using C#/MonoTouch and this seemed like a good time to do it.

Oh. Except that I want to post lots of code samples. And that's painful, even using Gists. So... off I went in search of a hosting provider that would let me move to FunnelWeb.

Decisions, decisions... Do I shell out for yet another web hosting account (there are several kicking around already)? Do I try to consolidate them all into one hosting account with multiple domains? What about a virtual private server?

Hmm... actually, that sounded like quite a nice idea. I hate (as in, would like to attach blowtorch to reproductive organs of designers of) web-based hosting control panels. I'd much rather set up IIS myself, thanks very much. So off I went in search of a VPS provider.


The jury's still out on this one.

The provisioning process took about as long as a web page refresh (literally) and I'd logged into my server under thirty seconds later. Wow.

Their web site promises "This system gives you the same level of root access as a dedicated server whilst sharing the cost of the physical hardware". Well, it mostly does, except that OzHosting disables Windows Update entirely, so I'm not quite a full administrator. Less wow.

Oh, and the .NET 4.0 framework uses .MSU (Microsoft Update) packages to install, which means it won't install. Much less wow.

I've lodged a support ticket but they're only open during business hours, which doesn't bode well - what happens if there's an outage over a weekend?

To be fair, I haven't yet communicated with a human so I don't know what the quality of their support is. I'll find out tomorrow, I guess.

VPSLAND (No link)

Don't go there. Just don't.

Live chat was helpful before sign-up. I asked specifically about Windows Update constraints as I'd already run into the OzHosting problem and apparently it's a common issue with Virtuozzo-based VPSes.

Provisioning took about 12 hours from signing up. Not too bad, but a little slow for an entirely automated process.

Live chat was broken after sign-up. Coincidence? Who knows? Or cares? It was broken.

I asked one simple question of their support people (via a ticket as live chat didn't work): "Which SMTP server should I use as an outbound relay?" Let's just say that the responses (back and forth, many times) were completely hopeless. I kept getting copy/paste responses from some muppet named Jordan who obviously didn't understand what I was asking and kept telling me about spammers and open relays.

Oh, and then they logged me off my own server so that they could start installing an SMTP relay on it for me. They did it without asking, without informing me that they were going to do so, without updating my support ticket - and they did it repeatedly even when I logged back on and kicked their support minion back off. Grr! Angry smile

It should be needless to say I've cancelled that account already.


So... Does anyone have any good experiences with virtual private server providers?

What I really want is simple:

  • Hosting for a respectable number of domains that I can commission/decommission at will;
  • ASP.NET 4.0;
  • SQL 2008 databases;
  • Support people (people! not droids!) who aren't idiots and don't treat me like an idiot.

I hate to say it but, right now, GoDaddy's unlimited-domain web-hosting package is actually winning as they provide all but the last. That's a sad state for the universe to be in Sad smile

Consulting versus parenting

Andrew Harcourt Sat 2 Jul 2011

Syndia and I have spent the past week welcoming our new daughter into the world. I couldn't help but draw a few parallels between looking after a baby and consulting clients.

  1. Neither can articulate what they want.
  2. Neither understands the consequences of their actions.
  3. Both require me to be up at all hours of the day and night to fix problems.
  4. Both will spit the dummy at random intervals.

I think the most telling point, however, is this: a baby will make a mess and then lie in it, screaming, until someone comes and cleans it up. Hmm... Winking smile


P.S. I've actually had some great clients who listened, learnt and in turn taught me - but mentioning those would completely ruin the fun in this post Smile

Nursery Preparations

Andrew Harcourt Sun 29 May 2011

Well, in case the news hasn't made it properly around yet, Syndia and I are expecting a daughter towards the end of June. We've also had renovations going on since August last year and, as you can imagine, that's made life just a tiny bit hectic more than usual. The renovations are now almost completely done (the foundations are safe and the asbestos dungeon is no more Smile) and we're finally in a position where we can start prepping the nursery.

On a tangent for a second: it's common knowledge that adding the word "wedding" to anything's description sends the price up by an order of magnitude, but wedding service providers ain't got nuthin' on baby stores. I fully expected that things would be expensive; what I didn't expect was that I'd be able to buy a small car for the price of some of the strollers around. Wow. Anyway, enough of that minor freak-out for now - I'm sure I'll have plenty of other opportunities...

A huge thanks to Fadge and Claire for dropping around today and helping with moving furniture, papers, books and other bits and pieces back downstairs, taking old and broken stuff to the dump and helping to pick up the cot and mattress. Thanks also to Tony for helping to move yet more furniture around last week. I really appreciate all the help, and tea and cakes aren't nearly enough to say thank you.

Footwear and Fashions in #thebigwet #qldfloods

Andrew Harcourt Thu 13 Jan 2011

Even in the face of utter calamity, Queenslanders and Australians in general tend to try to see the lighter side of things. In true Queensland style, people are combining traditional summer wear with the minimal concession to the rising waters.

Skimpy top, short denim shorts - and gumboots.

Skimpy top, short denim shorts - and gumboots.

Feet with no shoes... ... and shoes with no feet.

Feet with no shoes...
... and shoes with no feet.

Helmet, dress, belt, jeans and gumboots.

Helmet, dress, belt, jeans and gumboots.

The water isn't falling from the sky any more...

The water isn't falling from the sky any more...

Bus driver taking photos? Well, if your bus can't get out of the tunnels, why not?

Bus driver taking photos? Well, if your bus can't get out of the tunnels, why not?

Crossing the low-level waters at South Bank.

Crossing the low-level waters at South Bank. Lots of people going barefoot and carrying their shoes. People of Brisbane: shoes are designed to protect your feet, not to be protected by your feet :|

... and, saving the best for last: trousers and sneakers. Oh, dear.

... and, saving the best for last: trousers and sneakers. Oh, dear.

Photos from the Big Wet #thebigwet #qldfloods

Andrew Harcourt Wed 12 Jan 2011

Wow. What more can I say? This event is possibly Australia's largest ever natural disaster, and a great tragedy for all those who've been affected.

I went for a walk around Brisbane this morning - before the flood waters peaked - and these are some of the things I saw.



The steam tug, Forceful, is riding so high in the water that she wouldn't be able to fit under the Goodwill Bridge.

Walk/Cycle Path at South Bank

Walk/Cycle Path at South Bank

A slightly non-standard usage of one of the benches along the river walk.

Beach at South Bank

Beach at South Bank

This was taken at just after 10am this morning. I hear that it's entirely under water now.



Nope. Just rubbish bins.

The "I Can't Believe it's not the Brisbane Eye" Wheel of Brisbane

The "I Can't Believe it's not the Brisbane Eye" Wheel of Brisbane

This was once a water feature - and, to be honest, I liked it better that way. I think we've combined the worst of both worlds here, though.

North Quay Piers

North Quay Piers

Umm... Is that a pier floating past the piers?

South Bank from Victoria Bridge

South Bank from Victoria Bridge

Riverside Expressway

Riverside Expressway

Brisbane CBD

Brisbane CBD

South Brisbane

South Brisbane

South Bank

South Bank

This beautiful water feature is actually a stairwell leading to the under-ground car park at South Bank.



Read the signage closely. It's advertising our new storm-water harvesting facility.

Syndia's birthday - Australia Zoo

Andrew Harcourt Tue 5 Oct 2010

So today was the semi-official celebration for Syndia's birthday. Her actual birthday was in August but she was away at a conference, so we celebrated it piecemeal. Today was the Australia Zoo component, in which we went for a walk with a cheetah, Foxtrot (don't laugh - his brother's name's Echo) and met and fed two echidnas, Spiky and Dane. The cheetah walk was fascinating - I'd done my homework and still learnt quite a bit about cheetahs. Their fur is much softer than I'd expected, too, and the black spots have different-textured fur to the rest.

I'd been going to write, "Echidnas are spiky and eat goo," but that's completely unfair to them. They're very, very cute little creatures. The food we fed them was a mixture of mince, raw eggs and insects, and they loved it enough to hang around a pair of strange humans for a little while after they'd eaten it all.

In a complete case of small-world syndrome, I ran into someone I'd met years ago and to whom I'd been introduced by a mutual friend (Hi, CK!). Ben's one of the official photographers at Australia Zoo and he's responsible for that gorgeous shot of Dane the Echidna and Syndia the Human through the hollow log.

Syndia, of course, spent the entire day going gaga over all creatures, great and small - which was, after all, the entire point of the exercise. Mission accomplished?

Boarding the Good Ship Readify

Andrew Harcourt Mon 30 Aug 2010

So, today's my first day at Readify.

I've been looking forward to this for quite a while, and can't wait to be thrown in at the deep end. Hopefully I'll swim :)

I've had a remarkably relaxing holiday for the past two weeks - I've only organised my tax affairs, moved almost the entire contents of downstairs to upstairs, prepared for the demolition of downstairs (starting tomorrow) and a bunch of other small bits and pieces. That's relaxing, isn't it?

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Andrew Harcourt Thu 12 Aug 2010

(An open letter of thanks and farewell to everyone at Zap Technology.)

Hi everyone,

It feels for me almost like the end of an era. Today is my last day at Zap after over three and a half years, and those years have been memorable indeed.

Leaving a company is always hard, but leaving a company where one likes and respects the people as much as I do here it's much more so. The decision to leave was not an easy one for me to make but I'm confident that it's the right decision for me at this point in my career and my life. I am, however, going to miss the company and its people a great deal.

When I joined the company we were tiny, with a development team comprising five other people: Todd, Chris, Matt, Mark and Annie, and one solitary person, Uma, in what is now QE. Fast-forward to today and the company has grown hugely, the development team now numbers around twenty people, and... well, we still don't have enough people in QE - but we're working on that. The offices were pre-renovation, the toilets were mere dungeons downstairs, there was an old wool-bale conveyor belt where the front stairs now are, the kitchen was outside, the front door didn't work and the roof leaked. The offices are now light, bright and airy, there're a café and art gallery where the old conveyor belt was, there's a new kitchen and... umm... the front door still doesn't work and the roof still leaks Smile

In all seriousness, Zap is a company largely full of extremely intelligent and capable people and it's been a privilege to have worked with you all, to have taught and mentored some of you and to have been taught and/or mentored by some of you. I've greatly enjoyed my time here and will look back on it with very fond memories.

If you'd like to keep in touch, please feel free to tweet at me at @uglybugger, follow my blogs at (personal) and (coding) or even just email me at andrewh AT uglybugger DOT org. I'd be very happy to hear from you all.

Over the next twelve to eighteen months I expect that we'll see Zap go from strength to strength, especially with the products that we now have in our stable and the people we have to sell, support and continue to develop them. I'm looking forward to seeing what you all create, and would like to wish you all the very best in doing so. I'm sure our paths will cross again in the future.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.


Andrew Harcourt
Lead Developer


Andrew Harcourt Wed 28 Apr 2010

Okay, so we all know that Facebook's terms of service grant it a licence to use our photos for its own profit, blah, blah, blah...

It would be nice, however, if Facebook actually displayed who owned the photos rather than who tagged them. A friend just did me a favour by tagging some photos at a recent event, and Facebook's decided to display them as her photos.

Cranky? Absolutely.

Guys, if you can't even get photo ownership correct, maybe you should rethink your more-adventurous goals. Quit with your PHP "compiler" already.

Oh, and fix your bug reporting tools. It took me ten minutes just to work out how to report a bug.


Andrew Harcourt Sat 10 Apr 2010

For quite a while now, I've been trying to get a decent photo of our favourite sulphur-crested cockatoo.

It (I don't even know if it's male or female) has a fairly set routine - every morning shortly after sunrise, and every afternoon at about an hour before sunset, it will land on our front balcony for a drink. It lands on the railing, squawks to say hello, hops down onto the water tray, drinks for a while, squawks again to say thanks, then flies away.

You'd think that, with a routine like that, I'd be able to plan a decent shot. The problem is that I can't just sit out on the balcony and wait, and if I were to go charging out there with a camera after it had arrived, I'd scare it off again.

First Attempt


My first attempt happened slightly earlier in the afternoon than usual. The cockatoo landed on the Foxtel cable (as I refuse to get Foxtel, a landing pad for birds and possums is as good a use as is going to be made of it…) and literally hung around for a while.

Unfortunately the shadows from the house were such that I couldn't get a non-shadowed shot without using a flash, which, as I want this bird to come back, is probably not such a good move.


I had no warning when the cockatoo decided to leave, so this snapshot was the best I could do. It could have been great, but I completely botched the framing.

Second Attempt

My second attempt was a week or so later and was a pretty dismal failure, to be honest. I completely failed to sneak out onto the balcony, so there’s a whacking great railing in the road.


I was also still experimenting with different shutter speeds, and I'd thought that perhaps 1/1250th of a second might be fast enough. No such luck - the shot here isn't too bad (except for the railing) but the second one I took had far too much blurriness around the wing feathers.

Third Attempt

I think I’m finally starting to get somewhere. I still refuse to go to the extent of setting up a hunting blind on our own balcony – how ridiculous would that look? – but I’m able to move around a bit more now without spooking the cockatoo.


And finally, two shots that I'm actually almost happy with. I just need to be that tiny bit more smooth when it launches off the balcony again - I messed up the framing in the first shot below, and had to use too much zoom in the second. Argh!

Cockatoo Cockatoo

One day...

Hooray! iiNet wins first round against AFACT

Andrew Harcourt Thu 4 Feb 2010

Excellent news: iiNet has just won the first round of its battle with the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) over AFACT's claims that iiNet authorised illegal file sharing by failing to prevent it.

It was an utterly ridiculous argument - one which some have likened to blaming the postman for delivering photocopied sheet music or, to pick a rather more ironic example, having gone to HMV and legitimately purchased a copy of Men at Work's "Land Down Under" which has itself just been ruled as infringing copyright. Oops - you've been retrospectively made guilty of obtaining a work that's illegally derivative of another (copyrighted) work - and HMV should be held liable, right?

Effectively, what the AFACT was attempting to do was to have ISPs police their users to prevent them from doing anything illegal. In reality, it would simply provide the recording and music industry lawyers with larger, easier-to-sue targets by making the ISPs liable rather than the people who broke the law. In practice, what this would mean is that ISPs - which have neither the time, resources nor mandate to try and convict people for copyright infringement - would simply end up suspending or terminating accounts of anyone even accused of copyright infringement.

I'm not arguing that copyright infringement is a good thing. That's for another discussion about the value that copyright law provides to society (which definitely needs to be argued given some of the ridiculous cases we're seeing). I am arguing that if someone wants to claim copyright infringement then the onus should be fairly and squarely on the copyright holder to prove it in court.

Seem too far-fetched for you that someone would get kicked off the internet based on accusations, not proof? You must have had your head buried in the sand - there's a supposedly secret treaty being negotiated right now that will ensure precisely that, and its provisions (three unsupported accusations, not three convictions) have already been enshrined in legislation in several countries.

Hats off to iiNet for taking a stand - and shame on AFACT for trying it on in the first place.

For once, this is a sensible (and correct) ruling on copyright infringement liability. Let's hope that the appeal process doesn't cock it up.

Anyone want a free screensaver?

Andrew Harcourt Wed 3 Feb 2010

I'll admit it might have been a slight over-reaction, but on Friday evening I got fed up with the fact that none of the screensavers I'd looked at did what I wanted.

I have lots of photos. All I wanted was a screensaver that could display those photos in some sort of sensible order. The two front-running screensavers that I'd really investigated previously were the Google Photos Screensaver and the Windows Live Photo Gallery Screensaver, and neither did what I wanted.

The Google one displays one completely random image (from amongst tens of thousands) after another, which provides no useful context. This is irritating.

The Windows Live one, on the other hand, displays images sequentially, which is nice, but starts from the beginning every single time. This is stupid. Oh, and it doesn't have multiple-monitor support, either.

The solution? Fire up Visual Studio and write one. Later that evening I had a working prototype, and I've finally gotten around to cleaning it up a little.

If you'd like to try it out, fetch it from

Google to cease censoring search results for China

Andrew Harcourt Wed 13 Jan 2010

I think it's appropriate to suggest that today is a momentous day in the history of ethics and technology: Google has announced that it will cease censoring search results on the China-based version of its search engine,

This laudable action is in response to the continued restriction of speech and expression and violation of human rights in China. Google is also royally cranky with the Chinese government for its state-sponsored cyber attacks on Google's infrastructure, and has gone public with its accusations (and proof thereof).

If talks with the Chinese government break down and Google is unable to find a way to provide uncensored search results that satisfies Chinese law, it plans to pull entirely, and is even threatening to close down its offices in Shanghai and send its expatriates home. There's no mention of what'll happen to its Chinese employees, but presumably they'll be shot by their government before long anyway :p

Given that a company the size of Google wouldn't make a move like this unless there was a very, very good reason, it suggests that Google expects the Chinese authorities to continue with their under-handed activities - and reading between the lines, this suggests that it expects to lose at least nearly the amount of revenue as a result of said activities than it stands to gain by remaining in the market.

In other words, Google is the first corporate giant to publicly (if implicitly) declare that it can't do business with China.

Make no bones about it: this decision will hurt Google's bottom line in the short-to-medium term. There'll be rousing cheers across most of the civilized world, but its revenue will drop, and worse, its potential revenue will drop to zero if it leaves the Chinese market altogether.

This decision is a brave one and should be applauded.

Hats off to Brisbane Motorcycles

Andrew Harcourt Wed 13 Jan 2010

In this day and age, it's almost an anachronism to use the phrase, "In this day and age," but... in this day and age, good customer service really isn't the norm. It was a very pleasant surprise, then, to see such a good example of it this afternoon.

I got a flat battery on my bike two days before Christmas. Having replaced the battery, which was toast, and refused to hold a charge, I discovered that the new one wasn't being charged by the bike. (This probably explains why the old battery was toast - lead-acid batteries don't like being left discharged for any length of time.)

I dropped the bike in to Brisbane Motorcycles, where they said that they'd have a look it on either Monday or Tuesday of this week, and give me a call either on Tuesday or Wednesday to let me know how long it'd take and what it was likely to cost.

Them: By the way, when did you buy the bike?
Me: August 2008.
Them: New?
Me: Yep.
Them: Oh, okay. It'll still be under warranty, then. We'll sort it out for you.
Me: But I didn't even buy it from you - you'd sold out of them.
Them: That's okay - we're a Honda dealer, so we'll just bill them for you :)
Me: WTF? Cool! Thank you!

The kicker is that they didn't phone me on Tuesday or Wednesday to tell me when it'd be done. They phoned me on Wednesday to tell me that it was done, and that I could pick it up whenever I wanted.


Syndia's Quote of the Day

Andrew Harcourt Sun 10 Jan 2010

"What other part of a car would you think acceptable to put in a dishwasher?!"

Syndia was recently given a book on how to clean a house in 15 minutes per day. No, I didn't give it to her.

The book suggests that, if one is going to put the rocker cover of an engine into the dishwasher, then one should clean the dishwasher immediately afterwards.


Syndia's Quote of the Day

Andrew Harcourt Sun 15 Nov 2009

Syndia: What's that game?
Andrew: Which game?
Syndia: That one, you know, umm, where your partner has to guess the
word but, umm, but you can't say it and you have to describe it and
Andrew: Articulate.
Syndia: Oh.

A fair trade for iPhone: Google Voice in exchange for for Google Maps Navigation?

Andrew Harcourt Thu 29 Oct 2009

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll have heard about Google's stoush with Apple over the latter's blocking Google Voice from the App Store.

Google announced yesterday the beta release of Google Maps Navigation, which is a turn-by-turn navigation application in the vein of TomTom and CoPilot. It's free, it's awesome, and it's only for the Android 2.0 platform.

Yep, that's right, it's only being released (at this stage, at least) for Android.

Make no mistake about it, this is a killer application for the Android platform, and will be a key differentiator between Android and iPhone. Garmin's and TomTom's share prices have already taken a hit based on this news, and a reasonable person could expect them to fall further once the app is fully released.

It should go without saying that Apple would dearly like to have Google Maps Navigation available on the iPhone platform and, given that Google's a smart company full of smart people, it'd be silly to assume anything other than that they already have a small team of developers working on their iPhone port.

A smart move on Google's part would be to offer a trade to Apple: We'll port Google Maps Navigation to the iPhone provided that you also allow us to run all of our apps natively, specifically including Google Voice.

A smart move on Apple's part would be to start attempting to mend fences. Immediately.

YAMHIAL (Yet Another Must-have iPhone Apps List)

Andrew Harcourt Thu 22 Oct 2009

Okay, so I've finally gotten around to buying my iPhone. Following a recommendation from a friend, I bought Tweetie from the app store and proceeded to tweet one simple question: "Okay, so I have Tweetie 2, Dropbox, Facebook, Google (Google Apps Sync rocks now that it has Exchange emulation and push email!) and Remote on my #iPhone. What other apps do I want?"


After digging myself out from under the deluge of tweets and Facebook comments in reply, I've distilled them down to a collection of apps that every iPhone should have.


The best Twitter client, bar none.


The official app. It's actually half decent, especially considering the quality of the code that Facebook developers usually seem to produce. This app's by Joe Hewitt, though (of Firebug fame, amongst other things) and I'm not going to do him the discourtesy of lumping him in with the rest of them. (Sorry Facebook guys, but the hiring quizzes on your web site only make you look cool if you actually produce good code. Stop breaking WebKit and Opera support!)

Beejive IM

The best instant messaging client. It does all the usual protocols (Yahoo, AIM, Live Messenger, ICQ etc.) plus Facebook. The latest version even supports push notifications, so you can receive messages even when you're not running the app.


For anyone who hasn't signed up for Dropbox yet, see my "Live Mesh, I'm breaking up with you" post from a while back or just sign up here using my referrer link. Dropbox is brilliant. It uses Amazon's S3 cloud to store all your stuff (up to 100Gb of it on their standards plans), and the iPhone app provides access to all of it on demand.


Umm... Maps, Latitude, Tasks, Calendar, Mail... what more needs be said?


One of the most gorgeous e-book readers you'll ever come across. Remember, I've just come from Mobipocket on Windows Mobile, and there's simply no comparison.


Urbanspoon will find you food. It defaults to your current location and will find you a random food outlet nearby. Shake it and it'll find you another. You can choose to specify price range, type of food and/or location, and let it auto-pick the rest. Read the review(s) it provides of the place it's suggested, and off you go.


Everyone knows what this one does. Just go download it.


Remote will allow you to control your laptop's iTunes instance from your phone over your local WiFi network. Not only that, but if you have a bunch of friends over and put it into DJ mode, your friends can request tracks from your music library and vote on their order in the playlist.


Possibly the simplest app ever. For all those people who've joined the "I Use my Cell Phone to See in the Dark" Facebook group, this one's for you.

Things to do in...

Andrew Harcourt Mon 19 Oct 2009

Will the fun with Google's search suggestions ever cease? A friend and co-worker is off to Adelaide this week. But... does Adelaide really have two million things to do?

Things to do in...

The worst part of this is that Brisbane comes in fourth (in Australia), behind Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin. Sydney and Melbourne, fair enough, but Darwin? Darwin? What's there to do in Darwin?!


I watched all these developer videos about Android, and then bought… an iPhone!

Andrew Harcourt Thu 15 Oct 2009

That's right, an iPhone. I spent quite a while watching a whole bunch of developer videos for Android, and yet I've just gone and ordered an iPhone 3GS. Already I've been both praised and condemned; both enough that you'd think it was a conversion to a contentious religion rather than the purchasing of a personal communications device.

But why an iPhone? Why not an Android one? As a professional software developer, why did I choose the closed platform over the open one? And why did I choose the monolithic, control-freak manufacturer rather than the open, standards-based (and standards-driving), developer-friendly one?

It's a fair question - but it has a simple answer: I want a gorgeous piece of technology that I will actually enjoy using. Not just one that I'll find usable or even useful, but one that I'll actually enjoy picking up and playing with.

Given the number of questions I've already fielded about this purchase, I'm going to plagiarise shamelessly from a couple of Facebook comments and emails that I've written over the past couple of days.

I think the Android platform is fascinating. The guys at Google have done a stellar job, and the OS appears to be superior in most ways to that of the iPhone. Think background tasks, serialization of processes in OOM conditions, excellent hardware abstraction, power management and a whole bunch more. As a developer, I think it's awesome and I admire the results immensely. As a user, however, I want something that a) just works; and b) is beautiful.

Perhaps my perspective has been coloured a little by having had - and having coded for - Windows Mobile devices since 2001. ("When I were a lad, we used to walk five miles to school each day, and Windows Mobile were called Pocket PC...") That's a very long time in this industry, and the one thing that really sticks in my mind is this: the interface is just as awful now as it was then. So, I wanted my next device to be a joy to use, not just a tool that I frequently wanted to hurl at the wall or into the swimming pool.

Is this a long-term declaration of allegiance to Apple? Not at all. Longer term, I'm guessing that Android devices are going to make huge inroads into Apple's market share, especially with the adoption the platform's seeing at the moment and how open it is in comparison. Right now, however, the phone with the best user experience is still, in my opinion, the iPhone 3GS. The build quality's better than anything I've seen from HTC, whose build quality is, in turn, better than anything I've seen from other manufacturers. Apple's "You will do UI our way," approach has done good things for them in the short term, although, again, I think it's going to hurt them in the long term.

Android's running a close second, and I think it'll close the gap and perhaps even take the lead - UI-wise, if not according to market share - sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, but it's not there yet.

Windows Mobile is a distant, distant third. The way WM's going, WM7 might just be able to compete with the original iPhone. Maybe. I think Microsoft's well and truly dropped the ball in the mobile device market, and they know it. They might be able to catch (or crush) a much weaker competitor, but neither Apple nor Google's likely to fall into that category any time soon. If there's any salvation for them, expect it to come from the Zune platform, not Windows Mobile.

Just for completeness' sake: Symbian? Not even worth adding to Windows Live Writer's dictionary. Blackberry? Blame Canada! (Then snigger.)

But seriously: why an iPhone? Surely it can't just be a beautiful UI, can it? Well, actually, it can. That, and the fact that the iPod interface is standard for connecting to everything: cars, gym equipment, sound systems - all of them talk to iPods, whose interface has been used for the iPhone as well. Right now, these are the killer applications for a mobile device.

I'm going to go on record predicting that in a year's time, however, the killer apps for mobile will be:

  1. Google Voice. Enough said.
  2. Google Wave. This will be disruptive technology.
  3. Browser performance. Google's going to thrash Apple on this with V8 or similar. Both iPhone and Android use WebKit-based browsers, but JavaScript performance is going to be the key differentiator here.
  4. Power management. Again, Google's going to cruise home on this one.
  5. Open platform. Once again, Apple's going to shoot itself in the foot by attempting to enforce a closed platform, and that's going to push a lot of good developers towards Android. They've all been spending their time on iPhone apps for the last year, but once they've done the same for Android I'll probably jump ship - or just join them and write my own.

Right now, though, I'm going to look forward to having my shiny new present arrive early next week. Windows Mobile? You're fired.

Something positive for the week

Andrew Harcourt Fri 9 Oct 2009

I titled this post before I'd decided what to actually write as a way of making myself think of something good to say. Here goes.

Brother Dave's birthday dinner went well.

We've shipped our alpha. That means that it's feature-complete, but still with known bugs. This is a Good Thing™ as it means that we're nearly on the home stretch. No release date details - they're not yet public - but we're looking good.

I'm learning about the Google Web Toolkit and it's awesome, as is the Google App Engine.

I've fired a couple of service providers, and that felt... well, not particularly good, but it crossed some tasks off my list.

I'm posting this from my phone. It's good to have mobile blogging working again.

I'm going to get a massage tomorrow. I think that one's the deciding factor: this will have been a good week.


Anyone want a trailer?

Andrew Harcourt Sun 4 Oct 2009

I have a 7' x 4.5' trailer up for grabs. It's not currently road-worthy and needs a little work, but can be made perfectly serviceable with relatively minimal effort. It's green, has a spare tyre and is currently taking up space that I'd rather use for other things. I don't want cash or any other consideration; I'd just rather give it to a friend than pay someone to take it away.

If anyone wants it, please let me know via email by COB Wednesday AEST.

If nobody asks for it, I'll pay someone to take it away. If one person asks for it, it's theirs. If more than one person asks for it, we'll whip out a random number generator and let it decide.

You'll need to be able to collect it from here (if you know where "here" is). It should be safely towable with only minimal work, but it's not road-registered. Your call :)

Hooray! Holidays!

Andrew Harcourt Sat 6 Jun 2009

Hooray! Syndia and I have, for once, managed to organise holidays at the same time.

We've decided to head to Sydney but, as I detest airports even more than usual at the moment, we're going to take a road trip there instead. It's been ages since we've done a proper road trip, and we're both looking forward to this one.

The plan is to head from Brisbane to Armidale, then to a little resort at a beach a couple of hours north of Sydney, then finally to Sydney for a couple of days and back again. Hopefully we'll even get some nice photos along the way :)

I'm on holidays!

Andrew Harcourt Sat 6 Jun 2009


Laugh of the Day

Andrew Harcourt Wed 22 Apr 2009

I'm re-reading Microserfs at the moment, and came across this particular passage. It made me laugh out loud the last time I read it as well, so I thought I'd share it:

I learned a new expression today: "protein window." Todd told it to me.

Apparently, after you bodybuild, you have a two-hour time window in which your body can suck up amino acids. This is your protein window. I was talking to him and he said, "Man, I'd like to talk some more, but my protein window is closing," and he ran off to the kitchen and ate a chicken.

Rockhampton Uglies Myspace – WTF?

Andrew Harcourt Tue 24 Mar 2009

Okay, so I have to ask: who on earth is searching for this string? And what on earth were they searching for?

I ask because this string appeared in my referrer logs (which I'm monitoring closely at the moment because I've just installed some more anti-referrer-spam tools).

Seriously, people, what on earth were you looking for?

You've been told, Senator Stevo.

Andrew Harcourt Tue 24 Mar 2009

"Under the Swedish Constitution's Press Freedom Act, the right of a confidential press source to anonymity is protected, and criminal penalties apply to anyone acting to breach that right," Sunshine Press legal adviser Jay Lim said in a statement.

"Wikileaks' source documents are received in Sweden and published from Sweden so as to derive maximum benefit from this legal protection. Should the senator or anyone else attempt to discover our source we will refer the matter to the Constitutional Police for prosecution, and, if necessary, ask that the senator and anyone else involved be extradited to face justice for breaching fundamental rights."

via Wikileaks back online with new list: News - Communications - ZDNet Australia.

Sometimes you just have to love the Swedish.

The Government's Internet Censorship Lunacy

Andrew Harcourt Fri 20 Mar 2009

... and why you should care.

So you think Australia's going to be exempt from the global economic downturn? Really? Still? Well, how about we cripple most of our online infrastructure so that we can give another country or fifty a fair go instead? We're so far ahead of them, right? We can afford to give them a running start, right?

And since we're either an entire nation of child molesters or an entire nation of sheep, we really should let the guv'mint do what it thinks is best, despite having been elected on a platform entirely unrelated to this particular issue.

Let's see: Ratify the Kyoto protocol; evict John from the house; go green; have lots of Facebook friends; build a national broadband network. Oh, and then fuck it up royally before it's even built, and massively degrade large chunks of our existing infrastructure. We must have collectively missed that bit of the Kev and Wayne show's policy platform. More fool we.

If you value your online freedom, go to� GetUp! Campaign Actions. Sign the petition. Write to your local member. Write to Senator Stevo and ask him where his head's currently stuck. Write to Kev and Wayne and ask what they think this is going to do for our economy - and how little it's going to do to prevent illegal activity at the same time. Demand a written response, and don't settle for a form letter. They're your representatives, people, so demand that they represent your opinions. Actually pay some attention, everyone, or you'll deserve what you're about to get.

That's right, people - your mates, Kev, Wayne and Stevo are all right behind this monumentally stupid idea. You can't vote with your feet or your wallet; you can only vote with your sodding vote - so do it properly next time, and warn them that you're going to.


ACMA Blacklist - A Hot Topic

Andrew Harcourt Fri 20 Mar 2009

Wow. I didn't realise that this was such a hot topic.

Take heart, everyone - it appears that at least there's (finally) some awareness being built around this topic.

Below is a shot from my WordPress stats showing a very small snapshot of search terms that have brought people to this blog. (IP addresses, timestamps and other paraphernalia removed for privacy's sake.)


Wow. It appears that people are a bit angry.


ACMA Internet Censorship Blacklist Leaked

Andrew Harcourt Thu 19 Mar 2009

For anyone who's had their head buried in the sand for the last year or two, the Kev and Wayne show deserves congratulations for taking the singularly most awful policy that the previous government had even considered tabling and running with it.

The policy disaster? The notion that they should create The Great Firewall of Australia, an Internet filtering project so ridiculous in both reason and scope that it dwarfs even China's efforts at censorship.

The first issue is a simple legal versus moral one. The whole point of declaring an activity or practice illegal is that it's a codification of society's collective values. In other words, if enough of us disagree with a particular activity (for example, killing people because one doesn't like the colour of their skin) then we make it illegal. "Immoral" doesn't come into it, except that sufficient people's assertion of "immoral" generally leads to "illegal" status.

In a few words: if you think it's immoral but it's not currently illegal, then not enough people agree with you. So either persuade people to agree with you and have the law changed, or shut up.

Let's use an imaginary person in our example. We'll call him Kevin. Kevin  doesn't like illegal things, which is fine, good, and a reflection of society's values. Good for Kevin. Kevin also doesn't like what he sees as immoral things, such as pornography. Kevin also has pronounced views on what people should be permitted to discuss, and believes in particular that people should not be able to talk about him, his mates or the way he runs the organisation of which he's the chief. Unfortunately, Kevin is in a position to have these beliefs enforced. These are arbitrary beliefs that have not been ratified by the Australian people, and yet our mate Kevin decides that his personal beliefs are more important than those of the Australian people. Well done, Kevin. We love you, Kevin.

Even if you agree with Kevin on all counts, you have to agree that in order to have a functioning democracy, unless content is illegal (not immoral), access to it should not be prevented. "Immoral" according to Kevin's opinion doesn't equate to "illegal" according to the Australian people, so the government has no mandate to prevent access.

The second issue is one of technical practicality. There are a million and one articles from various experts in all forms of Internet architecture, not one of which says anything other than that it's approaching impossible to prevent access to illegal content without also accidentally preventing access to some legal content. It's also likely to slow Internet access down by a factor of between 4 and 20, and cost some ridiculous amount of cash. Ask any content filtering expert about the plan and they'll snigger quietly, then turn purple and start ranting. It's just not feasible.

Yet another issue is the corruptibility of such a system. History has shown so many times that the first side-effect of censorship is to censor the discussion of said censorship. How long will it be before publication of the blacklist itself becomes illegal? (Answer to rhetorical question: as soon as the legislation can be snuck through parliament.) Luckily for us, WikiLeaks has published a list here: Australian government secret ACMA internet censorship blacklist, 6 Aug 2008 - Wikileaks. Are you on it? You'd better check now, because soon you won't be allowed to.

The final issue is simply this: the Australian people do not want the bloody thing. They never asked for it and have been given no opportunity to directly express their wishes. If Kev and Wayne are so confident that it's a good thing, Kev and Wayne should take it to a referendum. It's a serious enough issue, and impacts so much of our long-term economic and cultural identity that it deserves one. The alternative is to just take it to the next election, and we all know where that'll lead.

In the mean time, people: you voted for them, now you're getting what you voted for. Did you vote for someone who'd actually listen to their electorate and pay attention to what their constituents want?

Time will tell.

Facebook Feedback = Mark Zuckerberg

Andrew Harcourt Tue 17 Mar 2009

If, like many others, you're cranky with the world's most popular social networking site... err... not being contactable, how about messaging its creator directly? Just make sure you get the right one. (Hint: He's a person, and his profile ID is 4.)


If it's the only tool people have for expressing their displeasure, expect them to use it.

Google Introduces Face Recognition into Picasa

Andrew Harcourt Sun 22 Feb 2009

How's this for cool? Google, via Picasa, now does face recognition.


Upload your photos to Picasa Web Albums, tell Google to go and find all the similar-looking faces in your photos, and then identify each person - just once - and Picasa will tag them all for you.

Big Brother? Definitely. Scary? Yes. Convenience that outweighs the other two? Quite possibly.

Now, if only I could get Facebook to import Picasa photos and tags properly...

Birthday Weekend

Andrew Harcourt Sun 1 Feb 2009

This is just a quick note to say thank you to everyone who made this weekend such a great one. I know birthdays come around every year, but one only turns 30 once and this birthday's been pretty memorable.

Yes, I admit it. I'm thirty. It's a good thing I've officially retired from fencing, otherwise I'd now be eligible for Masters' selection. I no longer have any age-excesses on any insurance policies (even the one for the litre-class superbike). There must be some good points to the three-decades-old thing, though - and I might even think of them given enough time.

Anyway, enough about age. This weekend was awesome, and first and foremost I have to thank Syndia for organising everything. I was told to keep the weekend free and that things would be arranged for me, and that's pretty much what happened.

DSC_0042I arrived home on Friday night (my birthday, remember, was on the Sunday) and was told that my birthday weekend started that night. Syndia then presented me with what would have been an awesome present in its own right: a Nikon D-40 digital SLR camera (with a few additional bits and pieces attached). I was very, very pleased as I'd been musing about acquiring a DSLR for quite some time.

It's only fitting that the first published photo from the camera be of Syndia... I did, however, start to get a bit suspicious when she told me to charge its battery because I'd need it the following day...

I'd had a pretty good idea that Syndia had organised a lunch or something with my family; what I hadn't suspected until that morning was that we wouldn't be arriving in any of our own transport.

Enter the second cool toy: a Porsche 911; mine for the weekend. Awesome. Need I say more? (OK, fine. Briefly: liquid-cooled 996 series; naturally-aspirated; drop top.) Now I understand why the camera needed to be charged beforehand :)

DSC_0023We arrived in style (but very, very quickly) at Lurleen's at the Sirromet winery at Mt Cotton to be met by family and close friends, then enjoyed a rather nice meal. I'll leave it to Mike to 'fess up to Mum's having to order for him ;)

Toys ensued. Very cool. Thanks, everyone - I think Mum was a bit horrified, but I think they're all great.

We managed to persuade Mum to come out for a quick spin around Mt Cotton with me. Her words were something like, "It's just like a roller-coaster!" followed shortly by, "I want to get off!"

Dinner on Saturday evening was at Pat and Michelle's place on the Gold Coast, where we caught up not only with the usual suspects but Anna as well. Pat's home-made ice-cream didn't go down too badly, either :)

Breakfast on Sunday was Devonshire tea at a little café on Mt Nebo after a stop at the William Jolly Lookout. It's a tough life, really.

Thanks to everyone who made it a great weekend, and many, many thanks to Syndia for organising it all.

The Nature of Volunteer Organisations

Andrew Harcourt Sun 11 Jan 2009

In days long past, businesses needed many more people than they currently do for menial, un-skilled tasks such as typing, filing, dropping newsletters and other advertising material etc. Volunteer organisations were the same, if one were to add in baking for the annual fundraising event, door-knocking for donations, running the canteen at local events and so on.

One influence that technology has had on business is that it allows the same number of people to do more work more efficiently. More often, however, it has lead to a smaller number of people still doing more work and the now-redundant people's being made, well, redundant.

For volunteer-run organisations, however, the effect has been slightly different. These organisations tend to run at close to failure the entire time. Remove two or three key people (or in some cases just one person) from the organisation and it collapses.

Technological improvements that have allowed businesses to reduce staffing costs have done the same for the members of volunteer-run organisations, in that the organisation can run the same as it always has, but with fewer people doing the work.

In my humble opinion, this is a Bad Thing. People already have enough of a "me first" complex. In the past, this was balanced by those same people's being required to assist by volunteering their time if they wanted their organisation to succeed and prosper or, in some cases, merely survive. Now, however, people can afford to sit back and demand results whilst simultaneously contributing nothing to the organisation that supports them.

I'm not writing this from a position of ignorance. I've been involved in many volunteer organisations (Interact, Rotaract, various sporting organisations etc.) for a long time, now. My first stint as a member of a volunteer-run organisation's executive committee was at 19 years old, and I've been teaching, coaching, tutoring and/or administering since I was 14 or so. That's getting to be a frighteningly long time, now.

My observation of the trends over this time is that people will take, occasionally thank, and then take some more. Almost never will people offer that which is most valuable: their time. When they do, they do it when they can see that an existing volunteer is busy, harassed and at the end of their tether. Believe me, that is not a good time to be pestering someone and asking if you can help. The best way you can help is get out of the road and then come and offer help at a later stage. Don't be looking to help when people are around to see it; offer help when nobody is around to see it. Perhaps then people will take you seriously. Remember, it takes time to train volunteers and, as we've already established, that's a scarce commodity.

Let me articulate the problem very clearly:

There are insufficient volunteers with the time, willingness and aptitude to run our volunteer organisations.

I'm talking about volunteer-run organisations in general at the moment, but I propose a solution that's specific to sporting organisations. It's not the only solution, and for as long as there are suckers people willing to contribute their time it probably won't be necessary, but here it is:


If people want a service, let them pay for it. If people actually value a service that a volunteer-run organisation provides, then let them sodding well value it at what it's worth - i.e. whatever it costs to provide.

This won't work for charities or organisations that provide essential support to those who can't afford it, but it *will *work for sporting organisations.

Your organisation might fold. Ask yourself, then, if it was really worth running if people weren't prepared to pay for it. Sure, free ice-cream is nice, too, but are you willing to purchase ice-cream out of your own pocket and give it away to people? People will be more than happy to accept your goodwill (and your ice-cream) but they don't need it. I'm sure they'll even smile at you and say thank-you. So what? That'd just be dumb, right?

A sporting organisation is the same. Sure, people will be happy to accept your gift of time and expertise (and, in many cases, your personal expenditure on their behalf for which you just never bother to get reimbursed), but they don't need it. If they want it enough, let them pay for it. Let them pay membership fees enough to pay an administrator. Let them have a user-pays approach to any events the organisation runs. Outsource professional tasks (finance, information systems, advertising etc.) to professional third-parties and pay them what it costs. If it costs more than you have then charge the users of your service for it.

This is just my $0.02, so round down if you want. Bear in mind, though, that your demanding members still want a dollar for nothing, so if you round it down then the entire amount needs to come out of your own pocket.

Syndia's back in town

Andrew Harcourt Sat 10 Jan 2009

... and we're off to see Dralion tonight. It's the last Saturday-night show in Brisbane so let's hope it's a good one.

In other news, yes, Syndia's back from Rockhampton. Hooray! :) I flew up on Wednesday evening; we spent Thursday touring the town and then drove back on Friday. Rockhampton's a nice town and the people I met were all quite pleasant but a) there's nothing to do, and b) the entire town has a serious weight problem. Average BMI would have to be about 35; no joke. Average clothing size? About four sizes too small. Also no joke. Ugh. Keep it covered, people.

Oh, and my new, favourite quote from a random passer-by?

"They almost got together until they found out they were cousins."

Says it all, really.

"Ignorance isn't stupidity, but choosing to remain ignorant is."

Andrew Harcourt Tue 6 Jan 2009

If you have time to read about (yet another) case of the blind leading the blind (or the ignorant, stupid and illiterate being paid to teach the young), have a look at this one:

Blog of helios: Linux - Stop holding our kids back.

I think I'm going to adopt one of Ken's quotes as a personal maxim:� "Ignorance isn't stupidity, but choosing to remain ignorant is."

... and if you read Ken's blog post and think to yourself, "So what?" then please, please, please consider the above quote and choose not� to remain ignorant :)

How can I give the least amount of money to Telstra?

Andrew Harcourt Wed 24 Dec 2008

I sent this to TPG (my current ISP) and thought that others might get some amusement out of it. I'll comment on this blog post if/when I receive a reply from them.

Just to be clear about this: I like TPG. They're great. I've never had any problems with them and, believe me, that's very rare for anyone in the software and/or telecommunications industries.


I have my home phone line with Telstra and an ADSL2+ connection with TPG.

I hate Telstra.

I like TPG.

I'd like to give Telstra as little money as I possibly can, especially as they've irritated me - yet again - by breaking their online billing service and then spamming me about BigPond.

Do you have a naked DSL offering, or is there one in the pipeline? Failing that, what's the best way for me to give the least possible amount of money to Telstra?


A Spot of Weather

Andrew Harcourt Sat 29 Nov 2008

Disclaimer: I've already told this story to the many people who've asked, but there are many more who are asking so it's easier to write it here than re-tell it a thousand more times. Thanks, everyone, for your concern and offers of assistance; everything is very much appreciated.

Sunday the 16th of November was a quiet, sleepy Sunday, and Syndia and I decided that we were going to go to Currumbin Sanctuary so that she could see some echidnas. It was a fascinating day and I'll probably blog about that separately at some point, but the point of this post is what happened that afternoon and in the following days.

We'd been inside for a while looking at a couple of exhibits, and when we came out again it was raining pretty heavily. After leaving the sanctuary we headed back to Brisbane, stopping in on the way at Yatala for some food. We reached The Gap at around 6pm, turned on to Payne Road and started noticing a distinct lack of streetlights and leaves - a lot of leaves - all over the road.

"Hmm," we thought. "We've apparently had a bit of a storm."

Continuing around the first corner in Payne Road, we were confronted by the astonishing scene of fallen branches, entire trees and power lines all over the road. It looked literally like a jungle - if one hadn't known that the road continued, one would have sworn that it just ended abruptly in thick, green foliage. We managed to proceed a bit further, and saw chaos.

There were fallen trees, crushed cars and snapped power lines everywhere. There were people walking around in their pyjamas in a daze. There were people parked on, under and within tree canopies that were lying on the road. There were people with chainsaws who'd obviously already cleared enough of the road that some traffic could get through. There were even pieces of people's houses, cars, fences and trampolines in the streets. It was utter chaos.

In the immortal words of A. A. Milne, "'Bother,' said Pooh."

We managed to creep along the road (bearing in mind that we were in Syndia's father's car, and really didn't want to scratch it) and arrived at Syndia's parents' house to check that everything was intact. Observing only minor damage (with the exception of Syndia's bird cage [thankfully empty] having been flung into the hedge), we aimed for home.

Arriving at our house, we discovered comparatively minor damage. There was a tree down on our roof, what looked like two entire trees in the swimming pool, one of the external floodlights had been shattered but things otherwise looked okay. Even my beautiful Fireblade was still upright in the carport, albeit covered in grass, leaves and mud.

Then we noticed another tree down over (and through) the wall behind the house, several more trees down into the pool, and several more trees on the neighbours' roof. Oh, crikey.

Oh, and the shed was in the garden, but not where it used to be in the garden. Hmm.

For anyone who hasn't seen photos and/or footage yet, now's probably the time to go and have a look:

YouTube - The Gap cyclone of November 16 2008 - Brisbane QLD Australia

YouTube - Brisbane Storm - The Gap gets pulverised!

YouTube - TV Newsroom Floods - Savage Storms, 16 November, 2008

2008.11.20.The Storm

To cut a long and moderately painful story short, we were without power from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday morning, had no drinkable water for the same period because the roof of The Gap Reservoir fell in (and thanks to the army guys from Enoggera for trucking out drinking water to everyone!), and spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday doing nothing but clearing debris, chainsawing fallen trees off roofs, walls, fences and streets, and generally cleaning up. Did I mention that I love my chainsaw? :)

On the bright side, however, our house is intact with only very minor damage. We had a tree on our roof. Hooray. One of the neighbours completely lost their roof - and pieces of yet someone else's roof ended up in our swimming pool. (We just didn't see them initially because they were covered by a couple of trees.)

The QFRS, SES, Energex, the Brisbane City Council, 2CER and assorted others from Enoggera Barracks, the Red Cross and all the other volunteers and emergency services employees deserve nothing but praise for their response to the disaster. The Gap, Ferny Hills and some surrounds were officially declared a Natural Disaster area and the response from everyone on the ground was nothing short of magnificent. Hats off to you all. Thanks heaps to Tony and Fadge for turning up and helping to clear some of the trees, too.

A special mention has to go to John, Dave, Matt and Steve from the Ripley Valley Rural Fire Brigade, who turned up on our doorstep on the Wednesday afternoon and asked if there was anything they could do to help.

I told them that I was fine with all the other trees, but that there were a couple of palm trees down and leaning on the neighbours' roof and that I wasn't game to start removing them on my own as I didn't want to cause any damage to their house.

Dave promptly sent Matt back to their truck for his chainsaw, then jumped up onto the roof and fired it up while Matt went around to make sure the neighbours (and their dogs) were out of the way.

Half the trees went to one side of the fence, from where the RFB blokes dragged them out to the pile on the footpath, and the other half went to our side where I did the same.

In around an hour the entire stand (poor word choice, perhaps?) of fallen trees was gone and the four of them just moved along, ice creams from Syndia in hand, to the next house in the street to ask if they needed anything. Legends, all of them.

Hooray! The Fridge Isn’t Broken!

Andrew Harcourt Thu 27 Nov 2008

Ok, that sounds like something completely unremarkable, and normally it would be.

The thing is, though, that over the past couple of months so many other appliances have died (either a timely death or death by misadventure) that it's going to be a bit of a novelty to not have to replace something this month. I'd thought that the fridge had been damaged by the recent storm, but it appears to have survived (almost) unscathed. Hooray.

Incidentally, why am I still awake at this hour? Blame it on another appliance. The Kreepy Krawly got stuck :(

Syndia's Quote for the Day

Andrew Harcourt Thu 13 Nov 2008

Syndia's quote for the day:

"I thought it was a bit incongruous when I saw little Charlotte sawing open someone's head."

Olympic Games Coverage

Andrew Harcourt Mon 11 Aug 2008

I wrote in a Facebook status update yesterday that I couldn't for the life of me figure out why Seven was only broadcasting one video stream from the Olympics, despite having three SD digital channels and one HD channel available to them.

As it turns out, they're actually prevented by our legislation. None of the commercial stations are permitted to multi-channel; only the ABC and SBS. Buggered if I can understand that.

Not all the blame for the woeful coverage can be laid at the federal government's door, however - I'm sure that three streams from Seven would have had the same woeful switching, the same pathetic commentary (come on, people, at least *pretend* you're not reading from a script provided by BOCOG) and the same lack of interest shown in any sports in which Australia wasn't a medal hopeful.

I still can't believe, for example, that they broadcast the entire football match between Australia and Argentina last night. Sure, it was great to watch, but weren't there any other sports on in those 90-odd minutes? Oh, never mind - our synchronised divers placed 5th, and it only would have taken 2 minutes to give them a bit of coverage, but that would have required commentators who knew something and a producer who actually gave a toss.

So really, it's the government's fault that FTA viewers only get one woeful channel instead of three woeful channels, but the blame for the degree of woefulness still lies fairly and squarely on Seven.

Foxtel? But that involves giving Telstra money. Ugh. YouTube is your friend.

New Toy - Arrived!

Andrew Harcourt Fri 8 Aug 2008

Well, it's finally sorted. Only a week in the actual ordering process (I can't believe I only called TeamMoto at this time last week) but months in the finding-time-to-get-it-all-sorted process. I finally have a shiny, new bike (and yes, a helmet to match), and it's sitting outside Zap, still with its SOLD sticker on.

2007 Honda CBR1000RR

My next magic trick will be persuading Mum to come for a ride with me...

In other news, I'm hoping two things for tonight's opening ceremony: that China actually puts on a decent show (they did invent fireworks, after all), and that a human rights/free Tibet/be nice to the Dalai Lama protester makes it onto the world stage where the Chinese government can't do a *thing* about it. "Free" 'net access for journalists, indeed...

New Toy - Nearly Here

Andrew Harcourt Thu 7 Aug 2008

Well, it looks like I'm finally going to get a new toy. I should be picking it up at 12:00 tomorrow. Hooray. It's taken long enough to find time to organise.

The toy? A brand-new CBR1000RR, otherwise known as a Fireblade. I'm getting a black and silver one with (how sad is this?) a helmet to match. I know, I know... Tony's going to give me a lift to the dealership tomorrow to pick it up. I can't wait

Sorry, Mum... If it's any consolation, this one's more reliable - and the brakes are even better...

Perth - A Ghost Town on Saturday Night

Andrew Harcourt Sat 2 Aug 2008

Dinner with Fadge and Claire this evening. After a whole lot of exploring a dead, dead town in search of sentient life, in desperation we eventually headed back to our hotel for food.

I'd been going to hire a scooter today to explore the city, but we ended up getting a tour of HMAS Perth from Henri instead. Absolutely fascinating. Don't get me started on HMAS Onslow, either - there are some stories to be told there, I'm sure...

Syndia's Exam

Andrew Harcourt Fri 1 Aug 2008

Syndia had her exam today. Now, we wait.

In other news:

  • The best fish and chips to be had in Fremantle are at Kailis' Fish Market.
  • The best (most interesting) place to eat (and drink) in Fremantle is Little Creatures.
  • The most interesting ship in the port is HMAS Perth, semi-affectionately known as HMAS Parts Bin, although that's a little cruel to the ship and those who sail on her.

In Fremantle for Syndia's Exam

Andrew Harcourt Thu 31 Jul 2008

Syndia and I arrived in Fremantle today in preparation for her exam tomorrow.

I've never been to Perth before, and have decided that I quite like it. It's a nice city. It seems a bit quiet, though, and I think I like it in the same way that I like Brisbane. I'm not convinced that I like the idea of a ten-hour round trip just to get somewhere that's just like home...

We took a practice walk to the Fremantle Hospital this afternoon so that there were no surprises on Syndia's arrival there tomorrow. Seen one, seen 'em all, but at least we didn't rock up and see a sign pointing to some unit that she didn't know they had, so hopefully there won't be any surprise patients tomorrow.

We're staying at the Esplanade Hotel. They claim outdoor, heated spas, which I'm going to get to enjoy and Syndia won't. There are *some* advantages to just being the practice dummy, at least...

Mike's Tribal Party

Andrew Harcourt Sun 11 May 2008

Mike's "tribal" party last night was good fun. I'd initially thought I'd just cheat and wear a loincloth, but at the last minute decided that I'd go on a mad shopping spree and make myself a costume.

The results? See for yourself when I post the photos

Hats off to Ed Hyde-Page, who comfortably wins the award for the most brave-but-stupid action of the night, in picking up an entire burning log (yes, right out of the bonfire) and throwing it back in several seconds later. Fadge and Simon hadn't been planning on a trip to the emergency room, but trips to Logan Hospital's ED late on a Saturday night are always an edifying experience, so I'm sure they didn't mind *too* much...

In other news, I'm a bit irritated with Facebook's RSS importer. Sorry people whom I've tagged in previous notes; it does weird things and occasionally duplicates stuff I've written, which means you get tagged twice - and also means that I have almost 40 notes to go and delete one by one. Grr.

Dinner with Stephen

Andrew Harcourt Wed 7 May 2008

Dinner with Stephen this evening. It was great to catch up - it's been far too long. He's only back in the country for another couple of days, too, before he heads off to Bangalore again.

I know that Intec's offering decent incentives for him to go but after hearing his stories I still don't think I could subject myself to the discomfort of doing the same sort of thing. If I ended up somewhere where I had to shave and clean my teeth with bottled water - and was afraid to shower - I think I'd be on the next flight out.

Still, I'm impressed that he's doing it, and hope that it all goes well. Some of the stories, though...

In other news, there's now a salsa class that runs once every month just outside Zanetti's. I don't know if I'll become a regular, but since it's also on the pizza/pasta night, it might be worth a look...

Online photo albums?

Andrew Harcourt Mon 5 May 2008

Well, I guess there are some good things that come of working on a public holiday. At least I can spare myself five minutes to write a blog post

For one, I've actually managed to get some work done without being interrupted, which has led me to a depressing realisation: I can do more in two hours without being interrupted than I can during a whole normal business day. Bugger :p

The weekend (apart from today) was actually pretty good; breakfast on Saturday morning, and a ride and a BBQ (happy 30th, David!) on Sunday.

Syndia picked up some foam rubber for her briefcase (exam toolkit), and we picked up a few remaining items that she needed (ophthalmoscope, new stethoscope etc) and she spent an hour happily cutting shapes out of the foam to make them all fit. Of course, after she'd finished, she wanted to practise her examination skills, which mean that I got to be poked, prodded and stuck with pins (literally!) once again. Fadge dropped around on Sunday evening, too, which was great - Syndia's eyes lit up at the prospect of another victim, and she promptly started sticking pins into him as well.

In other news, I've been experimenting recently with different ways to publish photos, since I'm sick of having so many stashes of them around the place, so many backups, and so many different ways of tagging people in them. I've tried Flickr; I've tried Picasa; I've tried Facebook and I've even written my own RSS feed generator for (which fails only because there are too many photos and most feed readers barf).

I'm thinking of settling on Picasa, primarily because it has a really nice Facebook uploading application. What does everyone else do? Anyone?

Once again, I have a blog

Andrew Harcourt Thu 1 May 2008

I'm listening to Phantom. Again. Pity I couldn't find an Anthony Warlow version of it, but hey... one can't have everything.

I'm also rather enjoying having a semi-working blog again, too, hence the moderately-inane entries that are probably going to appear over the next couple of weeks. Sorry.

Facebook Notes via RSS

Andrew Harcourt Wed 30 Apr 2008

I'm experimenting with importing my blog via RSS into Facebook's Notes section.

If anyone reads this, please let me know if you think it's worth-while

Heron Island

Andrew Harcourt Mon 28 Apr 2008

Awesome weekend.

Six of us (Kim, Khanh, Maddy, Alison, Syndia and I) headed to Heron Island. We spent pretty much the entire time walking along the beach, swimming, snorkelling, exploring the island and generally having a relaxing, almost decadent time of it.

It's a tough life, sometimes...

Old Leathers

Andrew Harcourt Sun 30 Mar 2008

I love the smell of old leathers on a crisp, clear morning.

It makes me think of the Yarra Ranges, the Great Ocean Road, bakeries, cafés and the company of friends.

That's all.

I'm still not dead...

Andrew Harcourt Fri 22 Feb 2008

Yes, I know this site hasn't been updated for a while. Quite a while, in fact.

I've been more than a little busy. There'll be updates coming as soon as I have time and a usable server.

Blog Post - Saturday, 15th July, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sat 15 Jul 2006

I spent today mostly walking around Dun Laoghaire and Sandycove. Breakfast at Cafe Moka was followed by a walk to the 40-foot (a supposedly-famous swimming area just off Sandycove) and then lunch, coffee and reading a book in the People's Park back in Dun Laoghaire.

The 40-foot was a bit disappointing, I have to admit. I wasn't expecting much in the way of surf or sand given that it's Ireland, after all, but I didn't expect to see people huddling around a piece of ocean, standing on rocks and shouting at each other about how cold the water was and how much fun they were having. Strange.

Syndia's still in Germany, and won't be back until Tuesday. Her parents flew out this morning so she's on her own, and presumably going to do some additional exploring before she leaves. Photos and stories etc when she gets back.

Blog Post - Sunday, 9th July, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sun 9 Jul 2006

What a way to end one's football career. Zinedine Zidane deserves for France to lose after that little display. There are about four minutes left in extra time, and I think the majority of the world's sympathies lie fairly and squarely with the Italians.

Well... after the penalty shoot-out going to the Italians, it looks like Zidane's little dummy-spit may well have cost France the match.

It's a crying shame. It's common knowledge that the Italians are right up there in terms of corrupt dealings and general scumbaggery, but until Zidane lost his rag I thought he was well and truly above falling victim to them. We know Materazzi must have said something pretty shocking to him, but that's just not the way to deal with it.

Australian teams (especially our cricketers) are well-known for sledging their opponents, and on occasion some of our players have crossed the line and been dealt with for it. And yes, on occasion some of them may well have deserved a bloody great head-butt in the chest (or preferably on the nose). But the prize for picking the stupidest time ever to do it has to go to Zidane.

A stellar career and the reputation of an exemplary player have both been irreperably damaged by ten stupid seconds of temper. As I said, it's a crying shame that one of the all-time greats of the game - a man who Ronaldino, no less, approached and congratulated a half-time during the Brazil-France match - will now be remembered for falling prey to sledging by one of the game's known scumbags.

Blog Post - Friday, 16th June, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Fri 16 Jun 2006

OK, and are both mostly back up.

Not happy, and email's still a mess, but at least we haven't lost any mail. It might take another couple of days to actually make it accessible to people though, so please don't hold your breath.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 14th June, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Wed 14 Jun 2006

Yes, I know. Lots of things are broken. Not my idea. Argh!

Am working on it.

Red Bull Flugtag

Andrew Harcourt Sun 4 Jun 2006

Well, if anyone were to be labelled as crazy, it would have to be the Irish. Crazy enough to build a paper maché� monstrosity, attach wheels, strap on a human and push it off the end of a pier? You bet. This is the Red Bull Flugtag, and it was held this year in Limerick.

The idea, in case it isn't obvious, is to fly. In this case, the runway was on one side of the Shannon, and the target was the opposite bank. This being the middle of the Irish summer, it was almost as warm as Brisbane's winter. That means, apart from anything else, that the River Shannon was still sodding cold, and nobody really wanted to end up in it. (Incidentally, it was actually quite a sunny day, and there was much, much pale, Irish skin crisping in the sun. But I digress.)

Competitors are allowed pretty much any sort of flying machine, with only two real caveats: it can't have any more than a set wingspan, and it can't store energy. Not in any form. Petrol, diesel, rockets, compressed air, clockwork and even elastic are all out. All that's allowed to power it is human endeavour.

The Irish, never the ones to miss out on a bit of silliness, nonetheless demonstrated the fact that they've raised tomfoolery to an art form. Every team was in costume (we even had Smurfs walking around in the crowd), everyone had some sort of pantomime or dance to go with their launch, and everyone - almost without exception - crashed straight off the end of the pier into the water.

Given a six-metre drop, the farthest that any team managed to.. err.. fly... was ten metres. It doesn't sound like much, but that particular effort almost got a standing ovation from the crowd.

Some of the acts were more weird and creepy than fun and entertaining. I think the bloke from Icon (one of the very few local night clubs) managed to scare away almost all the hetero punters after his dancing-in-a-thong act, and the Spongebob Squarepants act, although it actually managed to fly a bit, nonetheless still engendered the urge in almost all male spectators to smack the sodding thing silly.

Notable entries included Buzz Lightyear, a remarkably faithful rendition of the Pixar character; the Flying Scotsman (more on that later) and, of course, this being Ireland, innumerable variations on the theme of flying pork.

The "Most Ingenious" award has to go to The Flying Scotsman. The team didn't actually push the contraption off the end of the pier; instead, they concealed a launch ramp and pulley system inside the beastie, and used mechanical advantage and the mass of all the other team members to spit their pilot out of the front of the vehicle. Yep; they harnessed themselves to the launch mechanism and then jumped off the pier. Only in Ireland...

As an added bonus for the spectators, there was supposed to be an air show scheduled for the same weekend. I say "supposed to be" because it was cancelled at the last minute due to a dispute between the hosting county council and the event organisers. Apparently, although the organisers had arranged for a permit to hold the show, they were required to also obtain a permit for all the spectators to actually spectate. Again, only in Ireland...

The upshot of all of this, however, is that the Red Bull crowd managed to poach the skydivers who were booked for the air show and have them at the Flugtag instead. More entertainment = more fun, I guess..

Towards the end of the day, it was noticed that this whole water thing was actually becoming a bit thin on the ground. Yep, that's right: the tide had gone out, and the Shannon was now too dangerous to drop people into any more. Only in Ireland...

Hats Off to CXC Global

Andrew Harcourt Thu 1 Jun 2006

Well, that's a turn-up for the books! It turns out that my� contract-management company can pay me directly into an Australian bank� account! Hats off to CXC� Global.

Life has suddenly become vastly less complicated. I'm still waiting for the� Irish government to allocate a PPS number and mail it to me, but I can at� least get paid while that happens.

The bonus is that since I can't get an Irish credit card, I'm buying� everything using my Australian-issued Visa card - and so having it� continuing to be paid off via an Australian account actually works out� better.

Life is good.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 30th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Tue 30 May 2006

It would be a pretty good bet that the Irish government would have more than
their fair share of slackers, but I'm now starting to seriously pose the
question, "Does anyone in the Irish public service actually work
a full business day?"

I'm trying to get a PPS number. (That's a Personal Public Service Number,
equivalent to an Australian Tax File Number and a US Social Security
Number.) It's the excruciatingly-painful end to an
even-more-excruciatingly-difficult process of getting permission to work in
this country. This is an important number for me. Once I have it, I'll be
able to open a bank account - after which, I'll actually be able to get
paid. That would, all things considered, be nice.

I finally (!!) managed to have them accept a PPSN application (as in,
accept it over the counter; not even necessarily process it) last week.
Being a good little foreigner, I thought I'd phone them today to see if they
have a response for me yet.

I was expecting to be given the run-around, to have to explain myself to
various different people, to threaten, argue and cajole various different
peons before getting a simple "Yes, it's ready," or, "No,
it's not. Sod off."

What I wasn't expecting was for them to simply not answer their sodding
phone. Yep, that's right. The phone just rings out. The Irish government
doesn't exist before 10am, doesn't operate after 4pm and certainly doesn't
lift a sodding finger at lunch.

I can't wait to get paid. I can't wait to take Ireland's money and spend it
elsewhere. Grr.

Blog Post - Thursday, 18th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Thu 18 May 2006

Woohoo! I have a place to live in Dublin!

Having been hotel-hopping for the past two weeks, I've finally managed� to find a place to stay. It's in Dun Laoghaire, which is about 20� minutes from Dublin CBD on the DART, and feels rather like� Williamstown in Melbourne. (OK, so only the Melbourne crowd will know� what that's like, but hey... think posh town on the water, with yacht� clubs, theatres and all the rest.) It's also about 20 minutes' walk from
where I'm working. Sweet.

I move in on Monday or Tuesday; the place is available from Sunday but� Syndia and I will be in Madrid with Karen over the weekend.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 17th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Wed 17 May 2006

Diary entry from Syndia:

Our third and final day in Barcelona was more relaxed. We tried raiding a few ATMs and finally were able to withdraw money. One of the banks didn't seem to realize that the point of having language options on the screen is to then use the chosen language in all further instructions. We tried some more interesting cakes and biscuits, and generally just wandered aimlessly around, before finding the taxi rank and heading to the airport.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 16th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Tue 16 May 2006

Diary entry from Syndia:

Our second day in Barcelona was almost as action-packed as the first. We got up early and ran around looking for a patisserie for breakfast, then looked for the Picasso museum. There was a queue of 20 or so at the entrance, and the museum hadn't opened yet (it was 10.00), so we went shopping first, thinking that we would thus avoid the queue. We came back half an hour later, only to find the queue had expanded to 50 or so, with the doors open. (Okay Karen, so it may have been a little bit more than half an hour. Fine. Definitely more than half an hour. Let's say an hour and leave it at that.) We decided to wait in line. The museum had lots of paintings from Picasso's earlier, pre-Cubist works and were therefore much more traditional paintings. There were lots of Blue and Pink Period paintings as well. I always find it strange to see the original paintings that I've seen reproduced in textbooks.

The second stop for the day was Casa Batllo again, this time the interior. Once again, we used the audio-guides, but I got sick of using mine and had Karen summarise all the interesting bits for me J. The guides were a bit too full of praise for Gaudi's creative genius and kept pointing out obvious things, so I decided to take pictures instead. We both agreed that it was a nice place to visit, but living in the building would undoubtedly cause restless dreams.

The final big stop for the day was Parc Guell. We really hadn't intended to go to Barcelona on a Gaudi pilgrimage (especially since I'd never seen any pictures of his work until I got there), but there were pictures and figurines of his famous mosaic lizard in every souvenir shop, so we had to go and see the original. We had to climb an enormous hill to get to the park. It was so steep that outdoor escalators had been installed in the middle of the street in the worst bits. The bits that were deemed non-escalator-requiring were still really steep. The photo doesn't do it justice. And then, when we finally reached the park entrance, it was a dusty, dry and dull garden. A lizard at this point would have made it much more interesting. We climbed a little higher up the mountain, but although we had a good view of the city we couldn't see any sign of the lizard, or any signage to it (I was a bit fixated on the lizard).

I was starting to feel a bit grumpy about the whole lizard thing, but we then saw the Gingerbread houses (not their official name) and lots of people down at the very bottom of the other side of the mountain. If anyone reading this is planning on going to Parc Guell, please be aware that there are two entrances to the park, and you definitely want the lower one, unless you're really keen for a view of the city. (Please note that this is a very biased view of Parc Guell. Karen thought the gardens were lovely, and enjoyed traipsing around in wooded avenues, especially after spending so much time surrounded by buildings.) I took lots more photos of mosaics and mosaic-covered structures.

We briefly stopped in at the Gaudi museum, but there wasn't much there to excite us, then we went to the Doric Hall and the lizard, and took the obligatory photos. We also saw the gingerbread houses and then decided we'd had enough of Gaudi and headed home, stopping in at a few chocolatiers and cake shops along the way.

Blog Post - Monday, 15th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Mon 15 May 2006

Diary entry from Syndia:

Karen had a rather uncomfortable second night in Limerick, as the air mattress she was sleeping on decided that it was no longer going to stay inflated, and strongly resisted attempts during the night to re-inflate it. Anyway, we gave up on the mattress, and Karen slept on a real mattress for the rest of the night after promising not to elbow and kick me in her sleep, like she had in Paris (Note to Karen: isn't it nice to be the author? I can record history any way I want to).

We woke up very early and took a taxi to Shannon airport. The pre-booked taxi was delayed for some unknown reason (twenty minutes late at 5.00am, and you could hardly argue the traffic was heavy), but we made it with time to spare. The flight was uneventful and I slept for most of it, and we landed in Girona airport mid-morning, then caught the shuttle bus to Barcelona. I'm pretty sure I slept through most of that drive as well, but woke up a little to see the seemingly endless multi-storey apartment blocks, and the very occasional attractive stereotypically-Spanish house in the hills.

The main bus terminal wasn't marked on the map we were using, but I felt adventurous (very odd for me) and tried asking a local where the taxi rank was in Spanish. He had no difficulty understanding the question (since the word "taxi" is common to both languages, and we clearly looked in need of one given our luggage, this isn't all that wonderful) but unfortunately the answer was a little less clear (though Karen would tell you that his hand signals were perfectly decipherable, and that I was just being dense). I had worked out that we had to go upstairs, anyway, so we waited for the lift. The nice man thought we hadn't understood that we needed to climb up the stairs and ushered us towards them, and then, seeing me struggle with my big suitcase, picked it up (I protested and tried to tell him I was fine, but he ignored me. The thought did occur to me that he may well be running off with our luggage, but I suppressed this as very silly given it was a bit heavy to run fast with it) and carried it to the top of the stairs, then pointed at the very obvious taxi rank, and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek. We certainly couldn't complain about the local reception.

We reached our hotel and checked in. We were offered a choice of a room facing the street or a room facing a back alley (I think. Karen says the other option was a room without a window), but we took the street room as we were told this would have a nice view. The first thing we saw when we drew back the curtains was a crowd of builders working on the scaffolded building opposite. They waved at us in a very friendly way, but it was hardly the view we were hoping for. But the room was nice, though basic, so again, no cause for complaint.

We had lunch in the restaurant next to the hotel. I apologise for having taken so many photos of food, but they were different to the usual things I eat. I had a traditional Catalonian spinach dish which was very cheesy, and had sultanas, pinenuts and bits of ham in it. Karen had a traditional Catalonian salad. As you can see, we were pretty keen to eat all things traditional. Of course, this later backfired on us in Madrid, but that's another story.

We went exploring in the streets around the hotel. We were conveniently in very close proximity to the Catedral, but the famous façade was covered in scaffolding and I have to admit being a little tired of looking at cathedrals anyway, so we didn't venture inside. We had had plans to go back another day, but ran out of time. Barcelona has lots of big wide streets, interspersed with quaint narrow alleyways running in all directions. I tried taking lots of photos to show this, but wasn't all that successful. You'll just have to use your imagination. Some of the locals thought I was trying to take photos of them instead. There are beautiful buildings covered with stenciled designs, and there are buildings that have a very baroque feel, and others that feel very Middle-Eastern. And then there are the Art Nouveau-ish buildings which looked different again.

We walked down La Rambla, which is the main street and has different sections known according to the markets that are found in each . there's the Bird Market which sold budgies, canaries, pigeons (which Karen found strange as they were the same as the pesky pigeons found all around the city), chooks, and green lizards (which incidentally aren't a type of bird); the Art Market, which had lots of touristy paintings of Barcelona, bulls and flamenco dancers; the Flower Market, which is rather self-explanatory; and the bit where lots of living statues congregate. I wouldn't have thought being a living statue would be all that lucrative, but there seem to be lots of them in Barcelona.

After reaching the end of La Rambla and walking around the marina, we decided to go in search of a Gaudi building, given he is so famous and popular. The first two buildings we tried to see were covered in scaffolding, and we were afraid Casa Batllo would also be covered as we could see scaffolding in the region we were expecting it to be, but we finally were in luck and saw the House of Bones, which is the most organic building I have every seen built out of stone. I took lots of photos. Be grateful, as I purged quite a few of them. Then after having seen this amazing façade, we went in search of the Sagrada Familia with renewed vigor. We hired audio-guides and wandered around taking lots of photos. The Passion façade was completely different to any cathedral I have seen before, and the supporting columns reminded me again of bones. The ceiling and interior columns are beautiful and so graceful and majestic. I'm running out of adjectives. On the other hand, the Nativity façade on the other side looked really messy and made me think of all the Gothic cathedrals I've every seen, all mixed into one big ugly lump. The only things I liked about it was the tree with doves at the very top which were barely visible, and the turtle and tortoise holding up the main columns. The turtle holds up the column on the sea-ward side, and the tortoise the column closest to the mountains.

We ended our first day with a nice meal of paella, which I had been wanting to try ever since everyone at work had been telling me about it. It was very good, but after having anticipated the meal so much it was a bit of an anticlimax. That night, I broke the shower (this really wasn't my fault. And it wasn't entirely Karen's fault, either ).

Blog Post - Friday, 12th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Fri 12 May 2006

It's the end of my first week in the new contract. To be honest, I'm
more than a little stressed. Without giving away any sensitive
information, all I can say is that they have a serious number of
systems that all talk to each other. It wouldn't be a problem, except
that I have to learn how they all work before I'm game to mess
with any of them. Scary.

In other news, I'm still hunting for a place to live. I've been
looking on,
as has pretty much every other man and his dog. It's incredible - a
shared room (yep, that's right - a room to share with a
complete stranger) in a not-particularly-nice part of Dublin City will
go for up to EUR400 per month. That's about 800 Aussie pesos, which
isn't fun, especially when I don't even have an Irish bank account

Blog Post - Monday, 8th May, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Mon 8 May 2006

Wow. Life has been busy. Mostly good, though.

The latest (and probably most pertinent) news is that I finally have a contract in Dublin, starting today. The mob is called Realex Payments, and they're Ireland's largest real-time payment exchange provider. Effectively, they provide online and offline payment processing solutions for the who's who of Ireland and large chunks of the UK. It promises to be an interesting contract.

Blog Post - Thursday, 20th April, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Thu 20 Apr 2006

Well, how's that for a cushy job? Evidently, if one works at the
British Embassy in their Visa Applications section, one is only
required to present one's self for work between the eminently
civilised hours of 0900 and 1100.

What? Do you mean to say that they should be open during normal
business hours? What a ridiculous suggestion! If you dirty, stinking
foreigners can't present yourselves at Her Majesty's loyal servants'
pleasure, then we want nothing to do with you.

I'm starting to wonder exactly why it is that Australian currency
still has her profile on it. It's not as if it seems to be worth much
to Her Majesty any more. Grr.

At least the contract front is looking up.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 19th April, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Wed 19 Apr 2006

It's about bloody time, but I finally, finally have a
little sticker in my passport. What sticker? One that gives me
permission to work. And it's only taken since January to arrange.

I caught the bus up to Dublin this morning, and spent the afternoon
waiting at the immigration office (which isn't supposed to be
responsible for administering Working Holiday Authorisations, but
never mind). There's now a shiny sticker in my passport saying that
I'm allowed to work here, under certain conditions, until the 18th of
April 2007. Now all I have to do is find a contract.

Speaking of which, I have an interview tomorrow with one recruitment
agency, so we'll see how that goes.

Oh, and I have to drop off my signed application form for a UK Working
Holiday Visa at the British Embassy tomorrow, so I'll do that after
the interview. Life's looking up

Blog Post - Friday, 17th March, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Fri 17 Mar 2006

Wow, cool! We're in Ireland on St Patrick's Day!

Blog Post - Saturday, 4th March, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sat 4 Mar 2006

Well, we're getting out and about a bit... Today's excursion was to the Waterford Crystal Factory.

Note to self, and to all others travelling to Waterford: Even though the crystal factory is clearly signposted along with several other tourist attractions, it is actually not within walking-distance from the main bus station. Don't ask how we know this. It actually came as a bit of a surprise, since almost everything in Ireland is walking distance from everything else.

The Visitor Centre is open pretty much all year, but factory tours are not available during Winter, so it's worth checking first. We definitely wanted to do the factory tour, and it was well worth it.

Our guide took us through the factory from the beginning of the crystal-making process through to the end. The first step in the process is the creation of a wooden mould used for blowing the molten crystal. For one-off or short run orders, the blowers actually blow the crystal directly into the wooden mould, but for longer-running creations a cast-iron mould is created from the wooden one.

The blowing in itself is an art form. Blowers still just collect a blob of molten lead crystal on the end of a hollow pipe, blow through the pipe, stick it into the mould and then continue blowing and turning until the crystal fits the shape. There's video of it in the photo gallery, and it's much more difficult than it sounds.

After the crystal is blown, it's taken to be cut. It's worth noting that at each stage of the production process, artisans are only paid for what they successfully create. Blowers don't get paid if they blow a flawed blank, and cutters don't get paid if they damage the blank or make an error in the cutting.

After the crystal is cut, some is taken further to an engraver, while some is a finished product. The engraver's art takes the longest to master, and is incredibly intricate. This is recognised by the agreement that if the engraver breaks something, the rest of the production line still gets paid. Not so for the engraver - every pay-cheque rests fairly and squarely on the ongoing demonstration of their skill.

The factory keeps a reference library of all the designs ever produced, and one of the requirements of a master of any of their disciplines is that they be able to reproduce all the designs from memory. Waterford is unique of all the Irish lead-crystal houses in that it never stops producing any particular design. Designs can be "retired," which means that requests for replacements are left on back-order until there are enough requests to fill most of a production run, but Waterford guarantees its customers that they will be able to replace anything they break. Forever.

Moving from the end of the tour into the showroom itself, some of the demonstration pieces are simply breathtaking. Some I hated. Why on earth, for example, would anyone create an American Football helmet out of lead crystal? Ugh. Others, on the other hand, were incredible. There was a harp complete with strings, a violin, four horses and a certain pumpkin-like carriage from a certain fairy tale, angels, seahorses, doves and all manner of other creatures.

Then there were the trophies. I didn't realise just how many trophies Waterford Crystal had been commissioned for. They had on display, amongst other things, the Australian Cricketer of the Year Perpetual Trophy, the 1990 Cricket World Cup Trophy, the 1995 World Chess Championship Trophy - and the ones on display when we visited were merely a very small subset of the whole.

And then, of course, there are the chandeliers. Enough said. The bargain basement price for a single chandelier starts at around EUR30,000. There's no upper limit.

Blog Post - Saturday, 18th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sat 18 Feb 2006

King John's Castle is a 13th-century castle, and used to form the heart of medieval Limerick. Syndia had already been through it once but we visited it again today for my edification.

The first thing that struck me was not so much the size of the thing - it's relatively small, all things considered - but the thickness of the walls. They're almost half as thick as they are high. The smell of coal-fires lit to emulate those used for warmth, cooking and blacksmithing drifts through the corridors at the entrance.

Unfortunately the powers that be have tried a little too hard to re-create a medieval feel, and gone a little bit silly. There's a trebuchet sitting in front of the entrance to the courtyard, which would have been great had it looked even remotely authentic. Then there's the visitor centre itself, which is an utter monstosity of glass and steel perched like a parasite along the front wall of the castle. Ugh.

The castle offers a commanding view of the River Shannon, and when we looked out over the river, what did we see but a crazy kayaker? Seriously! He was literally surfing the waves created by the current passing over a flood barrier. Again, only in Ireland...

All in all, King John's Castle is a fascinating snapshot in Limerick's history, and well worth a look. Ignore the kitsch, prefabricated junk attached, and pay attention to what was actually there in the 14th century.

Blog Post - Sunday, 12th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sun 12 Feb 2006

Welcome to Killarney. The town centre is to your left. The town centre is to your right. One hundred thousand welcomes. What the? I didn't believe that I'd seen this sign correctly the first time, so this time when we arrived in Killarney I took a photo. Only in Ireland...

There was one main reason for coming back here, other than the music and the history, and that was a certain Killarney pub that served the best seafood chowder I have ever had in my life. Which pub? Not telling.

Blog Post - Thursday, 9th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Thu 9 Feb 2006

Good morning, Dublin.

Our first stop today was Trinity College. Walking through the gates into the grounds just felt like entering any other university - scrawled messages tacked up on notice boards, advertisements for housemates and English language lessons etc., but once inside the history of the institution quickly asserted itself, most visibly in the form of the bell tower across the courtyard. It's older than our country.

We walked across the courtyard looking for the library, and were drawn to a signpost that said - I kid you not - that sunbathing was only permitted in the college park. Sunbathing? In this weather? Hmm.

Our main purpose in visiting Trinity was, of course, to see the Book of Kells. It's a hand-scribed, illustrated version of the four gospels and dates from around 800AD. They keep the book (actually four books) in a glass case in the library and turn a page over every month or so. It was absolutely fascinating. I have to admit, however, that the Latin used was too much for me. That combined with the script itself made the visible pages far beyond my meagre ability to decipher. Hats off to those who can.

Leaving the library, I noticed a small plaque on a bench outside. It was a memorial plaque for the Maitre d'Armes of the college, Patrick Duffy. Wouldn't it be nice if Australian universities (hint, hint, UQ) were to offer similar distinction to their fencing communities?

From Trinity College we moved on to Merrion Square. This was where famous authors, playwrights and other notables reportedly filled hours of their day in between pubs. The most notable of these, commemorated via a statue at the entrance to the square, is of course Oscar Wilde.

We passed the Irish National Gallery but didn't enter - that's for another day. Looked at the Mansion House, the residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

One place we passed that Syndia flatly refused to enter after dark was St Ann's Church. Why was she spooked? Because St Ann's is the wedding place of none other than Bram Stoker.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 8th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Wed 8 Feb 2006

Today's destination: Dublin. We're actually going to spend the night here in a B&B, so I can drop in to a couple of recruitment agencies and persuade them that Australians really don't have two heads and that we're acceptable to employ.

First impressions: Dublin is far more city-like than any other town in Ireland. It's still a town rather than a city. A large town, to be sure, but just a town nonetheless. Apart from anything else, a city can generally be expected to have a functioning public transport system The population is around 1.2m, but you wouldn't think it to look at it.

Dad had encouraged me to go and see the Dublin GPO - yes, the General Post Office - from where the Proclamation of an Irish Republic was read on Easter Monday, 1916. I'm told that there are still bullet-holes in the front of the building from when the British troops stormed it.

In the GPO itself there are framed copies of the Proclamation, including one of the original print run. The printing of the proclamation is a story in itself: it was printed mostly in the dead of night the day before it became public. There wasn't enough movable type to do it all in one hit, so there had to be two print runs - one for the top half, and one for the bottom half, the latter of which was printed after the former on the same page.

Our next stop in Dublin was the Guinness Storehouse. (And yes, I know everyone's eyes just lit up.) On closer inspection, the Guinness family pretty much built Dublin. I couldn't believe it when they told us that the brewery itself still occupies 55 acres in the middle of Dublin city. In the middle of the city! Unbelieveable. Oh, and that the brewery was situated at St James' Gate so that it would have preferential access to the city's water supply, being the River Liffey.

The Storehouse is the heart of the old brewery, but has been converted into one single, huge Guinness museum. There are exhibits there that take visitors all the way through the brewing process, from the harvesting of the barley and hops, to the brewing itself, to coopering and the kegging of the beer itself. The tour finishes with the obligatory taste testing and then a free pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar.

The Gravity Bar is one of the highest buildings in the city, and with its floor-to-ceiling glass windows offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire city. I loved it. Syndia hated it. But at least we've been there and seen it now. If you're a Guinness-drinker (or even if you're not), the Guinness Storehouse is well worth a look.

Our final action for the day was to buy tickets on one of the city tour buses. Yes, I know, the ones that everyone looks at, rolls their eyes and say, "How touristy." How touristy, indeed. But since we're tourists in a strange country, why not? The bus took us all around Dublin, from Grafton St to Merrion Square and St Stephen's Green. We ended up jumping off near the river and walking back over the Ha'penny Bridge to our B&B.

Oh, and one point of interest on the walk back was Dublin's answer to the Moulin Rouge: a pub named "The Red Windmill."

Blog Post - Tuesday, 7th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Tue 7 Feb 2006

Off we go adventuring again; this time to Cork.

Cork is Ireland's second-largest city after Dublin, with a population of approximately 300,000 people.

I recall thinking as we walked down the main street that I could be quite happy with a contract here. It's a very pretty town; the people (as in all of Ireland) are very friendly and apparently the IT industry's reasonably strong here. I'll put it on the short-list.

Unfortunately we didn't have time to see very much of the town itself. It was raining and miserable, so we looked for something to do indoors. And to complement the brooding feel of the weather, what better thing to do than to tour the local gaol?

The gaol itself is a curious juxtaposition of verdant green grass in the grounds and the forbidding stone structure itself. On closer inspection, we noted that the funny-looking structures on the front lawn were in fact stocks. No fun.

Inside the gaol itself, the building is in various stages of (dis)repair. The west wing is in fairly good shape, all things considered, but there are other areas that are closed off and apparently not safe for humans to move around in.

There's a video presentation on life in the gaol before it was closed, and to be honest, it was pretty brutal. So much of this country's history reads of misery and hardship.

Blog Post - Monday, 6th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Mon 6 Feb 2006

It was a cold, dark morning and Syndia and I were off to see the Grange Stone Circle in Bruff.

The Grange Stone Circle is a standing-stone monument, like many others, built by the druids. Despite many claims to the contrary (ref Stonehenge), nobody really knows the definitive purpose for which they were built. Regardless of its raison d'etre, it makes for an extremely impressive engineering feat considering the tools available at the time.

I have to admit that standing in the centre of the circle, looking out over the fields felt more than a little eerie when considering that not all that much would have changed since some druid had last stood there.

We walked around in silence for a while before taking any photos, and were about to leave when a 4x4 pulled up and a farmer got out. He introduced himself as the custodian of the standing stones, being the one upon whose land they stand. His name is Tim Casey, and a nicer bloke you couldn't meet. He gave us the guided tour of the monoliths, and pointed out several features that we'd missed seeing on our own. He also showed us some photographs of his children, who had appeared in a book on the monoliths published by the Irish Department of Tourism.

The Lonely Planet guide mentions that you can choose whether or not to make a donation to support the farmer who maintains the site. If anyone reads this and travels to Bruff, please make a donation. Tim has spent many thousands of Euro fencing the area to protect it from sheep and cattle, building the little tourist hut and generally maintaining the site so that the likes of us can travel there and stick our noses in for an hour or two.

If you do go there, tell Tim that Andrew and Syndia sent you.

After our adventures in Bruff, we headed to Lough Gur. Lough Gur is a lake (surprise!) with a historical information centre and some other bits and pieces attached. Apparently it's a huge attraction for the locals, who swim there in summer. It's far too bloody cold for me, but it must be true - they even have a lifeguard station and lifebelts hanging at the lake's shore.

It would actually be quite a pretty area given some decent weather, but then, this is Ireland and that doesn't come along all that often.

On the way back we stopped at a small wedge tomb, which would have been built in around 2500BC. It was fascinating for that reason alone, but there was also a disturbing story about an insane woman who used to live therein. It's amazing, but not always encouraging, to see how people used to live.

Blog Post - Sunday, 5th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sun 5 Feb 2006

The day dawned bright and early... ok, fine, I tell a lie. The day dawned crawled out of bed, haggard and pale, at about 10am. That's when it started to get light, anyway. The two of us were up significantly earlier than that, breakfasting and planning our drive around the Ring of Kerry.

We commenced our trip by driving to Killarney, famous for (amongst other things) its lakes, trout fishing and its tourist industry. Killarney has been actively developed as a centre for tourism since the 17th century. Lord Thomas, Fourth Viscount of Kenmare, made a significant push during the 18th century to develop the industry further. In 2004 they even had a celebration of their town's 250-year existence as a tourist town.

Fair enough, too - it's a very pretty place, and extremely popular on weekends. We, of course, happened to be arriving in the town at about the same time on a Sunday morning as many hundreds of churchgoers. One short circuit around the town centre (more on that later) convinced us that no parking was to be had, and that even if we did find parking, breakfast would be rather difficult to obtain. We heathens should, of course, have been joining the congregation

Incidentally, with respect to the town centre: it was interesting to arrive at a fork in the road where two signs, one for each fork, proudly proclaimed "an Lár" (city centre). Signage in Ireland tends toward the approximate, as does spelling of many Gaelic words.

Since seeing Killarney properly would take more time than we had, we didn't really want to stop there for very long, and so headed off down towards the Ring of Kerry proper.

As fate would have it, we ended up stopping in search of breakfast in a little town called Muckross. Good move. There's an estate there called, funnily enough, Muckross Estate. At its centre is a beautiful old 19th century mansion, Muckross House. We explored the gardens but didn't enter the house (more on that later) as we were going to be pressed for time. The gardens are pretty barren at present, since it is, after all, the end of Winter here. This is one place we'll definitely be heading back to come Summer - the gardens are said to be spectacular, and we'd both like to explore the house.

So, back to the house, and why we didn't explore it. Firstly there's an admission charge and since I don't have a contract yet I'm feeling poor. The main reason, however, was that we'd arranged with our jarvey to only be 20 minutes or so exploring the gardens. What's a jarvey? Ask Syndia - she was getting very friendly with ours

A jarvey is the driver of a jaunting car, which is a two-wheeled, one-horse, open-topped cart. As we were parking our car we were approached by a jarvey and offered a discount off the usual EUR 40 cost due to its being off-season. Syndia bargained with him and managed to negotiate him down from the reduced rate of EUR 30 to EUR 27.50

Our jarvey, Patrick, and his horse, Charlie, took us all around the estate whilst providing an extraordinarily informative and amusing commentary on the place. Being shown anywhere by a local is different to exploring it for one's self, but this was something else again. Highly recommended. The only down side was that it was a cold day to be out, and Charlie was displaying his displeasure by attempting to hurry along the trails to get warm.

After leaving Muckross, we headed for Sneem, stopping briefly at Ladies View to - you guessed it - admire the view. Syndia became completely infatuated with some of the local sheep, whose behinds had been dyed pink. (The local farmers spray or dye different parts of their sheep different colours depending on the region in order to identify their owner.)

Shortly after photographing the pink sheep, we saw a sign advertising pancakes. I'm not sure what else it had written on it, but the word "pancakes" was enough to sell both of us, so off we went. The place turned out to be the "Strawberry Field".

The Strawberry Field is a delightful little pancake house. Its location on the Ring of Kerry evidently brings it a fair number of visitors, as evidenced by the number of contributors to the multiple guest books. By far the most compliments in the guest book were directed at the "fantastic" pancakes, so of course we had to try them. The verdict? They've earnt every single compliment in the guest books, and then some - they're the best pancakes I've ever tasted

Our next stop, and the last major one for the day, was at a staigue fort, or ring fort, in Castlecove. Most of the remaining ring forts are on private land, and this one is no exception. The walls must be a good 5 metres high at their highest points, and 4 metres thick at some points. The walls themselves are simple rock, with no cut stones or mortar. It's amazing to think that a structure built with such primitive methods has lasted for so long - this particular fort is estimated to have been constructed during the 1st century BC.

Syndia, true to form, was almost more interested in the psychedelic sheep

Blog Post - Saturday, 4th February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sat 4 Feb 2006

Syndia and I have hired a car for the next week. Syndia has the week off and, since I don't yet have a contract, we're going exploring.

Our first stop for the day was Knappogue Castle, which is on the way to Quin. It's quite a well-preserved castle (unlike many in the area) because Cromwell, rather than razing it to the ground, actually used it as a headquarters for some time. The castle is also well-known in current times for hosting stage-Irish medieval banquets, although, unlike its main competitor in that area, Bunratty Castle, the guests are actually provided with cutlery rather than having to use their fingers.

Unfortunately, the fine print in Lonely Planet was a little too fine, and Syndia (our illustrious navigator and tour guide, given that I was happily concentrating on rocketing down tiny little country lanes at [surprisingly] almost the speed limit) failed to notice that the castle isn't actually open to the public until April. Oops We did, however, get a good look at the castle gates, which were quite impressive, rather forbidding and very closed.

Onwards via Kilmurry to Quin, the town of (surprise!) Quin Abbey. The abbey is (was) a Franciscan Friary, founded in 1433. The last friar passed away in 1820 or thereabouts, although the abbey had apparently been in decline for a few hundred years beforehand.

One disconcerting thing about Quin Abbey was that there were just so many graves - and not just in the attached cemetery, but in the abbey itself! There were so many that in some parts of the abbey's surroundings, there was no access other than via walking over some poor unfortunate's grave. Some of the tombstones had actually had their inscriptions worn away by countless footsteps over the hundreds of years that they'd been in situ.

Our next stop was Kilkee via Ennis and Kilrush. Kilkee looks like the Irish equivalent of Brighton (both the English Brighton, which I haven't yet seen, and the Melburnian Brighton, which is, again, about the same as the English version from all I've heard) in that it's a holiday town for the affluent in Summer and a ghost town in the cooler seasons, except for the odd Scandanavian bathing in the frigid waters and exclaiming about how beautifully warm they are. Whew. You can take a breath now.

We stopped for lunch at Myle's Creek pub. Syndia had a seafood chowder that had more seafood in it than she could poke a stick at, and I had a piece of an excellent shepherd's pie. (Should that be "shepherds' pie"? It certainly served more than one person...)

Incidental memo to self: when in Ireland, if one is cold and doesn't know what to order, the soup of the day is always good. It's almost always served with a crusty bread called "soda bread", whose distinguishing feature is that it's made with baking soda instead of yeast. It's a heavy, brown, whole-grain bread that I'm sure my mother would love - and, surprisingly enough, I actually like it myself.

The buildings in Kilkee are a bit faded and the "exhilarating" and "fine, sheltered" beach (according to Lonely Planet) looks like a narrow, barren, arctic crescent of pale sand. To be fair, in Summer it's probably better than St Kilda Beach, in that at least the sand doesn't feel like gravel.

The view from the cliffs, however, is spectacular. Bleak and forbidding and with a biting wind, they're reminiscent of Victoria's Great Ocean Road on a very angry day.

There are some ruins on a rocky outcrop that was once part of the coast before the sea wore away its connecting bridge to the mainland. I can't imagine wanting to live in a stone hut in such an unforgiving, barren place.

Blog Post - Thursday, 2nd February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Thu 2 Feb 2006

More fun with work permits today. The biggest problem appears to be that businesses are in such a hurry to hire people that they don't want to wait the few weeks it takes to organise a permit - but there's no way for a non-EEC citizen to obtain a work permit without a written job offer from a prospective employer. Catch 22. No fun.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 1st February, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Wed 1 Feb 2006

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me.

Blog Post - Sunday, 29th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sun 29 Jan 2006

Syndia and I went exploring to Adare today. It's billed as Ireland's most picturesque village, and although we haven't seen much of the rest of the country yet, it's certainly very pretty.

The Adare Manor was recently refurbished into an exclusive hotel. Unfortunately that meant we didn't get to poke around inside it, but we at least trespassed on the grounds long enough to have a good look at it from the outside.

The town itself has a fascinating history but I'm just too tired to summarise it. Suffice it to say that the successive Earls of Dunraven are practically worshipped for their efforts in its development.

Blog Post - Saturday, 28th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Sat 28 Jan 2006

My first full day in Ireland Syndia and I went off exploring Limerick this morning, and ended up at the local markets. It's very cool - the local farmers actually bring in their produce and sell it directly to the public, the same way they've been doing it for the last couple of hundred years. Syndia felt sorry for one of the fruit sellers since he looked so downtrodden, so she bought four apples from him.

We ambled about Limerick for a while, then headed to the Hunt Museum, which is located in the old Customs House. It's a fascinating collection of artefacts from all different periods in the region's history (and some that are in the collection apparently just because they were interesting). It used to be a private collection owned by John and Gertrude Hunt, but was donated by them "to the Irish people." Well worth a look.

Blog Post - Friday, 27th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Fri 27 Jan 2006

Arrived in London (Heathrow) at 0500 this morning. Cold. Dark.

Baggage delayed. Surprise.

Bus to Gatwick, leaving 0715. Still cold. Still dark.

Plane to Dublin. Still cold. Less dark.

Bus to Limerick. Less cold; less dark. Still haven't seen sunlight. Suppose I'd better get used to that...

Car (thankfully) to where we're staying. Thanks heaps to Syndia's registrar, George, for offering to pick me up. Much appreciated after over 40 hours in transit.

Wonderful to see Syndia again.

With respect to entry into England, and as was mentioned by one miffed friend, picture this:

Group together every country throughout history that has made war upon England or vice versa. Add a few more that haven't. Let's call this Group A. Add in anal-retentive, neutral Switzerland, just because their Nazi gold isn't welcome in the other group. Assign to a new group all those countries that have either allied with, been colonised by or have otherwise fought on the side of England in those wars. We'll call this Group B.

At Heathrow, citizens of Group A (now known as the European Union) are invited into the country with barely a flash of an EU passport. All the citizens of countries which, not very long ago, were making war upon England, including Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and shortly Turkey (!), are welcomed with open arms.

Citizens of Group B ("The Colonials"), amongst them the Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans... the list goes on... are given pat-down searches, interrogated by customs officials, chemical-residue tested and generally harrassed. I wonder if they remember which side of the beach at Gallipoli we were on. "Dirty, stinking foreigners" indeed.

So, welcome to England. And, very shortly, farewell to England, at least for a while. My flight out was from Gatwick, so a short bus trip later I was sitting in another BAA airport drinking more insipid tea.

One remarkably stupid facet of Gatwick Airport is the completely broken method of boarding gate assignment. There isn't one. Someone must have had the bright idea to group everyone together in a departure lounge, stick signs up saying "Please allow 15 minutes to walk to Gate 123", then watch via hidden camera and snigger quietly as distressed travellers mill around aimlessly until, 5 minutes before the scheduled boarding time of their flight, the actual gate number appears on the boarding display.

The ensuing chaos when a flight's gate number is actually published is only lessened by the fact that they don't actually make any announcement to that effect, so rather than having one massive horde of people all scream loudly, pick up their baggage and run towards a common gate, instead there are numerous muttered exclamations of "Oh,f, my flight's about to leave," followed by several small hordes of people moving frantically but sheepishly towards a common gate. Brilliant, really.

The Dublin->Limerick trip is a 4-hour bus ride, so I heard all the news on the national talk-back radio station on the way. The issues dominating the news when I arrived were: 1) Dr Eamon Casey; and 2) Paschal Taggart.

Dr Eamon Casey, a former bishop of Galway, had had an "affair" (even though neither of them were married) with an American woman, with whom he had a son. The relationship (dating from 1972 or thereabouts) was discovered in 1992, and he was effectively exiled from Ireland, working as a missionary in Ecuador for some years. He's recently returned to retire in Galway and it's caused a huge controversy.

Paschal Taggart, the chairman of the Bord na gCon, was implicated in a doping and influence-peddling scandal. What's the "Bord na gCon?" It's the Irish greyhound racing board. Yep, that's right - that's national news here

Blog Post - Thursday, 26th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Thu 26 Jan 2006

Happy Australia Day!

I left Brisbane this afternoon. Thanks to everyone who came to the airport to see me off!

The flight to Singapore was the first time I'd been in an A330. I have to admit I liked the video-on-demand system

If one has to be stuck at an airport for a couple of hours, there are worse places than Changi to be. The highlight of the place has to be the health spa, though. Massage... all good.

The British Airways flight to London was... well... very British. The cabin crew were perfectly courteous, perfectly capable, yet some of the most boring and punctilious people I've ever come across. Video on demand wasn't. Looked out the window at various unnamed European cities. Slept.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 10th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Tue 10 Jan 2006

Well... the flights are booked, and I'm officially out of here at 1:40pm on Australia Day (26th of January for all you Philistines out there). I should land (or crash, platter, or whatever happens) in Dublin at 11:40am on the 27th.

My last day of work is the 20th, so I'll have a few days to clean up, pack and panic before I head off.

Blog Post - Monday, 9th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Mon 9 Jan 2006

Who's interested in a beach trip this weekend? I want to enjoy the Queensland weather as much as I can before I leave!

Seriously... shout out if you're interested...

Blog Post - Thursday, 5th January, 2006

Andrew Harcourt Thu 5 Jan 2006

Woohoo! Thanks heaps to Paul Jose for providing hosting for the uglybugger servers whilst I'm overseas! The servers appear to be up and running with no problems, so could people please stop phoning me about the QAFA site now?

On another note... Happy new year!

Blog Post - Sunday, 25th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 25 Dec 2005

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Blog Post - Saturday, 24th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 24 Dec 2005

Happy birthday, Dad!

Blog Post - Friday, 23rd December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Fri 23 Dec 2005

Today is probably the last time I'll set foot in the studio until Syndia and I return. It's a little sad, even though I know the trip is going to be well-worth it.

A big thank-you and good-bye to all the staff and students - it's been great! Don't breathe too great a sigh of relief, though - you can't get rid of me forever

Blog Post - Sunday, 18th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 18 Dec 2005

A huge thank-you to everyone who made it to the Bugger-Off party last night! It was great to see so many friends there, and it was an absolutely awesome send-off for Syndia and me1.

Many, many thanks to Mum and Dad who, despite requests to not exert themselves, took care of all the catering, all the furniture-shifting2 and large chunks of everything else. Special thanks also to Tony, who rigged some of the lights and (importantly!) went on a beer-and-ice run when I didn't have time beforehand

There were representatives from school, uni, fencing, dancing and some others from here and there; all in all we ended up with slightly over fifty people - and it went off really well. Thanks once again to everyone - it was a great night. I hope you all had as much fun as Syndia and I did.

1Yep, correct usage of "me" there.

2I suspect some younger siblings of mine may have been involved there...

Blog Post - Saturday, 17th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 17 Dec 2005

Final bronze exam today... scary.

The end result was pretty decent - I didn't fall down, and the rest of the credit isn't really mine

To my teacher, Susan Gillingham: Many, many thanks for all the time you've spent and the effort you've been to in teaching me. I hope your efforts haven't been in vain

Blog Post - Friday, 16th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Fri 16 Dec 2005

Wow, cool! Tony has bought a WRX!

He took Syndia and me out to lunch/coffee this afternoon, and is obviously very proud of his new toy - and rightfully so. It's beautiful. He even let me drive it when we dropped Syndia off at work.

The verdict? Fulli sik, moite.

Blog Post - Thursday, 15th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Thu 15 Dec 2005

Bugger it... I'm simply too exhausted, so I've decided to forgo my manly pride and have bailed on the plan that Fadge and I had to chainsaw up some wood for tomorrow night's bonfire. Instead, I've actually paid someone to deliver a trailer-load of wood.

I choose to believe that it burns the same

In other news: the Studio One Christmas Party is on tonight. Should be fun - I'm going (for at least part of it) as the Grinch

Blog Post - Thursday, 8th December, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Thu 8 Dec 2005

Congratulations to Tony - it's just been confirmed by UQ's Graduations department that he will be awarded first-class honours

In other news, Syndia returns from Eidsvold on Sunday rather than Wednesday, I won Best Man '05 at Studio One this evening and it looks like I'm going to Mountain View for more interviews.

All in all, one of the better days I've had recently. Now, if only I could be rid of this throat bug, life would be even better

Blog Post - Monday, 24th October, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Mon 24 Oct 2005

Finally got around to bringing uglyTEXT online. Cool!

Have fun, people

Blog Post - Thursday, 13th October, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Thu 13 Oct 2005

Oh, sod... I've let the smoke out of the power supply on my main workstation. Not a happy little vegemite - I think it toasted a few other components before it died. Yes, backups are great, but it still sucks to have one's PC go out with such a bang. Grumpy...

Sorry, people - updates from Sydney might take a little longer now.

Blog Post - Friday, 7th October, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Fri 7 Oct 2005

Happy birthday, Karen!

Blog Post - Thursday, 29th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Thu 29 Sep 2005

Happy birthday, Dave!

I'm currently in Sydney, ostensibly for Nationals but in reality for other stuff. That's probably a good thing, too, since I'm going to get thrashed... More news as it comes to hand..

Blog Post - Monday, 19th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Mon 19 Sep 2005

Cool! It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Blog Post - Thursday, 15th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Thu 15 Sep 2005

Mambo comp... woohoo! Best man

As always, credit and many thanks to my teachers...

Blog Post - Saturday, 10th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 10 Sep 2005

A bunch of us went for a picnic in the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens this afternoon for Syndia's birthday. Talk about food - I raided a cake stall being run by a bunch of little old ladies for St Andrew's Anglican Church (Wooloowin IIRC) and a whole bunch of people brought far too much additional food. Syndia and Karen then went even further this morning and baked a batch of cupcakes. Food, food, food...

After an excessively nice picnic, thank you very much, we decided to go and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Freddie Highmore was probably the least notable in terms of performances, but I guess he played the role well.. but the stand-out, of course, was Johnny Depp. Very cool, very creepy, very disturbed Willy Wonka. I have to admit, I liked this one better than the original.

The final adjournment for the evening was back to our place for five of us.. Ben, Fadge, Syndia, Karen and I all ended up playing Scumbags and Warlords. The sad and geeky part of the night was when we decided to make the current Warlord wear my Michael Jackson fedora hat, and the current Scumbag to wear a 1950s cravat.

Jenna arrived part-way into the game, and Syndia got all excited about her new selection of earrings. Speaking of Jenna's earrings and other jewelry, check out her web site, - she makes some amazing stuff!

Blog Post - Friday, 9th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Fri 9 Sep 2005

Happy birthday, Caro!

The party was fun, and it was good to see so many of the fencers there, even if they were all taking excessive advantage of all the alcohol provided

Blog Post - Thursday, 8th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Thu 8 Sep 2005

Ooh, scary... The Studio One 80s Theme Party was held this evening, and I decided to go as Michael Jackson. So, of course, since I couldn't very well go as the man who invented (ok, ok..) the moonwalk without being able to do it, so I'd been doing my homework for a week or two in advance. I did have a couple of people ask if parts of me were real, however. That's a bit disturbing...

The music? As you probably guessed: big hair bands, drum machines, MIDI synths and lip syncing.

The outcome of the costume competition? Jim Collins and I tied for first. All good, but I'm glad it's over. The eighties are over for more reasons than the fact that humans have ten digits on their hands.

Congratulations to all the staff, assuming they ever read this. Most of them went completely above and beyond the call of duty in preparing their costumes. The schoolgirls with bubblegum-pink and purple hair, the hair-sprayed, teased mass of curls that weren't a wig, and the other Michael Jackson were all very cool. The cake, however, has to go to Indiana Jones

Blog Post - Sunday, 4th September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 4 Sep 2005

Work, work, work... Hate this project... Yes, I know it's a Sunday.. these things happen.

Not sleeping well at present, and I've stupidly hurt my neck somehow. ARGH! So frustrating...

Blog Post - Saturday, 3rd September, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 3 Sep 2005

Paul Fewster and Sarah Calderwood's wedding today, at the Mt Cotton Rainforest Gardens. Beautiful venue. Congratulations to the bride and groom..

Dinner at the Robertsons' this evening to watch RiverFire. RiverFire, as always, was very cool, and dinner was, as always, great fun.

The highlight (lowlight?) of the night was when Isabelle decided to dye Leitch's and Mike's hair. The dye didn't take all that well, so I volunteered to have mine done. The result? I now have violently-purple hair. Hmm...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 30th August, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Tue 30 Aug 2005

Happy birthday, Syndia!

Blog Post - Sunday, 28th August, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 28 Aug 2005

Syndia being at work, Karen and I went to see Saturday Night Fever this afternoon. How was it? Well... considering the highlights of last weekend, all in all it was a bit disappointing.

That having been said, the general quality of the show was quite good. Not spectacular; certainly nowhere near as good as We Will Rock You, but nonetheless a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

It was fun, but Syndia didn't miss all that much.

Blog Post - Sunday, 21st August, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 21 Aug 2005

Yes, a site facelift. Isn't that nice?

Went out to my parents' place for a BBQ dinner this evening. Met up with Mike, Maddy, Dave and Tham there as well; unfortunately Tony couldn't make it as he's swamped with uni stuff.

It was good to see everyone again - I've been far too busy lately and haven't been keeping in touch with many people.

Blog Post - Saturday, 20th August, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 20 Aug 2005

Went with Syndia and Karen to see tonight's installment of the World Superstars Australian Dance Festival. Very, very cool.

The highlight of the night had to be the professional Latin American couple, Slavik Kryklyvyy and Karina Smirnoff (and I'll admit, I did have to resort to Google to get the spelling of Slavik's surname correct). True to form, every single female in the audience fell instantly in lust with Slavik, whilst I'm sure almost every single male felt impressed, awed and at least slightly intimidated by Karina.

No photos, unfortunately - too many restrictions on video-capable cameras I'll see if I can get some of the official recordings though..

Blog Post - Sunday, 14th August, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 14 Aug 2005

QAFA Open #3 today. Didn't really need to be there - Fadge, Frank, Tony and Paul had things reasonably well in-hand. It was good to see some of the fencers though.

Probably shouldn't have tried to get so much done on Saturday night/Sunday morning though - am very tired..

Blog Post - Friday, 12th August, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Fri 12 Aug 2005

Went to the Royal Queensland Show (the Ekka) with Syndia today. Very cool. Photos to come shortly.

Blog Post - Sunday, 3rd April, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sun 3 Apr 2005

Ugh... Dragged my sorry carcass out of bed this morning to run the QAFA B-Grade competition. Some interesting results eventuated in the foil, but all in all it was a good comp.

The coolest thing from a geekiness viewpoint was that I finally got around to test the laptop's GPRS connectivity to the QAFA web site, with the result that the competition results and updated rankings were uploaded before we even left the venue. It's kinda cool, kinda geeky, but the main bonus is that now I can go home, unpack and not have to worry about firing up the laptop again to upload the results. Sleep, here I come...

Blog Post - Saturday, 2nd April, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 2 Apr 2005

It's a hard life sometimes...

Syndia and I celebrated our sixth anniversary together today by heading down to the Radisson for massages, followed by a rather late breakfast at a little cafe in the Broadbeach Mall. The massage was possibly one of the best hours of my life, although I can't recall ever being quite so pleased that someone could cause me so much pain whilst smiling all the time..

After spending the remainder of the day lazing around the coast and taking the long way back via Hinze Dam (around which we had a good race with a bloke in a V8 Statesman), we headed back to Brisbane, lazed around some more, then briefly dropped in at Jade's 18th before going to Olivetto's for dinner. It's a hard life

Blog Post - Saturday, 5th March, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 5 Mar 2005

Awesome day today, as Syndia, Karen and I went to Dreamworld

We arrived late morning and promptly headed to the mine ride, then the rapids thingo, then a whole bunch of other stuff that I can't remember. The coolest ride by far, however, had to be the Giant Drop. It's the closest feeling to proper free-fall, and it lasts for about four seconds (although it feels like much longer) before it starts to decelerate again. Very, very cool. Syndia apparently kept her eyes shut for the entire time, and consequently completely panicked when we dropped.

We saw the tigers at Tiger Island, which was very cool. I guess it's common knowledge that the big cats are so agile and powerful, but seeing them up close was a pretty amazing experience.

Our last ride for the day was the Cyclone, the roller coaster that replaced the Thunderbolt. We were already strapped in and ready to go when Syndia realised that it went upside down (surprise - it's a roller coaster, right?) and panicked again. She survived the first loop, started to whimper during the second loop, and then lost it completely and started screaming just as the coaster was coming to a stop again at the end of the ride. Karen, who was further back in the coaster, even recognised the scream and attributed it correctly to Syndia. It was kinda funny, except that she really was a bit upset. We still had to laugh, though - she'd survived the scariest part of the ride only to panic at the very last corner

As per usual, photos are here.

Blog Post - Saturday, 26th February, 2005

Andrew Harcourt Sat 26 Feb 2005

Crap day.

QAFA Open #1 and I ended up black-carding two people.

I honestly don't know why volunteer officials up with this kind of crap, but I'm really, really pissed off. We don't get paid, we put in far too many hours of our time (I won't say spare time, because it isn't - we sacrifice other activities to find the time), and what happens at the end of it? Some brat will give us a hard time because things haven't been done the way they'd like them to have been.

Enough is enough. I've had it. I'm NOT the nice tournament director any more. The yellow card is being left at home; mess with the DT at your peril.

Blog Post - Monday, 27th December, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Mon 27 Dec 2004

Wow... listen to that rain! Glad I'm not out in it...

Blog Post - Sunday, 26th December, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 26 Dec 2004

Today was tiring but very good fun. Since Sarah's back in town for a week or so over Christmas, I dragged her out for a blast on the bike. The destination? Natural Arch, in Springbrook Forest.

We arrived at sometime past midday, having spent the morning kicking around chatting with Sarah's parents and catching up on all sorts of interesting gossip.. ;)

The arch itself is only about a 1km round trip, if that, from the carpark, so we wandered down to it to have a look around before going back to the facilities at the car park to get changed. Yep, that's right - we had decided to go swimming in a pool of water inside a cave, fed by a waterfall, on the top of a mountain.

Can you say cold? COLD? Absolutely bloody freezing is what it was... and of course, since we'd taken the plunge and acutally jumped into the thing, there was nothing to do but swim direcly under the waterfall before swimming around for a while, shivering a bit more and then climbing out again. Good fun though, and well worth making the effort to visit the place if you haven't seen it. There are cool "micro bats" in the cave (no idea what makes them special except that they're tiny), and there are also glow-worms which, unfortunately, didn't seem to want to make an appearance in daylight :p

Lunch was at a little cafe whose name I can't remember in the Numinbah Valley. It wasn't the one that Ross, Henry and I stopped at though - not that that's all that helpful. And if you do manage to find this little cafe with no name that's not the other little cafe with no name, be sure to order the scones - they're good

A not-so-brief drone back up the freeway took us back to Chez Gauvin, where I ran into Harry-David, of all people. It was good to see him again, and although we didn't get to spend too much time catching up we did have an interesting chat for a while. Anyway, I ended up staying for dinner and then we all retired to watch the Return of the King (Extended Edition).

Extended edition? As in two whole DVDs just for the movie? I couldn't believe that they had released a movie that went longer than the three hours it ran for in the cinemas, but they did. I fell asleep on my bean bag about two-thirds of the way through, and awoke to find a huge list of names scrolling up the screen in the credits. I'm told it was a list of all the fans who contributed, but regardless, the list scrolled for a good ten minutes.

All in all, a very enjoyable day. I just wish my legs weren't so sore...

Blog Post - Saturday, 25th December, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 25 Dec 2004

Merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy new year to all those whom I don't see before then!

Christmas was (thankfully) a quiet affair; just my parents, my grandmothers, my brothers and me out at my parents' house. As per usual, far too much food, but on the bright side: there's a whole swag of desserts still just waiting to be eaten

Special thanks to Dave, who gave me the coolest present: a waffle iron, called a Woddles, which is shaped like a penguin and that produces penguin-shaped waffles. Very geeky, but very cool. Thanks, Dave!

Blog Post - Sunday, 19th December, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 19 Dec 2004

Had an awesome weekend! Since Syndia's up in Hervey Bay at the moment, I rode up on Friday night to surprise her. I didn't want to spook her too much though, so I phoned her from the verandah of her temporary home rather than just knocking on the door. She seemed pleased to see me

We headed out to the marina for breakfast on Saturday morning, and were generally pretty decadent in our orders. You would have been, too, if you'd been kicking back where we were

After breakfast, it was off to have a look around the marina and associated boardwalk, before putting in an appearance at Reefworld, which, I have to admit, was actually heaps more fun than I thought it would be. We saw a whole bunch of aquatic critters, most of which I couldn't name then and certainly can't name now. Fishes, sharks, turtles and other squishy and spiky things abound in their main aquarium, which is fed directly from the water of the bay.

Breakfast on Sunday was at Gataker's Restaurant; a delightful little place out at Point Vernon. It's up for sale at present, and I sincerely hope that the new owners run it as well as the current ones do. The food was excellent, the service the same and the location was just amazing. Syndia and I spent most of the meal discussing how we'd love to live in such a place.

After breakfast, we headed out to Torquay Beach and Jetski Hire on Torquay beach, from where we hired a little cat from Dave, the proprietor. He's a good bloke, and if you're in the area I'd strongly recommend the place. The cat was a little no-name thing, about 10ft, with only a single mainsail and no jib, but it was still really good to get out on the water again and fang around for a bit

All in all, this weekend was the best I've had in a long time. As per usual, photos are here.

Blog Post - Thursday, 16th December, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Thu 16 Dec 2004

The Studio One Christmas Party was held this evening, and it was a blast!

The deal is that all students get free entry provided they bring a children's toy, to be delivered by the studio to their chosen charity. Well, as it so happened, I was just leaving K-Mart at Indooroopilly having just picked up one of those little scooter thingies, and I saw Santa suits for sale. My thoughts went something like this:

Cool! A Santa suit!

Awesome! An inflatable Santa suit!

OMFG I have to get this - a battery-operated, inflatable Santa suit!

This is one of the coolest toys I've ever owned! That's right, it's a one-piece, nylon, inflatable Santa suit. There's a little electric fan in the back of the suit that blows it up like a jumping castle, and there's a battery pack that clips to one's belt to power the thing.

It was an absolute hit at the party, and I actually managed to dance a few dances in it before I got too hot and decided to take it off. I didn't get any photos of myself in the suit, but later on in the night Natalie Keresztes modelled it for everyone. Photos are here.

Blog Post - Thursday, 4th November, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Thu 4 Nov 2004

I didn't run quite fast enough last night, and got conscripted to perform an exhibition dance (a rumba) at the Studio One studio party.

My teacher had taught me a few variations literally two minutes before the end of my lesson, and I think I spooked her a bit when I pulled them out of the bag in the exhibition ;) It all went quite well though, although I still don't really like the idea of inflicting myself on a captive audience until I'm just a little more accomplished and can actually show them something interesting...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 2nd November, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 2 Nov 2004

Well, today was interesting... I vaguely remember waking up at a little before 06:00 to the sound of my phone ringing, but couldn't find it and hence didn't answer it. As it turned out, it was Paul ringing to tell me that there had been a mistake with the Currimundi coaching, and instead of needing me up there that afternoon, he had to head up there early that morning instead.

Not a bad day after all though, as I only discovered this at a much more reasonable hour of almost 09:00, and all it meant I had to do was show up to cover one of his schools and then open Chevaliers that evening.

Blog Post - Monday, 1st November, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Mon 1 Nov 2004

Interview today. I guess we'll see how it goes. It would certainly be nice to get back into full-time work as opposed to contracts here and there - I'd really like to buy a house before the end of the year, but I don't like my chances of getting finance as a contractor at present...

No UQFC training this evening, so I headed off to Studio One instead. The Latin American group was concentrating on samba technique, so it was quite an energetic and fun session.

Blog Post - Sunday, 31st October, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 31 Oct 2004

QAFA Schools #4 (Schoolies) was held today, and I have to admit I was just a bit tired from last night's festivities.

The competition ran very well (and almost perfectly to time), with only a small incident involving a belligerent parent having a go at me to marr the day. Those sorts of incidents are pretty rare in fencing in Queensland, so it was a bit disappointing to see it happen there. On the other hand, the way it was handled did a lot to inspire confidence in the coaches and referees in general, and the person involved did approach me later to apologise.

Blog Post - Saturday, 30th October, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 30 Oct 2004

The Studio One Spring Showcase Ball was held this evening, and an awesome evening it was!

Syndia drove back from Hervey Bay for the weekend and we had a bit of fun getting dressed up for the event.

The highlights of the evening for me had to be the mambo danced by Brendan McKone and Ms McNought, to the B-52's Rock Lobster, and a quickstep danced by Mr Berry and one of his students.

This is the first showcase I've been to, but they're apparently held every 6 months or so. I'm considering doing an exhibition at about this time next year. They also produce a DVD of the evening and I can't wait to get my hands on it...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 19th October, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 19 Oct 2004

Happy birthday, Elise!


Oh, FFS, save me from people who dump stuff in their Deleted Items folder and then complain when - yes, wait for it - IT GETS DELETED!


Blog Post - Thursday, 7th October, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Thu 7 Oct 2004

Happy birthday, Karen!

Cha cha competition this evening... I wasn't too stressed going into it as I didn't really expect all that much, but as it turns out I won the gumby division

That part of it wasn't too bad, as I was only out on the floor with other recent newcomers and didn't feel too uncomfortable - but then they told me at the end that the winner of each division had to dance again in the final.

Picture it - people from seven or eight divisions up on the floor, and I am without question the least experienced dancer there. Every single person on the floor had been dancing for longer than I had.

Blog Post - Thursday, 30th September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Thu 30 Sep 2004

Ooh, crikey. I've been entered (by my teacher) into a cha cha competition next week. Not confident..

Blog Post - Wednesday, 29th September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 29 Sep 2004

Happy birthday, Dave!

Blog Post - Sunday, 26th September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 26 Sep 2004

The novice and open foil competitions went reasonably smoothly today, although there was, as usual, a shortage of referees for the early rounds. I'm going to start investigating a way to feed data into en garde, as I'm getting really tired of entering fencers' names into the program on the day of each competition.

Blog Post - Saturday, 25th September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 25 Sep 2004

Saw We Will Rock You with Syndia today, and yes, we were rocked. Very good fun, and if it hadn't finished showing, I would have highly recommended it. As it is, if you're not in Brisbane then odds are it's coming to town shortly, so go and see it.

There was some silliness with respect to the AFL Grand Final and having televisions inside the venue for the fencing state championships. Not fun, and I'm seriously considering exactly how much time I'm willing to commit as a volunteer when I'm going to receive that sort of abuse from some competitors. Be warned, people: I am not going to be a nice tournament director at the next couple of competitions.

Blog Post - Friday, 24th September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Fri 24 Sep 2004

P:layed squash with Fadge, Sarah and Syndia this evening. Good fun, and it was a pleasant surprise to realise that I'm actually not as unfit as I thought I would be

After squash, we managed to persuade Fadge to come to Orchard's with us, where we are assured he didn't step on many toes and may actually decide to go again I have to admit that it was very funny watching the expression on his face when he realised he'd have to dance with his sister at some point And just in case Catherine reads this, thanks for dancing those two quicksteps with me..

Blog Post - Wednesday, 22nd September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 22 Sep 2004

Coffee with Sarah this evening, since she's back in town on leave. Good fun and good company, as per usual, although it was surprisingly difficult to find someone who would actually serve coffee when we started our search for it. One wouldn't think it difficult to find at not much before 10pm on a Wednesday night, but there you have it...

It was definitely good to catch up again though, and hearing all her anecdotes from her current (regular army) posting made me feel quite nostalgic about my time in the reserves.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 7th September, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 7 Sep 2004

Not a wonderful day today. Since Syndia had a day off (apparently interns actually get some days off when they're doing night-shift in emergency), we decided to go for a short ride up to the Sunshine Coast, over Mt Mee, then probably back via the Glasshouse Mountains. That was the plan, anyway.

The bike had been running beautifully since its last service, and full credit to the Midtown Kawasaki guys for it. I had told them that there was a problem with the jetting and that it was fouling spark plugs, and they actually pulled the carbs apart and then refused to charge me for it because they couldn't find anything wrong. Apparently they hooked it up to an O2 sensor in their workshop and it said that the mixture was fine, so they made arrangements for me to have the bike dynoed (to happen shortly).

Well, of course, what should happen but that the bike should foul another set of spark plugs and die (luckily) at the BP Service Centre in Caboolture. (Northbound on the highway, if it makes a difference; there are two.) After tweaking what I could with the tools I had on hand, we decided that the bike wasn't going anywhere and that we should catch a train back to Brisbane, pick up a full tool kit and persuade the bike that way. On the train on the way back, I called Fadge to ask him to make my apologies for not appearing at Chevaliers that night, as things were starting to look doubtful. More on that later.

When in Brisbane, do as the Brisbanites do. Do not call Yellow Cabs. Call Black and White. Trust me. The only reason I called Yellow was that B&W don't service that far out. As we discovered, neither really do Yellow Cabs. After being given an ETA of "up to 20 minutes," we were still waiting an hour and twenty minutes after the call. Finally giving up on them, we hitchhiked to the local train station and from there caught a train back to Brisbane. I did do the right thing and phoned to cancel the booking, and was met with an irritatingly rude operator who didn't see anything at all wrong with a customer's having had to wait over an hour past the ETA provided. I'm sure there's a black mark against my name with them now

We grabbed Syndia's Impreza and after a quick trip to Midtown for new spark plugs (and a not-so-quick trip home for an elusive spark-plug tube spanner) we were on our way back to Caboolture to exercise a slightly stronger form of persuasion on the bike.

From starting out at roughly 10:30am, we were back in Caboolture at about 8pm; I had the bike working again at around 8:30pm and we were back in Brisbane, cold, tired and surprisingly not grumpy at around 9:30pm.

If that wasn't the end of it, I received an SMS from Paul shortly after returning to Brisbane, saying that Chevaliers had had a record number of attendees, and that it would have been nice to have another coach around. ARGH! Sorry, Paul!

A big thank-you to (a different) Paul, Michelle and the crowd at BP Caboolture for letting me leave the bike there, and then letting me work on it in their car park

Blog Post - Tuesday, 31st August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 31 Aug 2004

Awesome morning!! I had an absolute blast at The WRX Experience. They had a cancellation this morning, so instead of driving the standard WRX I got to mess around with their modified WRX STi. "Modified" in this case means a $10k engine management computer, variable boost (anywhere between 15 and 25 psi), a whole bunch of other bits and pieces, leading to about 225kW at the wheels. Sweeeet!

My initial lap session didn't go all that well; I was a bit too hesitant to keep the STi on boost while getting it turned into the corners. You would be too, if you felt how quickly the boost cuts in once the turbo spins up

The second session was a little better; I was starting to get the car turned in comfortably and was keeping it pointed through the corners better, but I was feeling a bit erratic and it showed :p

The final session, however, was when it all started to come together. I was aiming for what was supposed to be a "good" lap time of 1m35s or thereabouts, and a skill score (see the assessment form in the photos section if you really want to know) of about 35. I thought I was going to be way off the pace after my second session, but as it turned out, I ended up putting in a 1m24.7s lap, and scored 42 in the skill points. Sweet!

Photos are here.

Thank you to Syndia for a very, very cool birthday present.

Blog Post - Monday, 30th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Mon 30 Aug 2004

Happy birthday, Syndia!

Blog Post - Saturday, 28th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 28 Aug 2004

Went to Michael Robertson's 40th birthday party this evening, and it absolutely rocked! It was seventies-themed, so Mike, Maddy, Syndia and I went costume shopping on Friday. You can see the results in the photo gallery.

Syndia went as the blonde from Abba (I wasn't around then, so don't blame me if I can't remember her name); Mike and Maddy went as early 70's hippies and I went for the mid- to late-70's dodgy disco look. We thought we were going to be outdone by all of the people who were actually around in the 70's - after all, we had to go and hire gear, whereas they for the most part just had to look in their wardrobes... but such was not the case. We killed them! Michael (Robertson, not Harcourt) couldn't tell who was who, even after we had to buzz for entry and give our names.

The party itself went off very well; their apartment has an awesome view of the river, and, of course, it was the night of Riverfire, which meant we had fireworks for the best part of an hour, followed by a pair of F-111's doing a dump-and-burn all along the river. Woohoo!

Blog Post - Tuesday, 24th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 24 Aug 2004

Happy birthday, Paul! Thanks for the birthday cake!

Happy birthday to Rohan, too! I got a call today (literally as I'd just picked up my mobile to wish him a happy birthday; how's that for a fluke?!) saying that Rohan and Anna would be coming up to Brisbane sometime next week. It looks like we're going out sometime on Friday, which should be very cool

Also went to a property investment seminar hosted by Bernays Brown; it was interesting, but about investment in commercial property, which is probably a little beyond me at the moment.

Blog Post - Saturday, 21st August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 21 Aug 2004

Went to Auto Salon with Tony today. There are some absolutely insane people out there - some (most!!) of the toys we looked at were pretty ridiculous. Photos are here.

After leaving the car show, we headed to City Fencers at Indro, where the U17 state squad was training. We arrived in time to see Leitch making them all do some sprint training, after which Tony managed to hit a gullible Walshy a couple of times with water from Leitch's water bottle

From there, we left for Indro proper, to go and see Hellboy. This wasn't my idea, and quite a few of us expressed our trepidation at the time, but nonetheless we went and saw it. The verdict? I want those 2 hours 17 minutes of my life back. Ugh.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 17th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 17 Aug 2004

Shocking training session last night. Ugh.

Lunch with Syndia at the Steam Café at South Bank. Not so "ugh"

Coaching a whole bunch of little people tonight. Ugh.

Blog Post - Monday, 16th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Mon 16 Aug 2004

I bought and read a copy of Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment today. Good fun, although he doesn't seem to pay quite as much attention to the plot in this one as in a few of his other recent books. I know it's supposed to be a fair bit more light-hearted, but I still got a little annoyed. If you've read the book, I guess you'll know what I mean, but otherwise... the "Secret" is far more widespread than expected.

I also ran into Tashen and her friend Fiona (as I was buying the book). Tashen's still working for Boeing and looks very pleased with herself It's a small world...

Blog Post - Sunday, 15th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 15 Aug 2004

Coffee with Elise and Michael this evening; always good

Elise had some crazy skydiving stories to tell, as per usual, but this time they were accompanied by video. She outflew (arched) a free-flyer who was flying on his head - reportedly he still couldn't keep up! The camera shots from him were interesting though - they consisted of trying in vain to keep up with Elise and Crikey, so almost the entire video was of him looking down at them and trying to keep up

Michael's having fun at work, as per usual He has a new toy, too: an EB Falcon which he, being an electrical engineer, has of course re-wired and added to which he either has or will shortly be adding obscene amounts of audio equipment.

Blog Post - Saturday, 14th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 14 Aug 2004

W00t! A LAN party is always good fun, and this one even more so because I hadn't seen the UQ IT crowd in a while.

There was one notable absence, however - Steve, for whom the LAN was arranged, bailed at the last minute. ARGH! Steve's back in Brisbane for a week or so (from Woolloongong), so Paul organised the LAN around that so we'd all have time to catch up. Oh well...

Anyway, the LAN: we played some Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour, some Doom 3 and some UT 2004. All good fun, except that I discovered that my first-person-shooter skills have sadly deteriorated since I last played. Ugh. Embarrassing.

Paul and Sim cooked some chicken fillos for their dinner, and discovered half-way through that the centres were still raw. Ugh. Craig and I were vastly better-served by the local Maccas

I bailed at about 2am on Sunday morning, but am given to understand that the rest of the crowd pushed on until dawn. (sigh...) I guess I'm just not as young as I once was ;)

Blog Post - Friday, 13th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Fri 13 Aug 2004

Friday the 13th - my lucky number, and the day that Syndia and I chose to go to the Ekka. And a pretty good day it turned out to be, too. As per usual, photos are here.

The day started with a frantic rush for me to communicate with the Pan Pacs people and then pick up boots that Mike had sent in with Dad, as I only had a pair of Florsheims that weren't particularly suited to traipsing around the showgrounds. Breakfast and a short cab ride later, and we were at the RNA showgrounds. Approached by a scalper outside, we picked up an adult's entry ticket for $10 (usual price $20) and so saved ourselves the cost of a cab fare after all

The exhibitions were, as they usually are, fairly similar to those of the previous year. That's not to say, however, that they weren't worth seeing. The Storybook Living History display, run by the venerable old bushie, John Bury, offers a glimpse into the life of the early settlers, and he always has fascinating stories to tell and demonstrations to offer. His border collie is always worth a laugh or two, too, herding chooks around on command and generally looking after his master.

Syndia was, of course, ga-ga over the lambs in the animal nursery, and was very put out with the kids (goats, not people) who kept stealing the food she was trying to offer to the lambs.

The ring events were fairly predictable, with one notable exception: no skydiving. I was a bit disappointed about that, as for as long as I can remember there have been skydivers from Ramblers jumping into the main show ring every night.

After the night's entertainment, Syndia decided that she wanted to go to Sideshow Alley and go on a "Big People's Ride." We decided on the Scorpion, which is a little like the old Super Trooper. Not too stressful, and entirely predictable, and nonetheless Syndia screamed three or four lungfuls of air before I managed to persuade her to stop. I was a bit concerned - in my lack of wisdom, I'd arranged it so that I was on her outside, which mean that if she threw up I was going to wear it :P

We then jumped onto the new hang-gliding-simulator ride whose name I can't remember, and although Syndia liked it much better, it was pretty tame - it didn't even approach zero G

To finish off, Syndia had a go at one of those, "Every child wins a prize," games, in which she won two of the smallest prizes. She's very proud of them though, so I wouldn't dare say anything further... except that we're still not sure exactly what one of the stuffed animals is supposed to be...

Blog Post - Thursday, 12th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Thu 12 Aug 2004

Isn't it funny how sending people invoices always makes me feel better?

Syndia and I will be going to the Ekka this weekend. Cool!

Blog Post - Wednesday, 11th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 11 Aug 2004

Happy birthday, CK!

Blog Post - Saturday, 7th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 7 Aug 2004

I went out for a ride today with my uncle, Ross, and Henry, a relative of Ross's wife.

The starting point was Ross and Nerida's place in Mt Gravatt. As I arrived I spotted a GSXR-1100 and a shiny, new GSXR-600 in the driveway. So far, I was more than slightly outgunned...

We left there and headed out over Mt Tamborine, through Canungra, then out past the Natural Arch to Numinbah, where we stopped for lunch at the Natural Arch Café Restaurant. By this time, I'd scrubbed my (new) tyres in properly and was thoroughly enjoying the twisty parts of the Hinze Raceway, as it's apparently known.

At Numinbah, I discovered that my phone was no longer in the bike's storage compartment. I thought it had dropped out somewhere back on the road, and was prepared to write it off on insurance, when Ross phoned it and my bike rang. Somehow it had slipped down inside the fairing, and we couldn't get it out! Argh!

Time to give up on extracting my phone and head off for lunch, and a pretty decent feed it was, too. If you're ever there, trust me: a burger will be more than enough for breakfast and lunch, and you won't be hungry that night, either.

As we were walking out of the café, Ross spotted what looked like a dinosaur (!!) in the foothills of a nearby mountain. Photos are here. Someone obviously had far too much time on their hands

We returned the same way we'd come, and were heading up the Goat Track on Mt Tamborine, when a little red Exa pulled out across double white lines to overtake. Ross (leading) and I had a couple of interesting moments, debating which was worse: hitting the Exa or hurtling over the edge and down the mountain. As it happened, the Exa driver thought better of having motorcyclist plastered all over his windscreen and pulled back in. All over in the space of a second or two.

Arriving back at Ross's place again with no further incident, we kicked back with a civilized cup of tea before heading home again.

... oh, and as for being outgunned? No worries ;)

Blog Post - Friday, 6th August, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Fri 6 Aug 2004

Minor web site facelift happened today. More of the same can be expected as and when I have time - this site is starting to look a bit dated.

Blog Post - Sunday, 25th July, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 25 Jul 2004

Well, it's been a long time between updates, and there's no really good reason for that except that I've been completely slack

Syndia and I are currently in Melbourne (and yes, before you ask, the weather's miserable) for Vivek's wedding. Or, more correctly, Vivek and Priyanka's wedding. Syndia I only met her at the wedding so we don't know much about her yet, but she seems lovely.

The wedding ceremonies started on Friday evening and continued on over the weekend, with the reception being held on Sunday night. It's been great to catch up with so many friends here, too.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 22nd June, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 22 Jun 2004

Ugh. Fadge and I finished entering the backlog of QAFA membership forms at just before 5am this morning. Not fun, but at least it's finished now.

Blog Post - Sunday, 23rd May, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 23 May 2004

The second QAFA working bee was today and we had a pretty good turn-out. See the QAFA web site for more info.

Highlights of the day were Mike with his angle-grinder, Dave and Tham keeping up a constant supply of coffee, then cooking both the BBQ for lunch and a huge feed for dinner. Lindsay graced us with her presence again, as did Zac, and we managed to get all the pistes fixed and good to go.

Blog Post - Sunday, 9th May, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 9 May 2004

Happy birthday, Stephen!

The first QAFA working bee was supposed to be today, but was cancelled on very late notice last night due to the weather forecast. I turned up in the early afternoon anyway and was in time to help Fadge and Luc fix up the one piste that they had managed to get out and work on.

Blog Post - Sunday, 25th April, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 25 Apr 2004

The UQ Sailing Club had a camp up at Lake Cootharaba this weekend, with about 25 of us turning up.

Memorable experiences are the sunrise over the lake on the first morning, my first time sailing a cat (good fun, BTW), Josh's spectacular projectile vomit (what would a university camping trip be like without someone getting completely sloshed and making a mess of themselves?) and the awesome bonfire that Fadge and I started on the Saturday night.

Blog Post - Sunday, 18th April, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 18 Apr 2004

Went for a ride over Mt Glorious and then decided to go exploring around the Beerburrum area of the Glasshouse Mountains. I ended up at the Glasshouse Mountains Lookout for sunset, and decided to stick around for some photos.

Blog Post - Monday, 5th April, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Mon 5 Apr 2004

Had a great weekend away with Syndia; the only problem was that I was frustratingly sick for the entire time - and what's worse, with only a garden-variety cold/flu thing. How humiliating.

Syndia and I stayed at a little B&B called Bendles, which is a beautiful place in Maleny. There were quite a few activities on offer, but, miserable piker that I am, I bailed on most of the fun stuff. We did manage to have a good time though

Blog Post - Friday, 2nd April, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Fri 2 Apr 2004

I was trawling the net looking for some old newsgroup posts and what did I come up with but one that was posted about 3 years ago, regarding the then-new vending machine that had just been installed in the GP South building of the University of Queensland.

Needless to say, the "strapping yound lad" was me, but, in my defence, I did see the security cameras and decided that I was angry enough not to care

From: "Jon Kloske"
Newsgroups: uq.csee.general
Subject: Re: The New Vending Machine (an evaluation)
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 08:23:59 +1000
Organization: University of Queensland

I have witnessed the following resolution to the vending machine daylight
robbery of monies from intending 'customers'.

On thursday last week, I witnessed a strapping young lad arrive at the said
vending machine and place the set amount of money in the money accepting

Needless to say, the readers of this post will be aware of the lack of
anything in return for his (presumably) hard earned cash.

It also goes without saying that said strapping young lad was not impressed.

A few swear words later, I saw a cursory glance around that failed to notice
2 security cameras and about 15 witnesses, one of whom was on the phone.

Approximately 5 microseconds later, the aformentioned unwitting purchaser
bashed the machine about 30 times in quick succession, shoved it twice and
then tilted it at an angle of approximately 45 degrees (as stated, he was
strapping), and proceeded to shake the hell out of it.

This seemed to knock some sense into the foul contraption, for it released
the particular bounty of goods that, I beleive, the lad was after.

At this point the lad and the machine parted company, and one, and only one,
had a faint smile on his face.

This concludes my report.


Blog Post - Wednesday, 31st March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 31 Mar 2004

Going out on Fadge's boat today! Look out for photos of all of us getting up to stupid stuff

Blog Post - Tuesday, 23rd March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 23 Mar 2004

Wow, you're Crush! You're happy-go-lucky, and you have a certain thing for excitement and living on the edge. Some people find your lack of ambition annoying, but screw them, dude! Rock on!

THE best Finding Nemo quiz ever! Which character are you? TAKE IT NOW!!!!

brought to you by Quizilla

Blog Post - Friday, 12th March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Fri 12 Mar 2004

Fadge, Mike and I went out on the Kathy Sue today to test out Fadge's new windsurfer and Mike's new ski biscuit.

Fadge was a bit peeved that Mike got the knack of windsurfing so quickly

Once I figured out how to keep balance etc (hang off the boom; let the wind hold you and just adjust the sail to catch different amounts of wind) it wasn't all that difficult. After I managed to get myself sailing in a reasonable straight line, I decided I'd learn to tack, and spent the rest of my attempts that afternoon in trying to tack the windsurfer without either stalling or having to resort to dropping the sail. I managed it once, and was so surprised that I promptly fell off anyway :P

The other highlight of the day was, of course, the look of trepidation on Mike's face as we pushed the ski biscuit away from the boat and opened the throtte After sending Mike skittering over the wake for a few minutes, he and I swapped and I discovered that Fadge has an evil side - he found the wake of another passing boat and launched me over it so that, according to Mike, I got at least a metre of air before crashing back down and spilling off. Very, very good fun.

The goal for our next trip is for me to persuade Fadge to let me drive the boat while he hangs off the back of it

Blog Post - Tuesday, 9th March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 9 Mar 2004

Fadge has bought a windsurfer!! How cool is that? We went out to have a look at one early this afternoon and Fadge decided he liked it enough to buy it. Getting it into the car was a bit diffucult though - I ended up riding with one end of the mast sticking out the passenger-side window and the other sticking out of the boot, so I couldn't open the passenger-side door and had to climb in through the window

We also dropped in to Whitworths on the way to training and I picked up a long-sleeved rash top to replace my short-sleeved rash vest, a pair of wetsuit boots and (woohoo!) an inflatable ski biscuit that we can tow behind the boat

We're thinking of taking the Kathy Sue out on Friday, weather permitting, and trying out our new toys

Oh, in other news: I broke yet another pair of sunglasses today.

Blog Post - Sunday, 7th March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 7 Mar 2004

I'm a sucker, I know, but I volunteered to help out with the running of the foil competition today. I refereed a couple of women's foil bouts, a couple of the guys and then most of the novices before I managed to farm the rest of that task off to Mike

It's not that I don't enjoy it, but I was starving and hadn't had time to get any food before the comp started, so I was there all day having eaten nothing. Still, I'm sure there are worse fates

Clinton has been in town for the past couple of days, and I took him out for a quick blast around Mt Coot-tha, before going back to the house of the mate with whom he's staying. As it turned out, this mate was actually a member of BrisMesh, and I'd met him at the meeting last week. Small world

Blog Post - Saturday, 6th March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 6 Mar 2004

I put in a brief appearance at the QAFA Open Circuit #1 competition this morning, before heading out to Syndia's, then back to my parents' to get a whole bunch of Syndia's clothes out of storage. Ugh - dusty...

We had dinner this evening at Ben and Jenna's, along with Andrew and Rochelle. Jenna showed us some of the jewelry she's been making (and selling) as part of her new business/hobby. I should point out that it was at Syndia's insistence that Jenna actually showed us a bunch of samples, of which Syndia promptly bought about half

Have a look at Jenna's site at - she makes some really cool stuff, including custom glass beads and other weird and wonderful things involving glass, strange metals and a very, very hot propane + oxygen blowtorch

Blog Post - Thursday, 4th March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Thu 4 Mar 2004

Subbed in as a coach for this evening's Real Adventure Women session at the Brisbane Fencers' Academy, and gave a couple of individual lessons afterwards. I'm a bit tired, but at least the group class was pretty easy. Group sessions always take more energy than individual lessons, but this crowd were extremely easy to manage and they all appeared to have a pretty good time

Blog Post - Wednesday, 3rd March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 3 Mar 2004

Spent the day out at Ramblers with Elise. I'm becoming more and more tempted to sign up for my AFF course, but I'd still like to wait until I know what's happening with contracts etc.

I'd kinda like my own jumpsuit though, so I picked up an order form and a bit of a catalogue from AirSuits... just in case, of course...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 2nd March, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Tue 2 Mar 2004

I gave eight lessons this evening. Ouch...

Blog Post - Sunday, 29th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 29 Feb 2004

How cool is this? I have photos - actual photographic evidence - of Fadge windsurfing.

Fadge and I have joined the UQ Sailing Club and are hoping to borrow their boats on occasion for a bit of fun cruising around the bay. The introductory days they ran this weekend were a bit slow given all the beginners, but I'd expect them to pick up a bit once people know what they're doing and don't need quite so much supervision.

I did get to have a bit of a go at windsurfing myself, but the board I had had a dodgy mast attachment that kept sliding around, with the result that the mast wouldn't stay upright. Not such an easy thing for a rank beginner to compensate for :P

Blog Post - Saturday, 28th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 28 Feb 2004

Woohoo! Wakeboarding is cool! I'm going to have to get into this sport...

I joined the UQ Waterski club and had my first ever go at any real watersports today. I think I'm addicted already. In other news, my arms feel like they've been torn out of their sockets...

I also turned up to my first BrisMesh meeting today. I think I scared a whole bunch of nerdy people a bit though I was in a bit of a hurry 'cause I had to get to Leitch's afterwards, and the meeting just happened to be at the JC Slaughter Falls BBQ area on Mt Coot-tha... and I was on the bike.

Picture this: a black-clad evil-looking hoon comes blasting up the road on a sportsbike, spots a couple of vans with antennae mounted in various locations, spots a bunch of people standing around looking awkward, nails the brakes, hits kill switch and walks straight over to them. I swear some of them looked like they were going to pass out when it turned out I was in the right place after all

Luckily, there were plenty more normal than nerdy people there, and I found quite a few people whom I knew from UQ already. I scribbled on my membership form, had people propose and second it, and congratulations to me, I'm a member. Now... off to that little get-together at Leitch's...

Blog Post - Monday, 23rd February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Mon 23 Feb 2004

I had lunch today with an old friend from Canterbury College, Erin Wilson. Good to catch up with you, Erin - thanks for finding time to have lunch with me

Blog Post - Wednesday, 18th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 18 Feb 2004

I took Lindsay out for a short ride this afternoon, and somehow didn't manage to scare her senseless I've been informed that she might even consider a repeat invitation...

Blog Post - Sunday, 15th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 15 Feb 2004

I turned up at the Coffee Club in Park Rd for my first Brisbane Bikers ride today, met a whole bunch of interesting people and saw heaps of very cool machinery The BB crowd looks like a pretty decent mob and I'll probably aim to go on at least a couple of rides with them over the next couple of months.

We left the Coffee Club and headed out along the Warrego Highway. I think it was supposed to be a learner-friendly ride, which explains why we didn't go via Mt Glorious, but I was still a bit disapppointed However, after a brief drink stop at Fernvale, things livened up a bit when we turning onto the Somerset-Kilcoy Road.

Two of the guys, Stuart ('03 ZX-12R) and some guy whose name I can't remember ('98 R1) took off and I thought I'd have a go at keeping up with them. As it turned out, I didn't have that much trouble at all, which was a pleasant surprise for me and hopefully a slight scare for them I'm wondering if the ZX-12 had been properly run in yet, though ;)

Blog Post - Saturday, 14th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 14 Feb 2004

Well, so much for a romantic St Valentine's Day... Syndia is working from 7:30am until 9:00pm and I've been trying to fix Dad's sodding computer since about 11am yesterday and have only just replaced enough components that it will boot reliably.

Am going to try to meet up with Syndia this evening after she finishes work, but I'm not sure how likely that's going to be, given the unpredictability of her finishing times

Blog Post - Friday, 13th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Fri 13 Feb 2004

Dad's computer has copped it from yet another power surge. This time, it looks like it's partially fried every single component in the damn thing. All the components work if I swap them out and test them individually, but any two or more of them just refuse to work together. It looks like I'm going to have to replace heaps of stuff - and get him a sodding UPS...

Blog Post - Wednesday, 11th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 11 Feb 2004

Elise, Fadge, Syndia and I went sailing out on Wivenhoe today. Many thanks to Elise, who let us take her Vagabond out, and for driving us all up there in the first place. Thanks also to Fadge, who gave Syndia and me a lift from his place to Elise's in the painfully early hours of the morning.

There wasn't a huge amount of wind, but at least in the morning there was enough to just fill both sails and we managed to get around fairly well. The expression on Fadge's face when he realised that Elise was sending him out with just me as skipper, not her, was just priceless

In the afternoon the breeze died off a bit, to the extent that although Elise and I managed a single spinnaker run, when I took Syndia out to attempt the same, we were completely becalmed for the best part of half an hour.

Syndia and I eventually managed to find enough wind to get back to shore, albeit very slowly, and promptly beached the boat and jumped into the water for a swim, where we were joined by Elise and Fadge. We killed a pleasant hour or so waiting for the wind to return, before Fadge and I were eventually reduced to swimming the boat through the water back to the boat ramp.

No more than half an hour afterwards, the wind picked up into quite a stiff breeze. Unfortunately by then we'd already loaded the boat onto the trailer. Still, it wasn't such a problem - we'd had a pretty good day, all up, and nobody was complaining

Blog Post - Sunday, 8th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 8 Feb 2004

After leaving the tally room I decided I didn't want to go home yet, so I rode up Mt Coot-tha and spent the next hour or two looking at the city and the stars. It was an unusually clear night and Brisbane looked very pretty. I won't go as far as to say beautiful, not on that particular night, but definitely very pleasant.

Got home in the small-ish hours of the morning and slept lots.

Blog Post - Saturday, 7th February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sat 7 Feb 2004

Election Day. Wonderful.

I got called up by Lisa from The Nationals in the morning, asking (begging) for help with Dad's laptop. Apparently they were supposed to be taking it to the tally room, but she couldn't persuade the printer to work. /me sighs, then agrees to head into Bjelke-Petersen House to fix it.

After fixing the printer, I decided to go for a ride before perhaps heading back to the tally room for the election results. The result was pretty much a given, so it wasn't as if we were all in that much suspense, but the Nats crew have all been working ridiculous hours in the lead-up to the election so it was fair enough that they wanted to actually visit the tally room and see the fruits of their labours first-hand.

Anyway, I went out for what was supposed to be a short ride over Mt Nebo. Then I decided, since I was there anyway, to do the full run over Mt Glorious. It was a lovely, clear afternoon, the roads were quiet, the weather was good and I was feeling a bit melancholy, so I thought, "Why not?" This was the first time I'd ridden Mt Glorious, and I can see why so many don't make it through unscathed... some of them are pretty tricky for the un-wary. The road over Mt Nebo has some twisty sections but nothing unpredictable. Where there's a crest, the road never drops away and turns sharply, for example. Mt Glorious was another matter entirely - some of the corners were downright evil.

I stopped and took some photos at the Wivenhoe Lookout on Mt Glorious, but unfortunately it's a bit difficult to actually see the dam in the photos. You can see it reasonably clearly from the actual lookout, though.

After Mt Glorious, I decided to aim for Somerset Dam rather than go straight back to Brisbane. A cruisy run to Kilcoy (read: I'd opened it up a bit over Glorious and was running a little short on fuel ;) ) saw me take a break at Yowie Park, a little park maintained by the local Lions and Apex clubs.

After Kilcoy I pointed the bike towards Caboolture and the Bruce Highway - it was getting dark, I was getting cold and I wasn't all that enthusiastic about riding twisty roads in the dark (or worse, in twilight) with so many critters around. I was going to pass it anyway, so I decided that I'd definitely drop in to the tally room at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Boondal.

One of the cool things about riding a bike is that where most car drivers have to drive over speed bumps, motorcyclists can just ride around them. Consequently, I passed any number of people looking for parking spaces, and parked in the courtyard right next to the building - the security staff even told me to park there

The night after that was pretty interesting - I met a bloke named Ben, a friend of Christie's, who's a part-professional photographer, and who was there for the evening with many, many memory sticks to fill. Apparently he managed to get quite a few interesting photos, and we're all looking forward to seeing them

Ron Boswell got into a public stoush with Bob Katter on the media room floor, and I managed to get a couple of shots of them shouting at each other. Very funny, but not particularly well-behaved of the two of them. Ben and I also wandered into the Channel Seven broadcasting area and managed to take a couple of photos of the presenters before being queried by the CH7 producer They were the only ones to query us all night, which was a bit surprising considering they obviously had a slim coverage budget and were a bit understaffed

The backdrop for the entire room was a wall with printed sheets for each and every electorate showing how many votes for each candidate and how many of the expected total had been counted. It was kinda cool to see all these little pieces of paper being stuck up by invisible people behind little doors in the wall - rather like an old-fashioned cricket ground scoreboard. Ben and I managed to get up into the stands on one side of the room and took a couple of photos of the men behind the curtain, so to speak, before security hustled us out of there

Blog Post - Sunday, 1st February, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Sun 1 Feb 2004

I just wanted to say a quick thanks to all who drove so far out of the city for my birthday bash. The night went off pretty well; many things were burnt, blown up and otherwise incinerated, and a good time was had by all

I picked up a swag of very cool gifts, which I wasn't at all expecting, so thanks again to everyone. I'm sure I'll be making use of most of the toys before too long

Photos from the evening will be up as soon as I upload the rest of the ones I have here.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 28th January, 2004

Andrew Harcourt Wed 28 Jan 2004

Just a quick update: yes, I'm still working on the backlog of diary entries. They should be up sometime over the next couple of days. There are a couple of new photo sets up, but they'll be replaced shortly - I don't have thumbnailing tools in the same location as I have uploading ability, so the web server is serving the entire photos, even for the thumbnail page. Ugh.

Anyway, the real reason for this update is to advertise a shindig on at my place on the night before my birthday until the following day. If you know when those dates are, and you know the address, then please give me a yell and let me know if you can make it.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 16th December, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 16 Dec 2003

Just a quick note for anyone who may be wondering what's happened to me: I still don't have physical access to my web server, and it's way too painful to update everything over a 33.6kbps modem shared between four people. Ugh.

ADSL is on its way and should be provisioned sometime this or next week; after that I'll have real access to my machines again and will be able to post photos etc. Until then, if you're not subscribed to the uglybugger updates, why not go there and subscribe now? That way you'll get updated as soon as I post anything meaningful

Blog Post - Sunday, 7th December, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 7 Dec 2003

  • stopped just south of lorne to take photos
  • headed back via dean's marsh, at a much more stately pace than the last time i went through there
  • flew back to brisbane

Blog Post - Saturday, 22nd November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 22 Nov 2003

Watched the Rugby World Cup final with Alex, Ben and a bunch of their mates. Bloody one-man-team-Johnny-Wilkinson...

Blog Post - Friday, 21st November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 21 Nov 2003

Left Wangaratta for Sydney this morning. Alice didn't have time for breakfast as she was on an early shift, so I pretty much headed straight off, planning to grab breakfast later.

I stopped in at Holbrook to have a look at the HMAS Otway, an Oberon-class submarine recently retired from the Royal Australian Navy's fleet. Photos are here. I was pretty disappointed - it's been completely gutted; there's nothing left but the hull, and only the outer portion of that.

The rest of the trip to Sydney was pretty uneventful, and I arrived at Alex and Ben's in rainy darkness a couple of hours after sunset.

Blog Post - Thursday, 20th November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 20 Nov 2003

I had breakfast with May this morning, before leaving Melbourne for good. Well, perhaps not for ever, but certainly with a view to not living there again for a while

Leaving wasn't really all that painful, but I did direct a few wistful looks around the place before I finally drove off down the road. I have many happy memories from Sycamore Grove, and it is going to be sad to leave forever. The place looks so bare now. Photos.

On my drive north, I visited the Army Tank Museum at Puckapunyal. Photos are here. Check out the old Soviet T-72 main battle tank - it's huge!! I had an interesting chat with the Warrant Officer who runs the place, too, and bought an interesting key ring If you're ever in the area and have a couple of hours to spare, it's well worth a look.

After leaving the museum, I drove to Wangaratta, where I met Alice. We had dinner at what was probably the only Italian restaurant in the town. Apparently all the locals know when there's a visiting intern up from Melbourne, because there aren't many (any??) Asian people in the town, and so many of the doctors on that rotation are Asian. Hmm...

Am staying at Alice's tonight. There's even a spare bedroom, although the wardrobe leans forwards (towards me) like it's going to fall over if I actually hang anything in it...

Blog Post - Wednesday, 19th November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 19 Nov 2003

The removalists came today, and took everything away.

I have no bed. I'm sleeping in my sleeping bag on the floor.

Blog Post - Thursday, 13th November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 13 Nov 2003

My Internet connection is disappearing tomorrow in preparation for the move, so this is the last update that will happen for a while. I'll put a placeholder site up sometime tomorrow if I get time.

We're still packing up all our stuff; most of the incidental stuff is done and we're now almost at the stage where we can't put any more stuff away until Syndia leaves because we'll need it again before then. After Syndia has left (Sunday evening) I'll pack up everything else and then live like a savage for a couple of days :-)

Blog Post - Friday, 7th November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 7 Nov 2003

I've bought my poppy today. Have you?

In other news, the Security Architecture crowd went go karting this afternoon. True to form, Nick and Gerry soundly thrashed everyone, with Nick taking the trophy by a slim margin and setting a lap record for that month.

I felt so bad when Syndia cut across in front of me in one corner - I hit her kart so hard, I'm sure it scared her half to death. I didn't have anywhere else to go, but I still felt awful for it.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 4th November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 4 Nov 2003

The weather forecast was promising; it was a public holiday (Melbourne Cup), and Syndia and I are leaving Melbourne soon, so what better excuse for a ride?

Surprisingly, the actual weather turned out to be even better than the forecast, and it was a beautiful day as we departed from the Nunawading McDonald's. Syndia was riding pillion behind me, and she now seems comfortable enough that she doesn't upset my riding and I don't upset her sightseeing

Our first stop was the Yarra Valley Dairy. From the outside it looks like an old milking shed (which it was), but the inside has been beautifully renovated into a restaurant/cafe, and there's seating outside as well. It being such a lovely day we of course decided to sit outside. Scones with jam and cream were the order of the day, along with English Breakfast tea for everyone except Syndia (who just had to be different and ordered Earl Grey). Yum...

Some nice, smooth sweepers followed as we blasted through Toolangi State Forest on our way to Yea (except for the twisty part where a couple of very slow riders didn't seem to realise we were behind them). The last stretch of the Melba Highway before the town was where Gordon blasted past me and spooked me (I thought it was a police bike!) on the last ride there (when I was still on the ZZR250 and he was on a rented YZF-600), and we pretty much re-enacted the scenario again for Syndia's benefit - he rocketed past and we managed to spook Syndia a bit

More food at Yea, at a place called Marmalade. This is where we had morning tea on the last trip to Yea. They make (and sell) their own jam, their own fruit toas and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's very good, but since we'd just had scones etc at our last stop we only felt like something light and savoury. Mmm... nachos...

Our final stop for the day was at a cafe in Whittlesea, where we sat around drinking apple juice - all except Syndia, who again had to be different and ordered a latte After that we headed for home and arrived tired but in good spirits.

This was Syndia's first long-ish ride (certainly her first day-long outing) and it all seemed to go pretty well. She tells me she's looking forward to the next one

Blog Post - Saturday, 1st November, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 1 Nov 2003

Gordon is a legend!

I bought a trailer last week and needed to kit it out so that I could carry a bike or two on it. Gordon offered to help me out with the use of his garage, tools and his time.

In a repeat of the events over Easter, I rode to Gordon's and Syndia followed in the car, towing the trailer. We then proceeded to work out what needed to be done to the trailer and the bike before jumping into the car and heading off to Bunnings and Super Cheap.

We picked up three thick pieces of treated pine, some L-bracket-looking-things, lots and lots of nuts and bolts, and lots and lots more other miscellaneous stuff. Syndia decided that she liked the art and craft section - a sad way to highlight the fact that now not even a hardware store is a safe refuge for the male population :-|

We arrived back at Gordon's and set to work. Syndia had decided to make us all lunch (steak sandwiches a la Jamie Oliver) and Nick, Gordon and I headed out into the workshop. Lunch was shortly served (hehe.. that will get me beaten up, for sure) and Syndia was duly complimented on her cooking

Many hours later (close to midnight), in pouring rain, we had drilled holes for the U-bolts to hold the bike tie-downs, Gordon had built a very cool heavy-duty ramp, the Ventura rack and the top-box were fitted to the bike, the trailer was re-wired and re-soldered (after many blown fuses while we sorted out the wiring) and finally, the bike was loaded onto the trailer and strapped down. Mission accomplished!

Seriously, I owe Gordon big-time for helping me out - we spent over 12 hours working almost exlusively on my stuff today. Thanks very much, Gordon.

Blog Post - Thursday, 30th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 30 Oct 2003

I finally got around to adding a WebMail
feature to uglybugger. Now Syndia and I can check our mail easily when
we're away

I also installed SpamAssassin
on the newly-upgraded router, and it seems to be doing a good job

Blog Post - Wednesday, 29th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 29 Oct 2003

The first round of the first Twilight Series this Summer was held this evening and Syndia and I both crewed on Good Company.

Pat and Michelle wanted some photos taken so when we were on the downwind leg I quickly raced below, grabbed my camera and took some quick shots.

The conditions were a bit too much for our sails - we probably should have had a reef in the main, and since it was pretty gusty it wasn't all plain sailing (groan.. again..). Even so, we managed third place overall Besides, it was great fun and we're both looking forward to next week's round

Blog Post - Tuesday, 28th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 28 Oct 2003

Merry Christmas, Harcourt family!

I've registered the domain for my family, and have had it delegated to dns2go as is uglybugger, and I'm hosting it on one of my own servers.

There are a bunch of email addresses that work now, but I'll leave it to individual Harcourts to tell people what their new addresses are, just in case they want to give out aliases instead

Blog Post - Sunday, 26th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 26 Oct 2003

Bike maintenance day today. Nick and I headed over to Gordon's, where we discovered that he's set the clocks back an hour instead of forward and thus wasn't expecting us for another two hours or so

We ended up doing a fair bit of work on all the toys; my brakes feel like new after a pad change and I discovered the pain of changing spark plugs on a bike (hint: it's way more painful than on a car.

STOP PRESS: I pulled my first real wheelie on the ZX6R today!!

Unlike the incidental lifting of the wheel on hard acceleration or exiting a corner, this was an intentional wheelie. On the VFR800 and the CBR600F4i I test-rode at HART I could just lift it with the throttle so there was no challenge, but on the ZX6R I had to use the clutch to get the wheel up - and up it came.

I managed to get the front wheel to just under chest height, and kept it there until I missed the shift into second gear, at which point the front dropped neatly back down onto the road and the crown jewels dropped neatly and slightly painfully onto the fuel tank :-| But hey, this was my first real, intentional wheelie and I was a happy little Vegemite for the rest of the afternoon.

Back at Gordon's, we wandered inside for a cup of tea and some biscuits before resuming work on the bikes. It's a hard life

Unfortunately I got confused by the clock changes and ended up at home just after 8pm rather than just after the 6pm I thought it was - which meant Syndia and I were late for coffee with Anna and Rohan. Oops!!! Sorry!! I felt even worse when I had to phone Anna back and tell her we weren't going to be there at all since Syndia was sick. I think I'm in Anna's bad books at the moment

Blog Post - Saturday, 25th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 25 Oct 2003

Cool! I'm the third person to climb Good Company's mast after Pat and Michelle!

Pat and Michelle think something was damaged when the mast was taken down a while ago, so they wanted to check the wiring etc before calling in a marine electrician. I was conscripted to haul Pat up the mast, and in return got sent up there myself just for a bit of fun. And fun it was

Blog Post - Friday, 24th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 24 Oct 2003

Today was Chris Lethaby's last day working for Telstra - his redundancy package has finally been confirmed and he and his wife are back off to Sydney.

The news about the package was only delivered yesterday so we didn't have time to organise much, but thankfully our new manager, Jesse Papak, had already invited us all out to lunch today in order for him to say hello, so we took that as an opportunity to also say farewell to Chris. Sadly, he doesn't feature in any of my photos as he was off taking photos of his own, but if you're interested you should be able to see them on his web site when it's back online after their move.

Blog Post - Sunday, 19th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 19 Oct 2003

Oh, what a fun day. My router died. Have been building another one all day. It's 1am and I'm buggered, but the site is only just being re-populated from one of yesterday's backups. More later.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 15th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 15 Oct 2003

I finally got around to adding code to the uglybugger photo galleries.
Now, if there's no specific description for a photo gallery, it will
take that day's diary entry instead.

Blog Post - Sunday, 12th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 12 Oct 2003

Wow, what a cool weekend. What more could I want? The Bathurst 1000 was on all weekend (qualifying/practice yesterday; race today), and was followed by the broadcast of the last round of the Formula 1 Grand Prix from Suzuka, Japan. Later tonight, we have the Moto GP! Woohoo!

I did, however, do some serious stuff. I spent most of the day renaming, sorting and otherwise arranging photos from even before Brisbane, and updating diary entries. There are heaps of back-dated entries, starting from Syndia's birthday on the 30th of August. I also finally got around to making some tweaks to and removing all the old PHP version 3 code - it's all v4 now and works exactly the same. Yay.

If the motorsport wasn't enough to make it a good weekend, we did a quick run out to the shops on the way home yesterday, and had bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, fried tomato, a mushroom and spinach omelette, juice and coffee for breakfast - and Syndia baked some pfeffernousse yesterday, too!. Life is good

Blog Post - Saturday, 11th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 11 Oct 2003

Photos, photos and more photos... and heaps of stuff to write about.

I'm back from Brisbane; Dave's 21st was great and I'm still too buggered
to write it all up. Maybe tomorrow.

The weather was pretty good this afternoon so we ducked out to the Baker's Delight down on Carlisle St, picked up a garlic and cheese twist thingy, then wandered over to the St Kilda Botanic Gardens. They're rose gardens and hence currently have no roses blooming, but they're still pretty.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 7th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 7 Oct 2003

Oh, what an awful flight.

I wasn't the airline's fault, but it was painful nonetheless.

To start with, there was a ginormous fat dude on the aircraft. How ginormous? He completely overflowed his seat, spilling into both the aisle and the seat next to him, whose unfortunate passenger had to be relocated. Then the fat dude had to be given an additional seat belt because his didn't reach.

Let me state for the record that I don't have anything against fat people. The people I do have a gripe with are those who thoughtlessly inconvenience other people, and this was most definitely an inconvenience for the rest of the passengers, who were waiting patiently for the flight to get airborne. If you're going to take up two seats' worth of room, you should have to buy two tickets. Grr.

Of course, not all the passengers were content to wait patiently. There was a baby on board, which bawled its head off from start to finish. It was just one of those flights where, right at the start, you silently groan to yourself, reach for the headphones and a book, and try to screen out the outside world.

In this case, about half an hour into the flight, the outside world suddenly got a whole lot smellier. Yep, that's right - the baby had dirtied its nappy. The stewardesses were trying to serve food but couldn't easily get their food cart past the ginormous fat dude, so they were all stuck at the wrong end of the aisle and couldn't get to the parents of the screaming, stinking baby to ask them to take it to the toilets and change it. We were facing the best part of 1.5 hours with an aircraft that stank of baby poo, sounded like a madhouse and whose occupants by now had the patience of customers at a bank during their lunch break.

To make matters worse, I was in an aisle seat and the couple on my left changed seats with each other so that they could get to pawing at each other a little more easily.

It was no fault of the airline; it was just one of those times that you can't cringe any further so you just curl up into a little ball and wait for all the noise and stink to go away.

Blog Post - Monday, 6th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 6 Oct 2003

Today was fun. Fadge, Mike and I went out on Fadge's boat with two of Mike's mates, Andrew Kennard and Lonnie Pack. As per usual, photos are here.

There's something different about eating lunch out on the water. I don't know what it is - maybe it's because we all ended up bringing heaps of food - or maybe food just tastes better when you're relaxing and having a good time.

The highlight of the day was finding a nice little rope swing that didn't quite reach the water, and trying to make it do so.

The weather turned pretty foul on the way back, and we had to crawl along for a bit because the rain was stinging too much and visibility was too poor. It was still great fun though

Blog Post - Sunday, 5th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 5 Oct 2003

Recovery day.

Blog Post - Saturday, 4th October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 4 Oct 2003

Woohoo! Dave's 21st went off really well! Photos are available here. I look like a tree stump in some of them, but the rest of them are pretty good.

The formal part of the night finished at about 10:30pm and the rest of the fun started shortly after. Some people even had nice stuff to say about Dave

Dave picked up a bunch of cool presents, too - an espresso machine from Tony and Jodi, a cocktail shaker from Mike, 4.1 DTS speakers from Fadge, a very cool, very sharp cut-throat razor from Scoon - and the present from Syndia and me is probably all he's going to get from us for a while

Scoon, a dedicated photography student, was the official photographer for the night and we can't wait to see the prints

The one stuff-up was with transport. I had picked up my grandmother (Mum's mother) from her house in the suburbs and taken her out to our place. I had also taken possession of her house keys and had carefully placed them on top of my wallet so that I wouldn't forget them when I took her back. So what happened? Mum decided to take her back herself, and of course Mum wasn't interested in my wallet. The result? An additional 1.5 hour round trip for them both to come back, fetch the keys then go back and unlock the door. Oops

Happy birthday again, Dave.

Blog Post - Friday, 3rd October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 3 Oct 2003

Today was spent mostly in preparation for Dave's 21st. Shopping, cleaning, mowing and a whole bunch of other little stuff. I did manage to catch up with Elise this afternoon though, which was nice. Aletia piked (for a crap reason; GRR...) and Michael bailed (for a good reason) so it ended up just being Elise and me. Still good though

After coffee with Elise, I had an hour or so to kill before I needed to be anywhere, so I wandered down to Kangaroo Point and took some more photos. They didn't turn out all that well, but it was fun anyway and was a pleasant way to spend the time.

Blog Post - Thursday, 2nd October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 2 Oct 2003

Spent the day at Telstra's Roma St Tower, mostly on phone conferences. It's strange, but it feels different talking to Sydney people from Brisbane as compared to Melbourne. Will have to get over that weird feeling...

Blog Post - Wednesday, 1st October, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 1 Oct 2003

Cool! I'm off to Brisbane for a week for David's 21st. Am flying out this evening I'm going to try to sort out some office space while I'm up there too, in preparation for the permanent move in November.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 30th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 30 Sep 2003

Cool! I'm getting my laptop back today! It's been a painful couple of
weeks without it. More soon.

Blog Post - Monday, 29th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 29 Sep 2003

Happy birthday, Dave!

OK, the Mt Buller story. Here goes:

Syndia's family had decided to have a holiday in Melbourne, and wanted to go to Mt Buller. We're not quite sure why they decided to go now, while Syndia and I still live in Melbourne and could have taken them for the guided tour, rather than later on when later on when we weren't living here. But never mind; they decided to go on a holiday and wanted to go to Mt Buller.

They arrived on Thursday (25th September) early in the afternoon, hired a car and headed off to Mt Buller, arriving safely later that evening. All was well. For future reference, it's approximately 300km from Melbourne to Buller. You'll see where this is going.

On Friday afternoon, Syndia and I headed off to join them. Very kindly, they had pre-paid accommodation for us on the Friday night, so we were happily ensconced in our nice little room with its spa, with snow falling outside. Lovely; very pretty and we were utterly content.

I had to take a couple of tutorials at RMIT the next day, so we had an early breakfast then both headed off; Syndia to stay with her parents in their hotel and me to the car. Syndia and family were going to drive back in the rental car later that Saturday, and I was going to pick them up after my tute and take them to wherever they wanted to go.

It had been snowing for most of the night and it turned out that the car was covered in 15-20cm of snow. It looked very pretty, but meant that I would need snow chains to get out of the place. Unfortunately, the snow chains were in the boot, which a) had about 60kg of snow on it, and b) was frozen shut. I spent the best part of half an hour digging the snow off the boot so I could open it, then crawling around on the ground trying to put the snow chains on. It's hard to do when your hands are completely numb, but I couldn't put gloves on because then I couldn't feel anything - either way I was stuffed.

Anyway, chains on and down the mountain I go. Leaving the car park, I found that about 400m down the road they'd had a bulldozer/snow plough clear all the snow off the road. So... chains off, and off I go again. All good. I made it to Melbourne in pretty good time and was just on time for the tute.

The tute went from 1pm until about 6pm, at the end of which I received an SMS from Syndia, saying, "We've lost the keys to the rental car, so our evening's going to be a bit disastrous." They had arranged for a spare set of keys to be sent up via V-Line, arriving at about 9pm, so they would be back at not much past midnight. All I had to do was wait until they got back. Cool, thinks Andrew - off to a BBQ at Ferg's place.

At about 8pm I received a call from Syndia, who told me that although the keys were on their way, they had realised that they didn't have enough petrol in the car to get to the nearest 24 hour service station, and... wait for it... could I please bring some. We arranged to meet in Mansfield, the town closest to Buller - they would drive there and WAIT after the keys arrived, and I would come and find them. OK, that's not strictly true. Syndia didn't actually call me and ask me to bring petrol; she just called and told me the situation for some unspecified reason involving the strange female need to communicate Of course, I didn't have many options with respect to solving the problem...

Bear in mind, this was the night of the AFL Grand Final and there was snow at Mt Buller so there was no accommodation to be had on the mountain, and finding a service station operator who actually gave a stuff at that time of night on grand final night was going to be trouble.

I did a mad rush around Melbourne looking for more jerry cans, filled them, then headed off. I was very close to asking if anyone else wanted to go for a drive to Buller at that time of night, but luckly I didn't.

Most of the way to Mansfield, I received yet another call from Syndia:

Syndia: You're not going to like this.
Andrew: What?
Syndia: We're in Mansfield, but...
Andrew: WHAT?
Syndia: ... but the car isn't.
Andrew: WHAT?!?!?!!
Syndia: The keys didn't arrive, but the taxi1 driver felt sorry for us and took us to Mansfield anyway.
Andrew: So what would you like me to do now?
Syndia: Could you please pick us up and take us home?
Andrew: (unprintable)

So... lucky I didn't ask people at the BBQ to come with me, right?

I got stopped for an RBT not far out of Yea, and although I had had nothing to drink (almost never do) the Police were most curious about the smell of petrol permeating my car. A terse, grumpy explanation soon placated them and I was again on my way.

I arrived in Mansfield at about 12:20 on Sunday morning, picked up Syndia, her family and their luggage, and wandered in to the pub where they'd been waiting for the past four hours. I got a bunch of strange looks from the publican (I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans; not exactly snow gear), then comprehension dawned: "Ohhh... you're the transport home then, are you?" We had a bit of a laugh, then I headed back outside and back to Melbourne.

Three o'clock on Sunday morning and we're almost back in Melbourne again. Syndia and I dropped her family off at their hotel, then headed home and crashed out.

Late Sunday morning we awoke and drove back to the hotel to pick up her parents again. They were still... discussing... what should be done with the rental company. To cut a long story short, it was obvious from the start that the only real solution was to send me back up there to drive the thing back. The rental company decided to take issue with my age (24) though, and were threatening to not let me drive it back. Put bluntly, they could either let me drive it back or they could sodding well go fetch it themselves. They acquiesced

Not a problem - we phoned the V-Line booking people and asked for a bus ticket to Buller. Uh oh - we spoke too soon. V-Line only runs two services each day to Mansfield - one at 8:30am and one at 6:30pm. I was going to be in time for the 6:30pm service, but that would have got me to Buller at 10pm and - again! - there wouldn't have been enough petrol in the car to get to the nearest open servo, and of course there was still no accommodation available on the mountain. So, of course, we booked my ticket for the Monday morning.

We spent the rest of the Sunday at the Tulip Festival, before returning to the hotel. Dinner at the Red Emperor was excellent - thanks very much to Syndia's parents for taking us out.

Thankfully, almost everything else ran to plan. I arrived at Spencer St on time on the Monday, caught the bus (which had a sickening air freshener that made me want to puke for the entire 4 hours I was on the thing), then headed on up to Buller again.

SOD IT! The bloody rental car was now covered in snow, and because it had been sitting there for a few days the lower layers had turned to ice. By this time, I had absolutely had it. Guess where the bloody snow chains were again.

I started the car, cranked the heater and rear demister, then left it for a couple of minutes. I cleared enough snow from the windscreen that I could drive it, then took it out into the middle of the mostly-empty car park and just spun the crap out of the thing. The snow all went slithering off in huge white sheets, and I was on my way down the mountain again.

Gripes about tiny cars built for tiny people and with no cruise control aside, the rest of the trip back was pretty uneventful, and I arrived back in Melbourne just on 6pm. What a crazy weekend. A total of over 1200km in our Commodore, plus about 300km on the bus, plus about another 300km in the Pulsar - and all along the same stretch of road . I don't want to see bitumen again for a long time.

1"Taxis" at Buller are run by the local bus company and are actually 4x4 troop carriers; not your normal Yellow Cab.

Blog Post - Sunday, 28th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 28 Sep 2003

Crikey, what a day. It's 3:20am and I've just returned from Mt Buller -
again. It's a very long story that I really can't be stuffed telling
right now. The only reason I'm still awake is that I want the shower
after Syndia's finished.

Blog Post - Thursday, 25th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 25 Sep 2003

Well, the file server is finally back up and running. You'd never think
that a single boot drive failing could cause so many problems -
especially when the drive is part of a RAID-1 array and should have been
completely redundant. It was not nice to discover that I couldn't
boot from the other drive in the array after the first one karked it.

To make matters worse, I discovered that the Promise FastTrak Lite
controller actually writes its array information to the start of each
disk in the array rather than to EEPROM, so you can't boot from ANY
of the disks if you just connect them to another IDE controller.

To cut a long, painful and bloody story short, I went out yesterday afternoon
and bought another hard drive. The drives in the server are now: 3 x
30Gb, 1 x 80Gb and 1 x 120Gb, for a total of 290Gb online (not including
mirroring). The 120Gb drive replaces the 20Gb one that died. I am never
buying a Promise IDE controller again if I can help it.

Oh well... at least Syndia's notes are available again, so she can keep
studying for her exam next Friday

Blog Post - Wednesday, 24th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 24 Sep 2003

Our moving date is rapidly approaching, and it's looking more and more certain to be on the 20th or so of November. Syndia will probably be flying back up to Brisbane on the 15th or 16th, with me sticking around for another couple of days.

I'll stay here to pack up everything that's left and point the removalists in the right direction, then throw the computers, motorcycle, pushbikes and other valuable/breakable stuff in the car/trailer and drive to Brisbane over the following weekend (22nd-23rd).

I might even be able to take that Friday off as a Telstra "Moving Day" and spend an extra day in Sydney on the way through

Oh, and my laptop is still broken.

Blog Post - Sunday, 21st September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 21 Sep 2003

Sunny weather, mostly clear roads... it's off to Reefton Spur we go

Gabby (Gordon's gf) is here visiting so Gordon was out of the picture, but Nick managed to round up Gerry, Shane and Glen (+ gf Michelle) for a ride through Victoria's most notorious motorcycling road.

Shane, by the way, has just bought himself a shiny new 2001-model Yamaha R6.

Again, I managed to get some photos/videos of people actually on their bikes. You can see them here.

Blog Post - Saturday, 20th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 20 Sep 2003

Syndia and I went to this year's Royal Melbourne Show today. True to form, Syndia went ga-ga over all the small, furry critters

Photos are here, but be warned - for some reason, Syndia's fascination with new-born lambs begins from before they're nice, clean, white and fluffy.

Blog Post - Friday, 19th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 19 Sep 2003

It's probably not the notebook battery.

Southern Cross Computer Systems (the slackest bunch of people I've come across outside Telstra BigPond) were supposed to pick up my notebook on Monday but didn't, so I dropped it in to them on Tuesday. Then they were supposed to call me on either Wednesday or Thursday to tell me how long the thing was going to take, but they didn't.

I called them yesterday afternoon, to find that (surprise!) they'd all already gone home. I left a fairly terse message and finally received a call this morning. Not that they were at all apologetic, note.

It appears as if the notebook's motherboard has blown up. Is this a common fault? No, of course not. The fact that they're out of stock on replacement boards and that they've cannibalized every demo and testing machine they have to find replacement parts must just be a coincidence.

So... when can I have it back? Two weeks, maybe.


Yep, that's right. I have no work computer. I don't have access to my calendar, or my documents, or anything else I need to do my work. I sort-of have access to email, but even that's via the extremely clunky web interface or IMAP (sloooowwww).


Blog Post - Sunday, 14th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 14 Sep 2003

Well, that's a turn-up for the books... I was tempted to go to Sandown
today for the V8 Supercars Sandown 500 but
decided against it this morning when the weather looked so miserable. As
it turns out, this was a very good decision.

The race started in dry conditions, rained for a bit, cleared up, rained
a bit more, then cleared up again. Then it started to hail and snow.
Yep, that's right folks, in Melbourne's outer southern suburbs, it
hailed and snowed at almost sea level.

To be fair, the "snow" was mainly caused by the spray the
cars were kicking up, but there was still enough for the pit crews and
marshalls to throw snowballs at each other.

I think it was a good decision to stay home, warm and dry, and watch it
on TV instead

In other news, my notebook's battery has karked it. Working fine one
minute, then nothing the next. Looks like I won't be doing any work for
the next couple of days - I can't even get at my calendar to find out
who I need to contact

Blog Post - Thursday, 4th September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 4 Sep 2003

Ooohh, I'm sore. Nine hours out on the bike today, 7.5 of them great fun and made the remaining 1.5 hours of freeway droning worth it.

Gordon, Nick and I decided to take a day of annual leave from work and go for a ride down the Great Ocean Road. We had an awesome time, and I'm absolutely buggered.

The weather was gorgeous, for Melbourne at least: bright, clear, dry and only windy in the afternoon. A bit chilly, but that was to be expected. Traffic was light 'cause it was a weekday, and that was pretty much all the incentive we needed.

We met up at the Shell service station on the Westgate Freeway this morning and headed off down the freeway to Geelong. A more boring drone you'll not find anywhere, and our hands were freezing at the end of it. After Geelong, we continued down the Surf Coast Highway, which eventually turns into the Great Ocean Road.

We stopped just before Lorne (and again a couple of other times) for our first photo opportunity, then pulled into Lorne for a late breakfast/early lunch at one of the little cafes. Mmmm... croissants...

Leaving Lorne, I pulled some distance away from Nick and Gordon then quickly pulled over at a handy lookout, jumped off the bike and whipped out my camera. The photos I took are the first photos from any ride I've taken where people are actually riding. The photos turned out pretty well considering how little time I had to get the camera out

Our final outbound stop was Apollo Bay, where we wandered into the Apollo Bay Hotel for a quick drink stop. I took orders and went to get the drinks, and the bloke behind the bar looked at me as if I had a second head when I asked for a Coke, lemonade and limonata. "Wossat? Another lemonade?" followed by "Cans orlright?" At that point I decided Nick could settle for either lemonade or Solo

We turned back towards Lorne and had a long-ish, moderately-high-speed blast to Dean's Marsh, where we met a nice, middle-aged lady who advised us that "There are coppers just outside Geelong, boys, pulling all the bikes over," just in case we were scared of a roadworthiness check. I decided this might be a prudent time to replace my old registration sticker with the new one I had in my pocket

After that we left Dean's Marsh and droned back to Melbourne via the freeway, seeing neither hide nor hair of a Police check. Oh well - we all would have passed a roadworthiness check anyway, so it wasn't a big deal, but by this stage we were pretty tired and just wanted to get home, so I guess it's a good thing that we didn't have to wait around

There's really not much more you could want from a day out on the bike with a couple of mates.

Blog Post - Monday, 1st September, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 1 Sep 2003

Ugh. Hate marking.

Blog Post - Saturday, 30th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 30 Aug 2003

Happy birthday, Syndia!

I had to tutor at RMIT today, which sucked as it would have been nice to spend the day with Syndia for her birthday I also had to mark assignments in the morning, which sucked even more. Things started to get a bit better after the tutes were finished though.

We went out this evening instead; dinner at Allegro, followed by a movie.

The dinner was great - the food was excellent and the atmosphere was quiet and comfortable. When our waiter discovered it was Syndia's birthday, she was flattered that he thought it was her 21st They prepare all the food in an open kitchen, so you can see your meal being prepared from start to finish. Very cool.

The highlight of the night to that point had to be the desserts. They had a dessert offering that was four of their desserts on a single, long plate, and the desserts were very, very nice Yum...

After dinner we went looking for a movie and after a couple of fruitless calls to automated (moronated?) enquiry lines we ended up at Chadstone. The movie? Finding Nemo. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend it. The plot is typical Disney but then, you don't go to Disney movies for a plot, do you? The characters were very cool and the animation was awesome. I want the DVD.

Blog Post - Friday, 22nd August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 22 Aug 2003

I should be picking up a new toy for Syndia this afternoon. Her machine
has started behaving very strangely - lockups all the time - which
suggests either the board or CPU is failing. I think it's the board,
'cause it's an old AOpen AX6BC (slot 1) with a new-ish Celeron chip in
it. Very flaky.

The new toy will likely be a Duron 800-1200 or something similar. It
will at least be enough for her to watch movies on, so I can keep
working on my stuff rather than having to either bring the laptop home
or run TV-out from my machine

Blog Post - Friday, 15th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 15 Aug 2003

Everyone's still pissed off that the re-org is dragging on for so long. It's been going now since April, for crying out loud... Anyway, people are sufficiently unhappy that very little project work is being done. Not surprising, really, when you consider that they've sacked half the project managers, and they've only filled 2 out of 5 of the management positions that directly affect us.

Pete tells me he had an interesting landing this morning; have a look at to see if he's written it up yet

Blog Post - Monday, 11th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 11 Aug 2003

Syndia and I have just been looking at rental prices in Brisbane. Wow.
Cool. They're so cheap. For what we're paying now, we could have a
much nicer place - and next year, we'll be happy to pay more
anyway as we'll both be earning an income

Pete had his
housewarming party on Saturday night. It went off pretty well, and Ferg has a bunch
of photos up from the night.

Blog Post - Sunday, 10th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 10 Aug 2003

Syndia and I headed out for a ride in the Dandenongs today. There was very little traffic around, and as we headed up the Mountain Highway, the road condition was good all the way.

We cruised around the various little towns etc, stopping in at the Olinda Sweet Shop on the way. Yum... You can see the photos here.

Blog Post - Saturday, 9th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 9 Aug 2003

Hmmm... Looks like iiNet's been having more trouble with authentication. Apologies to the other people whose sites are hosted here - there's nothing I can do about it at present. There's no ETA for a "stable" authentication setup, so I guess we just have to live with it for now. I take some solace from the knowledge that they're probably busily crucifying their vendors right about now

Anyway, I had headed up to Ararat last night to stay with Syndia, and since it was her last day there today, we packed up and headed out for some sightseeing before returning to Melbourne. Our destination ended up being the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre. It's a fascinating place, exhibiting all sorts of stuff about the foundation of the town of Ararat by Chinese miners travelling from South Australia to the Victorian gold fields. Photos etc are here.

Blog Post - Friday, 8th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 8 Aug 2003

Hmm... I just spoke to an iiNet CSR who tells me they're "changing
service providers" right now and hope to be back online shortly.
Maybe this means they've finally moved to Telstra's L2TP product? That
would be nice... unfortunately I don't have any more information yet as
the CSRs apparently haven't been told anything that technical, and
obviously I can't check the iiNet web site.

I also think I might have put my foot in it this afteroon - I promised a
bunch of mates a feed if they could get root on critter - the machine on
which this site and a couple of others are hosted. The problem? The
bunch of mates is from Telstra's Security Architecture group (my
workmates), and a meaner, more vindictive mob of people you'll not find
anywhere The problem is that they probably have the skills (5k1llz??)
to do it. Oh well... I can always escape to Brisbane at the end of the

Blog Post - Thursday, 7th August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 7 Aug 2003

Am not a happy little Vegemite... I was in the process of
uploading my final changes to a project's web site (00:14 Friday) and my
ADSL connection dropped out half-way through the upload. I think I might
have nuked a rather important file, and its replacement is sitting here
waiting for me to reconnect and upload it. Not happy.

Blog Post - Sunday, 3rd August, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 3 Aug 2003

Syndia and I went for a moderately short walk in the Grampians today. We took the easier of two routes up to The Pinnacle, which is pretty much a steel mesh fence enclosing a small wooden platform at the top of a large-ish chunk of rock. Good fun - neither of us had done any bushwalking at all in a while, and it was a nice change to get out and have a look around.

Syndia's afraid of heights, so I was particularly impressed that she made it all the way to the top. You can find the proof here.

Blog Post - Saturday, 26th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 26 Jul 2003

Syndia's off on her rotation to Ararat, and will be there for the next two weeks. We drove up this evening, and I'll stay for tonight and possibly tomorrow night as well, before driving back to Melbourne.

When we arrived, it was bitterly cold, so we weren't going outside that night. We ended up wandering down to the local video hire place and grabbing a couple of DVDs, then setting up my notebook with the small stereo system we found in the unit, and having a video night. Cool fun - watching Jackie Chan movies whilst eating hot pizza with the wind shrieking outside

Blog Post - Friday, 25th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 25 Jul 2003

The TRL crowd just received word from Vivek that he's on his way home and should be back in Melbourne by Sunday afternoon. Vivek has just been on a round-the-world tour and has gotten up to some crazy antics, including being throw in jail twice - once in Moscow and once in Edinburgh.

For a bit of a laugh, go read his site:

Blog Post - Thursday, 24th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 24 Jul 2003

I paid a visit to the RMIT Fencing Club and
the Melbourne Fencing
Club yesterday evening. (Incidentally, both web sites are
horribly out of date.)

I'm looking forward to getting back into the sport - I've been slowly
building up to it over the past couple of months; getting some gear
together, going to the gym etc, and now I have an almost complete
set of gear and am reasonably fit again. On the gear side of things, I'm
missing FIE blades and whites, and a couple of bodywires, but that's all
On the fitness side however, I'm sure I'll discover exactly how much
I'm still missing on Monday night (more on that later).

I was hoping to talk to Harry Sommerville, a Maitre d'Armes at RMIT, but
in speaking with one of the people there I learned that he's off due to
an injury. Bugger Have arranged for them to contact me when he's
back though, so all is not lost. Apart from their current lack of a
coach, the venue is pretty cramped and they only have one box (and no
permanent strip), so I'm a bit concerned that the good (or at least
competitive) fencers will stay away. Will have to do more research.

After RMIT FC I headed off to the MFC, on Bridge Rd in Richmond. The
venue looked good - 4 permanent strips set up - and who should I run
into, but Ernie Simon? A very pleasant surprise... I thought he was
coaching at Monash, so I'd given up on getting lessons from him while I
was here (the Monash club doesn't appear to cater for anyone but
beginners all that well...). Anyway, I arranged a trial foil lesson with
Ernie for Monday night. Hopefully it will go well

Blog Post - Monday, 21st July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 21 Jul 2003

Congratulations to Syndia! She's just received an offer for a position at the Royal Brisbane Hospital, starting in January next year. Woohoo! We're moving to Brisbane!

Now all I need to do is survive the Telstra re-org and get myself transferred up there...

Blog Post - Thursday, 17th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 17 Jul 2003

On a lighter note, I bought a new helmet today. It's a Shoei TZ-1, for
what it's worth, and it's very quiet. All I do is click the visor
down and all the road noise disappears. No more headaches from long
rides with lots of wind noise. It's nice and warm with the vents closed,

I decided to get one now as all the motorcycle shops are having sales on
everything - since nobody really wants to buy new bikes etc in Winter,
and they need to pay the rent, they let gear go pretty cheaply. A helmet
like mine would normally go for about $700-$800, but I got it for $500.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 16th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 16 Jul 2003

Telstra re-org update: they've said that all our positions are redundant, and that everyone has to re-apply for their jobs.

Strangely, they were dumbfounded when we asked what happen if we didn't want to apply - apparently they hadn't even considered this possibility. It looks like they'll have to give us all redundancy packages, which is something they really don't want to do, especially since the people who leave in the first round are almost always the best people, since they know they can get work elsewhere. So anyway, they were completely gobsmacked when a bunch of us asked about not applying. Very stupid, leaving that loophole open.

It looks like we're going to have our old jobs until at least September at this rate, which could work out well if Syndia gets a job in Brisbane - that way, I'll either get a new job in Telstra in Brisbane, or get a nice redundancy package at about the right time to fund a move back to Brisbane.

Fingers still crossed...

Blog Post - Sunday, 13th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 13 Jul 2003

Had a good day in Sydney today. We took a fairly leisurely breakfast, checked out, then spent the morning and most of the afternoon wandering around Sydney. We took the monorail for a full circuit of the city, then jumped off at Darling Harbour.

After bludging for a while, taking photos and watching some crazy teenage dance group called "Active Kids" entertaining a bunch of six-year-olds, we took the ferry around to Circular Quay and The Rocks, before wandering back to the hotel and heading off to Melbourne.

Blog Post - Saturday, 12th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 12 Jul 2003

What do you do in your address book when someone gets married and changes their name? Do you put them in under their new name and be correct about the whole thing, or do you use their maiden name and insult their choice of surname? I've resorted to using "Alex Stonehouse nee Gillies," along with "Jenna Appleton nee Hall" etcetera, but that's a bit excessive for a mobile phone, surely...

... anyway, yes, Alex and Ben have tied the knot, got hitched, done the deed - but haven't said the big "I do," the vows were sealed with "I will," instead. Apparently this is quite normal, although I was left wondering for a minute

The ceremony itself was well done; no raving preachers or anything - and the address was tasteful, relevant and well delivered. All in all, both sets of parents can be proud of how well it went

True to form, there were a couple of stuff-ups before the event - the Groom and his men left their buttonholes and the rings behind! Luckily they realised this before the ceremony started, and someone was dispatched to go and fetch them. Everything else seemed to go off without a hitch, if you'll pardon the pun; Alex has decided to take Ben's surname, at least in personal life, and their new address looks suspiciously like Ben's old address, although I might be mistaken there.

Syndia and I didn't get much of a chance to talk to either Alex or Ben, but that's to be expected on such an occasion - they were getting pulled every which way by all the friends and relatives etc.

Stewart Gillies (Alex's father) didn't recognise me initially - have I become that much more respectable since we last met? Admittedly, it has been three years or so, and it was in a crowd of 180+ people, so I can't really criticize - I'd be dreading those circumstances if it were me

The reception will be at Dockside, and it starts shortly, so we're off

Blog Post - Friday, 11th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 11 Jul 2003

Everything's up in the air at work at the moment with respect to the re-org. I feel a bit like Scott Adams, in that I can't really believe the stupidity being displayed by our middle management. The quote that my one-up manager (the last of the non-pointy-haired people) uses to sum the whole mess up is, "Never blame on malice what you can on blatant stupidity." Sadly, I think he's right. Our group has been cut in half, and the person responsible for the group didn't even know about it. Pretty pathetic, really.

So... my group all went out to lunch, compared CVs and has generally stopped being productive for the foreseeable future. Good outcome, huh?

Alex Gillies and Ben Stonehouse are getting married tomorrow, so after lunch (the wake) I headed home and Syndia and I headed off to Sydney. Unfortunately we ended up leaving for Sydney just a little too late after all our packing etc - at about 4:30pm - and ended up arriving just before 3am. Ouch.

The trip was pretty uneventful; Syndia drove for an hour or so once or twice, which made it a bit easier for me, and meant that we could keep moving pretty quickly. One hitch occurred when we hit the M5 just outside Sydney, and discovered that Melbourne e-Tags don't work on the bloody thing. Transurban (the Melbourne e-Tag mob) had recently written to all their customers and told us that it would work on the Harbour Bridge, the tunnel and a couple of other roads around Sydney - but neglected to mention that it was a no-go on the M5. Buggrit! We eventually persuaded the toll-gate humans to let us through even though we had no cash on us - I think perhaps the number of cars backing up behind us might have helped our argument...

Thankfully we had booked into the City Gate Sebel which, like most decent places, has 24 hour check-in. Mmmm... the bed felt very comfortable at that hour.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 8th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 8 Jul 2003

Syndia has finished her exams for this semester, and has only one exam to go in her entire career as a med student. Now we're just hoping that she'll get an offer from the Royal Brisbane Hospital to do her internship there. We both want to move back to Brisbane for a couple of years - the climate down here is getting to us, and both our families are there...

... fingers crossed...

Blog Post - Monday, 7th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 7 Jul 2003

Not good. Not good at all.

Dad and my three younger brothers had all their stuff stolen from their motel room in Sydney last night - while they were asleep!

The scumbags took all their wallets, four mobile phones, Dad's notebook, the car keys, the car, Dad's suits (partly a business trip) and some other miscellaneous stuff.

Blog Post - Sunday, 6th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 6 Jul 2003

Not content with the 400-odd kilometres traveled yesterday, I rolled out of bed again this morning aiming to head down the Great Ocean Road with the crowd.

Eight of us left the Todd Rd service centre at about 9:15am and head across the West Gate Bridge and on to Geelong. Pretty much everyone was on >=600cc sportsbikes, except for one on an Across (250).

The run down to Lorne was taken pretty easily... The highlight for me was when Rusty accidentally hit the kill switch on his GSX-R600 at some traffic lights, and switched off just as the lights went green. Oops To make up for the gaffe, he wheelied for 100m or so down the road, then pulled a huge rolling stoppie at the next set of lights. Very cool, but no stunting for me, thanks - especially not on public roads, and definitely not while my mother's reading this site ...

The road between Lorne and Apollo Bay was much more technically challenging than any other part of the day. Heaps of corners - on and off camber, a couple of decreasing-radius ones thrown in for good measure, and it was heaps of fun. I was finally starting to get properly comfortable on the ZX-6R, too, which helped a bit. Rusty left Lorne a bit before the rest of us and found a nice little spot to take some photos of us as we went past. They'll be up soon, if he posts them to the newsgroup.

Lunch in Apollo Bay, and who could go past fish and chips at one of the local restaurants? Not me. Yum... will have to go back there again sometime.

Back via Dean's Marsh: lots of sweeping corners, but also heaps of water/ice/muck on the road, and since the light wasn't all that good through the trees, I took it pretty easy.

The weather, for once, held to the forecasters' predictions and was beautifully fine and sunny all day. Good fun

Blog Post - Saturday, 5th July, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 5 Jul 2003

Went out for a ride today with Nick, Gordon and Gerry. This was the first time that I got to wear my new race suit, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and warm it is My knees got a bit sore towards the end of the ride, but I'm not sure if that was the suit or just the fact that I haven't really spent much time on the bike since I got it.

We had a reasonably late start of about 10am, when the three of them rocked up to our place. Syndia and I were inside having a cup of tea, and she looked a bit startled when she heard them coming From there we headed out to Cranbourne, where we stopped at the MacDonald's, before refuelling and heading out along the Gippsland Hwy towards Drouin.

A quick fuel/coffee stop in Drouin turned out to be a pretty decent lunch stop at one of the local cafes. After lunch, we cruised off to Warragul, Neerim South, Noojee, then back via Seville and the Maroondah Highway.

All in all, it was a pretty cruisy day. Highlights were the quick blast that Nick and I enjoyed on the way to Drouin, the shot-glass-sized rock that a truck threw up at me just outside Neerim South (I have a huge bruise on my arm), and the absolutely amazing scenery along the entire trip after Cranbourne. It was just so pretty that we didn't have the heart to go fast

Blog Post - Monday, 30th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 30 Jun 2003

Went to the gym again today. I've been getting back into it now that the weather has turned so horrible. It's pretty much the only serious exercise I get - going outside is just too miserable A week or so ago, I even bought a pair of blue-tinted sunglasses, just so that when I looked at the (grey) sky it would look a bit more blue. Sad...

Alice, May, Syndia and I went to The Swallows for a feed on Sunday night. The steak there was supposed to be very good according to Alice, so we all ordered variations on that theme The place bills itself as a jazz club, and the performers they had were pretty amazing - I'd forgotten just how good jazz improv could be. Very cool

Oh, and the steak? Very nice

Blog Post - Saturday, 28th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 28 Jun 2003

The second round of the Brass Monkeys series was held today on Port Phillip Bay, and Syndia and I both crewed on Good Company for Pat and Michelle. The wind was better this time than for the Women's Regatta, but it was still pretty pathetic - people were happy with race speeds of about 3 knots! Going around one mark, we hit a complete dead-spot in the water and consequently lost steerage... not fun.

All up it was a pretty good first time out on the boat for Syndia though - at least we didn't have the mad panic that we had a couple of times over Summer

Following the race, we went back to Pat and Michelle's for a feed. Michelle's family, by the way, breeds beef cattle, so the steaks were excellent. Mmmmm.....

Blog Post - Friday, 27th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 27 Jun 2003

Well, it looks like my boss is out of a job... He told us on Thursday
that he'll be leaving for the UK sometime in August. The Security
Architecture group looks like it's staying in one piece and just getting
a new manager - who will probably be someone from within the group. I
can say with a fair degree of certainty that it won't be me though

Syndia and I are going out sailing tomorrow with Pat and Michelle. We'll
probably have breakfast at one of the cafes in Williamstown before
walking down the street to the Hobson's Bay Yacht Club. This will be
Syndia's first time out on the boat, and Pat reckons there's going to be
some good weather for sailing (finally!). The last time we went out
there was no wind

Blog Post - Sunday, 22nd June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 22 Jun 2003

I bought Syndia a new jacket today. It's a similar one to mine so it still zips onto the leather pants that she's adopted as her own . We picked it up this afternoon and spent some time wandering around the Victoria Markets. Syndia has this fascination with corn on the cob, so while she was making a mess of herself I opted for some much more appetising poffertjes. Yumm - real butter and icing sugar

We headed out towards Arthur's Seat via Beach Rd, but ended up stopping just beyond Frankston. It was a nice ride, but it was getting cold and I didn't want to make the trip into a miserable experience for Syndia, so we headed back while we were still feeling mostly warm. Not a bad ride though.

Blog Post - Saturday, 21st June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 21 Jun 2003

Woohoo! The new Harry Potter book is out

Syndia and I headed off to Chadstone today to buy some clothes and other mundane stuff. On the way, I remembered that the new Harry Potter book would have been released at 9:01am. While Syndia was looking for clothes, I picked up a copy and started reading. I didn't dare let the book out of my sight, just in case Syndia stole it and started reading it as well - I'd never get it back then - so I finished it last night and let Syndia have it this morning

I was pleasantly surprised how much ground Rowling covers in this book - Harry et al are starting to grow up, with all the accompanying teen angst . We also start to see some of the larger plot develop. But hey, I'm too tired to write up a full review, and there are (literally) millions of other people who will already have done so.

Blog Post - Friday, 13th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 13 Jun 2003

Finally got around to putting the photos of my new toy up. You can see
them here.

Blog Post - Monday, 9th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 9 Jun 2003

Went out with Pat today on the crash boat for the Royal Melbourne Yacht
Squadron's Women's Regatta. It was almost a beautiful day for sailing.
That is to say, the sun was shining (mostly), the rain had stopped, the
temperature was warm. Unfortunately, sailing usually requires the
participation of the wind, which was sorely lacking today.

The entirety of Port Phillip Bay was as flat as a sheet of glass, and
there was absolutely bugger-all wind. It got to the extent that a couple
of the boats were heading (correctly) to the side of the markers, but
simply didn't have enough wind to go around them and drifted with the
current past the wrong side of the marker instead. Oops The crash boat
that I was on was a Boston Whaler-style barge with a 50hp outboard, and
it moved pretty quickly. It was about the only thing out there to
actually be moving faster than the current.

It was a generally good day - Pat and I had fun at least. The
competitors were a bit disappointed, of course, but at least they were
cheerful after the event. As we discovered, most of them had been
sitting around having some cake and a brew-up! The things you can do on
a boat when you're not racing...

I did manage to get a couple of photos, and they'll be up as soon as I
retrieve my digital camera's data cable from work.

Blog Post - Saturday, 7th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 7 Jun 2003

Well, it's done. The ZZR250 is gone and in its place is a 1995-model
Kawasaki ZX6R. What colour? Kawasaki Green, of course. Photos etc will
follow shortly.

The sad thing is that I won't be able to take it for a decent ride until
next weekend - tomorrow's weather is looking too miserable and I'm
crewing on the crash boat for the
Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron's
Women's Regatta on Monday. But still, life is good...

Blog Post - Thursday, 5th June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 5 Jun 2003

I'm still in the hunt for a new bike to replace my ZZR250.

This afternoon I dropped out to A1 Motorcycles in Brighton and test-rode
a 2000-model ZX9R. Wow. The bike had so much grunt it was scary.
I have to admit I never did find out if there was a rev limiter - or
even what it felt like at redline. Come to think of it, I don't even
remember what the bike redlined at - I never really got it over
10,000rpm and even then it was a) scaring me and b) reaching
not-so-very-legal speeds, even in first gear.

It was a genuine effort to keep below the speed limit, and I'll be
honest and admit that it's probably a bit too much for me for now
Perhaps in a year or so I'll be getting fed up with a 600cc, but at
least the boys in blue won't pester me as much. I think if I buy a 900cc
now, I'll probably be in jail for my 25th birthday

So... the ZX9R and Fireblade have both been dropped off the list, as has
anything else over the 600-750cc mark. I'm thinking ZX6R at the moment,
but I'd like to try a ZX7R and - just for the hell of it - a GSXR600 and
an R6. I seriously doubt I'll end up with either of the latter two
though - Syndia would kill me, 'cause the passenger's footpegs put their
knees up around their armpits - not good for long-distance touring

Anyway, I have one particular toy in mind, so if nothing else comes
along in the next week or so, it's probably going to get the nod. To
anyone interested in the ZZR: I have a pretty decent trade-in offer for
it so if you're thinking of making an offer you'd better do it quickly

Blog Post - Tuesday, 3rd June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 3 Jun 2003

Buggrit! A typo in a variable name caused one of the NPA's policy
documents to be shown as being published in 1 Jan 1970 (Unix epoch)
rather than the real time. Not such a big deal, except that the sodding
Premier just got up and had a go at them for it

Not happy. I feel stupid...

Blog Post - Monday, 2nd June, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 2 Jun 2003

Hmm... We had our first serious outage with iinet today. I have to say they've been pretty good so far, but it's still annoying

Blog Post - Saturday, 31st May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 31 May 2003

Wow. I've just returned from Calder Park where we had the HART Advanced 1 rider training course. Talk about tiring... I left home at just before 7am and arrived back here just after 6pm, and spent most of the intervening hours riding either my ZZR (to/from the course) or their CB 600 hornet (during the course itself).

HART supplied us with the bikes, on the understanding that if we binned them, we'd pay the insurance excess. Fair enough As it was, only one person dropped their bike on the day, and that was on the grass. (No, it wasn't me, but I'm not going to point fingers at the guilty party just in case I drop it next time...)

The course was centred around road-riding skills - i.e. not hooning around a race-track at 200km/h. Funnily enough, we spent most of the day in first gear - and we were all absolutely buggered at the end of it. The course is only open to people who are on their open licences, so the standard of riders was pretty reasonable, but those instructors really put us to shame.

Probably the hardest thing for everyone to do was the tight turns, at full steering lock, using just the throttle (no clutch) in first gear. The number of people (myself included) who had to prop their bikes up with their feet was pretty embarrassing... The witches-hat slalom was cool, though. A couple of times, I had the bike cranked so far over that I tagged the hats with my mirrors1. That was very cool

All in all, it was an excellent day. I learnt heaps of ways to practise old stuff, and discovered that I don't have too many bad habits yet I'm seriously looking forward to the next course...

  1. The mirrors on the CB 600 are mounted on the handlebars, 'cause there's no fairing. In other words, they're much higher than the handlebars...

Blog Post - Saturday, 24th May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 24 May 2003

Hi Karen!

(Karen was miffed with me because she hadn't received a mention on uglybugger. I hope this will get me out of trouble, but somehow I doubt it...)

The tute at RMIT didn't go so badly today... Everyone managed to turn up late though, which was a bit weird - I had been planning on going home in another 5 minutes or so if nobody turned up... There weren't too many people, which was nice as my voice still isn't wonderful and it meant I didn't have to speak too loudly. I'm writing this from the lab at the moment, which suggests that there aren't too many people around at all today

For what it's worth, I've been looking at a nice little ZX-6R in the city; have been planning to test-ride it for the last two weeks, but haven't managed to get around to it yet. Looks like Winter is a good time to buy a bike - but a bad time to sell one. I might hang on to the ZZR until the warmer months unless I get a decent offer for it... Maybe I could even persuade Syndia to try riding it

Blog Post - Friday, 23rd May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 23 May 2003

I picked up Syndia and Karen from the airport late last night (or rather, early this morning). It was absolutely freezing!! Not fun - it took most of the trip from home to the airport just for the tyres to warm up! They were both gloating that Brisbane had reached thirty-something degrees this week

Karen's staying for a week or so, which means that I get shunted off into the corner except when she and Syndia want transportation or an extra Scrabble player Not that I can complain too much - both Syndia and Karen like baking for some strange reason, and since I like eating, it seems like the perfect arrangement

Work's starting to get a bit heavier again - I've picked up three or four new projects over this week. It's good though - I had been getting a bit bored since I returned from the road trip, and it's nice to have something interesting to do again.

Blog Post - Thursday, 22nd May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 22 May 2003

Wow, cool I just finished creating a screen saver for my phone. It's just a photos slide-show, but I stole the photos from the photo galleries.

I hope Syndia likes it - she's flying back to Melbourne this evening

Blog Post - Sunday, 11th May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 11 May 2003

Spent today at home, still cleaning and tidying. I'm still not feeling
all that wonderful, but I'll be going to work tomorrow regardless. I
can't stand the thought of staying at home for another day...

Blog Post - Friday, 9th May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 9 May 2003

Happy birthday, Stephen!

Bugger this for a joke... this is the third day in a row that I've stayed home from work. I have some sort of throat bug, wich basically means I can't speak to save myself and I've been coughing so much that my throat is completely raw. Can't sleep, can't really eat properly, and can't concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time without having to run off to the bathroom to cough up a lung or two.

To help stifle some of the boredom, I've been cleaning up around the place and have come up with a heap of stuff that I don't really want/need any more and would like to dispose of, one way or another. I've added a Stuff for Sale page that lists most of this stuff; if you feel like browsing and picking up a couple of bargains, feel free. All I'm going to do is shove them all back into the cupboard (with the possible exception of the ZZR...)

WRT the holiday: there are a bunch of diary entries and photos still to come. The diary entries have (mostly) been written, and the photos are currently being sorted. See how bored I am??

Oh, and WRT the ZZR: yes, I've finally decided to sell it. Now that I'm off my restrictions, I'm not limited to a 250cc bike any more and I'm on the lookout for something with a bit more grunt. Anyone have a spare ZX-6R or GSXR-600 lying around that they'd care to part with?

Blog Post - Friday, 2nd May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 2 May 2003

Leaving for Melbourne again today.

Left Syndia's this morning and headed to Manners' place. He and Rochelle have bought a place in Durack. It's quite nice, and they've done heaps of work on it. I'm very impressed Unfortunately they're holding their housewarming party tomorrow evening, so I'll miss it as I'm already on my way back to Melbourne.

I dropped in at home to pick up my stuff on the way. I phoned Dave to check that I'd be able to get in through the gate and discovered that Guvviler's (Fadge's car) throttle cable had snapped last night on the way home, and Fadge had spent the night at our place.

I briefly visited Fred to say g'day before leaving town, then I headed straight off towards Sydney. I ended up not getting all that far before dark - only Byron Bay - and I decided to stop there. Plenty of backpackers' places, some (not much ) eye candy and a complete lack of enthusiasm for dark, wet roads combined to persuade me to crash there for the night.

Blog Post - Thursday, 1st May, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 1 May 2003

Finalized the quote for Syndia's mother's notebook. Tried to organise backups for the surgery but didn't have time. Had to leave because Mike, Fadge and I were going out on the boat.

Boat was fun; relaxed for a while. Unfortunately, back to Syndia's mother's surgery to finish their backup system. Left at about 1am. No fun Syndia and I did, however, manage to have dinner with my parents while we were at Chermside though, which was nice.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 29th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 29 Apr 2003

Did my Q-Ride course today. They gave me an old air-cooled Kawasaki Zephyr Z550 with bent handlebars and a really bent shift lever. I passed with no trouble after bugger-all time - the examiner was very happy with the outcome and asked who had taught me to ride. I told him, "Rohan Barton - A-Grade Australian 250GP racer," and he agreed that that might have had something to do with it

Coffee with Elise that evening at Toscani's at Sunnybank. She seems to be having fun; lives to work and jump, and not necessarily in that order. One amusing incident for the night was when I had a go at a dopey couple who lit up inside the café, right underneath a No Smoking sign. They left.

It was good to catch up with Elise again.

Blog Post - Monday, 28th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 28 Apr 2003

Visited Grammar this afternoon. Paid a visit to Doc Solomon, Phil O'Neill and Jimmy Hill. I also had a quick look around the (new) middle school, but couldn't see all that much and couldn't get a tour as classes were running.

Doc invited me to visit the Computer Club meeting that was to be held that afternoon, and I was amused to see that some things never change. They're still looking desperately for contributions to I/O, the Computer Club magazine, they're still backstabbing each other as to who can become a supervisor, and the people who want to organise things are still getting bogged down in trivialities The only significant differences I noted were that numbers had shrunk, and that the members seemed a little marginalised, which wasn't really the case when I was there. Not so inspiring

I did manage to pick up a few back-issues of I/O from Doc though, and actually found a couple of old articles I'd written in them. Cool!

Blog Post - Sunday, 27th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 27 Apr 2003

We drove out to my parents' place to see everyone today, and met our new puppy, Dash, for the first time. She's a gorgeous little Border Collie, with one brown and one blue eye. Sammy is terrified of her

Blog Post - Saturday, 26th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 26 Apr 2003

Syndia and I took a walk around Blackall this morning. It's the founding place of the Australian Labour Party, so you could say we were in enemy territory. Oh, and the water smells.

Leaving Blackall, we headed to Charleville. When we arrived, we were disappointed (read: Syndia was disappointed, and it was inflicted on me) to discover that the bilby display wasn't being run that week. There was, however, this "Cosmos" thingo openingo so we decided to stick around and check it out.

As per most small-ish country towns, when there's an event the entire town turns out to enjoy it. There was a huge fete (and crikey, all those little old CWA ladies can cook!), a couple of lawnmower-powered miniature space shuttles, music, more food than one could poke a stick at, and of course the opening of their Cosmos Centre. We also ran into Vaughan Johnson and Bruce Scott, who were officiating, and we received the royal treatment when they worked out who I was. Fun for a while, but not when I was wearing crappy clothes and hadn't shaved in the best part of a week.

Incidentally, the Cosmos Centre is an astronomy centre and observatory developed in Charleville to take advantage of the clearer skies. They hope it will bring tourist and research dollars to the town.

Syndia discovered that the bilby display was actually happening as a one-off for the opening of the Cosmos Centre, so we decided to stick around until 3pm when it was supposed to start. The verdict? Bilbies are cool. Got some not-so-good photos and a digital video, but due to the low-light conditions and obviously not being able to use flash photography, the images are almost all red.

Syndia wants a bilby.

We ended up leaving Charleville at about 4pm; not so good, as we had about 700km to go before reaching Brisbane. Charleville was to be our last major stop on the way back as well, as we wanted to reach Brisbane that night. We ran into a huge downpour whilst passing through Roma. It washed the car clean (thankfully!) but nearly washed it entirely off the road, too. Fun. Progress was slowed significantly, and we ended up reaching Brisbane at about 2330. Crashed out at Syndia's parents' place. It's good to be back, even if only for a while.

Blog Post - Friday, 25th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 25 Apr 2003

Leaving Mt Isa in the morning, we cruised along towards Camooweal, and hit Longreach not so long afterwards. The original plan was to stay the night at Charleville, but after stopping for the best part of four hours at the Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach, we pretty much gave up on that idea.

The Stockman's Hall of Fame is a pretty-much complete history of Australia from the time of settlement, and it includes as much information as is available about the history of the country before settlement as well. It's set up as a proper museum, and I reckon you'd need to spend at least an entire day there to cover everything; perhaps two days to do it properly.

Leaving Longreach, we headed along towards Charleville. On the way, we saw the first sign that mentioned Brisbane and took a couple of photos of it

Travelling towards Charleville, we started to lose the light, and the roos were so bad that I was reduced to travelling at about 50km/h along the highway. This was a bit ridiculous, and it was extremely draining, so we decided to stop in Blackall and head to Charleville the next morning.

Note to travellers staying in Blackall: the water is mostly pumped from artesian bores, so the hot water stinks of sulphur. It feels lovely to shower with, but the smell remains for a couple of hours after the fact. Apart from that, the place we stayed at (the Acacia Motor Inn) was well-maintained and the people there were very cheerful. Lovely place.

Blog Post - Thursday, 24th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 24 Apr 2003

We left Alice Springs just before 9:30am and headed along towards Tennant Creek and Three Ways. We saw another unrestricted speed limit sign just outside town, which was a bit of a relief - we were starting to think that the unlimited zones in the Northern Territory were a complete myth. For what it's worth, people travelling to the Territory should take note that there are no unrestricted zones south of Erldunda (on the Stuart Highway). If you're planning to drive from Adelaide to Uluru, get used to sitting at 100-110km/h.

After hitting the unrestricted zone, we took off like a rocketship. At this point, I discovered a couple of things about the Commodore: its cruise control switches itself off after you pass 180km/h, and its top speed - with a full load in the boot (including 30-odd litres of water), two people on board and a huge spray of bugs on the front - was about 228km/h. And what was Syndia doing while we were screaming along the highway at these speeds? You guessed it - she was taking photos of the speedo for proof that we actually did it

Unfortunately, screaming along like a rocket, we also burned fuel like one. We were looking at a bit over 24L/100km at our top speed, and about 19L/100km whilst cruising at 180km/h. This was a bit of a sharp contrast to the fuel economy at 110km/h, which is about 8L/100km. In other words, our fuel consumption at 200km/h almost tripled, which looked like wreaking serious havoc with our chances of arriving in Tennant Creek before our fuel ran out We ended up throttling back to 180km/h and cruising along at that speed for the best part of 500km. Wow, cool - distances don't seem so terrible when you can travel at that sort of speed.

We stopped briefly in Tennant Creek to refuel, and then resumeed fanging along the highway to Three Ways and then on to Mt Isa. We arrived in Mt Isa in darkness, but it's a large enough town that we could still find a Subway and get a decent feed.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 23rd April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 23 Apr 2003

Before we left for the rock, we spent about half an hour looking for some of those fly-nets that you put over your hats, but everyone in the entire resort (i.e. pretty much the entire town) had sold out of them, and they had apparently ben asking ridiculous prices for them before they ran out. We decided we'd just have to live with the flies, and so we headed off to the rock.

Entry to the national park containing Ayer's Rock is about $20 per person, and you can't get anything other than a three-day pass. I don't quite understand why that would be the norm - but as "Screw the Tourists" appears to be the Northern Territory's state industry, I guess I shouldn't really be all that surprised.

As it turns out, the flies have discovered the fact that there are usually lots of very sweaty people congregating at the bottom of the rock, and so they were waiting for us in force when we arrived.

We started the climb, but Syndia bailed before she even reached the chain. I decided that I still wanted to climb, so after giving Syndia the car keys I headed on upwards with some boy whose family had also decided that they didn't want to make the climb.

The climb itself was reasonably demanding, with the chain only going about half the distance of the climb. It runs for most of the vertical distance, but there's about the same actual walking distance again that the chain doesn't cover, and you have to do that unassisted. There are track markers painted onto the rock though, presumably so that people don't get lost whilst trying to find the highest point of the rock

At the very summit there's a geological survey marker, which you can see in the photos I took while I was up there. One very cool thing is that there's full GSM + GPRS coverage on top of the rock itself. Cool

After I arrived back on the ground, we headed off towards the Olgas and then towards Alice Springs. The Olgas were pretty impressive, but they looked better from a distance, especially after having seen Ayer's Rock on the same day.

On the way to Alice after leaving Uluru, I saw the one thing I've been waiting for all my life: an "unrestricted" speed limit sign. Just a black circle with a diagonal line through it, but it was one of the coolest things I've seen. Sadly, since the light was starting to go, I didn't get to really wind the Commodore out all that much that night - but we were looking forward to trying it out the next day

We stayed at some backpacker's place in Alice, where we met a couple of poms who were planning on visiting the rock the next day. The didn't believe us that the flies could be that bad, so I guess they're regretting it now .

Notes from Syndia:
was really shocked at how high the top was, and how exposed the walk was
tried to climb, but couldn't get past Chicken Rock
met a number of others who were also too afraid of heights to cover the distance between chicken rock and the chain
saw heaps of people go past, including a woman in high heels

Blog Post - Tuesday, 22nd April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 22 Apr 2003

How cool is this? I'm sitting in Yulara, bugger-all kilometres from Ayer's Rock (or Uluru - call it what you will. I choose to call it Ayer's Rock). Anyway, I'm sitting here in Yulara with a notebook connected to a digital camera, with a Telstra GPRS connection to the Internet. Cute

We had some interesting experiences today - some good, some not-so-good. Woke up at about 8am and opened the car doors. Big mistake - millions of flies had obviously been congregating on the car's bonnet (more on that later), waiting for the opportunity to attack us. Beating a hasty retreat into the car, we quickly worked out what we needed from the boot, then I ducked out to fetch it. A quick change of clothes later, we were back on the highway, leaving all but the most adventurous flies behind.

Speaking of flies congregating on the bonnet of the car: have a look at the photos. There are literally thousands of squashed bugs on the front of the car. Every time we've stopped at a servo for fuel, one of us has had to spend ages cleaning the buggers off the windscreen. We've even picked up three or four grasshoppers, which all seemed to make a strangly disconcerting thunk as they hit. Ugh... green stuff... The flies seem to reckon it's an absolute smorgasbord though, and we can't get rid of the buggers now. Car washing in the middle of the outback? Not bloody likely...

Heading north from Coober Pedy, we stopped in at a little place called Cadney Homestead for a bit of a feed. Good food, decent place, and heaps of ceiling fans to ward off the flies. There's even a camping ground and a pool - something to remember for any subsequent trips to the red centre

Next stop: Shell service station at Erldunda. Not good - they're out of unleaded, and don't know when they're going to have any more. Apparently their tanker was supposed to arrive from Darwin last night, but something obviously prevented it. The bloke there was pretty terse - fair enough, he was sick of people asking about fuel, but you'd think that being a servo in the middle of nowhere, they'd take it reasonably seriously. If he didn't want to continually answer the same questions, he always could have put up a sign...

Anyway, the next fuel was supposedly at Yulara, which was about 280km away. I was a bit concerned at this stage as we'd been moving at a fair clip over the previous 400km or so and had burnt a reasonable amount of fuel. We'd have had no problems making it to Alice Springs, which was my fallback point, but I really didn't want to have to cancel the trip to Ayer's Rock after we'd come so close to it. With that in mind, I set the cruise control for best fuel efficiency (about 110km/h) and off we went along Lasseter's Highway.

About 100km along the way, we spotted a Mobil servo at Curtin Springs and, with not a little relief, pulled in to refuel. Whoops. Won't make that mistake again. There's a bloody great Mobil sign out the front, but the scumbag flatly refused to take my Mobil card. No apologies either - just "We don't take them any more - we get our fuel from now." Wonderful. Not a big problem, since they did take VISA, but I was pretty pissed off. After I pushed the issue a bit, he told me he didn't really give as, which is a bit rich from some prick who's already screwing me over. Oh well... I wonder what Mobil are going to do to him when they receive a pissed-off letter from a Telstra Fleet rep It won't be me writing to them...

To make myself feel a bit better, I stirred up asload of dust upon leaving, by the simple expedient of flat-shifting between first, second and third gears and spinning the wheels in the dust all the way. You could see the cloud for a kilometre or so down the road. I hope that pissed him off a bit, but either way it made me feel a bit better With a mostly-full tank of fuel now - worth about 800km if I drive conservatively - we don't need to stop again anywhere between here and Alice Springs, which is a bit of a relief.

Arriving at Yulara, we discovered that there's a five-star resort out here. Whowouldathunkit? Well, it's actually an "all-stars" resort - it has everything from 5-star luxury accommodation down to mostly-flat dirt on which you can erect a tent. Sweet, says us - a shower, soft bed and a decent bit of a feed wouldn't go astray. There's even a pool There are a bunch of lookouts in the area as well, so they'll make for good viewing tomorrow before we actually make the pilgrimage to the rock itself.

Blog Post - Monday, 21st April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 21 Apr 2003

A big thanks to Rick and Kaye for inviting us to stay after we appeared in town on such short notice. They even took us out for a huge breakfast in the village before we left for Adelaide city.

We headed to Glenelg, then pretty much due north through the city proper, and continued onto the highway. Glenelg is a pretty enough beach, I guess - certainly better-looking than St Kilda Beach - but it still doesn't have a patch on any of the Gold Coast beaches. Syndia spotted one of those bungee-style jumping castle thingies, but after such a huge breakfast we both decided we'd be pushing it a bit if we had a go

After passing through the city, we headed north, with the objective of hitting Coober Pedy by nightfall and sleeping there. Along the way, we stopped in at Port Augusta (pretty, but didn't really catch our attention) and Woomera. We had been planning on looking at the military museum there, since Woomera was established as a missile testing site, but since it was getting on in the afternoon the place was about to close when we arrived, and we were only able to look around for 20 minutes or so. The town itself is extremely quiet - remarkably like an army barracks just after a battalion has shipped out - which, when you think about it, is exactly what the town is. It's a military support town, and with no upcoming testing in a while it's reasonable for people to pick up and move back to somewhere more populated. If you've ever driven through the Enoggera barracks when it's almost empty, you'd understand what I mean.

We didn't quite make it to Coober Pedy before nightfall, so just before sunset we pulled in to a little place called Glendambo to wait until the sun had gone down. Since we were driving north/north-west, it was in my eyes most of the way, and I was also a bit concerned about the number of critters I was starting to see walking around just before dusk. A half-hour and a decent feed later, we headed on towards Coober Pedy again, but I was feeling a bit tired by this stage and so we stopped about 100km south of there and went to sleep.

Blog Post - Sunday, 20th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 20 Apr 2003

Happy birthday, Mum!

En route to Adelaide, I phoned home to wish Mum a happy birthday. When I mentioned that we were about 10km out of Hahndorf, she reminded me that my uncle and aunt, Rick and Kaye, had recently moved there. I gave them a quick call and arranged to drop in (oxymoron?). They were just leaving for lunch with a couple of friends, but invited us to stay the night. We didn't take much persuading since the alternative was a tent, and so we rocked up at their place. Rick and Kaye had to leave in short order, so they gave us the run of the place and left us to our own devices. Cool!

Of course, off we went to explore Hahndorf. In Syndia's words, "It's very touristy, but very nice-looking." It's a lovely little place, and since Rick and Kaye are only a couple of minutes' walk from the main street, it's very convenient to be able to just walk there from the house. It's (obviously) a little German village, originally populated by German migrants in the mid 1800s as a result of the religious persecution of the Lutherans by the Calvinists. Many Lutherans decided that immigrating from Germany was the only way to escape persecution, and so they became some of the first free settlers of South Australia.

For what it's worth, I grew up reading Colin Thiele books about kids growing up in German families in rural South Australia, so it was interesting to see first-hand some of the relics of that time. The Hahndorf Museum and Art Gallery has heaps of displays and information about what life was like back then, and it's still a bit of a sobering thought to consider how hard people had to work for just the bare necessities of life when we now take so much for granted.

One of the highlights of Hahndorf was the sweet shop. I almost managed to get Syndia out of there in time, but we still ended up with way too much sugar in various forms.

The lowlight, I'd have to say, was this one mob - "Cafe Assiette" - whose customer service was absolutely appalling, and they deserve a public denouncement (And of course, since so many people read this page, it's really going to make a difference. No, really. Well, it will make me feel better anyway.) The forgot we existed, which wasn't a bad thing in the end as we managed to escape without ordering anything. The incident that made us decide to leave was when they - the cafe - mixed up some patrons' orders. Not a big deal, you'd think - they'd just apologise, take the meals back and prepare a couple of new ones. Not bloody likely... The proprietor (??) had the gall to say to the people, "You've touched it now; you have to eat it." Syndia and I couldn't believe it - she was talking to an Indian family who had apparently ordered a vegetarian lasagne and had been given a beef one. Crikey! Some people...

Happily though, that seemed like one dodgy place in the midst of excellence everywhere else. We crossed the road, wandered into another little cafe and were promptly served with enough food to make us dread the thought of dinner. Sweeeeeet

After Rick and Kaye returned, we had a good chat over a light (hehe) dinner, and then crashed out for the night.

Blog Post - Saturday, 19th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 19 Apr 2003

From Syndia:

Had to leave late as Andrew had lots of marking to do on Good Friday, and was therefore in no condition to pack and clean up around the flat until mid-morning Saturday. We tried to eat as many bits and pieces we had left in the fridge, then did a general tidy up. Did some food shopping. Andrew had to try to arrange accommodation for his precious baby (i.e. the ZZR). Fortunately Gordon was able to provide it with a home at short notice. As Gordon lives in Coburg, I had to follow Andrew (who rode the bike) in the car. I was very nervous as it would be my first solo trip of any notable distance - my only other trips had been to the nearby supermarket late at night. Andrew had to take off very slowly, and disappointed at least one small boy who obviously was waiting for Mr Motorbike to zoom away into the distance once the lights turned green. I somehow managed to get the car to our destination unscathed though, and we were finally on the road to Adelaide a little before 3pm.

The scenery was very pretty, though a lot of it looked very dry. We passed Ballarat and Ararat, stopped at the KFC in Horsham for dinner, then passed through Nhill before stopping for the night. We were hoping to reach Adelaide by Saturday night, but our plans had to change with our late departure. We pulled into a rest stop just west of the South Australia border (though we only found out we had slept in SA the next morning) and set everything up for sleep.

Blog Post - Friday, 18th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 18 Apr 2003

  • rmit marking - ugh

The plan for these holidays was to leave early this morning for Adelaide. Unfortunately, I had a heap of marking to do for RMIT, so PW and I arranged to meet at the Rialto to work on it together. The assignment should have been fairly simple to mark, but there were a bunch of inconsistencies between the marking guide and the assignment sheet - and within the assignment sheet itself. It wasn't all that much fun to mark - to be complete honest, it sucked pretty badly. Grr.

Anyway, that shot down the plan to leave today, and since it's almost midnight and I still haven't finished it it looks like our plans for Saturday morning are going to be in trouble too

Blog Post - Sunday, 6th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 6 Apr 2003

Had an awesome weekend away with Syndia up at Mt Beauty, near Falls Creek in northern Victoira.

We got back fairly late this evening so I'm a bit too tired to write it up now, but we both had a great time. Have many photos etc that will be published soon-ish.

Blog Post - Friday, 4th April, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 4 Apr 2003

Happy birthday, Mike!

In other news, I've just moved the site onto a new server. This move (to my home network) gives me about 200Gb more space than I had previously There might be a couple of teething problems, but all in all the migration seems to have happened pretty smoothly.

Blog Post - Friday, 28th March, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 28 Mar 2003

There have been a heap of fun happenings recently, but I've been too
busy with work to write them all down in a reasonable form. However,
last night was just so pathetically funny that I just have to get
it down before I forget. The story starts...

... with my leaving work a few minutes earlier than usual in order to
get home and go looking for a bike (pushbike). I'd been looking around
for a few days for a cheap mountain bike, but the cheapest I could find
was still about $450. Not so good when you're looking at buying two of

Anyway, I arrived at home just after 5:30pm and found Syndia already
there. We both jumped into the car and headed off to K-Mart at
Chadstone. I figured that if there were cheap bikes to be had, I could
buy a "high"-end one from K-Mart and still get something
moderately OK for a decent price.

There were a couple of bikes that interested me... the one I ended up
going with was about $150 (cheap!) but with an aluminium frame, alloy
rims and direct-pull cantilever brakes. We ended up getting two of these
- one men's, one ladies'.

Now comes the first catch: my bike was already assembled, but Syndia's
was still in the box. They usually sell them boxed - all you have to do
is put the front wheel, seat and a few other bits and pieces on. We
weren't sure if we could fit them into the car, so we arranged with the
shop staff that if we couldn't, they'd hang on to them for us until I
could get some transport for them.

So... off we went, out to the car park with one bike, one large
box, two helmets and a pump. And, sure enough, after much muttering, we
decided that although we could fit the boxed bike into the back seat
(but not the boot) there was no way in hell we were going to get the
pre-assembled one in as well.

Off we went, back to K-Mart to put mine in storage for a day or two...
While we were there, we decided that we might as well get a rack to
mount on the car's towball and attach the bikes to. "Hmm..."
thinks Andrew, "If I get a large enough shifting spanner, I might
be able to mount the thing now and take the other bike home..." So
I wandered into the hardware section and grabbed a 254mm (1")
shifter, and off we went again.

Arriving (again) at the car, I tore off the packaging around the shifter
(who packages a spanner anyway??) and tried to fit it around the
towball's attachment. Bugger it - it was about 2mm too small. No
kidding. Bugger it!

Off we went again, back to K-Mart, to swap this shifter for another one.
(They said I could when I bought it, since they wouldn't let me take it
out of the packaging to see if it actually would fit the towballs they
had for sale.) We exchanged the shifter for a larger one (that we had to
hunt around for a bit, since the shop staff thought the one I had bought
was the largest they had.) And.... off to the car again.

We did consider checking the bike back out of storage at this point, but
decided against it on the grounds that it was tempting fate a bit.

Woohoo! The shifter fits! I attached the rack and replaced the
tow-ball.... and.... you guessed it... back to K-Mart we go, to pick up
the bike.

Finally, we collected the bike, fitted it to the rack and drove home
without incident. I was having images of someone smashing into the back
of the car and writing off all that effort, but thankfully nothing
happened, and we got it home safely.

Our adventure for the weekend will be putting Syndia's bike together
(the easy part) and then having her learn how to ride it (the.. umm...
interesting... part).

Blog Post - Thursday, 20th March, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 20 Mar 2003

Happy birthday, Tony!


Andrew Harcourt Tue 18 Mar 2003

The Melbourne Wireless group recently organised a few bulk purchases of Enterasys/Cabletron/Skynet Global 802.11b cards. In fact, these cards are simply re-badged Orinoco cards. This page will show you how to update the firmware in your Enterasys card to the most recent version of the Orinoco Silver firmware.

Update: I just received mail from Matt Johnston (thanks, Matt!) about a simpler way to flash the cards. I haven't tested it personally, but if it works for you, it looks like it will be much quicker. Have a quick read here and see what you think.

Update (18/3/03): Enterasys appear to be keeping reasonably up-to-date with their driver releases, so unless you're looking to use the card under a non-supported OS or you want to flash your 40-bit WEP card to 128-bit, this is probably a bit too much trouble to go to :)

Update (28/8/03): This page is no longer being updated. If you have queries about anything to do with your card's configuration, please visit either the manufacturer's web site or Melbourne Wireless.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I want to do this?

  • To fix broken Enterasys firmware that doesn't properly support ad-hoc mode

  • To ensure inter-operability with other Lucent cards (not that this really seems to be a problem)

  • The possibility that you can then upgrade (using an Apple Airport) this firmware to Orinoco Gold, and thus get better encryption. (Try this link).

Does it change the way my operating system identifies the card?

  • No. Initial reports suggested that it did; after subsequent checking it appears that this is not the case. This is not to say that it cannot be done; simply that upgrading the firmware does not do it.

How can I make my Windows OS think the card is a true Lucent card?

  • We don't know. If you can work it out, please tell us. We have tried using PCI Set Register calls to change the card's device ID; we have tried flashing them with all sorts of firmware. No change.

  • You could try seeing if there's any other EEPROM on the cards themselves - and then writing your own flashing program to write a new image to it. Good luck :)

How can I make my Linux OS think the card is a true Lucent card?

  • No need. It already uses the orinoco_cs driver anyway, so the card will perform exactly the same.

Which drivers should I use with the card after I update its firmware?

  • The Enterasys ones.

  • They'll still identify the card as a RoamAbout but its MAC functions will behave like a Lucent card.

So, why would I want to do this again?

  • To fix ad-hoc mode.

  • Peace of mind that you're running the latest (and presumably best) firmware that Lucent have released.

To re-flash your card, follow these steps:

  1. Find a computer with a PCMCIA slot and a working installation of Windows 9x. 98SE is fine, as is Windows ME. Windows NT, 2000 and XP all appear not to work - there have been many reports of people struggling with it, and I haven't heard of anyone doing it successfully.

  2. Boot the machine without the card inserted.

  3. Download an old version of the Orinoco drivers onto the machine and un-archive them into C:\TEMP\ORINOCO-OLD. You can download the drivers from here. Do not use a more recent version of the drivers - they will refuse to detect the card. Do not install the drivers at this stage - simply unarchive them.

  4. Optional: Download the current version of the Orinoco drivers onto the machine get the most recent of these from Unarchive these into C:\TEMP\ORINOCO-NEW. Again, do not install these drivers - just unarchive them.

  5. Insert your Enterasys card into one of the machine's PCMCIA slots. If your machine does not support hot-insertion of PCMCIA devices, reboot after this step.

  6. When prompted for a driver for the card, click the Have Disk button and browse to C:\TEMP\ORINOCO-OLD\DRIVER.

  7. Click OK and install the drivers for the card. You want the "5V Only" PCMCIA driver, not the 3.3/5V one.

  8. Reboot the machine.

  9. Run the program C:\TEMP\ORINOCO-OLD\FIRMWARE\WSU10728.EXE

  10. Click Update in the firmware update program, then OK to confirm.

  11. Wait a few seconds :)

  12. Close the program.

  13. Your card will now identify itself as an Orinoco card (at least, according to the old driver), but it has an old firmware version and will probably not work correctly yet. Not to worry - that will soon be fixed.

  14. Run the program C:\TEMP\ORINOCO-NEW\FIRMWARE\WSU10810.EXE. (If you didn't download the new drivers, then just use the link given here.

  15. Click Update in the new firmware update program, then OK to confirm.

  16. Your card is now running the most recent Orinoco firmware. Be happy :)

  17. If you have more than one card, remove the current one, replace it with another card to be updated, then repeat the last 9 steps.

  18. Close the new firmware flashing program.

  19. Now install the latest Enterasys drivers onto your machine. You can download these from their web site.).

Thanks to Will Lanigan and Danny (last name??) from Melbourne Wireless for the general information on how to do this.

> --Original Message--
> From: Matt Johnston [mailto:matt [at] ucc [dot] gu [dot] uwa [dot] edu [dot] au]
> Sent: Friday, 11 October 2002 12:38 AM
> To: [email protected]
> Subject: Enterasys to Orinoco
> Hi.
> I've used the instructions on your page for Enterasys ->
> Orinoco, and they've worked nicely. However I think I've
> found a nicely simpler way to do it.
> Simply open the binary (the .exe) in a hexeditor (or capable
> text editor such as vim), and replace "LUC" with "RBT". There
> should only be one instance of it, it stands out.
> Now you can run the updater, and it'll happily work.
> I haven't done a huge lot of testing, but it appears to work.
> Cheers,
> Matt

Good luck :)

Blog Post - Sunday, 2nd March, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 2 Mar 2003

Bugger me, if it's not one thing it's another.

After the smoke escaped from the file server's power supply last week,
Syndia and I make a short trip today to the Malvern swap meet to pick up
a new case + power supply. The idea was to swap the old power supply out
of Syndia's machine and put the guts of Syndia's machine into a new
case, since the one she has doesn't have any covers and she always drops
stuff into it

Well, the first part of the plan went off without a hitch - the file
server is back up and running. The second part went... let's just say...
slightly differently to the plan. Syndia's machine now just freezes
randomly. Not good. It's generally after booting, but doesn't have to be
- in other words, it's an intermittent hardware fault. Looks like a new
mobo is coming her way... That's not such a big problem, except that I
won't be able to get one until next Sunday, and perhaps not even then if
I'm committed to the Grand
Prix - and the fact that we went to the effort of swapping the old
one in today. Bloody nuisance...

Blog Post - Friday, 28th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 28 Feb 2003

Well, my contract with Pacific has expired, which means I'll be
disconnected as soon as Telstra get around to it... Not sure when I'll
have another account established - again, it depends on how long it
takes Telstra to change the provider codes on my line. Hmm... Still,
when it does happen, assuming it happens any time this year, I'll
finally be able to run my own servers again.

The Melbourne weather has turned miserable; good for farmers etc so I
won't complain, but it's still depressing.

My file server at home, snowy, let the smoke out of its power supply
last night. The fan stopped spinning, and although the supply does have
a thermal cut-out, it managed to get pretty hot before it actually shut
down. I'll have to replace it this weekend, but until then I have no
file server or development web server

Blog Post - Thursday, 27th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 27 Feb 2003

Nothing much has been happening recently...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 25th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Tue 25 Feb 2003

Am a bit grumpy with Internode - they stuffed up my ADSL application again

Read my rant at Whirlpool if you're so inclined...

Have since discussed the problem with some others in the Whirlpool forums... the response has been so overwhelmingly positive about Internode that I'll give them another go. It's not often that people speak so highly of their ISPs... there must be something to it

Blog Post - Friday, 21st February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 21 Feb 2003

Had a crazy trip in to work this morning...

I left on the bike to run a couple of errands before I went to work,
then dropped back home to get some stuff for work before leaving again.
It's been raining fairly steadily for most of the morning - the first in
a while for Melbourne - and all the idiots have come out of the

There had been an accident at the end of our street where two reckless
fences on the opposite sides of the road had somehow been involved in a
collision with two entirely innocent cars The police had closed off
that end of the street and weren't letting any traffic through.

At the other end of the street, a bunch of council workers had arrived
to dig up the street yet again to presumably replace another
section of the leaking gas main. They've already dug up the entire gas
main once, but apparently didn't actually check to see which bit was
leaking before putting the road back over the top. Grr.

To get out of the street I ended up having to ride along the footpath
for 50m or so. When I was about 40m away, some little old lady came out
of her gate and started wandering out onto the footpath. Since the bike
was only just ticking over in first gear (i.e. less than walking pace),
it wasn't like I was breaking the sound barrier or anything, but she
looked at me and ran back through her gate as though it was Death
come to claim her. Curiouser and curiouser...

I saw three separate accidents on the way in to work (in addition to the
one at the end of our street, which I didn't actually see happen). After
I saw some dopey suit on a scooter nearly obliterated by a little
Corolla, I decided I was just going to shadow this bloody great truck -
at least nobody would turn across an intersection in front of that

Blog Post - Thursday, 20th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 20 Feb 2003

Oh, how painful. Someone has started a ring-tone war, and now hundreds
of mobile phones are going off like... well... hundreds of mobile phones
ringing all at once. And no, mine's not one of them

I'm going home

Blog Post - Monday, 17th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 17 Feb 2003

Sorry, people. I'm having some issues with email at the moment. Ever
since DomainDirect stuffed up my domain renewal, I've been having mail
routing issues - they also managed to change where my MX records

Since I have a dodgy script set up to change the header format in order
to make a couple of intermediate mail servers let my mail through (too
many hops, they say - hmph), it's too much hassle to make it all work
with the new configuration, and DomainDirect can't seem to write a
decent web interface to save themselves, so I'm having trouble changing
the MX records back

I'm changing to a different
ISP shortly, and they'll let me run my own mail servers, so
hopefully that will fix the problems. Until then, I'm just going to have
to live with it the way it is.

Anyway, if you send me mail and don't get a response in a day or two,
please re-send it to my account for now. The problems
will be fixed by the end of the month.

Blog Post - Saturday, 15th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 15 Feb 2003

Syndia and I paid a visit to the Australian International Airshow
today. There were some very, very cool toys on display.

The traffic was awful - we left home just after 10am and got through the
gates at about 12:20pm - so next time we go it will be on the bike so we
can lanesplit . We met up with Roger and Dan just inside the gates and
wandered around for a minute or two looking for film for Roger.

The first real sight to greet us after we arrived was the RAAF
Roulettes. Not a bad start to the day I managed to get a few photos
and movies of their display, but I didn't get the final starburst

Static displays included a recently restored Spit, a bunch of modern
passenger craft, a host of miscellaneous choppers, corporate jets,
two-seater trainers and aerobatics toys and a whole bunch of military
craft - everything from F-15's, F-16's, F-18's, a Mig-15, a US Navy
F/A-18 Super Hornet and of course the F-111's that are still the
mainstay of our Air Force even though they're approaching 40 years old

The flight displays included pretty much all of the military craft
listed above, plus a selection of aircraft from significant periods in
recent history. They had a replica of the Bleriot XI, which was the
first aircraft to cross the English Channel, a Sopwith Camel (Biggles,
anyone?), an SE5a, a collection of WW2 craft including another Spitfire,
three P-51D Mustangs and a Zero, amongst many others that I didn't
recognise or know of.

Post WW2 we got to have a look at the Hawker Hunter, a D.H. Vampire
(Australian-built), the new Eurocopter Tiger (seeing a chopper flip
upside down is eerie), the Mig-15 and a bunch of bomber craft.

Finally, the modern warbirds took to the sky - and what a sight. I have
to admit, the highlight of the show for me was watching the F-15 take
off on max afterburner, point the nose skyward while the rear wheels
were still on the tarmac and blast off into a 90 degree climb for the
best part of 10,000 feet in the time it took for my ears to stop ringing

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the F-16s in the air - I'm told it
was pretty good to watch - as we were stuck in traffic. We did get to
see the Super Hornet being shown off though - the slow-speed fly-by at
30 degrees angle of attack was impressive, as was the full afterburner
launch out of it

Photos and movies will be up tonight or tomorrow morning.

Blog Post - Thursday, 13th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 13 Feb 2003

Went sailing last night as last-minute crew for Pat on Good
Company. Had a great time; will try to go out again.

Blog Post - Friday, 7th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 7 Feb 2003

I made a short trip out to Autobarn today at lunch, to buy myself a
present. It wasn't a very expensive present, but it should prove
extremely useful over the coming year. So, what exactly is it?

Air horns.

Very, very loud air horns.

For the bike

You can see a similar model here, as I couldn't find the exact model in 30 seconds of
searching for it.

This morning on the way in was the last straw. I had three different
people just happily wander into my lane, without either looking or
indicating. The ZZR's current horn is pretty pathetic - much like that
of most bikes - so I don't really have any way of telling people that a)
I am where they want to be, or b) that I'm really pissed off with
them because they are where I just was (i.e. I just had to take evasive
action to avoid getting mulched).

I'll throw up a sound recording when I get them working... I can't wait
to get the kit home and try it out... and I can't wait to see the looks
on all the cage drivers' faces when they think that they just cut in
front of a truck .

Blog Post - Wednesday, 5th February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Wed 5 Feb 2003

I've just spoken with an account rep from Pacific Internet about closing my
ADSL account. It's a bit sad, really - they've been a great ISP, and I
only have one issue with them - they block ports, meaning that I can't
run my own web and mail servers. Otherwise, they've been absolutely
fantastic, especially after the BigPond ADSL debacle.

I'll be opening a new account with Internode in late February or
early March, and then I can move this site (and a couple of others) to
my servers at home.

Blog Post - Sunday, 2nd February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 2 Feb 2003

Rohan, Anna and I went out for a ride through Reefton today. Well, at
least, that was the plan.

The plan was to ride from Warburton, through Reefton to Marysville and
back again. Unfortunately, a dodgy batch of Mobil Synergy 8000 (their
supposedly "premium" unleaded petrol) shortened the day a bit
as Rohan's RGV got a bit crook and my ZZR went absolutely cactus. We
syphoned the dodgy fuel out at a Shell servo in Warburton, aided by the
friendly - if bemused - operator, and continued on, but the day was
shortened a bit.

We did manage to get a pretty decent run to the summit of Mt Donna Buang
again, however. That place seems to be becoming our substitute
Reefton/Black Spur run when we're short of time.

Blog Post - Saturday, 1st February, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 1 Feb 2003

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me

Blog Post - Thursday, 30th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 30 Jan 2003

Well, it's about time.

I've been offline since Saturday morning due to a stuff-up by DomainDirect. Not happy. Slack

Blog Post - Saturday, 25th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sat 25 Jan 2003

Sod it... a new worm is attacking SQL server machines all over the sodding planet. Both Anna and I have received a bunch of phone calls and have spent way too much time trying to get's IDS back online - the amount of worm activity pretty much swamped it. At least it provided the early warning though

Blog Post - Friday, 24th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Fri 24 Jan 2003

Good luck to Tony and Mike, who
are fencing in the U20 Men's Sabre today

Blog Post - Thursday, 23rd January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Thu 23 Jan 2003

Bugger me, some people are stupid.

I was sitting at the lights this afternoon on the way home, and this woman in a blue Commodore pulled up next to me and screamed at me for "cutting her off and appearing out of nowhere." I sat there for a minute, stumped - surely she couldn't mean me. Surely she wasn't that stupid.

You see, I'd been sitting in the lane next to hers, slightly ahead of her, for the past 500 metres and three sets of lights. We'd even stopped at the front of each set of lights together. Approaching the fourth set - the one at which she screamed at me - she suddenly decided to change lanes into mine. Thankfully, she looked and saw me when she was only half-way over, and promptly overcorrected and steered into the lane on the other side of her...

I just couldn't believe that anyone could be so unobservant - and then, rather than apologising to the people she'd wronged - the people on either side - that she would go so absolutely feral about it.

Bugger me, some people really are stupid.

Blog Post - Monday, 20th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 20 Jan 2003

I'm back at work properly today, after spending large chunks of last
week in a kind of zombie state.

Good news: Karen got a mobile! Finally

Other cool news: Pete has updated
his web site. And guess who gets a link from the front page

Other really cool news: Tony and Mike are down in Melbourne for the U20
Nationals. I picked them up from the airport yesterday afternoon and
after stopping for a brief snack at the world's smallest KFC (see Tony's blog for more info) we
headed off to Ferg's place for a swim and a BBQ. Tony ended up having a
rather spirited... discussion... with Cathy about the merits and
demerits of Muttiah Muralitharan as a test bowler. Cathy was of the
opinion that he's just an amazing bowler. The rest of the crowd seemed
to agree with Tony - he's a chucker, and Darrell Hare was right to call
him for it.

Blog Post - Sunday, 19th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Sun 19 Jan 2003

I've added a bunch of new photo sets, but I haven't finished the
commentary on them yet. The major new additions are:

Driving to Brisbane, Trip to Simon's, Dinner at Ben and Jenna's, Visiting Fred, BBQ at Pip's and Driving to Melbourne.

I'll have my trip log up in MP3 format shortly in case anyone's
that interested in hearing about weird places I ended up at along
the way...

Blog Post - Monday, 13th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 13 Jan 2003

Back in Melbourne. Arrived 3am this morning. Am back at work now.

Blog Post - Monday, 6th January, 2003

Andrew Harcourt Mon 6 Jan 2003

Quick update: There are heaps of diary entries that I've written but won't be able to post until I get back. Nuisance... Anyway, I've just posted my return itinerary. I won't be going via anywhere exotic as I want to spend a couple more days up here. Syndia and I are thinking of doing the trip to Alice etc sometime during her mid-year holidays instead.

Blog Post - Monday, 30th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 30 Dec 2002

Do I feel stupid? Well... considering it took me the best part of a week to work out what I'd done, yes.

The last thing I did before I left for Brisbane was to unplug the TV, stereo and anything else that might conceiveably cause a fire, smoke, power surges or anything else even remotely nasty. The only things I left plugged in were the router, switch and file server.


I completely forgot that my ADSL modem actually runs off the same powerboard as do the TV and stereo, with the result that the very last thing I did before leaving home was to sabotage my only means of checking email for the next 3-4 weeks. Bugger it!

I can't even phone anyone and ask them to fix it, as I only have a spare key to the deadlock left with a mate - the screen door doesn't lock itself, so I've never needed to worry about getting locked out because of it. Buggrit!

It wouldn't be so bad, except that the web site that I've been building for the mob up here is sitting on my internal web server at home, and I can't get at the thing

Blog Post - Monday, 16th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 16 Dec 2002

I have had an absolutely awesome weekend, starting from Thursday of last week.

Thursday afternoon saw the Security Architecture mob plus some others tearing off to Ace Karts in Sunshine for a spot of go karting action.

Friday was the SecArch Christmas lunch, at Enri's in Richmond. It's an Argentinian steak house - mmmm... meat. Well, to be honest, I didn't think all that much of the meat, but at least there was lots of it I didn't end up taking many photos, but those I did take are here.

On Saturday the CS mob cruised down to Torquay, then on to Bell's South, and then further on to Lorne, just for the hell of it. You can see the photos here.

Finally, Sunday saw me throwing my Telstra fuel card into my pocket and my riding gear and food into the boot, and heading off to Broadford for a track day with Rohan and Chris. I didn't take any photos but I'll write it up sometime this week, along with all the other events of the last four days.

Wow, cool. I'm absoutely exhausted...

Quick addendum: I've just added the itinerary for my trip to Brisbane.

Blog Post - Sunday, 15th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 15 Dec 2002

I woke up and rolled quickly out of bed, then promptly fell over as my limbs made me aware of their displeasure at this action. Dragging myself into the shower, I started to wake up just as the second alarm I'd set for myself started beeping away back in the bedroom.

Shambling back to the lounge, I collected my riding kit and some food, and threw it all into a bag. I grabbed a banana for breakfast and jumped into the car to head off to Rohan's.

Arriving at Rohan's, we hooked up the trailer to my Commodore. Since Telstra pays for my fuel but we would have to pay for the fuel for his Chrysler, it seemed kinda logical Chris Drew, one of the neighbours, was coming as well and so we all jumped in and cruised off towards Broadford.

Rohan had gone to heaps of trouble to get his T-model RGV and his TZ250 track-worthy - even to the extent of replacing the standard fairings on the RGV with borrowed ones better suited to being thrown down the road, removing mirrors, changing the tank to an older, more battered one, taping lights and disconnecting the speedometer.

Small stuff-up. We didn't realise that we needed a different key for the new (old) tank on the RGV until we got about 40 minutes out of the city. Oops! Buggrit - can't put fuel into the bike! We turned around and headed back, picked up the keys and turned around. Never mind... not too much time lost

Arriving at Broadford, we took the bikes out of the trailer, went to registration and then geared up and jumped out onto the track. I was on the RGV and Rohan on the TZ.

It took me quite a while to get comfortable on the different bike and completely unfamiliar track - this was, after all, my first track day. At the end of the first session I still wasn't feeling at home.

For the second session, we started on the same bikes but swapped after a couple of laps. I jumped onto the TZ and off I went. It was... frightening. That's the only way I can describe the TZ. Before it properly hits its power band, it's already accelerating like an RGV does flat out. Then, when it does hit, it nearly tears your arms out of their sockets. Its handling in the corners was pin-sharp, but I consistently kept almost running off the inside (!!) because it turns so sharply. I gave it three laps of wobbling around the corners and then pulled into the pits, where we swapped back for the remainder of the session.

In the last session, I took the RGV out and started to feel a bit more comfortable. Rohan had been coaching me for the previous two sessions and it all started to come together. Not that I was a Casey Stoner copycat or anything - I was a good 10-15 seconds/lap slower than Rohan, or at least that's roughly what it looks like from his lap times when he was following me. I finally felt comfortable hanging off and leaning the bile all the way over - dragged a peg twice and a boot once

At the end of the day we were both completely buggered. The temperatures had been in the low 30s all day, which didn't help either All things considered, it was an awesome day. Screaming down the back straight at 190km/hour or so, opening the throttle wide open whilst fully leaned over on the corner after pit straight... very cool. I can't wait to do it again.

Blog Post - Thursday, 12th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 12 Dec 2002

Well, the go karting was great fun Unfortunately I didn't do very well, but I guess it was to be expected a bit, since most of the others had been to that track before. Well, at least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it .

After the karting, Rohan, Chris and I went for a trip back to Web Warfare for some CS. I made amends for my poor performance that afternoon by leading the frag count for a while and ending up with about 2.5:1 kills to deaths.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 10th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 10 Dec 2002

I just confirmed my leave dates over Christmas: Wednesday 18th December
until Sunday 12th January. I'm on holidays from the middle of next week!

Blog Post - Sunday, 8th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 8 Dec 2002

This morning I went along to the MRA Toy Run. Photos are here.

This year about 12,000 bikes (presumably with riders) turned up. Many of
the bikes had more than one person on board. The run probably donated
about 16,000-18,000 toys to the Smith Family for this Christmas. Not a
bad effort

The run itself was very well organised. There was traffic control all
the way from the start point of the run, St Kilda Road near the Shrine,
to the end-point in Williamstown. The run itself went around the domain
gardens and then over the West Gate Bridge to the end-point. Before the
start, bikes were lined up all the way from the Shrine to beyond the CBD
- a good three 3km or so. And we're not talking single-file here, either
- we managed to squeeze five to seven lanes of people into a two-lane

I bought some tinsel etc to decorate the bike as well as a toy to
donate, but chickened out of putting the tinsel onto the bike 'cause I
thought it would look out of place. I'll know better for next year I
did get myself a Santa hat though, and I taped it onto the top of my
helmet. No photos of me wearing it, unfortunately.

All in all it was a good bit of fun for a worthy cause. Well done to the
organisers and a merry Christmas to all the children who receive toys
for Christmas as a result of it.

Blog Post - Saturday, 7th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 7 Dec 2002

Went out with Pete, Shekhar, Dan and Anita for a feed at Chappelli's on (yep) Chapel St this evening. Nice food; good (not great, but solidly good) service.

After dinner, we saw The Brotherhood of the Wolf, a French flick about a beast that's terrorising the peasants in pre-revolution France. It's worth seeing, so I won't spoil it here . Just don't eat too much beforehand if you have a weak stomach .

Blog Post - Wednesday, 4th December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 4 Dec 2002

Syndia left for Brisbane last night, so I'm on my own for the next
couple of weeks. It looks like I'll be leaving on the 18th or 19th of
Dec in order to arrive in Brisbane on the 20th. I want to take it easy
on the way up and do a little sightseeing.

The new toy is getting some more attention from the Holden dealership on
Friday, too. I just discovered last night that the heater doesn't. Oh
well, at least I got the toy in Summer

My sunburnt skin has started peeling. Ugh. And everyone keeps telling
me, just in case I hadn't noticed

Blog Post - Tuesday, 3rd December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 3 Dec 2002

Went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets last night, and
wasn't all that impressed with it, to be honest. I'll gripe some more
about it later.

Apart from the movie, the rest of the evening was great

Update: I just added a spray about Harry Potter and the
Chamber of Secrets. You can read it here, and I'd
suggest doing so before you go and see it - it might save you $12.50

Blog Post - Monday, 2nd December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 2 Dec 2002

Ouch, I'm sunburnt.

Blog Post - Sunday, 1st December, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 1 Dec 2002

An excellent couple of days. Went for a weekend trip along the Great Ocean Road with Syndia. Photos and and annotations are here.

Blog Post - Thursday, 28th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 28 Nov 2002

Bugger it! I just missed a meeting because my phone didn't synchronise properly with my calendar. Ironic that the meeting was with some Telstra Mobile people.

Don't buy a T68. They suck.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 26th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 26 Nov 2002

I picked up the toy yesterday afternoon after its 1500km service. It now has
a towbar but not a towball - some sort of stuff-up means that I have to
go back to get it later after I pester the fleet management people about
it. You'd think that for the price of a $20 bit of steel they'd just
throw it in...

Anyway, they fixed the sunroof cover so that it doesn't slide shut under
brakes any more, and they fixed my gripe with the handbrake (too slack).
They obviously can't do anything about the traction control but I did
ask them to pass on the message that it was awful

It now runs beautifully, without the couple of small nuisances that were bugging me before. The only thing wrong is that the TC is programmed to turn itself back on whenever the engine is started.

Blog Post - Monday, 25th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 25 Nov 2002

I just dropped the car off to get its 1500km service performed and
towbar fitted. They say they can also fix the sunroof cover, which has
been sliding shut under brakes. (Not the sunroof itself, but the opaque
cover beneath it that you can move by hand.)

By this afternoon - or so they tell me - I should have my toy back. And
now that it's officially run in I can use the cruise control and
that right foot pedal thingy a bit more enthusiastically

The trip from the dealership to the city reminded me how much I hate
public transport though - I spent over an hour on a tram crawling along
St Kilda Rd. I had taken a book so the time wasn't completely wasted but
I would have preferred to get to 242 in a bit more of a hurry - I have
too much to do before I leave for Christmas.

Blog Post - Sunday, 24th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 24 Nov 2002

Well, today was a bit of a write off.

Nick sent me an email yesterday afternoon saying that Gordon, Gerry and
he wanted to change the departure time for our Reefton ride from 1000 to
0800. Dallas, Anna and Rohan all bailed at that point, and I was pretty
tempted even though I was the one who had organised it. Hmph.

Anyway, I awoke at 0630, dressed and raced off to the McDonald's, where
I met Nick and Gerry. Gordon had also bailed, which sucked a bit as he
was one of the ones who wanted to change the time in the first place,
but never mind - these things happen. Nick and Gerry were eyeing the
weather pretty dubiously so we headed out towards Eltham rather than
heading straight for Warburton. About half way there, they decided to
bail and give it a miss. Sod it - we all just went home from there via
our separate ways.

So yes, I got up at 6:30am on a Sunday for what turned out to be a
complete waste of time. Buggrit... Oh well; next time I'll leave the
organisation to someone else - it's too much effort for too little

On a brighter note, Pete returned from his round-the-world trip and
brought with him the digital camera he picked up for me. It's a Nikon
Coolpix 2500 - 2 megapixel, a swag of CompactFlash cards (8Mb, 32Mb and
256Mb), two batteries and the assorted paraphernalia that goes with such
a toy. Very nice - many more photos will be posted now that I don't have
to scan them all.

Roger, Rhys and Pete have moved into a new place in South Bank. Today -
when I went over to pick up the camera - was the first time I'd seen it.
Very nice, although the lease is a nuisance in that it's a bit short (2

We ended up going out for lunch at Southgate, then back to the pad for a
movie. Red Dragon - a dodgy Hong Kong screener DVD also courtesy of
Pete's recent expedition. The sound was pretty awful at times but to be
fair, I didn't realise it was a screener as opposed to a re-encoding of
an analogue recording until the end of the movie when we saw the shadows
people's heads left on the screen as they left

As for the movie itself? Well... Maybe I'll get around to writing a
short review. Not sure - I have this cool new toy to play with, or will
as soon as the battery charges

Blog Post - Thursday, 21st November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 21 Nov 2002

Crook as a dog today. Must be that bug that's going around. Stayed home.
Not fun.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 20th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 20 Nov 2002

This afternoon I went out to Keysborough to have a look at some bike
trailers. I'm trying to get an idea of what I should be willing to pay
for a second-hand one given the cost and quality of the new ones

The bloke there is a Harley rider, so he takes his bike trailers fairly
seriously, even though they're not the focus of his business A new
2-bike trailer with a full floor (enough to sleep on ) should
cost under $600 and probably under $500. Doesn't sound too bad to me -
if I can't pick up a second-hand one then at least I have a known
worst-case cost.

Am feeling not-so-good this evening - I have a major headache and a bit
of a sore throat. I think I'll bail on Reserves training for this week.

Blog Post - Sunday, 17th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 17 Nov 2002

Went for a great ride today. Rohan and I threw the bikes into his
trailer and went up to Reefton together. Driving up was a fair bit
easier than riding, as there were a reasonable number of cars on the

We pulled up just on the other side of Warburton, took the bikes out and
fired them up. This was the first time I'd ridden Rohan's RGV and I was
almost caught out, nearly stalling a couple of times by how tall the
gearing was. I had to slip the clutch in first gear almost to 60km/h.

We had a great, relaxed ride up to Marysville, where we stopped for a
drink and an ice-cream. There was a bunch of riders already waiting
there, and we were approached by a 6" friendly-but-dopey-looking
biker whose first words were, "Get a Blade, man." He was so
very proud of his shiny new CBR954RR Fireblade that he wouldn't hear a
word against it. Since Rohan and I were both on RGV250s, he was giving
us that condescending, "Oh, you're just learners" look. When
he asked what we normally rode, I answered my ZZR, and Rohan answered
his TZ-250. (The TZ-250 is a 250cc two-stroke Grand Prix race bike.)
That shut him up a little bit, but he kept insisting on telling us how
wonderful the Blade was. . Some people...

They left shortly before we did, so we finished our ice-creams and went
back the way we'd come.

About 10 minutes later, we came across the mob again. They were still
riding, but we'd caught them without any real trouble. I hung back a
bit, but Rohan spotted the Fireblade bloke and decided to give him a bit
of a run for his money. After a minute or so of having Rohan all over
his rear wheel he waved him through, but was declined in favour of a bit
more of a challenge. Eventually he just rolled over and played dead,
standing the bike up in a corner to let Rohan past. Hehehehe... Big,
scary biker dude on a 954cc Honda soundly thrashed by someone on a 250cc
Suzuki ;) That really shut him up

I followed along behind at a slightly more sedate pace, just within
visual range of the.. ahem... contest. We stopped at an intersection
along the way for Rohan to give me some suggestions for what to practise
on the way back. Very helpful, too - I felt much more stable in the
corners afterwards, and had a much easier time keeping up. I'm still
learning, but it's great to have someone who can actually teach me what
I'm doing wrong. Most people pay $339/day for that kind of

Blog Post - Tuesday, 5th November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 5 Nov 2002

Syndia and I paid a visit to the Ashcombe Maze today.
Visitors to Victoria should definitely add it to their itinerary.

There are two hedge mazes and a single rose maze. The hedge mazes
surround an open garden with a pool and fountain, with the idea being
that you find your way into the area via one maze, and then back out via
the other. Of course, you can cheat and go through the open walkway on
one side, but that's no fun.

According to a sign at the entrance to the gardens, there were ten
garden gnomes hidden throughout the grounds. We only spotted three -
Wandering Walt, Cool Casper and one other whose name I can't remember -
but we weren't really looking. Well, at least, I wasn't really looking.
Syndia wanted to go back to the entrance and pick up one of the game
sheets they gave out to children .

The hedge mazes themselves are generally about 7' tall, with some of the
corners and edges being higher again. Syndia had a great time running
through the mazes trying to beat me to the end Once, I jumped out at
her from behind (surprise) a hedge, and was almost beaten to a pulp for
my trouble ;)

After navigating both hedge mazes, which included such features as
pools, ponds, crows' nests (presumably used by the maze guides to find
lost people) and many, many dead ends, we moved onto the rose maze.

The rose maze is a circular maze, with the objective being to get to the
centre. I beat Syndia in this one, and it was hilarious to see the
crestfallen expression on her face when I met her at the centre Then,
of course, we had to navigate ourselves back out of the maze, and she
managed to get stuck again .

Lunch was at the small cafe at the gardens. The food wasn't wonderful,
but it was pretty decent, and the staff all seemed cheerful, which is
more than can be said for a lot of places.

After lunch we went for a walk around the rest of the gardens. The
gardens themselves (including the mazes) occupy about 22 hectares, so
there was quite a bit to see. There were heaps of little watercourses,
rock gardens and other features that just made the entire place
absolutely entrancing. Syndia went ga ga again over a bunch of sheep and
lambs that were grazing nearby

I'd definitely recommend the place to anyone who hasn't seen it - the
gardens are beautiful and the mazes are fascinating - and very good fun.

Blog Post - Sunday, 3rd November, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 3 Nov 2002

Syndia and I went for a short trip out to Arthur's Seat again today. The
last time we went was on a weeknight shortly after daylight savings had
started, so everything was closed.

This time, we decided to take a trip on the chairlift that goes all the
way from the top of the mountain to the bottom (and back, of course).
The view was... well... not magnificent, but certainly impressive. We
could see all the way to the other side of the bay, with the Melbourne
CBD across the water about 50km away as the crow flies. One detractor
from the chair lift was all the chewing gum stuck to the pylons - ugh.

We managed to get a few photos of each other and the scenery from the
chair lift, so as soon as I get around to developing the film I'll post
them. (Thankfully, Pete is
going to pick me up a digital camera while he's in Hong Kong this week,
so I won't have to wait for film to be developed after that.)

The gift shop at the bottom of the mountain was pretty pedestrian -
little koalas made in China, boomerangs made in Indonesia and Australian
flags made in the Phillipines. Very authentic. We decided to bail on the
idea and take the return trip back up to the top of the mountain, where
I'd promised Syndia some tea to calm her nerves after her terrifying
ordeal of hanging from a single cable half-way down a mountain ;)

The cafe at the top was very nice. Well, OK, it's a restaurant that
masquerades as a cafe because people only ever want coffee and desserts
there, but it was still very good. Lovely Devonshire tea and all that.

Just before we left, I spotted some bikers at the lookout and went over
to have a look at their toys. There was a Buell there that especially
caught my eye - it's an "American sports-bike" according to
the manufacturer. It's a completely new frame design but with a Harley
Davidson engine. Sounds like a Harley, goes like a... well... not quite
as quick as a Japanese sportsbike... not even as quick as a British
sportsbike... OK, well it goes a little better than a Harley, anyway.
And it sounds like nothing you've ever heard. Weird. Cool though

Blog Post - Wednesday, 30th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 30 Oct 2002

I just received word from RMIT that my pay claims broke their payroll
system! Cool!

I've been tutoring there since summer semester of 2001-2002, and had not
submitted a pay claim before this month. Apparently the system assumes
you'll never have more than 100 or so individual claims, so it broke
when I submitted more than that all in one hit . Hehehehe....

My issue with the payroll system is that it runs on a non-standard port
(meaning that the Telstra web proxy doesn't allow access to it), only
supports Netscape 4.7 or earlier, uses static Location: redirects
which seems to break in that particular version of Netscape and uses
broken Javascript for page validation. Well, OK, that's more than one
issue. No wonder people submit their claims in one huge clump

The upside of my being slack with the claims is that I get a nice wad of
cash on the 14th of November ;)

Blog Post - Tuesday, 29th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 29 Oct 2002

Woohoo! Yet another new toy! This time it's a shiny, brand-new VY Commodore S, with power everything, sports shocks, HBD
sunroof, CD player and all the other bells and whistles that I've been
waiting for. I picked it up from the dealership late this afternoon,
picked up Syndia from the Alfred, and went out for a short drive.

Well, it was supposed to be a short drive. We planned to just take a
short cruise along Beach Rd, but we ended up going all the way to
Arthur's Seat.

I'd never been to Arthur's Seat before, so it was well worth the trip.
The road up the mountain was very twisty, with lots of hairpins,
off-camber corners and decreasing radius corners. It's the kind of thing
that the average cage driver hates - so I'd love to go back there on the
bike. That's also where Gordon dropped his bike, so we'll have to drag
him back there for another go.

Everything was closed when we arrived - which was fair enough, since it
was about 19:00 on a weeknight and it's only really a tourist
destination. We have resolved to go back on Tuesday though, as it's the
Melbourne Cup holiday. Hopefully I'll get some decent photos then, too.
I can't wait to go on the chair-lift

Blog Post - Monday, 28th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 28 Oct 2002

Daylight savings... oh, how I hate it. Grumble, grumble etc...

Good news! I get my new car tomorrow afternoon! Can't wait... I'll be
driving it for all of five minutes to get it home, and then leaving it
parked until Saturday

Hmm... new plan. Work from home tomorrow, go off and pick up the car,
then go out for a cruise somewhere. I still hate daylight savings, but
maybe it's useful for something...

Blog Post - Sunday, 27th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 27 Oct 2002

Woohoo! New brake pads!

I took the bike over to Rohan's, where we changed the brake pads and
fluid, then tweaked a few other things. Rohan wanted to give his GP bike
a run because someone's interested in buying it, so he took it out of
the shed and tried to fire it up. Being a racing bike however, the only
way to start it is to push it and drop the clutch. Three or four laps up
and down the street and he was starting to get a bit tired ;)

He eventually decided to push it out of his street and roll it down the
hill, which was a bit of a gamble as if it didn't start, we would have
had to push it all the way back up again. Thankfully, it fired up about
10m from the bottom of the hill, and the next thing I saw was this
missile screaming back up the hill and into the driveway. Nice toy.

We then wandered over to the nearby service station and met up with
Anna, and roared off for a quick thrash around the Dandenongs. It was
pretty cold and occasionally wet, but wasn't too bad an afternoon to be
out for a ride. You'll never see such joy on a biker's face as when
there's a 100km/h speed limit sign followed by a 40km/h "winding
roads" warning sign

Blog Post - Saturday, 26th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 26 Oct 2002

I spent almost all of today (and tonight) working on a web design
contract. It's all starting to come together, but it's taking a while...

Blog Post - Friday, 25th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 25 Oct 2002

Buggrit... it's miserable day, I can't concentrate and I'm feeling

I'm going home.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 22nd October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 22 Oct 2002

By popular demand I've changed the order in which the weekly mailing
script sends out my weblog entries. They appear in chronological order
now, rather than reverse chronological. If you want to receive email
updates, go here, enter your email address and
hit Subscribe.

Not such a good day today. Apart from the 30 seconds it took me to make
that mailing list tweak, I've been run off my feet. I'm still nowhere
near catching up with all the projects that are going on at the moment.
There were a bunch of them that were sitting around doing nothing, and
now suddenly they all want something and can't seem to understand why
I'm swamped . Oh well...

Blog Post - Monday, 21st October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 21 Oct 2002

It turns out that yesterday's sun was a bit stronger than we thought,
and since I only applied one coating of sunscreen, I'm now experiencing
my reward. My entire face is red, except for a small patch that was
covered by my sunglasses. Oops

The washing-machine repairman has just left, and I now have a working
washing machine again Unfortunately it was a blocked pump, which
means I have to pay for it, but hey, who cares? It works, so it's all

I fixed the toaster. Mmmm.... muffins...

I also changed the photo galleries script so it will now just scan my
photos directory and display whatever it finds there. That means I can
just dump photos into subdirectories and it will index them for me - no
more tweaking of scripts You can see it here if you wish.

Blog Post - Sunday, 20th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 20 Oct 2002

The MotoGP today was very,
very cool. Toys, toys and more toys.

Rohan and I rode down to Phillip Island late
in the morning, and arrived about half-way through the 125cc class race.
We decided we'd stay where we were and get some food, then move around a
bit for the 250cc and MotoGP classes.

Since I'd never been to the circuit before, Rohan gave me a guided tour.
I have to admit, it was much better than it would have been if I'd gone
by myself - having things explained by someone who has raced on the
circuit made it much easier to work out what was going on. Many thanks to
Rohan for taking the time to show me around

We took up a spot at the exit of the southern loop for the start of the
250cc class, then moved progressively backwards around the circuit to
see the riders at different stages of the corners. The speed they travel
at has to be seen to be believed - it's so much faster than it looks on
television - and the acceleration is incredible. From 100km/h out of a
corner to 220km/h before the next one, in the space of just over 100m.
Those things are rockets - and that's just the 250s. I couldn't wait for
the MotoGP class

After the 250cc race, we moved further along the track to Siberia, one
of the more remote corners. The MotoGP bikes were starting up just as we
arrived at our chosen vantage point, and damn, they were quick. How
quick? About 340km/h or so down the main straight and accelerating like
rockets out of the corners. The two Aussies in the race, Garry McCoy
(Red Bull/Yamaha) and Andrew Pitt (Team Green/Kawasaki), got a rousing
cheer every time they passed the crowd - even though Andrew on his Green
Machine was coming an increasingly distant last after the first couple
of laps It's fair enough, though - Kawasaki weren't going to enter at
all this year, and are only using the last couple of rounds for
race-testing. Garry qualified on the front row of the grid (2nd) but had
some tyre problems that saw him enter the pits to get them changed
half-way through the race. After that he didn't have a snowball's chance
in the Simpson of winning, so when he was lapped by Valentino Rossi and
Alex Barros (race leaders) he just stuck with them and showed off his
sponsor's logos. He did a good job of sticking with them too,
considering how fast they were going.

At the tail end of the race, Barros made a mistake under brakes and
Rossi slipped through. On the last lap, desperately trying to get the
lead back, he stuffed his braking into the hairpin just before Siberia
and handed Rossi a relatively easy finish in first place. It's very
different when you're actually seeing this for real, too - everything
happens so much faster, and I started to realise how spoiled we are at
home by the multiple instant replays. Out there, if you miss it, it's

After the race we took a quick walk around (and on) the track before
heading off to the GP showcase pavillion and then home.

There was so much traffic on the way back - bikes and cars - and it was
so very cool to be cruising along at the side of the road at 70km/h
beside all those stationary cars. Ha ha, hee hee, ho ho and all that...
all in all, it was a very good day. I'm buggered.

Blog Post - Saturday, 19th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 19 Oct 2002

Again, I'm exhausted. Today, however, it's for a much better reason. The
bike run to the Grand Prix was
seriously good fun. Apologies for all the typos, too - I'm at RMIT waiting to take my lab for the afternoon, and the keyboards here are absolutely bloody awful.

I woke up at about 07:30 and after a quick breakfast headed off to
Cranbourne. I stopped along the way for fuel, so I arrived there with
pretty much a full tank. I met up with a couple of other people at the
servo; their names were Alan (Allan?) and Michael. Both were riding
Triumphs, which is a bit of a change from the Jap-bike crowd. They're both
from country Victoria, and have been touring around the state for the last
couple of weeks.

We arrived at Cranbourne at about 09:30 and were amazed at how many people there were. Thousands and thousands of bikes were already lined up, and thousands of non-bikers were standing around waving and cheering. I'm not quite sure what they were cheering for, but they seemed to be enthusiastic about it, so I wasn't complaining.

Alan, Michael and I went for a bit of a walk around, and ended up heading up to the front of the... err... grid (?) to have a look at all the other toys and things that had arrived before us. There were a couple of Hayabusas, which we noted because we were actually starting in front of them and would be watching for them to scream past us once we got moving. There was a Harley Davidson thingowhatsit three rows in front of me (and directly in front) that had dropped its entire sump onto the road. I really wasn't enthusiastic about hitting an oil slick that large, and by the way most of the people around the poor guy were looking at his bike, neither were they.

At about 09:50, the riders at the front of the pack started warming up their bikes, so we moved back to ours. The thunder of so many big bikes was very cool - I'm sure the entire town of Cranbourne was awake before we left

It was almost comical to see so many people wandering around saying, "I can't find my bike! Where did I leave it?" I'd taken note of some reference points so I managed to find mine OK, but after we moved off there were quite a few bikes acting like rocks in a stream - all the other bikes parted and moved around them, and they were left standing there until the rest of the bikes passed and the remaining riders could find their respective toys.

I really couldn't believe how many people were lining the streets to watch us all go past. There were thousands of them! (Admittedly, there were thousands of us, too, which probably made for interesting viewing.) All the little kids (and many of the bigger kids and their spouses) were waving and cheering, so most of us rode with one hand on the throttle and the other waving to the crowds. It felt a bit silly at first, but everyone was doing it, and the little kids especially seemed to get a kick out of a bunch of evil-looking bikers waving at them

When we arrived at the island, there were thousands more bikes already in the parking paddock. I wasn't going to pay admission today as I had to be back for this lab at RMIT (from where I'm writing this), so I parked my bike and just went for a bit of a walk around. After about half an hour of listening to a bunch of 250cc two-strokes screaming around the track, I decided I'd get moving back - that way, I'd have time to stop at a bakery somewhere and get a croissant or something.

One down-side to the trip back was the wind. It was bloody awful - swinging around all the time and gusting very badly. It was bad enough that I was blown from one side of my lane to the other quite a few times. At least I'm getting used to riding in gusty wind now, and it doesn't worry me as much as it used to. That having been said however, it was still very uncomfortable as I had to keep pressure on the handlebars for most of the 130+km trip back - very, very tiring.

I didn't take any photos today as my camera is in at the office (with no film in it) and Syndia's is almost out of film. Hopefully I'll rectify that tomorrow, and get some decent shots, as Rohan and I are going to ride back down there and watch the race. Should be great fun

Blog Post - Friday, 18th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 18 Oct 2002

I'm exhausted.

This week has been *way* too much work. The database is now (apparently)
working correctly, after my pulling not-quite-an-all-nighter on
Wednesday night.

I phoned up Fisher and Paykel about the washing machine, and they're
sending a tech around on Monday afternoon to have a look at the thing.
They reckon it might be a blocked pump, in which case it wouldn't be
covered by the warranty as it would have been my stupidity for leaving
tissues or something in my pockets. If that's not the problem though,
they're doing the entire service call and repair job under warranty -
not costing me a cent. Very nice of them. Even if it was my fault and I
have to pay, there's a fixed price for the service call, so either way
I'm not really out of pocket. It's nice to see a company that takes
customer service seriously.

My insurance is fixed, too. How's this for weird? QBE refused to offer
me insurance until next Tuesday because they thought I was going to race
in the Grand Prix support races. How stupid is that? I'm going to race
an eight-year-old 250cc four-stroke road bike in a Grand
Prix support race? Don't be bloody ridiculous. Nevertheless, they
refused to offer me any kind of insurance before the weekend. They
reckon it's standard policy - no motorcycle insurance for the two weeks
before the GP. Bunch of morons.

I called up RACV, who were willing to a) honour my rating one for my car
insurance (from a different insurance mob) and b) provide cover starting
at the time of the phone call today. Done. No problems - and the RACV is
supposed to be the least biker-friendly insurance company that will
actually insure bikes. Weird.

The toaster is still broken though.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 16th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 16 Oct 2002

I'm not quite sure what else could have gone wrong today, but the way
things have been going, I'm tempting fate just by writing this. It's not
that there were that many really bad things - just that there
were a whole bunch of moderately nasty things that just all combined to
annoy the bloody hell out of me.

The toaster broke. Big deal - it's a $20 Tiffany one that I can replace
whenever I actually get around to it. Just means that we can only make
toast using the griller on the stove.

The washing machine broke. Buggrit! I have enough clothes to last me
until about Tuesday of next week, and then I'm in trouble. Again, not a
big problem - it's still under warranty - but it's a nuisance. I don't
have any army clothes though - I was washing them when it broke. It
sloshes, but it doesn't spin, so I can't even get the dirty water out of
the thing. I've taken all the clothes out and will probably wash them by
hand sometime over the weekend.

My bike insurance was knocked back by Swann because they stuffed up the
paperwork. They wanted a copy of my driving history, but they neglected
to actually inform me of the fact. Oops... Not a problem...
except that I only discovered that my bike was no longer insured last
night and I was planning on riding to the Grand Prix on the weekend.
Bugger. Will have to organise new insurance before the end of the week
anyway though, as I need it to ride to work every day.

We've also discovered yet another inconsistency in the ISS
RealSecure database, which means I'm going to be at work until very
early tomorrow morning writing scripts etc to fix everything. Not fun...
I have enough web design work to do after hours for Dad et al, so this
is not a welcome imposition on my time.

Our vulnerability scans against the BigPond Home servers keep returning
different results. Not just over different days, but if we run two scans
in one hour.

All in all, nothing majorly terrible has happened today, but damn it,
I'm going to be grumpy anyway.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 15th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 15 Oct 2002

Staying home this morning to write up a security review or two,
depending on how much I can get through. Normally the weather is kind to
me when I do that - it looks beautiful when I'm home in the morning and
can see out my window, then gets miserable in the afternoon. Apparently,
it's just going to be miserable for all of today. Yuk

Blog Post - Monday, 14th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 14 Oct 2002

Sometimes, it's the small things that count. The mob at Club Sandwich gave
me a free sandwich this afternoon. It was about 4pm, I'd just come back
from the gym and was going to grab a late lunch before getting back to
work. I must have looked half dead, because the lovely ladies decided that
I needed a bit of a feed and gave me an extra sandwich - and refused to
take payment for it. Even though they were only an hour or so away from
closing, they probably could have sold everything. So, for what it's worth,
they get a small plug here: if you're in the city near the Telstra HQ
building (242 Exhibition St), drop in to Club Sandwich and have a feed

(A while later...)

Sod it! My desktop machine just crashed and killed the job I was running
on our DB server. Six hours of processing gone - I hate Windows.

Blog Post - Sunday, 13th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 13 Oct 2002

Syndia and I went to the Tulip Festival run by Tesselaar today. It apparently
started as just a tulip festival and has now grown into an annual event
that runs for the best part of a month, and is a full-on Dutch festival
that just happens to have truckloads and paddocks full of flowers. I
have no idea why they chose tulips, and the only reason I know what the
flowers are at all is that they had little signs on them.

So, on the day that we happened to rock up to this festival, it was
"Irish Day". (Yes, at a Dutch festival. Go figure.) Not to
complain, however - it was really good fun. There was enough Dutch food
(poffertjes! woohoo! yum!) to keep me interested while Syndia was going
ga-ga at all the flowers. They had an Irish band named Celtic Storm
performing, and while they were very folksy (as you'd expect) they were
pretty good all the same. They managed to con four or five couples from
the crowd into getting up and doing some folk dance, but thankfully I
managed to dodge that one as Syndia was happily eating her beef
croquette and didn't feel like getting up

The drive out there was lovely for the most part, except (of course) for
the short but painful section through Toorak. (I'm still advocating
death by repeated pummelling with a paper copy of the Transport Act for
those bloody Toorak tractor drivers.) Anyway, apart from the few morons
on the roads, it was a great day.

Blog Post - Sunday, 6th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 6 Oct 2002

Syndia and I just dropped Mum back at the airport after her trip to
Melbourne. It was good to see her again, but a bit of a shame that she
was only here for such a short time.

The weather was unseasonably nice, too - I don't think she realised how
much that single sunny day meant to us down here.

We did get to have a good chat though. I had dinner with her on the
Friday night and we spent most of the evening catching up on family
events etc. Even though she didn't want to stay with us (which is fair
enough considering how small our place is ), I'm glad Mum at
least got to see where Syndia and I live.

Lovely to see you, Mum! Come visit again soon

Blog Post - Saturday, 5th October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 5 Oct 2002

Ha ha! Hee hee! Ho ho! Woohoo!! I finally won my battle with BigPond.

After cancelling my account with them over a year ago and refusing to
pay until they responded to my complaints, I mostly forgot about them
after I didn't hear from them for the best part of 14 months.

When they finally got around to responding, it was in the form of a
not-very-polite letter of demand which threatened that they'd refer me
to a collection agency should I not pay. I think they forgot the whole
"velvet glove" part of the equation and just went for the iron fist.
Unfortunately, it was a bit rusty, as they shortly found out.

When I received the letter, I phoned and asked to talk to Nixon Roberts,
the guy whose signature appears at the bottom of the letter. Surprise,
surprise - they told me that he didn't actually deal with mortal
customers, and that I'd have to talk to a droid about it.

I wasn't really in the mood to talk to a droid, so I took a guess at his
internal Telstra email address (no, I didn't even look it up in the GAL)
and mailed him directly. I wasn't even irate - I just said that since he'd
been a bit impolite in having his droids refuse to let me talk to him, I
was disputing the entire amount.

I didn't get a response from him, but the next day I received an email
from another bloke, who told me that the charges were all legit and that
I had to pay, or else. I'd evidently been shunted back down the food
chain, which I didn't take all that well, so I sent a (polite!) reply to
both the new guy and Mr Roberts. Basically, the gist of my message was
that they could either investigate the complaint, admit that they'd
stuffed up, apologise and try to come to a settlement, or they could
drag me through the courts and eventually lose anyway.

Lo and behold, my second attempt provoked an unusual response - they
agreed to actually look into the complaint. Not bad, for a complaint
that was logged in April of 2001

A few days later, I had yet another guy phone me up. He was the
first person who'd actually read through what I'd written, and he
couldn't believe it. It sounded like he just kept shaking his head as he
went over all the various responses the billing and tech people had
given me.

In the end, he offered to slash the bill by just over a third, and to
send a written apology for Telstra's giving me the run-around for so
long. Needless to say, the collection request has been withdrawn and
I've happily agreed to pay the revised bill.

So, all in all, after over a year of stuffing around, how long did it
take to solve the problem? A phone call of 13 minutes and 36 seconds.
Bloody amazing. I guess there's something that Telstra might be able to
learn from this experience - not every little guy is going to roll over,
and sometimes... just sometimes... maybe the little guy could be right.

Blog Post - Thursday, 3rd October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 3 Oct 2002

Reserves training last night was a killer... unarmed combat. Great fun,
but I was so sore this morning that I could hardly move. It didn't help
that Kingie picked me to be his demonstration dummy, so I got thrown all
over the mat even before we started. Good fun though

On the way home, I stopped at the Coles in Caulfield to pick up some
food. There was this old guy sitting outside talking to his dog, and I
stopped to say g'day on my way past. We ended up chatting for about half
an hour, about all sorts of stuff. He seemed learned, if not educated -
we talked about a whole range of subjects, and he always seemed to have
an in-depth knowledge of the stuff. Martial arts, war tactics and
strategies. politics, history, etc. Very interesting. When I came out of
the supermarket he had gone, so I don't know if that's where he lives,
or if he was just taking his dog for a walk. All I know is that his name
was Fraser. Hmm... I'm not quite sure what to make of him...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 1st October, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 1 Oct 2002

Mum's coming to Melbourne! Cool!

I haven't been home to se see any of my family since January this year, so
I was pretty happy to learn that Mum was going to be in town for a
conference this weekend. Woohoo!

Blog Post - Saturday, 28th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 28 Sep 2002

Almost gave myself a heart attack when I discovered another root account
on one of my machines early this morning... then I realised that it was
actually the sashroot account used by newer versions of OpenSSH to make
the privilege separation thing happen. So all is well, my machines are
still secure and uncompromised as far as I can tell... and there's no
way I'm getting to sleep any time soon ;)

Blog Post - Tuesday, 24th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 24 Sep 2002

I had a quick chat with an old friend this evening. It was good to hear
from her - I hadn't really heard from or seen her since I finished
coaching at BGGS a few years
back, except for a brief catch-up at this year's U20 Nationals. Hi,

I've also finished throwing together a script that will pester people
once a week with extracts from this web log. If you want to add yourself
to the list, go here
and type in your email address. You'll need to reply to the confirmation
email before anything happens, but after that, you should get an email
every Monday morning.

Blog Post - Sunday, 22nd September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 22 Sep 2002

Syndia and I went to the Royal Melbourne Show today. We didn't get up
until about 11:00, which looked like shortening the day a bit, but it
ended up working out pretty well.

Syndia wanted to see all the little furry critters, so our first stop
was the "Fibre Factory," where all the lambs, sheep, goats,
alpacas and other things of woolly natures were kept. And, needless to
say, she went ga-ga over a couple of newborn (5am and 7am that morning)
lambs. One of the lambs, in search of milk from its mother, put its head
in the road of some droppings that its mother was in the process of
doing. It was very funny to see all the city slickers recoil from
touching the lamb - even though they had already been petting it when it
still had all the slime, blood and stuff on it from its birth that
morning. (Syndia wanted me to note that she still wanted to pat it.
"I still did pat it. I didn't just want to pat it - I patted
it," she says.)

Our next stop was a sheep shearing demonstration, which was far more
polished as a performance than it is in real life. Still, the presenter
and the shearer both gave a pretty good account of what the job is like,
except that they romanticised it a fair bit. I s'pose that's fair
though, given that the target audience is a bunch of city-slicker

After the shearing, off we went to a cow milking demonstration. Again,
this was much more of a sanitised performance than an actual demo.
There's a photo (link coming soon) of Syndia standing on a -z-e-b-r-a-
cow crossing and pretending to cross the road. And yes, it was
deliberate - she hit me a few times after I pointed the sign out to her
- after I'd taken the photo, of course ;)

Leaving the furry critters for the moment, we went to have a look at
some of the arts/crafts/baking competition entries. There were some
amazing cakes etc there, but the one that really grabbed our attention
was this one (if your
browser doesn't follow the link properly, it's at least on the same
page). At first glance it looked like a quiet church with a couple of
people walking around in the grounds. On closer inspection, it's
actually an axe murderer stalking (presumably) a nun. Weird... and,
what's worse, the entry didn't even get a highly commended

One of the craft entries was a Jedi bear. I think that mostly speaks for
itself, but it gets a mention because Syndia wanted her photo taken with
it (And to be fair, it was kinda cool.)

There were a couple of old ladies running a cooking class nearby, and
they seemed so overjoyed when a pair of young people showed an interest
that we didn't have the heart to leave, so we learnt all about how to
boil a plum pudding. Now Syndia wants to enter into next year's
competition . One notable moment in their comedic presentation
was when one of the ladies borrowed the radio microphone, but didn't
take the accompanying transmitter out of her friend's pocket. Everything
was fine until they moved apart, and the first one's head got jerked
around a bit... and then, the other presenter went looking (wearing the
mic) for some ingredient, and forgot that we could still hear her when she
was behind the screens. Nervous chuckles were to be had all round while we
were waiting for this lovely lady to finish her mild cursing of
whichever ingredient she couldn't find ;)

Leaving the art/craft/stuff hall, we wandered around a bit until we
ended up at a Scouts stand. They had some rope bridge set up, along with
a bunch of wood-carving, -engraving and -marking stuff and some painting
stuff with plaster of Paris moulds. While I was talking to one of the
Scout masters about the possibility of becoming a Scout leader, Syndia
went and made herself a sign with her name on it and a painted plaster
Cupid. She declined to try crossing the rope bridge, though

After the Scouts, we spent a few minutes watching BMX and
rollerblade/skateboard half-pipe demos, before succumbing to the
unsubtle advertising whose smell was wafting over that part of the
showgrounds. And off we went towards the delicious smell of biscuits
being baked.

Our destination was, of course, the Arnotts stand, where we saw them
making batches of Tiny Teddies. For pocket change $1.50 each we picked
up 200g bags of the things, too - still hot from the oven and smelling
good enough to make passers-by turn their heads and look longingly at

Arriving at the main arena for the night's entertainment, we found a
place reasonably early and bludged a bit until things started happening
in the ring below. We were looking forward to the motocross demo, but
when it started, we found that the "team" was actually a
single rider and a commentator. It was good to watch, but hardly a team,
and hardly the best demo we've seen - especially when they drag out
hordes of motoX riders for the St Kilda Festival and all sorts of other
events down here.

The Outback Thunder show was pretty good, although I felt it was
made a bit folksy to appease the city folks' view of rural Aussies. Even
so, it went off pretty well, and was good entertainment for the night.

After watching the fireworks, we picked up a couple of showbags
(chocolate cravings ) and fairy floss, then headed home. We
were both pretty exhausted on the train ride home, and we weren't home
long before we both crashed out.

All in all, a very fun day.

Blog Post - Friday, 20th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 20 Sep 2002

Wow, it's actually sunny outside. What an amazing event. I wonder if the
natives here have recovered from the shock yet.

The IDS reporting system now at least appears to be working; I
haven't re-enabled all the cron jobs etc yet, but at least all the
individual scripts seem to work. Stupid ISS... what a sadistic thing to
do to a poor programmer

It doesn't look like I'll be going for a ride on the weekend - Saturday
I have to do a couple of RMIT tutes, and Syndia and I will probably be
going to the Royal Melbourne
Show, which is Melbourne's equivalent of the Ekka. (Well, OK, so the
Ekka is really called the Royal Queensland Show, but let's not split
hairs over it. It's the Ekka.) Should be fun, though. I always used to
love going to the Ekka when I was a kid (and I still am just a little
boy at heart ).

Blog Post - Wednesday, 18th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 18 Sep 2002

Bugger it! As if anything else could go wrong today... 242 has no power.
That's right - the corporate headquarters of the country's largest telco
has no sodding electricity. Wonderful.

I can't even go home, because a) I couldn't be bothered walking down 21
flights of stairs, and b) I'm not game to ride in the 100+ km/h winds
that we can see whipping the rain past the window. Good fun.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 17th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 17 Sep 2002

We received word today that Glen went back to Reefton on Sunday and had
a chat with the hundreds of police who were pestering all the
motorcyclists. It turns out that the accident on the weekend was the
fault of the motorcyclists, not the 4WD driver (see the value of
reserving judgement? ). The lead rider was on the wrong side of
the road coming around a blind corner. It's a shame, but at least only
the people who were at fault were damaged. You make your bed...

Peter, Rhys and Roger are being kicked
out of 55A because their landlord wants to move in. Bugger. So they're
off hunting for a new place to live. Hopefully they'll end up somewhere
that has line of sight to Dan or me (Dan and me would be nice),
and we can set up a decent wireless link

I finally got around to adding some photos of my new toy, so here
they are.

Blog Post - Monday, 16th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 16 Sep 2002

Bored... so bored... Bored enough that I'm starting to seriously
consider phone up BigPond technical support just so I can listen to
their hold music.

I've been debugging a bunch of SQL queries as part of the IDS reporting
system, and there's so much sodding data that each query takes about 15
minutes to run. So I type one query, run it, then wait for it to finish.
Occasionally I make a typo. That's when the work gets really

Oh well, at least this is the last thing I need to do before this IDS
thingo is officially pronounced "working". I'll hopefully be
back to more interesting stuff later this week.

Addendum: What kind of idiot re-uses a primary key within a database
table? Apparently ISS do - their RealSecure software is a bloody
nightmare. Don't buy it.

Blog Post - Sunday, 15th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 15 Sep 2002

Spring, beautiful Spring. We had - by Melbourne standards - a beautiful
Spring day today. The maximum temperature was 28 degrees, and there was
not a cloud in the sky until late afternoon.

Syndia and I had breakfast at a small café on Acland Street, then went
for a walk along the esplanade markets, followed by a leisurely stroll
along the beach.

After returning home, I decided I was going to take the fairing off the
bike and do some minor maintenance. One of the goals was to remove some
of the excess sump oil from the bike - unfortunately, I didn't have a
new oil filter or anything I was willing to demote to being an oil pan,
so I couldn't do a full oil change - but I could at least remove some of
the excess oil that had been annoying me yesterday. Unfortunately, the
owners' manual's suggestion of using a syringe to remove excess oil
didn't work, as I couldn't find a syringe small enough to fit inside the
oil filler hole. Buggrit... small nuisances...

I did, however, get to have a closer look at the condition of the bike,
and it really is surprisingly good. A few small specks of surface rust
on the exhaust were basically all I could find. I'm planning on spending
a day or two sometime in the next couple of months and stripping it down
completely - I won't feel completely confident in riding it until I'm
satisfied that nothing I can possibly spot is dodgy. It all looks good
though, so I'm happy. Syndia had a great time getting all the burnt oil
(overflow; dripped onto the exhaust - oops) off the inside of the

Photos? Not yet, fellas. I've borrowed Dan's camera and will take a few
snaps shortly

Blog Post - Saturday, 14th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 14 Sep 2002

Today was a pretty decent day, as they go. A few people from Security
Architecture - Nick (Honda Spada), Anna (Suzuki RGV 250), and I
(Kawasaki ZZR250) - went out for a ride with a bunch of friends: Rohan
(Suzuki RGV250), Shane (Kawasaki GPX250), Glen (Kawasaki ZX9R) and Gerry
(brand-spanking-new Honda VTR 1000 with 869 km on the odometer),
from various other places.

The plan was to ride from the McDonald's at Mitcham out to Warburton,
then do the Reefton Spur run, go out to Marysville and then back to
Melbourne. Nick, Gerry and I met up at the Maccas, where we received
word from Anna that she and Rohan had just taken her RGV out for a test
ride (after some repairs) and it all seemed OK, so they were going to
throw their bikes into Rohan's trailer and drive out to Warburton.

(Side note: Rohan hates riding in traffic, so he tends to just load his
bike into a trailer, drive the boring stretches along the freeway whilst
listening to the radio, then whip the bike out of the trailer once he
gets to the interesting bits of road.)

After arranging to meet Shane et al there as well, the three of us
jumped onto our bikes and headed out in that direction. On the way,
Gerry decided he needed to stop for some petrol, so we pulled in at a
little servo in Seville. Flipping up visors and removing helmets, the
first thing we all noticed was this amazing smell of sausages. Looking
around, we saw two women running a fund-raising stall in front of the
local butcher shop (for their children's primary school or something).
Whilst we were congregating in front of the stall, Shane and Glen rode
by. Nick flagged them down, and without further encouragement we all
promptly bought and ate the rest of the sausages for sale. Yum

The next stop was a small bakery in Warburton, where Rohan and Anna were
eating a late breakfast (1pm or so by now). We arranged to meet them a
bit further up the road so that they could unload their bikes. We also
ran into two South Africans who had both just moved to Australia. They
were hanging around the bakery, and when we all rocked up they asked us
where all the decent roads were. We suggested that they just ride with
us, which seemed to sound pretty good to them. I can't remember the
first guy's name, but the other was called Euclid. They were riding a
beautiful, shiny Yamaha R1 and a Kaqasaki ZZR1200 respectively.

And off we went... About ten minutes up the road, sure enough, were
Rohan and Anna - and the distinctive smell of two-stroke oil from their
bikes warming up. Just as we were about to leave, I spotted a nail in
Euclid's mate's rear tyre. Bugger. That ended their day then and there,
and they slowly limped off home. Back to the original seven of us, we
set off for Reefton, warming up the tyres for a thrash through the
twisties ahead.

Unfortunately, while we were waiting for the two-strokes to warm up, we
were passed by an ambulance travelling towards Reefton. After a few
minutes of riding, we came to the intersection that started the Reefton
Spur section of the road, and it was closed by a Country Fire Authority
fire truck. The ambulance we'd seen was going off to collect an injured
motorcyclist who had collided with a 4WD. One other motorcyclist had
already died in the accident - apparently the 4WD had hit the leading
two riders in a group of five, killing one and injuring the other. There
was a helicoptor sitting at the intersection - the closest patch of
ground where it could be put down - waiting for the ambulance to return
with the injured rider. Not good. We can't even presume that it was the
fault of the 4WD driver, either - there are plenty of stupid
motorcyclists in this part of the world. The difference, however, is
that if the bikers were being stupid, it's suicide - whereas if the 4WD
was on the wrong side of the road, knowing the damage they can do, it
was murder.

After waiting around for a while, we saw the ambulance return with the
injured rider, who was then loaded into the helicoptor and airlifted
back to a nearby hospital. The road was completely closed though, so we
decided to turn around. Nick and Gerry were in a hurry to get home by
now, as the delay had taken a pretty large chunk out of the day, so they
bailed back to Melbourne. The rest of us decided we'd make a short trip
to the summit of Mt Donna Buang before heading home. There are a lookout
and a BBQ area at the summit, of which we should probably take advantage
sometime in the future. After our detour to the summit, we stopped in
briefly at the bakery to split off from Anna and Rohan, who were loading
their bikes back into the trailer.

The ride home was pretty uneventful - everyone was a little tired and
subdued after seeing the results of that accident. It took the shine off
what would otherwise have been a lovely day.

Blog Post - Thursday, 12th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 12 Sep 2002

Bugger... MonUR were supposed to be having a range weekend to qualify
people for the Steyr grenade launcher attachment, but it was cancelled
last night because of a lack of instructors. Instead, they're running an
instructor training weekend so that we can have enough instructors for
next time we go (November).

On the brighter side, that means I will have time to go for a ride
sometime this weekend - and spend some time with Syndia

Blog Post - Thursday, 5th September, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 5 Sep 2002

Woohoo! I bought a bike today! It's a 1994 model Kawasaki ZZR 250. I'll throw some photos up as soon as I can borrow a digital camera.

Blog Post - Monday, 26th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 26 Aug 2002

I'm still cold. I took the bike back to Eddie, went to work and felt
miserable. This evening, I'm still feeling cold from yesterday. Odds are
I won't be going to work tomorrow - I'm going to stay home and get warm

Blog Post - Sunday, 25th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 25 Aug 2002

I hired a bike (Kawasaki ZZR250) from Garner's Motorcycles
this weekend and went out for a ride with some of the Security
Architecture people on Sunday. Anna bailed at the last minute, so it
ended up being Nick, Gerry, Gordon and myself.

Starting at the McDonald's on the corner of the Maroondah Hwy and
Springvale Rd, we headed out to Reefton and the Black Spur. This was my
first time in real twisties, so I was taking it pretty carefully and not
pushing the bike's (or my) limits too hard.

It was a cold day, but I didn't realise how cold it was until I saw this
white stuff on the sides of the road. Being a Queensland boy, I'd never
seen snow before today, and it took me a few seconds to figure out what
it was. (It looked a bit like dirt thrown over a pile of plastic
shopping bags - not very enticing.)

We decided to have lunch at Marysville, so we pushed off again fairly
shortly and made pretty good time through the next set of twisties -
well, at least, I thought we were, until about half-way there when
something behind me howled, screamed, then flew past me in a
yellow-black blur. "Wow, cool," thinks me, "I wonder what
he was riding," and no sooner than I had the thought, but his mate
came screaming up behind me. As we were approaching a blind corner, he
just tucked in on my rear wheel and followed me through the next couple
of corners.

When the road was clear, the monster behind me blipped his throttle and
shot up next to me, holding long enough for me to see ZZR 1100 on
the side of the bike, and for the rider to flick me a quick wave before
blasting off into the distance. It was some consolation that they both
made just as quick work of Gordon (ahead of me) as they did of me.

When we pulled up at the next intersection to decide which way to go, we
saw those two again, just about to pull out. It turns out that the first
rider was on a Suzuki GSX-R 1100 - which, I guess, is a good enough
reason for none of us being able to catch him. Nobody in our group was
on anything larger than a 250, so we just didn't have a hope...

We stopped in Marysville for lunch, and I tried to order breakfast at
this little cafe we'd decided on. They wouldn't make any breakfast
though, as it was about 1pm, so I ordered some smoked trout and
camembert thing instead. Bugger - I'd really been hanging out for some
bacon and eggs, too. I was a bit disgruntled when Gerry managed to get
some scrambled eggs and bacon out of them after that But hey, the
coffee was warm (yes, just warm) and the trout was good, so I was still
pretty happy.

After lunch, we decided we'd head out towards Kinglake and then back to
Melbourne. Coming out of the twisties and onto a decent highway, we were
making pretty good time (read: I was most of the way up the tacho in 6th
gear and still not keeping up with the others) until a bloody great
truck appeared ahead, taking up both lanes of the road and not letting
anyone past, least of all a bunch of snotty bikers.

We were all pretty cold by then, so we stopped at this little restaurant
on the highway on the way back and had another couple of coffees (hot
ones this time). We jumped back onto the highway and split off in the
direction of our respective homes.

I dropped in at Peter, Roger and Rhys' place on the way back - mainly to
warm up again - and spent half an hour or so there before riding home.
Once I got home, I spent about half an hour under an extremely hot
shower, trying to get my body temperature back up. I'm still freezing,
so I'm going to bed.

Blog Post - Sunday, 18th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 18 Aug 2002


Puckapunyal is COLD. And windy, and cold.

It's also cold.

MonUR's monthly weekend training exercise was, as you might have
guessed, held at Puckapunyal last weekend. Being a Queenslander, I just
wasn't prepared for how cold it was going to be at night.

We arrived on Friday night at about 2100. Thankfully we travelled up
there on a chartered bus (with air conditioning) rather than on the IMVs
we used at 9RQR. Unfortunately, when we got off the bus I promptly
froze, even though I was wearing thermals under my cams. At least Friday
night wasn't supposed to be tactical, which meant we could all get a
full night's sleep.

On Saturday we had a nav-ex, which was pretty simple as they go, except
for the tendency of the waypoints to refer to a "knoll", in
the middle of a bunch of hundreds of other knolls. With the map that we
were given (the wrong one!!), we had to rely on another map of the area
that one of the other diggers just happened to have with them. That
didn't quite have enough detail though, which meant we were looking for
specific knolls in the middle of a bunch of other knolls where the
contour lines on the map were not quite detailed enough to make out
which one we were supposed to be on. Still, we managed pretty well over
all - only missed one waypoint, and when our platoon sergeant went out
there to look for it (with his handheld GPS unit, I might add) he
conceded that it wasn't really there after all. (It was supposed to be a
hill just north of where two creeks intersected, with a track running
over the top of it - pretty easy to spot, had it actually been there

Saturday night saw us playing enemy for the staff cadets - which
involved our sitting on the top of a rather large hill and lighting a
sodding great bonfire so that they could see us. Hours later, we were
freezing, still on top of the hill, and they still hadn't managed to
find us. Bugger. At about 2300 we gave up, put the fire out and went to
sleep. We didn't even bother to keep a watch as they'd had so much
trouble finding us anyway. (We intercepted a couple of their radio
transmissions and, from the locstats they gave, we decided that they
were definitely lost. We could see the positions where they were
claiming they were, but they just weren't there.)

On Sunday morning, we bludged for a while (playing enemy is cool ;) )
then set ourselves up to defend the hill. We presumed that, since the
RSM found us shortly after that, that the cadets would be on their way
soon. And sure enough, they appeared about 30 minutes later, slogging up
the hardest approach to the hill when they could have taken the best
route by circling around and attacking us from above. Anyway, they
attacked, we "died," and then had to play dead for a while
longer as the RSM gave them a lecture on how to deal with killed enemy.

They patrolled back to the base camp, and we hoofed it back a bit more
directly, so we had time to clean our weapons before they returned. A
few hours later, we were sitting in the sun, having a brew and waiting
for the bus back to MonUR.

All in all, a pretty cruisy weekend for myself and the other enemy; a
pretty hard one for the cadets. All good fun, though.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 13th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 13 Aug 2002

Noooooo.... It's 8pm, I'm still at work (will be leaving shortly, I
hope) and it's just started raining...

... sod it. It's just been one of those days...

Blog Post - Monday, 12th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 12 Aug 2002

I'm such a nice person... One of the people on one of the projects I'm
working on at the moment was asking some security questions about this
client-side application that's being developed.

At the conclusion of the discussion (via email) she said she was glad we
were stress-testing the application because there was a "freak part of
the customer base" who "have no other purpose in life [other] than to
try and destroy ... anything that that Telstra build." And who is this
group of freaks, I hear you ask? The answer, according to her, is Whirlpool!

More than a little surprised at this comment - even within Telstra,
Whirlpool is held in fairly high regard - I mailed back, assuring her
that we would be testing the application very thoroughly and wouldn't
let any "freaks" break it.

I finished with a small postscript: P.S. My Whirlpool userid is

Blog Post - Sunday, 11th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 11 Aug 2002

Had a great day today After sleeping in until about 11am, Syndia and
I had a decadent breakfast of bacon, eggs and all that usually
accompanies it. I bludged around the house for a while, reading
Fortunate Son, which Peter kindly lent to me.

After lunch, we drove over to Rohan's place, where we waited for the
weather to clear up. Once it did, we jumped onto his bikes (well, Syndia
jumped onto the back of Rohan's bike, and I borrowed his other one) and
went for a cruise around the Dandenongs. The RGV250 I borrowed has so
much more grunt than anything else I've ridden - not that I've ridden
many different bikes yet - and it sticks to the road beautifully. I'm
certainly nowhere near pushing its limits yet, at any rate

Syndia, on the back of Rohan's bike, is now markedly more enthusiastic
about my riding, which is a good thing all round I'm looking forward
to going out again. Next weekend I have an Army Reserve training
exercise, but the weekend after that is looking promising...

Blog Post - Thursday, 8th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 8 Aug 2002

Wow, cool. I just found out that one of my friends from UQ had a younger
brother born in April of this year. And I didn't know about it until
today - how sad is that? I think I need to spend a bit more effort in
keeping in touch with people...

Bugger. I just found out that Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (famous for
Dijkstra's shortest-path algorithm, amongst many other things) passed
away two days ago. His obituary can be found

Blog Post - Tuesday, 6th August, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 6 Aug 2002

I've been a bit slack with updates here recently. Work has been keeping
me pretty busy, but life outside work has also been good fun.

Friday night saw most of the ex-TRL crowd down at the Comedy Club in
Carlton for what turned out to be a very enjoyable night. At present I
can't even remember who was performing though, so I'll have to come back
to that.

Sunday afternoon saw Syndia and me driving up and down the TRL car-park
for a driving lesson. Ooh, what fun

Blog Post - Sunday, 28th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 28 Jul 2002

Bludge day today. Did some shopping in the evening, but I spent most of the day reading Jim Rogers' Investment Biker, a quirky story about a bloke with a few tens (hundreds?) of millions in investments and his motorcycle trip around the world with his girlfriend. It's an interesting combination of a travel journal and political and economic commentaries on all the countries through which they travelled.

Played Scrabble with Syndia this evening. She won two of three games, which is an improvement on my part - that was the first game I've won against her since we bought the thing a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully I'll keep improving my track record - it can't get much worse, after all

Blog Post - Saturday, 27th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 27 Jul 2002

Had some good fun today. This morning I went out for a ride with Gordon and one of his mates, Dallas. Being my first time riding a motorcycle on the roads, I was a bit nervous for a while, but I got over it pretty quickly. It's amazing how vulnerable you feel though - at least in a car you feel like you have some protection from all the stupid humans our there, but on a bike it's that much worse, becuse not only do you have far less protection than in a car, but people just don't look. Some dopey chick reversed out after Dallas (leading) and scattered Gordon and me - and she didn't even see us after we had ridden past - the first she saw of us was at the following set of traffic lights.

All in all though, I had a great time. We rode pretty gently for the entire time, and didn't go too far. We ended up getting about as far as Frankston (nice ride too, along the coast all the way) before having a bit of a break and turning back.

On the way down, Gordon somehow managed to lose the keys for his bike - while it was still running. We're not quite sure how he managed to do it, but he did Anyway, that meant that for the entire trip home (he bailed early) he wasn't able to turn his bike off, restart it if it stalled or refuel it (since you need the keys to get the fuel cap off). Oops

This evening was good, too. Dan phoned me up after I'd finished tutoring at RMIT, and asked if Syndia and I wanted to go out for a feed and then back to his place for some DVDs. We didn't need to be asked twice, so off we went. Dinner was at some "Orange pizza parlour across the road from the BMW dealership," according to Dan. I can't remember the name of the place. The waitress (yep, one thereof) was in a bit of a bad mood and was pretty abrupt for the entire night. Oh well... one can't have everything...

The DVDs back at Dan's place ended up being A Night at McCool's, which was better than I expected (although I slept through most of it) and Jet Li's The One, which was far worse than I could have thought possible in these days of imperceptible special effects. It was reminiscent of a budget rip-off of some anonymous Jean-Claude Van Damme flick from the 1980s. Very painful. Unfortunately I couldn't get back to sleep for this one, so I had to sit through it . But hey - the entire day turned out pretty well, so I can't really complain

Blog Post - Friday, 26th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 26 Jul 2002

Wow, cool. Syndia and I went to see the Shaolin Monks' Wheel of Life production this evening at the Princess Theatre. Very cool - they really are very good. I was especially impressed with the children they had - some of them could only have been seven or eight years old, yet were already very proficient in Kung Fu.

On a completely different topic, as I was leaving the city after work, I saw this stupid (but very funny) woman manage to walk three or four steps down an up-escalator before realising that she was going the wrong way. She then grabbed onto the hand-rail (which was, of course, moving in the opposite direction) and promptly got sat down rather ungracefully on the stairs. She seemed content to sit there and sulk for quite a while, but then realised that the escalator wasn't going to stop for her, and that she was about to be trampled by people actually riding the thing correctly. After all that, she tried to get back up and pretend that she'd meant to do it all along.

She obviously wasn't hurt, but she seemed to take offence at all the people chuckling at her - quite a few of us - and looked about ready to throw a tantrum in the middle of the station. Very sad... but still very funny

Blog Post - Monday, 22nd July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 22 Jul 2002

Well, I passed the exam and now have my motorcycle learner's permit,
which means I'm going for a ride this weekend with a couple of
workmates. Sweet

Went looking for some second-hand gear today at lunch; I'm not really
looking to buy stuff yet, but I'd like to at least get an idea of how
much I'm going to have to spend to get some decent stuff. It's much
harder to grow back skin than it is to buy another set of leathers...

Syndia and I went to see The Importance of Being Earnest (the
movie, not a play) last night. No surprise - they took some artistic
licence with a few points - but it was still quite well done. Judy Dench
was excellent, as usual... Reese Witherspoon was a bit melodramatic at
times (more so than required by the script) and Frances O'Connor reminds
me so much of Mariah Carey that she annoys me on sight. Sorry 'bout
that. Anyway, it's worth seeing IMHO.

Blog Post - Friday, 19th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 19 Jul 2002

Pretty frantic day today. Had a client almost dummy-spit this morning,
which meant I spent way too much time working on that project rather
than the IDS one I'm supposed to be working on.

I finally managed to get the IDS stuff working this afternoon, however -
it's amazing how long Linux kernel compilation takes on old machines now
- and how frustrating it is, when it's on your critical path and all you
can do is wait for the thing to finish.

Syndia, Yi-Lee, a few others and I are supposed to be going to see
Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew this evening. Odds are I'm
going to be late - bugger. Oh well...

I should get my motorcycle learner's tomorrow, all things going well.
There's a ride organised for next weekend based on the assumption that
I'll be attending, so I had better get it... Can't wait...

Blog Post - Thursday, 18th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 18 Jul 2002

WebLogic Wednesday is a cute junket for IT people. It's hosted by BEA Systems, and basically involves a
presentation on something to do with WebLogic, followed by a movie. This
month's movie was Men in Black II, which was good for a laugh but
probably not worth writing a review for.

Anyway, Pete was feeling pretty
crook, and after I returned home last night I thought I might have
picked up that bug from him. When I woke up this morning I didn't feel
so great, so I decided to stay home and get over it in a hurry. Apart
from anything else, Anna would have killed me if I'd given her a cold
just before she left for her holiday on the Gold Coast

One benefit of staying home was that I finally got around to putting a
few more photos up. You should see the new links on the nav-bar; mainly
the new shots are from the Honours Lab Webcam and my 21st birthday
party. There are a bunch more photos I should put up here, but I need to
scan them first, and it's so slow...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 16th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 16 Jul 2002

I'm finally starting to get a grip on some of the stuff I've been
working on recently. It's a good feeling - I now understand enough about
how everything links in together that I can actually start to make
judgement calls about what's a good idea and what's not.

Coffee with Amanda at lunch today - it was good to catch up. Seems like
everyone's leaving TRL now; she's also loving her new job.

Helped Peter buy a new machine
on Sunday... it's an Athlon XP1500 with a few nice bells and whistles...
AFAIK it has the highest specs of any belonging to the CS Mob, so he has
something to grin about now, at least for a while

Blog Post - Monday, 15th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 15 Jul 2002

How's this for a good one? When you sign up for a corporate Diners Club
card, as I did recently for Telstra, you are offered a free personal
card to go with it. "Cool," thinks me, who ticks the box...
(In Brisbane and some other cities around Australia, taxis don't take
Visa, which has been a nuisance for me in the past.)

I just received my first statement for the personal card, and there was
a $22 charge on it for "Rewards Program Membership." Curious, I
think, but hardly surprising - so I call the customer support line to
get the charge reversed and the membership cancelled. I didn't tick the
box on the application form and since I don't expect to be using the
card that much, there's no reason for me to have it.

Imagine my surprise when the chick (pleasantly, though - for once)
patiently explains to me that the charge is for... wait for it... the
"Ansett Australia Global Rewards Scheme." I was a little bit
stunned at this - after all, Ansett went belly-up almost 6 months ago
now. But here I was, having this human patiently and kindly explaining
to me that they charged the fee unless you specifically requested
not to join Global Rewards. Hmm...

Still, to be fair, they've reversed the charge and cancelled the
"membership" - which is better than I can say for my dealings
with Telstra.

Blog Post - Friday, 12th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 12 Jul 2002

Oh, what a wonderful, moving, exciting and emotional experience is
Telstra's mentoring program. Was that sarcasm? One certainly hopes not -
sarcasm is not permitted in such an emotional morale-enhancing session.

What a load of crap. It was such a painful, frustrating experience that
I'm surprised anyone would turn up for a repeat performance. We didn't
get introduced to anyone except each other, and we had some fruit loop
named Veronica (our "facilitator") giving us this talk about
being all touchy-feely about our relationship with our mentor.

As far as I was concerned, I thought this entire thing would be about
how to find a mentor within the organisation, how to approach them and
the best way to manage the relationship. I didn't expect a whole day
spent on discussing our dreams and aspirations with a bunch of total
strangers and a manic facilitator. Shortly after lunch I invented a
meeting and left. I felt so dirty about the whole experience. My
advice to anyone considering participating in Telstra's mentoring
program: just don't.

Ugh. I'm off to have a shower.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 9th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 9 Jul 2002

I booked in for my motorcycle permit training course this afternoon.
It's with a mob called Motorcycle Motion. Three
sets of four hours (and a short exam) and I'll have my learner's permit.
Woohoo - then all I have to do is wait a bit and I can get the full

In Victoria, unlike Queensland, you can ride unaccompanied with just a
learner's permit, which means I'll be able to hire a bike and go out for
a weekend or two here or there. Can't wait...

Blog Post - Monday, 8th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 8 Jul 2002

Had a reasonable time this weekend... the weather was still pretty
miserable, but Syndia and I went out a couple of times regardless

Saw Bend it Like Beckham on Friday night - well worth going to
see if you have a spare $10 and 2 hours...

I went to have a look at a Kendo class on Sunday morning and am
considering joining. It's something I've always wanted to do, and they
seemed to have an environment conducive to learning - more so than some
other martial arts dojos that I've looked at recently, anyway.

Blog Post - Thursday, 4th July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 4 Jul 2002

I'm sitting in my office in the dark, because nobody else here knows the
code to turn the lights back on either. It suits my mood fairly well
though - today was not such a good day.

Actually, today sucked. Very bad day today.

Went to the gym to take it out on the bag, but all I ended up doing was
knocking it off its hook a few times. According to a couple of guys who
were there at the time, if it had been human, it probably would have run
away by the third or fourth time I knocked it flying. They were looking
a bit scared, too. Normally that would have lightened my mood a little,
but not today.

So why was it such a bad day? That's classified. No, not really; it's
just a bunch of things that all happened at once, some peripheral to me
and others not.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 3rd July, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 3 Jul 2002

Added an SMS facility to my site today. Mess with it here if you're feeling enthusiastic.

Oh... returned from Canberra this evening, too. In general it was a great trip, but there were a few unpleasant moments... I'm currently writing up the entire trip, but I won't publish it until I have the few photos I took developed and scanned.

Blog Post - Sunday, 30th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 30 Jun 2002

Canberra's weather is so much nicer than Melbourne's! I can honestly say that I'd swap in an instant, all other things being constant. It's certainly very cold, but the beautifully sunny days more than make up for it. Melbourne is so dreary in comparison; it might be warmer on average, but it's so wet and overcast that it doesn't really matter. I like Canberra

This morning was spent rollerblading around Lake Burley Griffin with Dale and a friend of hers. It was simply good fun, under a crystal-clear sky and on a Sunday morning when most other people were still in bed. I hadn't rollerbladed in a while, so I was a bit awkward at first, and yes, I did stack it once. I thought I'd get a bit adventurous and see if I could still do a slide-stop - which I couldn't, as I decided as I was tumbling along the path Very good fun though - and the scars are minimal

Lunch today was at some yacht club on the lake. I had to sweet-talk one of the staff into serving us though, as we didn't have reservations. The little boy act seemed to work fairly well here though, and we managed to get our food without too much trouble. I wish I could remember the name of the place; will have to check, as it's worth going back to (and perhaps even with a reservation next time ).

The War Memorial was our next destination, after leaving Dale's friend and returning my rented blades. If you haven't been to see it, I strongly suggest you do so - it's well worth it.

Outside the War Memorial there were a bunch of Army Reserve recruiting people holding a bit of a demonstration/recruiting day. I pointed out the Austeyr and Minimi to Dale (they're the toys I'm most familiar with) and one of the NCOs present saw me doing so. They were letting children play with the weapons, and he asked if I'd like to hold one. Of course I said yes, and he handed it to me - incorrectly, and with the safety off. Before I'd thought too much about what I was doing, I'd cleared the weapon (it involves removing the barrel and having a look into the chamber to see that there are no rounds there). He looked at me a bit strangely after that

To be fair, I was trying to needle him a bit; it also happened that the weapon was a Steyr S, which has removable sights that you can replace with different scopes etc, and as I hadn't seen this particular type of scope before I was a bit curious. Anyway, once he'd determined that I didn't have any live rounds in my pockets he calmed down a bit and we had a bit of a chat. Very interesting, and good for a chuckle or two

On to the War Memorial itself... I should mention that it has a web site, here. It's divided into different sections for all of the different conflicts in which Australian soldiers have been involved. We were a little rushed in going through, however, and adding this to the fact that there is simply so much to see meant that I didn't really get to see nearly as much as I'd hoped. It's really a multiple-day exercise in itself... Next time I'm in the city however, I plan to go back and see more of it for myself.

I guess the main reason I was so impressed by the entire Memorial is that it doesn't glorify war. The designers actually made the distinction between glorifying the fallen for the supreme sacrifice they made, without glorifying the existence of war itself. On the contrary, they have gone out of their way to illustrate just how terrible war is, and the devastation, both personal and national, that it can leave in its wake.

When we left I was feeling pretty sober - as one does - and I'm afraid I wasn't very pleasant company for the next few hours. One lesson that can be learned from this is not to plan anything that requires good cheer after visiting. It was a very moving experience; just not a happy one.

Dinner for Sunday was at La Scala, an excellent little place in Civic. And now, as I was officially on Telstra's time, the corporate Diners Club card was given a bit of a warm-up.

Blog Post - Saturday, 29th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 29 Jun 2002

Wow, cold.

I arrived last night with the thermometer reading a wonderful one degree Celsius - a few degrees above the forecast - to be picked up at the airport by Dale. She's borrowed her housemate's car for the weekend, which is good because it means we have transport to allow us to do the tourist thing.

Speaking of the tourist thing, we rocked up to Parliament this morning and tagged along with one of the guided tours. Very interesting, but unfortunately I didn't get to see any of the famous stoushes in real-time. For one thing, it was a Saturday, and for another, after the marathon sitting from Thursday until 4am Friday morning, nobody was going to be back in the house for as long as they could manage it. There's no point going back next week either, because Parliament's in recess until August. But still, it was very much worth-while just to see the place and learn a little more about our country's democracy.

The second (and final, due to time constraints) destination for today's Dale-guided tour was the old Parliament House, which is now the National Portrait Gallery, amongst other things. The differences were very marked - the older edifice was clearly influenced much more by British traditions. As an example, the colours of the chambers in the old Parliament House are the grass-green of England for the House of Commons (our House of Representatives) and the royal red for the House of Lords (our Senate).

In Australia's new Parliament House, the traditions have been given more than a passing nod, but a uniquely Australian flavour has been given to the buildings. There's a much more open feel about them; there are fountains (although the one inside the courtyard has an ulterior purpose, being there to prevent whispered conversations between pollies from being overheard by the curious public), open gardens and courtyards, and the entire place just felt much fresher than the old one. Times change...

Our final action was to take a walk around the pond near the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. This is where I took one of my few photos for the trip, so I hope it turns out OK.

Blog Post - Friday, 28th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 28 Jun 2002

This evening I flew out of Melbourne to Canberra for this network IDS training course I'm supposed to be doing. The course starts on Monday, but I asked the powers that be at Telstra if I could make the trip up there on Friday instead of Sunday, and just pay for my own accommodation or crash with a friend. They said all was well, so off I go.

I'll be staying with a friend, Dale, for the weekend. She's a Brisbanite, so I guess we're pretty much going to be united in hating the weather

It's my first trip to Canberra - never ever been to "Our Nation's Capital" before - so I'm really looking forward to it.

Anyway, off to catch my plane I go.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 25th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 25 Jun 2002

Yesterday a mate of mine asked if I could set up an DNS entry for him.
It's the quickest turnaround I've ever seen - the registration and
delegation process took less than an hour, and less than a day to

Anyway, have a look at his site, Go get some
tutoring while you're there, too

(And yes, this is another site that's hosted on shrek .)

Blog Post - Saturday, 22nd June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 22 Jun 2002

On Tuesday I received my cute new phone headset via courier. A nice little toy as headsets go, but nothing spectacular. So, being moderately competent, I opened the box, set it up and had it working in a few minutes. No problem.

I just received a call from some dude from OH&S asking to confirm an appointment for me next Tuesday for someone to come out and install my headset. My response? "Err.... you do realise I'm talking to you on it, don't you?"

Apparently it's Telstra policy that we can't install the headsets by ourselves, and that we have to get a certified tech to come out and do it. So undeterred, this guy is supposed to be coming out to install my headset on Tuesday. I'm not quite sure what he actually plans to do, but we'll see...

Blog Post - Friday, 21st June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 21 Jun 2002

Oops... TRL had a few power outages over the last couple of days, so
this server was down for most of yesterday and last night.

Blog Post - Thursday, 13th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 13 Jun 2002

Not feeling too well today. I was thinking of bailing on work, but
decided I shouldn't because there's a guy coming down from Sydney to
show us how to run some IDS management software. Seriously not feeling
too well, though...

Blog Post - Tuesday, 11th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 11 Jun 2002

The long weekend was seriously good for my state of mind I finally
managed to catch up on some sleep.

Dan and Vivek celebrated their birthdays on Saturday night and we were
at the Spy Lounge until about 3am. Well, I left at about 3am;
they were still going strong when I did so.

I rocked up at DSE this afternoon looking for a power supply for this
notebook that I can cannibalise for the car. No go. They're not the
sharpest knives in the drawer, those fellas... You'd think people at an
electronics store would at least understand the difference between AC
and DC. Anyway, off I go to JayCar next weekend to see if I can find
someone useful...

Blog Post - Friday, 7th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 7 Jun 2002

I've just been told I'm booked for some training in Canberra in early
July. I've never been to Canberra, so I'm kinda looking forward to it.
The weather can't possibly be any worse than Melbourne's, at any rate...

The training is for some IDS management system, which means I'm probably
going to get midnight phone calls on occasion when there's some security
alert from one of Telstra Retail's systems - and the more I learn about
those systems, the more likely I'm starting to think that is...

Finished my first full security review today - at least, I've finished
until they actually build the thing. Then I have to go and try to break
into it. Still, I'm starting to learn the ropes around here and actually
have a reasonable understanding of all the different bits and pieces
that make up Telstra. Comments on that? Not bloody likely

Blog Post - Thursday, 6th June, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 6 Jun 2002

Last night I went and picked up a notebook that will hopefully become my
new MP3 player. It's an old NEC Versa 4050C - a Pentium 90 with 40Mb of
RAM. I haven't installed anything on it yet but I should get around to
it by the weekend...

Blog Post - Friday, 31st May, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 31 May 2002

I'm off shortly to have a look at a notebook that might be my new MP3
player. Will write more if I actually buy the thing.

Blog Post - Thursday, 30th May, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 30 May 2002

I received confirmation of my company car today... and it's going to
delivered in October. October! That's a bit longer than I was
hoping to wait... Still, at least it means I'll probably get another pay
raise between now and then

FWIW, here's a picture of what it should look like...

I can't wait to get my toy... And yes, I'm getting the black one.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 28th May, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 28 May 2002

Had a reasonably productive day today, which is a nice change from the
administrivia of getting set up in a new position.

I'm also starting to learn a bit more about Telstra's infrastructure -
and the more I learn, the more amazed I am that Telstra manages to
function at all. It's a bit of a worry, really...

Last week, I finally put in an order for a Telstra-provided vehicle. It
will be nice to have them worrying about insurance, registration,
servicing and all the other stuff that I really just can't be bothered
with - but the main benefit for me is the insurance. When I'm driving a
Telstra car, if someone runs into me, Telstra's insurance companies can
deal with the bugger rather than my having to do it myself.

So what is it? Not telling One concession to luxury that I allowed
myself though: a sunroof.

Now all I have to do is wait 4-6 months for it to be delivered.

Blog Post - Monday, 20th May, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 20 May 2002

Last Monday (the 13th) I started at my new position in the city. I'm still
working for Telstra, but now it's as a Security Architect, which really
means I get to try to break into people's machines for fun and
profit. Life is good

I'm about to order a car from the Telstra leasing people as well - it's
cheaper than running my own now, since the pay increase has bumped me up a
tax bracket. Fuel, servicing, registration and insurance are all included -
so all I have to do is drive the thing. And drive it I shall, all over the
country. As I said before, life is good

Syndia is currently in exam-stress mode, since her entire semester comes
down to one exam to be held next Monday, so that's one slight detractor from
the general feeling of well-being - she's very busy and doesn't have much
time for anything except study, so that's a bit frustrating. But hey, after
Tuesday she's free again and all will be well.

Finally, I went to see Star Wars II:
Attack of the Clones on Thursday, and it rocked. If you haven't seen it,
you really should. Here is a copy of the
quick review I posted to the UQIT Gang. Life is good.

Blog Post - Thursday, 2nd May, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 2 May 2002

Today turned out pretty well After driving to Warragul last night to surprise Syndia, I had a pleasant drive back this morning.

This afternoon, some rude chick (admin staff member) from RMIT sneered at me and loftily informed me that no students were permitted in the staff room. I politely informed her that I was not a student, but she still insisted that I leave. As I was trying to read a book at the time, I wasn't all that interested in arguing - she wasn't going to go away, since she'd already decided she would look stupid if she backed down. All I wanted to do was read my book in peace, so I left.

I did, however, apologise to her for having a real job and thus not being an administrative drone at RMIT She didn't take that very well.

Have almost finished documenting all the machines and projects that I've worked on over the last year - since I'm leaving, I need to document everything that anyone else might need to do, and since I don't really want people calling me up all the time to ask about stuff, I'm trying to do it properly. It is taking a while though - I have to actually find out what one of my machines is being used for and who's using it - it's become the general unix dogsbody machine for the entire section, and I don't even know who's going to scream if they turn it off after I leave.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 1st May, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 1 May 2002

Woohoo! Finally, another update, after a few weeks of nothing. And the
reason? I have a new job, and have been flat out tidying up everything at
TRL before I leave on Friday of next week.

More news later, but for now, I'm still trying to get everything finished up
around here.

Blog Post - Thursday, 25th April, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 25 Apr 2002

I finally managed to get around to doing something useful this evening. I've
figured out how to update the firmware of the recently-purchased Enterasys
802.11b cards back to the Orinoco Silver firmware that they should have.

If this is relevant to you, have a look at my Enterasys2Orinoco post� for how to do it.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 3rd April, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 3 Apr 2002

I have just had the most sodding mongrel of a journey this evening.

It started out as a simple trip from Clayton to Craigieburn to pick up some
wireless LAN cards. My first mistake was to use the navigation engine. It
gives directions such as "Turn LEFT at Roundabout in Craigieburn." How in
blazes I'm supposed to know which sodding roundabout it means (turns out it
was the fourth) when I'm not even sure which suburb I'm in, I have
no idea.

The traffic on the Citylink was so bad that I feel pretty disgusted at
paying the toll. For what it was worth, as the cameras took a shot of my
number plates, I flipped them an obscene gesture. It wasn't all that hard -
the traffic was so slow that I was sitting under the damn thing for the
better part of twenty seconds.

Anyway, then I started following the directions to Craigieburn and managed
to get hopelessly lost trying to find them. Throwing the printouts onto the
floor of the front passenger side, I proceeded to navigate by a general
sense of direction, which turned out to be much better. I made the outbound
trip in a total of two hours, with the better part of one hour sitting on
the Citylink. Hmph.

By now, I'm starting to have to keep my foot on the accelerator when I'm
stationary to keep the engine running; the drizzle that just started appears
to be affecting the airflow into the engine, too. Bugger. This is a problem,
because it also makes the car much harder to start and easier to stall.

While driving along Sydney Rd, I wasn't quick enough in getting off the
brakes and onto the accelerator and clutch when I stopped at some lights.
(Yes, I needed to keep the revs up in order to keep the engine running.) So
I stalled it. And, true to form, couldn't get the bloody thing started again
because the spark plugs didn't want to fire for the first few tries, and
that flattened the battery enough to stop me from kicking the engine over
again. This is getting stupid!!

On the way there, I noticed that I was down a headlight - the left one. "Not
good," I think to myself, "but I'm getting the car serviced this week so
I'll get them to change it then." The car's been running a bit rough lately,
and I can't get the spark plugs out as they're caked in by too much burnt

So I arrive and pick up the cards. All is well. I breathe a huge sigh of

I leave and get back onto the highway. While I'm travelling at about 100km/h
along with everyone else, it starts to rain. Not quite bucketing down, but
enough to make me turn the wipers onto their fastest setting. No problems.
Until, that is, about five minutes later, when my right wiper just stops
moving! It looks like just a loose nut, but you try fixing that on a
freeway, in the dark, when you can't take your bloody foot off the
accelerator for fear of stalling and not being able to start again; that
means that it wasn't possible to close the driver's side door, either.

Finally, I decided that this was not going to get any better, and that the
driver of any towtruck I called would laugh so hard he'd wreck his own
vehicle, so I started up again and got moving.

Picture this: a beaten-up old '85 Colt, with one headlight out, one wiper
(opposite side) out, a driver leaning across to the passenger's side of the
vehicle in order to see out of the windscreen (the other side being obscured
by the rain) and then having to juggle the clutch, accelerator and
hand-brake in order to keep the thing running at the lights.

Somehow, I managed to make it home. The car is sitting outside and it's not
going bloody anywhere before I fix a few things. This has just
decided it for me - I need a new car.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 2nd April, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 2 Apr 2002

Whew. Another relaxing weekend over with. Did I say relaxing? I must have
put over 800km onto the clock of the car that Syndia's parents hired for
their stay here over Easter.

We picked them up from the airport on Saturday afternoon after their
(QANTAS) flight was delayed, and brought them back to our place to show them
around before they checked into their hotel. (Why aren't they staying at our
place? It's not really large enough for two of us, let alone another three

On Sunday we drove out to Ballarat, to see Sovereign Hill and the Gold
Musem. It was an good trip; they have a really interesting setup going, with
an entire 1850-1860s gold-mining town re-created. They have guided tours,
all sorts of shops, a pub, period-dressed people walking around the place
and, of course, gold mines. We took a tour of one of the mines (apparently
there are guided tours of the other, but you have to pre-book and we
hadn't), were driven around in a carriage (not sure of the correct term
here, but it had two large wheels, two small wheels and was drawn by a
not-very-well matched pair ;) ) and watched a goldsmith pouring about 50,000
AUD worth of gold into a mould. Very cool.

On Monday we took a trip to the Dandenongs, after showing Syndia's parents
around Clayton and the Monash Halls of Residence, where Syndia was trapped
for the first three years of her degree. After they expressed suitable
distaste for their surroundings (that being the intent ) we moved off to
the Dandenongs, where we ate at this weird place called, aptly
enough, Cuckoo. And, boy, were they ever? We couldn't complain about
the food, though - buffet-style, and heaps of it. After the meal, we cruised
up to the observatory and showed them what the miserable Melbourne CBD looks
like from afar. As far as I'm concerned, the further afar it is, the better
I like it, but that might be just a little pessimistic

Today, not content with traipsing all over the countryside for the last two
days, they decided we could all escort Syndia out to Warragul, where she's
stationed for the next eight weeks on her paediatrics rotation.

Anyway, it's been an enjoyable weekend, although now I'm at the end of it I
just can't wait to fall into bed and crash out.

Blog Post - Thursday, 21st March, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 21 Mar 2002

I put a few films in to be developed today, and when I went to collect
them I discovered that one of them had been the roll (well, roll and a
half) that I shot at the Olympics. I was pretty happy - I thought I'd lost
the photos as I hadn't been able to find the fils once I unpacked
everything after returning in October 2000. So I'll soon have my Olympics
page back up, now that I actually have something to show about it. There
are a few good stories to tell, too

The LAN party on the weekend went off really well - everyone was much more
laid back at Rohan's place than when we were at a web cafe. We started
with a few rounds of CS, then played a game of StarCraft, cooked some
sausages on the BBQ (and had some green tomato sauce on them, which
looked really weird but tasted pretty normal), then went and sat in the
spa for a while. It was certainly much more relaxing than the last couple
of LANs we've had.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 12th March, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 12 Mar 2002

You know you're in trouble when you can't get the spark plugs out of your
engine because there's too much burnt oil sticking them in. I couldn't move
a single plug this afternoon when I went to try to clean them... Not fun.
Will have to try to clean the things tonight instead.

RMIT managed to spell my name incorrectly, despite all my efforts - and
they've not yet arranged my employee number. I have everything except
that, and that's what I really need in order for them to pay me. Hmph.

Blog Post - Monday, 11th March, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 11 Mar 2002

is no more


My ISP, dingo blue, is closing
down. It's a real shame - they've been a great ISP for the almost 4 years
I've been with them. Their people are savvy, polite and have the power to
act on anything you ask of them, their systems are efficient and their
pricing was (evidently) too good to be true.

Their parent company, AGL has decided
that they've had enough of losing money on dingo blue, after buying it from
Optus only a year ago. Apparently Optus were running a profitable operation,
but AGL couldn't do it. It's very sad, as dingo blue was one of the last
real forms of cheap, reliable dial-up Internet access available in
Australia. And if you look at the iPrimus web site, amongst others, you can
already see the vultures circling to pick up the customers.

dingo blue will shut down a bit over eight weeks from now, which leaves
people a reasonably amount of time to make alternative arrangements. I, for
one, will be wearing a black armband the day the doors close.

For the moment, I've signed up with Pacific Internet for their ADSL
offering, to start shortly before dingo blue closes. Hopefully their people
will be slightly more human than the droids Telstra chooses to present to
its customers.

Blog Post - Friday, 8th March, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 8 Mar 2002

Whew, another week at an end - and am I glad to see the end of it? You bet.

I'm thoroughly sick of the the project I'm working on, and this week has
just highlighted some of my reasons for wanting to do something different.
After a mad panic yesterday to throw together a demo on less than a day's
notice, not even a word of thanks - just a rebuke for not having a snapshot
of the code available. That was a bit rich - we'd been using CVS precisely
to ensure that we did have version snapshots available for whenever
we wanted. CVS apparently doesn't handle DOS line termination characters
very well, though - the problem eventually turned out to be that one of the
header files had been clobbered by a previous version on a check-in, and not
properly propagated. Hmm.

Anyway, I'm don't really want to think of this week any more - it's been
pretty miserable - so I'll just celebrate the fact that this web server is
back up again after a week of RedHat dependency hell. Long live Debian!

Blog Post - Friday, 1st March, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 1 Mar 2002

Well, for a bunch of software pirates, Web Warfare runs a pretty
frustration operation. The whole point of going there tonight was to play
a hassle-free game of Counter-Strike. So much for that idea. They
have about 20 machines there, and have re-used their Half-Life CD keys so
many times that on the SIX machines I tried I couldn't get
onto our match server.

I don't think I'll be visiting them again. On top of that, the human there
still charged me for the "Internet" access, even though the whole bloody
point of going there was to play games on the Internet, not
surf the damn web.

I wouldn't recommend the place to anyone, after this evening. That was
just pitiful. Oh, and it's also software piracy, so I hope they burn for

Blog Post - Monday, 18th February, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 18 Feb 2002

Whew! Finally, time for another update. Things around here have been pretty
hectic lately, but they're (finally) back under control.

The project that I'm working on at TRL had a demonstration deadline of
Friday of the week before last, and the code was finished very early
that morning after a few weeks of frantic development. This is what I get
for going away over Christmas and having to catch up after I leave - but
then, there was nothing much any of us could have done before Christmas as
we had no hardware to work on.

Anyway, the prototype works and was (apparently) a success in all the demos.
Well, at least the person we gave it to is taking it around to anyone he can
lay his hands on and showing it to them, so we must have done
something right... While we don't yet know for certain as to whether
the project is going to get proper funding, we at least have leave to wrok
on the thing some more. Which is nice, as there are a few bugs that
really need to be fixed before we start taking the thing on a demo

Syndia and I rearranged our unit yesterday, so it actually looks and feels
like there is some room to move again. We're in desperate need of another
bookcase though, and plan to buy one on the weekend. We actually had enough
books stacked in front of one of our existing bookcases that the bottom
three shelves were obscured.

Dan, Roger, Rhys and Ricky left for their world tour this afternoon and should be
arriving at LAX sometime soon. They'll be away for almost six weeks, which
means we're going to have to find some more people to liven the place up in
the meantime.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 5th February, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 5 Feb 2002

Still working on code for the iPAQ. Very frustrating, but I'm getting places
and it's starting to all come together. I just wish I had been in this
position at this time last week.

Blog Post - Sunday, 3rd February, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 3 Feb 2002

After a bit over a week of staying with Syndia and myself, my brothers left
Melbourne today. I didn't really get to show them around much myself as I've
been too busy with work over the past week, but the weekends and a few other
nights were good fun. On the other days, they managed to amuse themselves
pretty well without me

Have much to do before work tomorrow - I have to get a few more plugins
ready for this prototype for a demo at midday. Hmm... fun...

Blog Post - Friday, 1st February, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 1 Feb 2002

My birthday today! Much fun - had to code frantically all day to try to get this prototype done by this afternoon. Finally managed to get it working with about 6 minutes to spare. Rohan's plugin isn't completely finished yet, so I only had one of mine to demo to Andy and Belinda, but at least it worked.

Went to Web Warfare (no web site yet) this evening for a Counter-Strike competition. We went to this little bistro before that to grab some food, and a few of the TRL guys (Daniel, Clinton and Rhys if I understand correctly) vanished for a while and came back with a birthday cake for me. It was a really nice gesture from them - I hadn't meant to make a big deal out of my birthday, and it was just really nice that they thought of it.

At Web Warfare, there were a bunch of TRL people (about 8 or 9 of us) and most of us entered into the competition. It's a nightly event, with a $50 prize for first place, and $25 for second. No tricky rules - just whoever has the most frags at the end of the two hours is the winner. Oh, and no AWPs. I came in first of the TRL people, which was pretty sad considering that I came 10th with 44 frags, and the winner had a paltry 88. Yes, that's right - double my score. But hey, it was good fun, and I'm sure we'll be going back there before long.

Blog Post - Thursday, 31st January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 31 Jan 2002

Frantically writing code. More later.

Blog Post - Friday, 25th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 25 Jan 2002

Was at the fencing competition again today. Saw Tony fencing in the sabre,
where he was doing pretty well until his quarter-final bout. DE bouts are to
15 hits, and Tony was down 8-1, then 14-9. He had 6 points to make up, and
we weren't sure he could do it. Anyway, we saw him set himself when his
opponent reached 14, and staged the most amazing comeback to bring the score
to 14 points all.

At 14-14, his opponent came charging down the piste towards him, and Tony -
almost running backwards - jumped, took an amazing parry in 5th and a
beautiful riposte to his opponent's head, then was cheering and screaming
before his feet hit the ground. 15-14, back from 14-9 down. And since his
opponent was a kiwi, every Australian in the venue was cheering for him. It
was awesome...

Blog Post - Thursday, 24th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 24 Jan 2002

This morning I took David and Tony to the Fencing Factory in East Brunswick. David was fencing the epee and Tony had to have his gear passed through the weapons check.

It was good to see so many fencers again - since I've been out of the sport for a while, it was good to see so many familiar faces - and equally good to see so many new ones coming up through the age levels.

I spent some time talking with Leonie Austen, Simon Summerfield and David Mok about where to fence and where to obtain gear in Victoria. Had to leave shortly after that in order to get to work.

Blog Post - Wednesday, 23rd January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 23 Jan 2002

This morning I picked up my brothers, David and Tony, from the airport after
their flight from Brisbane. They're down for the U20 National Fencing
Championships, and are crashing with Syndia and me for the duration of their

Their first impression of Melbourne was - typically - a miserable, cold,
windy day in the middle of Summer. Driving back into the city from the
airport, they were greeted with such inspiring sights as the John Deere
Tractor Factory, a whole bunch of industrial buildings and a rain squall
just as we were crossing the West Gate Bridge. Not the kind of welcome you'd
find memorable in a positive way.

I had to go in to work after that, and since they'd had to get up a bit
before 3am to catch their red-eye flight, they were happy to just crash on
the floor, and were still there when I returned home that night. A small
amount of food later they were both ready to go to sleep again, making for
an uneventful first day in a strange city.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 22nd January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 22 Jan 2002

After the end of this month, I flatly refuse to write another line of code
under a Microsoft development environment or for a Microsoft operating

I am so incredibly pissed off right now - writing this stupid code for a
stupid project that has no future is driving mefing bananas.

Have a nice day.

Blog Post - Monday, 21st January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 21 Jan 2002

Had a look at the official Pocket PC 2002 upgrade for the Compaq iPAQ this
afternoon. It's mostly a cosmetic upgrade, but there are a few nice
tweaks. I haven't tested the VPN offering yet, but I hope it's a bit less
flaky than the pre-release code Microsoft were throwing around.

Just to ensure that I wasn't being completely stupid, I fired up VB today
and created the kind of ActiveX control that I wanted to write in Embedded
VC++. It took 3 minutes, and 2 of those were in starting VB itself.
Ridiculously simple. The image on the button behaved itself perfectly. I
don't know how they did it but it looks like I'm missing something that's
supposedly simple. The control just looks like it's missing out on a
WM_ERASEBACKGROUND or WM_PAINT message. Hmph. Running Spy++ spews message
notifications out like a waterfall - just to check what happens when I
click the button takes over 100 window messages. Not fun.

Tonight's tute at RMIT covered CSS pretty well. I'm not sure how much the
students actually absorbed though. If it's any consolation, they aren't
typing all the time when Shekhar's speaking now. I guess that means
they're either struggling a bit more and are having to pay attention, or
they've just given up and are completely asleep during the entire tute.
I'm hoping for the former, but the latter wouldn't completely surprise
me They didn't go as well in the first assignment as we were hoping,
although I haven't seen the final marks yet.

So tired...

Blog Post - Saturday, 19th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sat 19 Jan 2002

Spent a blissful day today, without coding a single line.

Woke up at 1230 or thereabouts and gave Daniel a buzz. He suggested that a
bunch of us come over and enjoy his apartment complex's pool, which we did.
By about 4pm (still very sunny here in Melbourne) Daniel and I were in the
pool, shortly to be joined by Vivek. Peter, Roger and Rhys were running late
so we went out to grab some food for a BBQ. When we returned we found them
waiting outside for us, so we all jumped back into the pool and spent
another few hours throwing a tennis ball around, hitting the ball (and each
other) with those foam "noodles" and relaxing in the spa.

The BBQ went off well, followed by a game of 500 and looking out over the
balcony at some poor idiot who had been conned into doing a lap of the
complex, naked, on a pushbike

All in all, a good day.

Blog Post - Friday, 18th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 18 Jan 2002

Woo-bloody-hoo - it's Friday. I can go home and forget about Microsoft for
at least 12 hours!

I made some slight progress with the ActiveX stuff today. The software
architects at Microsoft must be the most twisted, sadistic people
imaginable - and the documentation, while reasonably complete on the simple
stuff, is extremely scarce on the more complicated topics. Hmph. The
Linux kernel is so much easier to hack, and I'm only an amateur at that...

Anyway, enough about my Microsoft/ActiveX/Windows CE woes.

Went shopping this evening and picked up another air mattress for when two
of my brothers, David and Tony, arrive. They're flying in on the 23rd of
January for the U20 National Fencing Championships. The competition lasts a
few days, after which they're pretty much free to explore Melbourne as they
wish I've even had separate sets of keys cut for them They'll be
staying until the 3rd of February, which is nice because my birthday is on
the 1st.

Blog Post - Thursday, 17th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 17 Jan 2002

Made some progress today with the ActiveX stuff. Seems that if you
subclass a BUTTON object when you create the control, Embedded Visual C++
decides that you don't actually need a parent window for it. (i.e. The
docs appear to say that you have a main parent window, a control parent
window and then the instance of the control. This appears now not to be
the case.)

Managed to get the window messages pointed in the right direction - at
least they're now being received by the correct control. Not all the event
handlers work, however - it looks like we're supposed to implement our own
message map before anything wonderful is going to happen. Unfortunately,
because I can't use the debugger to trace through the objects, I'm at a
bit of a loss as to what's actually going on. Docs are fine, but not
everything is as per MS's notes (or even their "working" sample code).

Anyway, I finally managed to get the ActiveX controls displaying as
windows. Now to stick a bitmap into them. You have no idea how
difficult this was. It took almost 4 hours of poring over documentation
(remember again, I can't use the debugger for this and the function that
was failing is a boolean function - err, great, fellas - just what I need.
No error codes.) Anyway, that's mostly happening now, although I'm
still having some sizing images. The CBitmap class doesn't actually
tell you the size of the image - instead, it waits until you call
the SetImageSize (I think that's the name of it) method, and you
tell it how large the image is. Umm... yeah. OK.

Am thinking I'll just zoom the image to an arbitrary size when I load it,
then stretch it using another method, rather than actually figure out how
many pixels are in the damn thing. What kind of a programming environment
is this? I can't believe it, but I'm actually missing the normal VC++
environment, and that was my personal hell for a long time...

On a different note, on my way to RMIT this evening, I found an open
wireless LAN access point on Swanston St. Haven't mapped anything on it as
I'm only using an iPAQ with primitive software, but it's interesting to
know that it was there.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 15th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 15 Jan 2002

Having a bitch of a day with ActiveX controls under Win32/WinCE. Do you have
any idea how stupid Microsoft's programmers must have been to come up
with a development strategy like this??

To create an ActiveX control for a pure Win32 environment, you fire up VC++
and write it. Done. No problem.

To create an ActiveX control for the WinCE environment, you have to:
Fire up Embedded Visual C++ and create the WinCE ActiveX control
Close Embedded Visual C++
Open Visual C++ (the desktop edition)
Create another ActiveX control with the same name and UUID (in a
different directory), but don't implement anything
Remove all the files except stdafx.cpp from the project
Save that and close Visual C++
Rename the project and workspace files you just created to
filename_win32.dsw and filename_win32.dsp
With Notepad, go and edit the .dsw file to point back to the correct
.dsp file. Still following? Good luck...
Copy the updated .dsw and .dsp files into the WinCE ActiveX control's
Open up the .dsw file you've just moved into the WinCE control's source
Use a bunch of #ifdef ... #endif statements to comment out
your WinCE source so it doesn't break the Win32 compiler
Try to compile the thing for Win32.
Try again to compile the thing for Win32, after fixing the first batch
of stuff-ups.
Now try to register the bloody thing using regsvr32.exe and much
Fix more stuff-ups created by the code being written for the wrong
machine (remember, the Win32 environment supports ANSI natively and Unicode
under duress; WinCE only supports Unicode).
This is getting stupid...
Now, you have to use the version of the control you just compiled
for the desktop and emulation environments, and the WinCE version that you
compiled in the first place for the WinCE environment.
Oh, but you need both if you're developing on a desktop, which - wait! -
everyone has to do. And since the UUIDs are identical, this is getting
bloody confusing.

I'm heartily sick and tired of this already, and I've only really spent two
days on it. And it still doesn't work. Anyone want to write some Embedded
VC++ code? Take my advice, and go do something simple, mindless and happy -
otherwise you'll end up simple, mindless and very, very disturbed.

Australian Open woes: Andre Agassi is out, injured; Lleyton Hewitt is out
first round; the Scud is still recovering from a knee injury and probably
won't go all that well - this is all going to make the men's competition
pretty average.

Mr Williams is also out - injured - so the women's singles should be pretty
safe for Hingis...

Blog Post - Monday, 14th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Mon 14 Jan 2002

Felt very crook this morning. Woke up at about 3am and spent the next
few hours reviewing past meals. Not at all good. Missed a training thing
with RMIT because I was feeling too rotten to leave the house (I didn't want
to take a bucket with me). Ugh.

I'm finally doing some serious work again at TRL. Woohoo! I'll probably
regret that soon though, as I'm writing ActiveX controls and frameworks for
PocketPC 2002. It's probably not going to be all that enjoyable. But hey, at
least it's a challenge, and it's not Perl/CGI stuff.

Started making arrangements for two of my brothers to stay with us while
they're down for the Fencing U20 Nationals. Should be interesting - I've
suggested that they stay a few extra days, as they're not paying for
accommodation. Hopefully they'll get to see a bit of Melbourne while they're

Just noticed: the PocketPC emulator that ships with MS Embedded Visual
Studio plays many little clicking sounds - even when it's not doing
anything. It's incredibly annoying.

Blog Post - Sunday, 13th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Sun 13 Jan 2002

Had a pretty good day yesterday Woke up late, dropped in to TRL briefly
to pick up some bits and pieces, then went out for lunch with Roger, Peter,
Clinton and Daniel. Back to Roger (and now Peter's) place and went for a
walk around the roof. This isn't as stupid as it sounds - we were trying to
see how far we could see and what kind of mast we'd have to stick an antenna
onto to get an 802.11b link to another Melbourne Wireless node.

We were going to go war-driving for a bit of fun, but the Vaio we were using
has a pitiful battery life (it's the Intel-powered one, rather than the
Transmeta Crusoe, which seems to have much better battery life) and we could
only get 20-25 minutes of snooping out of it. We ended up turning around and
going back to Roger's place before we'd gone more than a few km.

After charging the Vaio again, we decided to go to Sofia for some
food. Hmm... Mass-produced Italian food in a MacDonalds atmosphere...
Servings were huge but the ambient feeling was more like Sizzler than
anything else

We did spot two open access points on the way there (before the Vaio dropped
out) which was interesting

After dinner we went to Rohan and Anna's party (well, since it was Anna's
birthday, Anna and Rohan's party...) and ended up staying in the spa there
for the better part of two hours. It's a hard life

Blog Post - Friday, 11th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Fri 11 Jan 2002

OK, I promised I'd write a quick review of the Ericsson T39, since I just
got hold of one and have had a play with it.

In short, it's very full-featured with lots of bells and whistles, but the
user interface is still well below par. There's a reason Nokia are
grinding Ericsson into the dust in the marketplace, and I'm amazed that
Ericsson haven't figured it out yet.

The phone is a tri-band (900, 1800 and 1900MHz) GSM toy, supports GPRS,
Bluetooth and infra-red, has voice-activated dialling and answering,
supports caller profiles and a whole bunch of other very cute stuff.

The menu structure is pretty ordinary, and users have to use the Yes
and No buttons (on Nokias these are the Send and End
buttons, respectively) to navigate through the menus. This is hardly
intuitive, but is admittedly slightly better than the previous versions. The
Clear button doesn't do anything useful while you're navigating the
menus, which adds to the confusion. Also, there is no actual Menu
button - you just have to use the Menu Up and Menu Down
buttons to start your navigation. Again, not very intuitive. Finally, the
menu structure itself is pretty average.

The screen is almost exactly half the size of a Nokia 7110, which is pretty
disappointing as the 7110 is a few years old now. Since the T39 supports
WAP, you'd think they'd give you as much screen real estate as they possibly
could, but... oh well.

All in all, it's a very cute toy but I wouldn't buy one, especially at their
current ticket price of just under $700 AU. Wait until Nokia bring out their
response to this little toy, then get it instead.

Just my $0.02

Blog Post - Thursday, 10th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Thu 10 Jan 2002

Was given a cute little Ericsson T39 to play with today. Haven't looked at
it yet, but I'll scribble a bit about it if it's as good as people reckon
it is. I also have a Bluetooth CompactFlash card that's supposed to talk
to it, but no headset for the phone so I can't test if they all play
together. We'll see...

Had my first RMIT tute this evening. The course material is pretty
trivial, but there are a few people who look like they'll take it a bit
further than the requirements, which is always good.

Visited the OnAir labs at the Rialto for the first time this evening, too
- very pretty, but unfortunately being after sunset I don't get to see the
view. Never mind

Blog Post - Wednesday, 9th January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Wed 9 Jan 2002

Finally managed to get some work done today.

Arrived back from Brisbane on Monday morning and was completely wrecked for
the next two days. Had to get up at 0600 (no big deal) to catch my 0815
flight out of Brisbane, arrived in Melbourne at 1130 (1 hour time
difference) and came straight to work. Fun...

I collected my machines from TRL and took them all home again, but only have
my workstation and the router up and running so far. It's a bit annoying
because my file server has all my documents etc on it, so I'll try to get
around to getting it back up tonight. The good news is that my place wasn't
broken into over the break, which means I didn't lose any of the stuff I
left behind. Was a nice surprise, really

I have my first tute at RMIT tonight.
Well, OK, that's not strictly true - I had one on Monday night but I was
too exhausted to go, after just having returned to the city and having been
run ragged for the entire day and the week before. So tonight is my first
actual tute. Should be interesting - it's a masters' subject, "Web
Site Construction," which means I'll probably be correcting rudimentary
HTML for a while. Hmm. Yeah, sounds like fun. But hey, they're paying me

Went looking for some retail antennae for the Melbourne wireless LAN project,
but couldn't find any for less than $400. Ouch. Had a chat to one of the EM
guys at TRL, who gave me a few pointers on building one, so that might
happen sometime over the weekend if I don't come up with anything better to

Blog Post - Tuesday, 1st January, 2002

Andrew Harcourt Tue 1 Jan 2002

Happy New Year!

Returned from the Sunshine Coast this afternoon after Simon's New Year's
party. It bucketed down yesterday afternoon, but we still managed to get
a few innings of backyard cricket when the rain lessened.

Almost everyone was feeling pretty poorly this morning, which was a bit
frustrating as Pete, Craig, Lloyd and I wanted to go to the beach and/or
some water-sports park in the area, but most others weren't interested
(read: were too hung over). We ended up going to the beach for an hour or
so, which wasn't too bad - a fair N -> S sweep and a bit choppy, but
otherwise OK.

Steve, the slack bugger, left Sim's early this morning and avoided any of
the cleaning up. Some excuse about having to get his sister back to
work... Hmm...

Have no plans yet for the next few days except to catch up with a few
people whom I haven't seen yet. If you're one of these people (and you're
in Brisbane) please give me a yell.

Blog Post - Sunday, 30th December, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Sun 30 Dec 2001

Am still up in Brisbane at the moment, so notes to date are pretty brief.
More when I get back.

Spent a couple of days down at Palm Beach with a few mates, then went back
home for Christmas and Boxing Days (and we flogged the South Africans in
the Boxing Day Test). Went to Ramblers in Toogoolawah yesterday,
but put my name onto the manifest too late to get a jump in. Bugger. Will
have to go back again soon. Going up the Sunshine Coast tomorrow for a New
Year's party.

At the moment, life's pretty good. At least, I'm not complaining.

Blog Post - Tuesday, 11th December, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Tue 11 Dec 2001

Stayed home today, so I could actually get some work done. The report I'm
writing is on such a boring subject (I didn't ask to write it!) that I was
too happy to accept interruptions. At home, I don't have the distractions,
and I've almost finished the thing. Can't wait.

It looks like the clan war against ZERO is off as well - they can only make
it for 30 minutes or so. I'm probably just going to play from home - I don't
want to drag two machines in to TRL for half an hour's gaming

The weather is still miserable, even though we're 11 days into Summer. I
pity the poor people who are staying here for Christmas - Gold and Sunshine
Coasts, here I come!

Made one last-ditch effort to get an iPAQ to keep a VPN connection up for
more than a few packets, but I don't think it's going to work. It hangs
whenever it starts receiving large amounts of data over the VPN connection,
which makes me think it's a problem with M$'s TCP window or framing code - I
can send small (eg. ICMP) packets to it forever and a day, but download a
single web page? Not likely

Blog Post - Sunday, 9th December, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Sun 9 Dec 2001

The CS mob at TRL had a match against the FS clan organised for today.
Unfortunately, FS, who booked the server and therefore were obviously aware
of the commitment, didn't turn up. Slack buggers...

After waiting on the server playing warm-up games for about 2 hours, we
decided to call it quits and go and get some food instead. The Pizza Hut
down the road ended up as our destination, which probably won't happen
again. The ice-cream tasted like zinc mixed with banana flavouring (it was
supposed to be vanilla!) and the bowls and plates were a bit short of clean.

Re-reading Larry Niven's Dream Park at the moment. I read it years
ago but couldn't remember who wrote it or what it was called, and when I
stumbled onto the book again in Pigs
Wings (their Melbourne shop is closing this week, after 30 years -
they're moving to northern NSW) I grabbed it.

Blog Post - Saturday, 8th December, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Sat 8 Dec 2001

Syndia leaves to spend Christmas in Brisbane tonight. I'm flying up on the
20th of December and leaving again on the 7th of January, so it will be
strange without her for a while.

We (the MLE clan) have a Counter-Strike match against FS tomorrow. We're
going to get floored, too - this is our first match as a clan and they've
played lots. I'm hoping to set up the huge Sony TV (at TRL - don't
bother breaking into my place!) with an HLTV stream from the server - that
way, if we're going to die, at least we can watch it in style

Can't wait to get home for Christmas... Just think: entire days where
the weather stays beautiful and sunny, rather than here where we get brief
periods of sunshine followed by equally brief periods of rain and hail.
Hmm... Gold Coast, here I come...

Blog Post - Wednesday, 28th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Wed 28 Nov 2001

Bought a wireless LAN base station today, along with a few bits and
pieces. It's a cute little toy, a Nokia A020 - not much more than a
glorified ethernet interface with a PCMCIA slot attached. It's currently
talking at 2Mbps using a Nokia C021 PCMCIA card (the original 802.11
standard), but will shortly be upgraded to at least 11Mbps. It's a cool
little toy.

It did, however, require a bit of network re-engineering at home. Since
anyone with half a clue doesn't trust WEP (and let's face it, even Wired
Equivalent Privacy taken literally isn't that great - how easy is
it to sniff packets off a wire?), I set up roma to act as a VPN
server for PPTP (ugh, I know, but it's all Windows CE supports) and IPsec
clients. Wireless clients are given a address when they first
connect, and can't get at anything except the gateway,, until
they establish a VPN connection to the server. They can do DNS queries on
the domain, but that's all. Kinda cute

Just before, I was lying on the bed, reading slashdot on an iPAQ with WLAN
and loving it. Today, for once, was a good day.

Blog Post - Monday, 26th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Mon 26 Nov 2001

Miserable day. Hate this city and its weather. Socceroos lost to Uruguay
in their last chance to qualify for the World Cup. Crap. Another 4 years
to wait before the next one.

Felt miserable this morning - stayed home.

Wrote no code today, but tweaked the CS stats engine a bit. Maybe I'll get
around to finishing my perl one soon - it's progressing slowly, but I'm
losing interest. I'm losing interest in most of the stuff I do at TRL - it
all seems pointless in the current wave of cost-cutting.

Yeah. Miserable day.

Blog Post - Saturday, 10th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Sat 10 Nov 2001

Woohoo! We won the election - John Howard has been returned as Prime
Minister for his third term. Like it or not, he's a responsible,
intelligent and honourable leader, and that's what the country needs right

Blog Post - Wednesday, 7th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Wed 7 Nov 2001

Did SFA today.

Supposed to write some HTML parsing code for TRL today, but I just
couldn't bring myself to do it. They hired me for R&D, not for CGI
programming, and all I've been doing for 6 months is - guess what - CGI
programming. I'm getting really sick of perl and
really sick of HTML. Can't stand it.

Played some CS on Wireplay - they had some weird lag thing going, so
everyone was pinging at about 600ms. Not good. Found another usable server
(imagine that - me, with a 56k modem, complaining that a server was laggy.
It was bloody shocking, I tell you) and didn't do too badly, considering
that there was only one other 56ker online and we were holding our own
with the LPBs

Hungry. Tired. Hate TRL and HATE HATE HATE CGI/perl/HTML. Wouldn't mind
coding something useful for a change - this code's just going to get
thrown out as soon as this bloke from OnAir gives me account info for one
of their database servers, so it's going to have a life-span of, oh, maybe
a week... Good way to waste a few days

Blog Post - Tuesday, 6th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Tue 6 Nov 2001

Had another idiot in a 4x4 run into me today. What is it with these
people? Moron was driving less than 1m behind me, and I had to brake for
traffic. Idiot. Wanted me to get out and fight him, but it would have
jeopardised my case against him if I'd bashed his head to a pulp.
Threatened to call police instead, and he became a bit more civil. Not
much, however. Not too much damage done to my car, but enough for me to
want to get it back from him. Will have to get quotes tomorrow.

Wrote ZERO code today. Might change that later tonight, but only to fix my
homepage. Couldn't be stuffed putting in extra hours for Telstra.

Can't seem to think of any good business ideas and given the state of the
IT job market right now, I doubt there's going to be much better on offer.
But hey, an R&D job isn't that bad; it's really just the red tape
that gets to me. This corporation, like most others, is run by accountants
and directors for short-term gains in the share price.

Blog Post - Monday, 5th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Mon 5 Nov 2001

Bludge day. Tomorrow is Melbourne Cup Day (public holiday) so I stayed
home today. Read Rich Dad's Guide to Investing again - just some
pertinent bits - then went looking for an online payment gateway. Why
re-invent the wheel? If someone's going to give me money, they can do it
via VISA.

Did some work today - fixed some GeckoMail web page code and
tweaked the CS stats page a bit.

Blog Post - Sunday, 4th November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Sun 4 Nov 2001

Bludge day.

Got up at 12:30pm, went grocery shopping with Syndia. Read PTS all
afternoon. Read AC's diary this evening.

Fixed the TRL CS statistics page. Apparently the stats generator was
counting multiple instances of some kills but not others. Weird. Was
evidently in the data storage routines though, as re-generating from
original log files fixed the problem.

Blog Post - Saturday, 3rd November, 2001

Andrew Harcourt Sat 3 Nov 2001

Some idiot 4x4 cowboy decided to drive in both our lanes, with the result
that I ended up with $50 worth of paint scratches and he has to replace a
$4000 panel on his Jeep Grand Wankerokee. Ho ho ho and all that jazz.

CS LAN party at TRL. Played very badly. Still second-top on the table but
will slip away if not careful. Toddler and BanthaPoodoo were on fire.

Fetchmail Multidrop

Andrew Harcourt Mon 2 Apr 2001

Disclaimer: This is an OLD, OLD blog post.

I shudder to think how much this PERL code looks like it was written by a C programmer...

If you still find it useful, great. If you'd like to mess with the code, great too. If you're really annoyed with fetchmail and it doesn't already have this feature built in, why not change the fetchmail code yourself and submit it to the maintainers? :)

Why don't I? Because I wanted to learn PERL...

I recently had some trouble with fetchmail and multidrop mailboxes. fetchmail handles mail well when a local address is found in the To: field of an email, but badly when it has to extract address information from the other headers of an email. In particular, people on the BCC list of an email (and who never appear in "official" mail headers) are likely to never receive emails addressed to them when handled via fetchmail with a multidrop mailbox.

I was also looking for an excuse to learn PERL (08/2004 update: wow, this page really is old...).

qmail has a nice solution where it inserts an Delivered-To: line into the mail headers. For virtual hosts, it prepends the domain name to the email account it was delivered to. My domain is, so when the MX host for accepts mail for me, it dumps it into a single account. The headers it inserts look like this:

Return-Path: [email protected]
Delivered-To:[email protected]
Received: (cpmta 5066 invoked from network); 2 Apr 2001 21:59:52 -0700
Delivered-To:[email protected]
Received: (cpmta 5062 invoked from network); 2 Apr 2001 21:59:51 -0700

Read this from the bottom up. You'll see that the first Delivered-To: line reads[email protected] and the second Delivered-To: line reads[email protected].

fetchmail can be configured to read envelope addresses. These are the addresses (such as the Delivered-To: line) that mail servers include in mail headers to record which account the mail was delivered to. This is an important distinction from which address the mail was intended for. You can tell fetchmail to use these headers by specifying the following in your .fetchmailrc file:

envelope "Delivered-To:"
qvirtual ""

Obviously, please change the qvirtual line to read your domain :)

The problem here is that fetchmail will only read headers top-down, and it matches the first one it finds. This breaks the envelope/qvirtual delivery process completely as fetchmail is unable to ignore the first line it receives. So if the envelope/qvirtual settings do not solve your problem, read on.

What we need to do is specify an alternate delivery agent, so that we can handle our processing ourselves. You can do this by specifying an external Mail Delivery Agent for fetchmail. Use the mda keyword to point mail to a script that you can copy and paste from here:

-- /usr/sbin/fetchmail-inject -
# fetchmail-inject
# Andrew Harcourt, 1 May, 2001
# this script removes a nasty header that fetchmail can't handle
# from incoming mail and then passes the mail to sendmail to
# deliver locally

# write the mail to a temp file on disk
# as we do, parse it for the address
# lines
local($outputName, $fromAddress, $toAddress, $cmd);

$outputName = "/tmp/message.".$$;
open(OUTFILE,"> ".$outputName)
|| die "could not open $outputName!";

while (<STDIN>) {
if (/^Delivered-To: uglybugger\.org\%uglybugger\@uglybugger\.org/) {
# just ignore this line - it's ugly
elsif (/^Delivered-To: uglybugger\.org\%(.*)\ {
$toAddress = $1."\";
elsif (/^From: .* /) {
$fromAddress = $1;
elsif (/^From: /) {
$fromAddress = $1;
elsif (/^From: .*/) {
$fromAddress = $1
print OUTFILE $_;


# check that we have our addresses correct
if ($toAddress eq "") {
$toAddress = "postmaster\";
if ($fromAddress eq "") {
$fromAddress = "postmaster\";

# now call sendmail to deliver the message
$cmd = "/usr/sbin/sendmail -f $fromAddress $toAddress < $outputName";


Good luck :)

Blog Post - Saturday, 14th October, 2000

Andrew Harcourt Sat 14 Oct 2000

Woohoo! I submitted my Honours thesis yesterday!! Yesterday afternoon was
spent playing in the Staff (+postgrads) vs Students Soccer Match. The
other Honours geeks and I were playing on the staff side. The result was a
3-3 draw, but since the students won last year they keep the trophy But
hey, who cares? Did I tell you that I finished my honours thesis?

My last exam (ever, in this degree) is on the 10th of November and I have
two major projects due before then. Nearly finished...

Blog Post - Wednesday, 30th August, 2000

Andrew Harcourt Wed 30 Aug 2000

I'm off to see the 'Lympics,
The Wonderful 'Lympics of Oz,
We're bigger 'n' better'n anyone else
'cause that's what SOCOG tell us...

Take care over the next month; I'm off to pretend to be useful to the
fencing by wearing a little headset and bossing competitors around. Have
fun watching it all on television - I'll at least be there in person

Blog Post - Saturday, 10th June, 2000

Andrew Harcourt Sat 10 Jun 2000

And again... It's been over a year since I updated this particular page.
And even now I'm not going to write very much. Sorry, people

I'm currently studying for my exams. Yes, really. That's why I'm writing
this page. Honest... Anyway, I only have two exams this semester, but as
this is my honours year, if I stuff up in either of them, it's sudden
death. Basically, if I score anything lower than a distinction (6), I
don't get first class honours. Very scary

Anyway, this was just a quick note to say that I'm still alive and plan to
be for some time yet Take care, people.

Blog Post - Saturday, 13th March, 1999

Andrew Harcourt Sat 13 Mar 1999

Ouch.. It's been a while since I had the time to update this page. Quite a
few things have happened since I last wrote, so I'll briefly summarise
them here.

My grandmother offered to let me live at her house for the duration of
this year and probably next, while I'm still studying for my degree. It
was very nice of her and helpful for me, as I no longer have to worry
about a strict rent agreement. I just pay board, which is less than the
rent that I was looking at. That also meant that I no longer needed the
telemarketing job.

I started out in the telemarketing thing without a problem - there was no
pressure to make a sale and everything went well. Later on, the people
started pressuring me to make more sales and, specifically, sell to people
who didn't really need the product. That was what finally made me decide
that I didn't want to do it. I had previously just refused to sell to
people who didn't need it, but I decided that I didn't want to work in an
environment where I was expected to do so. Bye bye, Springwood Fitness

Third year has started and I'm pretty much on top of all of my subjects
for the moment. Hopefully I'll be able to say that at the end of semester
as well. I'm only doing six this semester and am seriously interested in
four of them. My GPA should look GOOD!

Blog Post - Friday, 5th February, 1999

Andrew Harcourt Fri 5 Feb 1999

Wonderful. I was given yet another part-time job today; this one in
telemarketing. Now I have three, if you include the Army Reserve. The
problem is just getting people who want me to work for them to fit into my
timetable, which - considering I'm doing 58 credit points this semester -
is no mean feat.

Anyway, hopefully this one will give me enough guaranteed income that I'll
be able to move out within the month. Woohoo!

Blog Post - Thursday, 21st January, 1999

Andrew Harcourt Thu 21 Jan 1999

Wow. It's been a while since my last entry. That's probably due to my
joining of the Army Reserve. There are some fun stories to tell there,
too. More later.

Presently, I'm looking at finding a new job and moving out of home. As the
basic training for the Army lasted about seven weeks, I couldn't really
hold another job for that amount of time and I've temporarily resorted to
casual fencing coaching to pay for my food. Not to worry - another job
should be forthcoming very soon; probably at better rates, too.

I'll be moving out as soon as possible, preferably before the semester
commences in the end of February. My parents don't know that yet, so let's
hope neither of them are internet-literate enough to read this.

Oh, yeah.. The Army. Well, the Army Reserve, I hasten to point out.
There's no way in hell I'd ever join the regulars (Sorry, ARA people ;) ).
There's too much to tell here so just have a look at my Army Reserve page.

Blog Post - Sunday, 22nd November, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Sun 22 Nov 1998

Greetings. It's almost midnight, which is kinda early for me to be about
to go to bed, but I thought I'd scribble something here first. Try this

One has a head without an eye,
the other an eye without a head.
You may find the answer if you try.
Half the answer hangs upon a thread.

No, I didn't write it. Yes, I know the answer. If you're stuck, email me.

Blog Post - Saturday, 21st November, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Sat 21 Nov 1998

I have a whinge to make. The ALP (Queensland) has just decided to postpone
discussions on euthanasia until "a later date." In case you missed it, I'm
in favour of euthanasia because I have seen the effects a long-term
illness (or just plain age) can have on an individual and families.

Blog Post - Friday, 20th November, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Fri 20 Nov 1998

Woohoo! I've finished university for the year! It doesn't matter that I
failed a subject - I've finished and have holidays until the end of
February next year!! WOOHOO!!

Well, actually, I leave for boot camp on the 30th of this month and won't
be back until the 15th of January, but I'm looking forward to that so who
cares? 3 meals per day and at least 7 hours' sleep a night! For a
university student, that's heaven!

I'll be going down to Schoolies on the Gold Coast for a day or two later
next week, since I have a couple of friends down there with whom I can
crash. As long as I buy alcohol for them, that is Should be fun

Oh, yeah... That exam that I was going "ohshitohshitohshitI'mgoingtodie!"
about below was a shocker. I failed dismally. However, I left 42 minutes
into the exam (we're not allowed to leave for 40 minutes) and was *not*
one of the first 20 people to leave. It was that bad. Apparently the pass
percentage for the subject is 20% overall. I don't think I'll get it;
neither will many other students. What a shocker. But hey - who cares?
It's holidays! Let's party!!

Blog Post - Monday, 16th November, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Mon 16 Nov 1998


Woohoo. I have an exam tomorrow for which I need to know two languages,
Hope and Prolog, and get better than 85% on. Umm... help?

Blog Post - Thursday, 5th November, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Thu 5 Nov 1998

I have had a reallys two days. The transmission in my Falcon died last
night on the way home (at about 1:30am). Wonderful. It now only has first
and second gears. Shit.

I rang a Ford dealership to see what the cost of a replacement would be.
$2500. Shit.

I checked the prices of that model Falcon to see what I could get for it.
$4000 max. Shit.

I need transport. SHIT!

Anyway, looks like I won't have a car until I get back from boot camp.
Then I'll just have to buy another one with whatever I can get for the
Falcon. What a nuisance. Still, the old transmission has done over 326,000
km so it wasn't entirely unexpected

Blog Post - Tuesday, 3rd November, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Tue 3 Nov 1998

A conversation with some friends reminded me of some strange things I saw
on my way to Melbourne earlier this year:

A sign on the main road through Tamworth, reading "This road is funded by the Federal Government. Please do not blame Tamworth Shire Council"
On the road to Gundagai, there are *no* radio stations.
At Glen Rowan (significant for Ned Kelly's capture) there is a huge statue of Ned Kelly pointing his rifle at oncoming cars. Travelling around a small hill, it scared the hell out of me - I thought it was a police officer with a radar gun!
There is a place (in NSW, I think) called Dongdingalong. I'm serious! There's also a creek in Logan Village called Ooh Aah Creek.

Enough for now

Blog Post - Saturday, 31st October, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Sat 31 Oct 1998

An interesting morning. I have to fix the door on my mother's car. The
driver's side handle is broken (something inside the door is, anyway) and
she can't open it from the outside. It's kinda funny to see her trying to
pretend that there's nothing wrong with the door and she's just getting
into the car from the other side because she wants to

Blog Post - Friday, 30th October, 1998

Andrew Harcourt Fri 30 Oct 1998

Exams are almost here. I had my last lecture today and - true to form -
didn't go My first exam is on the 12th; next on the 17th and the third
and final is on the 19th. Not too bad as an exam timetable goes...

Training today was interesting. After a 2 hour drive to get to the Gold
Coast PCYC (in the rain, on the Pacific Highway, through the roadworks, in
the dark...) I arrived only half an hour late. My master, who has
arthritis in his right hand, was feeling better and gave me a lesson
right-handed today. It was good because he can exchange much better, but I
walked onto his blade a few times and felt really stupid. For 20 minutes,
there are few things more exhausting than a fencing lesson (yes,
that is included). I gave three lessons to some people from All
Saints Anglican College (I think) - all beginners. Hopefully they'll stick
around and will develop into a reasonable team for the schools competition
in 2000.

Leafing through the Beaudesert News and Views, the local rag, I
discovered that the Beaudesert Rodeo will be held tomorrow. Since I've
never been to one before, I might try to persuade some friends to come and
have a look with me. (If you're actually reading this, people, this means
you. Provided I know you, of course )

Blog Post

Andrew Harcourt Fri 23 Oct 1998

Woohoo. The first (and hopefully not last) entry in my diary of sorts.

An incident this afternoon reminded me of how stupid people can be and how
little so many of them learn from their mistakes.

I was sitting in the car at a red light this afternoon in Sunnybank, when
the light changed to green. Now, I was in a lane which was only
allowed to turn left, and there was a red arrow, so naturally I didn't
move. Unfortunately, this came as a surprise to the Audi driver behind me,
who did. For about a metre. Then stopped again, rather suddenly. Oops

The intellectually disadvantaged person (read: "f...... moron") had been
talking on his mobile and had just driven straight into the back of me.
Congratulations, friend. Anyway, we pulled off the road and got out to
inspect the damage. At least, he was going to inspect the damage; I was
just going to do some damage. However, when I checked the back of
my Falcon, all I could see was this little grey scratch on the bumper
about a centimetre long. No hard feelings, eh?

Not so for the Audi driver. He had probably done over $1000 worth of
damage to his car, including bashing in those pretty little linked rings
(the Audi logo). Oh well - not my problem. Unfortunate or not, it was his
fault and his problem, so I suggested (politely) that in future he keep
his eyes on the road and his mobile on hands-free. He told me where to go,
so I drove off.

This is the really sad bit. At the next set of lights, he pulled up next
to me on my left, about to turn left. As the light for straight ahead went
green and the red arrow stayed for left, he flipped me the bird and drove
off. Straight into the car in front of him.

On ya, mate!

About me

My name is Andrew Harcourt.

I'm a software engineer and project rescue specialist. I'm a Principal Consultant and Market Tech Principal at ThoughtWorks, a co-founder at Stack Mechanics and in my spare time (ha!) I also run my own photography business, Ivory Digital.


I'm a solutions architect and software engineer with extensive experience in large-scale, high-load, geographically-distributed systems. I specialise in project rescue, governance and development methodologies.

My main areas of interest are domain-driven design, event sourcing, massively-scalable service architectures and cloud computing.

I'm a regular speaker and presenter at conferences and training events. My mother wrote COBOL on punch cards and I've been coding in one form or another since I was five years old.


Cyclist. Photographer. Ballroom dancer. Motorcyclist. I love my outdoor sports - and anyone who won't dance is chicken.