May 05 19 2005


The birds are different. All of them, except the pigeons. There's something that looks a little like a magpie (pica pica), but isn't. There's something that looks like a whimbrel, but isn't. There's a herring gull that isn't quite a herring gull.

The bird books are different. The helpful bookseller doesn't know which is best, but know which one sells. I have Slater. I hope it's the right one.


The trees are different, too. The coffee is different. A caf e crême is, more or less, a flat white. In Boston, flat white is a wall paint.


I left LA in the middle of the night, slept well on the plane, and arrived at Sydney the next morning. Well, the next next morning, thanks to the dateline.

And sleeping so well might not have been a good idea, because eight hours of sleep early on the 14 hour flight left me with plenty of jet lag time. For some reason, I think I'm going to have ferocious jetlag.


But there's Sydney Harbor out there, somewhere. The birds are all strange -- what's Australian for Peterson's? Or breakfast?

Tomorrow: Blogtalk Downunder!

May 05 20 2005

Color Scheme

Setting up my notes for Blogtalk Downunder, I made a fresh Tinderbox document with a few handy prototypes. Because I might want to show this to people, I wanted the document to look nice -- and to be easy to read. So, I set the map font to Copperplate Gothic, and I modified the color scheme with a few samples from yesterday's snapshot of the opera house.

Color Scheme

Recently, I read a color theory article in the graphic design space that proposed, when you're stuck, just grab some colors from a photograph.

One fun thing about Tinderbox: you can redefine what sort of red that "Red" is.

Blogtalk Downunder is under way, and struggling with really bad A/V problems. We're spoiled; this used to happen all the time, but in the last year or so, it seems that projectors have simply worked.

Makes me nervous, because I've got a 70-slide high-wire act. Things will work out.

Robert Ackland did an interesting study of the linking behavior of American A-List political weblogs. He found that conservatives link to each other; liberals link all over the place.

That gives conservatives a little more google juice, and that's worrying. But it's also what you'd expect from first principles: American conservatism has always been embattled and often anti-intellectual, while the defining characteristic of Liberalism is the possession of liberal interests.

At Blogtalk, Rebecca Blood makes a very interesting argument that weblogs are just one aspect of an increasing shift toward citizen science and, more broadly, toward broad participation in research that meets the highest standards. She calls these "professional" standards, but clearly we simply mean the best standards -- not the standards of the profession.

The audience here is oddly skeptical, from the tone of the questions. It seems clear to me.... (Both Blood and, earlier, Jenny Weight hold out lots of hope for the semantic web as a solution to the limitations of tools like Technorati.)

Andrew Bartlett is a senator in Australia. He has a weblog. He's giving a talk about the impact of weblogs on politics and politicians, and usefully distinguishes "real" weblogs from various kinds of simulated weblogs.

Weblogs are meant to be personal. The 'campaign diaries' so many politicians are publishing are lame.

One of his main points is the importance of not breaking the political blogosphere into separate left-wing and right-wing domains -- subsets that tend to agree and reinforce each other. This may be increasingly difficult in the US, in which polarization seems to be approaching a level of bitterness not seen since Reconstruction.

May 05 21 2005


My Blogtalk Downunder talk, which ran to some 78 slides, tried to argue that today's blogosphere needs to be protected, appreciated, and cultivated lest we accidentally ruin it.


In particular, bloggers need to understand that discovering and linking to a new, little-known weblog is an especially fine thing to do, while repeatedly linking to the A List may be actively harmful. Providing fresh lists -- what you're reading, what you'd like to see, where you plan to go -- is a gift to the Web. So is hard work and finely crafted writing. Sloppiness and second-rate thinking, on the other hand, does damage.

Michael Specht's notes are online. Adrian Miles, too.

Update: Gavin Sade:

The conference opened today with an inspiring presentation by Mark Bernstein. A podcast of his presentation is hosted on the conference blog. The central argument of the presentation was that the long tail matters, and it the long tail where the life is...

I repeated my Blogtalk II argument against comments -- it was one slide of seventy-eight -- and that one slide launched a lot of discussion.

The great thing about Blogtalk is the tremendous range of applications, Motivating students in Singapore to learn Chinese. Motivating governments to understand indigenous communities. Support communities for people who have miscarried. Writing in refugee communities -- including an intriguing critique of Digital Storytelling vis-a-vis weblogs. The Christmas Bird Count.

May 05 22 2005


Australian Ibis. Cockatiel Sulfur-crested Cockatoo. Rainbow Lorikeet. Pied Currawong. Crested Pigeon. Noisy Miner. In the city park!


Of course, I may be way wrong; everything is new, including the field guide. I had a terrible time with the crested pigeon -- think fat titmouse; I tried raptors, I tried parrots, I tried finches, before I remembered that outside New England there are some interesting pigeons. And I'm not entirely happy with the ID of the Miner, but I got a terrific long look and it seems plausible.

My goodness, but cockatoos are loud!

May 05 24 2005


Rebecca Blood
Blogwalk was interesting, although Sebastian Fielder is probably right in observing that the energy is different when the Blogwalk is the central focus, rather than a conference supplement.

During the conference, Rebecca Blood made some very interesting points about the parallel between weblogs and other important activities pursued by experts without the customary credentials. The Audobon Christmas Bird Count is one example, amateur astrononmy another. As higher education becomes more concerned with bestowing credentials rather than expertise, the knowledge network routes around the outage. (Rebecca and I engaged in a little street-theatrical sword crossing on whether the blogosphere is fragile and requires conservation, but I believe we're pretty much in agreement on the core idea.)

left: Sen. Andrew Bartlett. Right: Adrian Miles, RMIT

I'm also highly intrigued by Adrian Miles' work with video weblogs. He's got a crucial point about the way the meaning of your blog depends on what you link to, and who links to you: weblogs talk to each other. (My anti-comment stance, in this view, boils down to: 'Let your weblogs talk to each other; don't short-circuit the conversation between weblogs with comments because they get the context wrong and inspire conflict and unhappiness.

Yesterday, I caught a train for Blackheath, a small town in the Blue Mountains just east of Sydney. As I understand it, the East coast of Australia backs promptly into these craggy, tropical, and nearly-impassible mountains, and from then on west it's all pretty flat.


There's an impressive national park here, and I spent a delightful day trecking here and there, looking at mountains and waterfalls and birds and getting some very sore muscles.


Afterward, I asked a very nice and helpful ranger for assistance with some ids. She convinced me that the abundant birds that look like Yellow Rumped Warblers with big, downcurved beaks are really wattlebirds. But I saw a Red Wattlebird in a garden on the way back to the train, and it's a big bird -- easily three times the size of my talkative little flycatching acrobats. My best guess is New Holland Honeyeater.

The odd gum tree seems pretty impressive. A whole forest of gum trees, well, there you are. I understand that banksia is common where I was walking, but I'm not at all sure what a banksia is to its friends.


After quite a few miles of the cliff to trail -- the cliff in question having a strong tendency to indulge in very precipitous rises and ravines -- I had a nifty lamb pie at Gardiner's in Blackheath, waiting for the train, and a coupel of schooners of beer. I should learn about meat pies; it could be a very useful genre.

Michael Specht has posted exceptionally detailed notes on Blogtalk Downunder.

There's a big exhibit at the Gallery of New South Wales for the Archibald Prize, a major annual award for the best Australian portrait. It's been awarded for eons, it was once the subject of a famous lawsuit, and it's spawned a number of additional awards -- the Wynne Prize for landscapes, the Sulman Prize, and the Australian Photographic Portrait Prize.

One of the finalists for the photography prize, Kelley Munce, wrote that she used a Kodak point-and-shoot but that she just bought an EOS 20D and hopes to have a business up and running soon. So, she's not an amateur. But she's also not a pro, in the sense that she's using tools that amateurs normally use and she's not writing artist statements in the voice professionals normally adopt.

The point isn't whether bloggers are amateurs or whether journalists are pros. (Journalism is not a profession, incidentally. Rupert Murdoch hires you to write for one of his papers, >poof< you're a journalist. Rupert Murdoch can't make you a physician or admit you to the bar.)

Amateurism is not (quite) the point
May 05 25 2005

Weblog Dinner

Lovely little Tinderbox dinner last night at Finger Wharf, featuring Moreton Bay Bugs, a small crustacean of the lobster persuasion, and a very nice lightly-smoked ocean trout.

Oh yes, and a really nice d'Arenberg Shiraz-Grenache blend that Megan Heyward, author of the imminently-forthcoming Of Day Of Night, selected. Great to meet Tinderboxers Eric Scheid and David Phillips, too.

It's amazing, when you think about it, to travel to the far side of the world and dine with people with whom you've carried on an extensive correspondence. Though Sidneysiders seem to have a knack for going everywhere and knowing everyone; a cab driver yesterday was telling me about his friend in Marblehead, a newspaperwoman.

May 05 26 2005


Sometimes when traveling, Linda thinks I undertake a little too much.

Woke early this morning (with residual jet lag) to the pleasing discovery that the hotel, despite somewhat dreary decoration, has free wifi. Dispatched email, with tentative dinner plans and various bits of business, chiefly a response to a strangely unpleasant email from a graduate student at a Southern US university who suggested charmingly that our software wasn't "user-friendly" and didn't look very good and could he please have a discount?

Off in good time, for Victoria Market where I strolled many aisles of vegetables, fruits, meats, delicatessen, organic everything, baked stuff, etc. Ate some lovely hot donuts from a truck, then drank some flat white from a cafe.


After this, I ambled across Melbourne to the National Gallery of Victoria, stopping along the way to pick up a theater ticket for the night as dinner plans showed some signs of collapsing. The National Gallery has magnificent design exhibit with all the classic chairs: Barcelona, Corbusier, Breuer, and even a Rietveld which I'd only seen in books.


They also had a Frank Lloyd Wright office chair from the Larkin building, which a design student was earnestly sketching; amazing how Wright can take a conventional swivel desk chair and make it a Wright. Usually, Wright also made chairs uncomfortable, but since office chairs adjust, this one is probably safe.

The collection of 19th century academic paintings are fantastic, and almost unashamed.

Outside, I watched the parade for National Sorry Day, which is today. Then, on by tram to St. Kilda's, which appears to approximate Santa Cruz as seen in a mirror. The Esplanade was chilly, but Acland street was amusing. Cosmos books was very good indeed, right down to the sales rep pitching the next batch of design books to the buyers right in the middle of the shop floor.

Lunch at Cicciolina, which even in mid-afternoon was full of chattering groups, mostly young women who lunch. I had a souffle of swimmer crab, which was lovely, and then a single big oxtail raviolo sitting atop a handful of beautifully seared scallops, atop sauteed rainbow chard. There was a little bacon in the sauce, I think, verjuice, and beurre blanc. You wouldn't think this would work -- oxtail and scallops? But it does.


Tasty strudel at one of the East European cake shops for which Acland steet is famous, and then back to Federation Square, spending a few minutes with an elaborate digital storytelling exhibit that tends to confirm my perception of the strengths and weaknesses of orthodox Digital Storytelling. Oddly, I hadn't heard of this exhibit before, and it doesn't make any obvious reference to the Atchley/Lambert/Mullins crowd, but the stories seem completely according to Bootcamp rules. Parallel evolution?

Then rush back to the hotel to change and review tomorrow's talk, and then off to the Arts Centre Playhouse for Wars of the Roses, a marathon (3hr 45 min) but thrilling adaptation of the Henry VI trilogy in very modern dress. Letting the French have blue hair was a stroke of genius. Joan of Arc (Georgia Adamson) is played brilliantly as a sexy Jedi knight, and since the Duke of Burgundy is played by Julia Davis, this makes Joan's negotiation with Burgundy into an edgy dance of seduction. The performance ends with Richard, duke of Gloucester performing "Now is the winter of our discontent" as a rock ballad. Director John Bell is a wild fellow.

And so to bed.

May 05 27 2005


After the talk, we went and had lovely plates of dumplings. These were not quite as good as the crystal dumplings in Singapore, but very tasty indeed.

Then, walking back toward the art museum (late afternoon was spent in the Australian galleries), I came across half-price tickets to tonight's performance of Pinafore and Trial By Jury by Opera Australia. It's terrific to see these performed so well. Almost all the Gilbert and Sullivan I see is amateur -- often very talented and extremely well-rehearsed amateur, but amateur nonetheless. Now, we've been talking a lot about the pros and the amateurs lately, and in writing I'm not sure I see much difference. In Gilbert and Sullivan, though, I have to admit it matters:

  • People hit their notes.
  • People know they're going to hit their notes. You don't see them getting ready, you don't see them making disaster plans. That translates to acting and dancing.
  • Because the singers know they're going to hit their notes, and the orchestra knows they are going to hit them too -- yes, even the brass -- the audience can relax. You don't have the shadow of the ideal score in the back of your mind, pasting over the problem points. That makes for better user experience.
  • The sets don't fall down. The actors know the sets won't fall down. They can swing from the railings, they can slide at the end of the dance, they can throw things.

I don't know if it was the hearing aids or the hall or the company, but the performance was loud -- even back in row P. Again, if you aren't worried about hitting your marks and hitting your notes, you can really stand up and speak out.

Movida, a Melbourne tapas place, is very hot. Adrian and I couldn't get in the other night. I had a 7:30 curtain and thought, "I really shouldn't skip dinner entirely", so I went way early and had a very nice scallop, in its shell, with a bit of tasty ham and a spritz of potato foam with my Hewitson "Miss Harry" shiraz/ grenache/ mouvedre. Not the equal of the dayboat scallop of legend, but good.

Then I tried a little smoked pepper filled with swimmer crab and potato, deep fried, with some mayonnaise. Nice texture, looks lovely, a bit bland.

The hostess asked if I were still peckish. I didn't think anyone had said "peckish" in generations, not unless they were in costume, so I perhaps I was or ought to be and, after a brief discussion, settled on some potatoes a la pobre, with olive oil, peppers, garlic, bay leaf, a little herb. I'm pretty sure they made this to order, which seems extravagant. I didn't mind the time, but I'm taking up space at the bar and though it's only 6:30 they're already pretty well packed.

May 05 29 2005


The big art museums in both Sydney and Melbourne are big, and both have vast, flexible, and impressive spaces. These are museums with lots of space, space they often use extravagantly. Compared to Boston's MFA, which has far too few rooms and far too few walls, it's an emphatic statement. (The Centre Pompidou has the same effect. Neither the Tate Modern nor the d'Orsay feel extravagant in this way, though they're built in vast industrial spaces)


All the modern museums seem to enjoy this gesture of showing you the city in its own frame. Most architects set it off behind a partition; Sydney integrates it rather nicely. Australian museums are also the masters of very dim, dramatic lighting as here, and even more so in the Melbourne exhibit of Bill Henson's lusciously dark, monumental color photographs.

May 05 31 2005


For a late dinner tonight, I had a plate of prosciutto with slivers of fresh figs, crumbled bleu cheese, and some rocket. This is a nice combination, one I'd like to remember for guests since it doesn't require a ton of last-minute prep and would work either before or after a meat or a fish course.

Yesterday we stopped at a bakery that offered fresh duck eggs at very moderate prices. Today, I tried a Thai duck omelet with red-cooked pork, baby corn, etc with a nice Yarra Valley Viognier from one of the vineyards through which we drove in yesterdays day of birds and grapes.


Up the Yarrah for birds, and down again for wine. Very tasty wine indeed, especially at Punt Road.

A king parrot, possibly amused by the Crimson Rosella that had alighted on my head

In a word, wow.

  • Australian magpie
  • Magpie lark
  • Common Mynah
  • Australian Wood Duck
  • Eastern Yellow Robin
  • Laughing Kookaburra
  • Pied Currawong
  • Striated Thornbill
  • Common Bronzewing
  • Sulfur-crested Cockatoo
  • Galah
  • Eastern Rosella
  • Crimson Rosella
  • King Parrot

Below, there's a nice picture of some nice cockies.


An old friend from Boston has gone Australian, and explained cockies and stubbies and pokies thus:

Q: Does the fact that a guy shortens lots of nouns to two syllables with a diminutive mean he is out and proud?

A: Nope, they all do it: Chrissie, pressie, barbie, brekkie, bickie, cuppa, rellies, schoolies and of course Aussie. "Arvo" for afternoon is the one that gave me the most trouble because it DOESN'T FOLLOW THE PATTERN) ... ooops, started to rant a bit there ...


Adrian knew there was a Superb Lyrebird somewhere nearby, but we couldn't find him. No worries.

by Sarah Turnbull

The Sydney bookstore had a display of 100 recommended books. The list was intelligent -- not pompous, not erudite, but thoughtful and companionable. I'd never heard of this book about an Australian woman who moves to Paris, and under the specious impression that it was a novel rather than a memoir, I bought it. (Books in Australia are expensive, by the way.)

Turnbull is smart and observant. She writes clean prose, and for much of the book manages to avoid cliché. Towards the end, we have a series of rote chapters on Peculiar French Affections -- couture, cuisine, poodles; these would have been better left out, but I'm inclined to assume that someone made Turnbull add them in the first place.

There's not enough, really, about her Australian-ness. That's the point, really: it's not just An American in Paris, because that's been done, and it's not just A Nice Girl In Paris, because that's been done too. It's this, specific Aussie in Paris that we're here to see, and sometimes she's so shy and modest that she leaves out key bits. She flies to Paris (from Bucharest where she's trying to be a Young Journalist) to meet a man she hardly knows, a man whom she is eventually going to marry. When do the sparks fly? She never gives us a hint! Somehow, they got from "you must visit me in Paris sometime" to sharing a bed and a terrier and a mortgage; we ought to have a clue.

Is this reticence Australian? Or just Turnbull? Or her editor? The cliche of falling in love in the streets of the 4e arrondissement might have scared her off, but the cliche of 'my first fashion show' didn't.

What we're missing here are the intimate, unexpected notes that teach us about personal and national character. We don't need interesting revalations from the boudoir, but if it's a book about being young and Australian in Paris, it might be nice to have more youth and tucker and a little less schtick about her adorable little dog.

Jun 05 1 2005

Not Birds

This is not Austria; there are kangaroos in Australia. Here are three (yes, three -- Hi, Joey!) of a mob we saw today at Serendip.

Not Birds

Kangaroos are sociable, but when they decide the party is over, they depart with elegance and grace. And when the kangaroos decide they'd like to jump over the fence, they don't even break stride. Just a little extra bounce to their step and they're over. Movies and zoos give you no idea.

Not Birds

There were also some emus about. Emus are big, curious, and they aren't particularly worried about consequences. They're easily bored, though; this fellow had no interest in weblogs at all.

Not Birds

Later, in the Brisbane ranges, we found this sleepy fellow in a tree.

Not Birds

In fact, we met four koalas in various trees. All were drowsy, though one was clutching a tasty eucalyptus stalk just in case it wanted a midnight snack.

  • (gray kangaroo)
  • (swamp wallabee)
  • (koala)
  • emu
    Not Birds
  • pied cormorant
  • australian pelican
  • white-faced heron
  • white-necked heron
  • australian white ibis
  • straw-necked ibis
  • new holland honey eater
  • gray teal
  • chestnut teal
  • crimson rosella
  • laughing kookabura
  • nankeen kestrel
  • magpie goose
  • cape barrren goose
  • swamphen
  • eurasian coot
  • pink-eared duck
  • pacific black duck
  • golden whistler
  • masked lapwing
  • willy wagtail
  • superb blue fairy-wren

You've got to like the naturalist who decided this was the superb blue wren.

Not Birds

And so it's time to set the alarm clock; I rise at 5 (ouch!) and it's off to Boston for the night, and then to New Jersey where there are few roos.

Sep 06 23 2006


Did I mention that there's something in the Australian air that makes me want to do too much?

Today was a lovely Spring weekend morning and I thought it would be the perfect day to see those legendary beaches. OK, I did that at Waikiki and I didn't really have that much fun. But still: when in Rome. So I bought a ticket on the (overpriced) Bondi Explorer bus and headed for the exotic East.


I spent an hour walking around Nielsen Park, which was nice enough and had lovely views of Sydney, and was surrounded by impressive houses and by cars with enigmantic bumper stickers. -- the extra period in the URL is not a typo. Huh? Then off to Watson's Bay and Doyles for a lunch of nice fried Barramundi and a nicer oaked Chardonnay.

And then to Bondi, which was chock full of cheerful people, just like you see in pictures of Coney Island from the old days.


And then I walked from Bondi to Tamarama, Brontë, and Coogee. The cliffs were scenic: this means they were high. The beaches were lovely: that means they were at sea level. Everyone was having a terrific time, mostly because they weren't wearing many clothes and they were staying in one place rather than walking up bluffs.


There were some nice aboriginal rock carvings, and in one place by the path I stumbled across what seems to be a scatter of potsherds. Ward-Perkins points out that pottery, once broken, is just about indestructible and so most of the poetry pottery that has ever been made is still kicking around. But still: who breaks pottery on the beach in Australia?


Coogee was a sight for sore eyes, and also sore muscles. It was interesting, in this short stroll, how different each beach seems to be. One had lots of teens and tweens doing athletic things, one had lots of little kids, one had lots of people from far away. There was a crowd of Japanese tourists who were playing a game of one-legged chicken that attracted participants from up and down the beach.


Not long ago, if you wanted to go from Boston to Sydney you spent months en route, and ran risks comparable to undergoing a coronary bypass. Now, it's just a long plane flight followed by a very long plane flight. (Even this is going to vanish shortly; when the next Boeing comes online, it'll be one long flight.) The time difference, of course, is ferocious.

Jet Lag Day

My hotel turns out to be an auxiliary function of the Masonic Club, which is interesting because Linda and I spent last Sunday at the Lexington Museum of Our National Heritage, which is a Masonic headquarters.

I arrived early in the morning, checked in, and thought it best to keep moving. I walked over toward the Art Gallery of New South Wales, passing this uniquely Australian statue of Burns.

The Gallery has some magnificent rooms of Victorian era art, mostly British but with some very fine representatives from France and Germany. Here's a wonderfully sentimental statue about dead kids; we used to make fun of the Victorians because their art harps so on how you are supposed to feel about things, but sometimes stuff happens and you don't have the foggiest idea about how you ought to feel about it, and that makes deciding how you do feel about how you feel even harder than it might otherwise be.

Jet Lag Day
Jet Lag Day

To continue my Australian theme of trying to do too much, I followed this by a stroll through the botanical garden and bought some theater tickets at the Opera House. Then home, quick change, and an early feast at CBD (across from the Grace Hotel, Macarthur's headquarters and apparently the only building in the world influenced by the Tribune Tower in Chicago). The highlight was a very well-made and well-cooked pheasant sausage, served with one fondant potato.

Jet Lag Day