Firstly, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Sydney!

Okay, now that’s out of the way I can admit that I’ve been extremely remiss in keeping this blog up to date. I’d say that I’d make a New Year’s resolution to keep it more up to date, but the cultural consensus seems to be that that might even be counterproductive.

Anyway, since I last made a personal update, a fair amount of stuff has happened:

  • I sang in the chorus for Tchaickovsky’s Queen of Spades in the Opera House. It was pretty cool! The Opera House is actually a pretty nice venue, and to my eye it doesn’t really look dated at all. You can read a review here.
  • Of course, no description of a musical performance would be complete without some musician-bitching:
    • The lead tenor, Stuart Skelton, was fantastic. It’s a beast of a part, he’s on stage and singing for almost all of the three-hour marathon! But he handled it, and injected a lot of character, considering it was a concert performance.
    • On the other hand, I was pretty unimpressed by Ashkenazy. For a legendary conductor, his conducting was pretty weak. In trying to figure out what was the problem, I realized that most good conductors keep their hands moving between beats. This means that whenver you look at them, you have some idea of how fast things are going and when the next beat is going to happen. Not so with Ashkenazy. His hands are hardly moving except for when he beats, which happens as a single jerk. It’s horrifically hard to follow, and it also means his upbeats are tremdously uninformative. This meant that tempo changes were always pretty shaky. Disappointing.
  • We had a big party at work for the Melbourne Cup, which is a horse-race that, for typically random historical reasons, is a huge deal around here. We got the whole Sydney office on a huge, glass-fronted boat and sailed around the harbour. Before being served a three-course meal. On the boat. Apparently it’s the only day when wearing a suit to work is mandatory.
  • Helena visited for two-and-a-bit weeks. We did the usual touristy things, including doing a day-trip to the Blue Mountains. Which was interesting, because it was unusually cloudy: we actually could hardly see anything at the beginning! It cleared up later in the day, but it didn’t feel much like being in Australia normally.
  • I started playing squash! (Hard to believe, I know.) As I understand it, the mean-time-to-heart-attack for squash players is about a month, so this may even get me off the hook for maintaining this blog!
  • I finally caved in and started learning Haskell. For quite a while I’d been occasionally trying to fit the mathematical concepts I’d got from category theory etc. onto practical computer science. I wasn’t getting very far, mostly because the way they’re used in practical computer science is quite different from the theoretical way. It’s no use knowing that List is a functor unless you know that it’s the type constructor that’s the functor in the category of types. Anyway, I figured the best way to actually learn about this and hopefully connect it up to actually programming was to dive into Haskell.
    • The Learn You a Haskell tutorial is excellent, particularly the later sections. It’s trick is to be extremely methodical, without seeming to be!
    • I’m now working my way through the Write Yourself a Scheme tutorial, because obviously the first thing one should do with a new programming language is write an interpreter for another one.