Thursday, 17 February 2011

Grape vs. Grain

As a beer lover who also drinks wine, clearly Grape vs. Grain is an important book:

Why is wine considered more sophisticated even though the production of beer is much more technologically complex? Why is wine touted for its health benefits when beer has more nutrition value? Why does wine conjure up images of staid dinner parties while beer denotes screaming young partiers? Charles Bamforth explores several paradoxes involving beer and wine, paying special attention to the culture surrounding each. He argues that beer can be just as grown-up and worldly as wine and be part of a healthy, mature lifestyle. Both beer and wine have histories spanning thousands of years. This is the first book to compare them from the perspectives of history, technology, the market for each, and the effect that they have on human health and nutrition.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Perth International Arts Festival Calendar

A busy calendar of PIAF events over the next month.

Human Interest Story was excellent. The new Heath Ledger theatre is delightful but possibly overstaffed.

The Red Shoes was very clever and amusing, but the venue — the Octogon theatre — is showing its age.

The Gwilym Simcock Trio at Becks was most mellow. Rode to the venue on a lovely Perth evening, and sitting out under the night sky in the shadow the city was fabulous.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The force of numbers

It is no trivial thing to reference fractal mathematics in a column about cricket, but Peter Lalor described the statistics of the Australian failure in the recent test series as a Mandelbrot set of misery.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


Column Five has some nice infographics. However, they are not in the same league as the work discussed by Edward Tufte. The map by Charles Joseph Minard — showing the losses suffered by Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign of 1812 — may not be "the best statistical graphic ever drawn", but it is very good.

Alma Timelapse, Atacama Desert

ALMA Time-lapse sequences - June 2010 from Jose Francisco Salgado on Vimeo.

Perth International Arts Festival opening

Went to the Supreme Court Gardens last night to see German theatre company Pan.Optikum perform Transition. Excellent music throughout and the fireworks at the climax were spectacular.

Manhattan skyline as a giant pinball machine

Manhattan 4.33pm from Lizzie Oxby on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Many eyes

Followed a link to IBM's Many Eyes project. Some interesting visualisations here. A comparison with Wolfram|Alpha would be interesting.

Bitchy Beaufort street

As a child living in Mount Lawley, I always thought it was a suburb trying too hard. The item Small bar guru slams Perth pubs tells me that nothing has changed.

Accountant steals $1 million

There are people you meet who you are sure are crooks and others you think could never be crooked. Neil Colwell, my accountant for several years falls, into the second category. So, when you read the headline accountant steals $1 million and that he pleaded guilty, it is hard not to be surprised.

The spy who took NZ intelligence for a ride

A most amusing story about NZ intelligence and the dangers of hiring a British fantasist. Would make a good film.

Angry minds at work

From the November 1964 Harper’s Magazine, Richard Hofstadter's essay The paranoid style in American politics makes interesting reading and, perhaps not surprisingly, is still applicable in these 'troubled times'.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Unaffordable housing?

I enjoyed Terry Ryder's column Unaffordable? Nothing of the sort in The Weekend Australian. Some quotes:
The report on which these claims are based is a document believed by some to be designed to harass government into giving property developers a free hand. The Demographia report arrives at its conclusions by comparing Australia with just six other countries and by adopting narrow parameters. It uses the results to campaign for an easing of regulations.
Surveys show journalism is among our least trusted professions because many journalists do not do their jobs with integrity.
The Demographia report's methodology is questionable. It uses a median multiple -- the median house price divided by gross household income. If banks used this system to determine affordability, they would lend to almost no one.
Perhaps the worst element of the report is the use of an arbitrary system of ranking locations as "affordable" and "unaffordable". Only locations where a typical house costs less than three times average income are deemed affordable.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Current NGV exhibitions + Look!

Last week I was in Melbourne taking a couple of days long service leave. I had free tickets to Gustave Moreau and the Eternal Feminine at NGV International, which I found to be over-rated and quite underwhelming. On the other hand, there were four outstanding free exhibitions:
  • Stormy Weather (I particularly liked the works by Rosemary Laing and Nici Cumpston)
Also, I visited the State Library of Victoria to see Look! The art of Australian picture books today, which was excellent. One of my favourite Shaun Tan pictures was there, as well as Captain Congo and the Maharaja's Monkey, which my children would enjoy.