Normandie 70 ans plus tard

As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy (6 June 1944), I’ve been reflecting on my visit to the region in 2012 and the continuing legacy of that fateful day. It was indeed an eerie experience walking on ground where thousands of soldiers had given their lives.

Gold Beach, near Arromanches-les-Bains, was one of the British landing zones. These days it seems to be a popular recreational beach, however reminders of its wartime role are ever-present. Remnants of the Mulberry Harbour built by the British to offload matériel lie scattered around Gold Beach.

Gold BeachMulberry Harbour, Gold BeachOmaha Beach, to the west, was one of the American landing zones. The terrain is steeper and more rugged, and it’s not hard to imagine how difficult it must’ve been for US forces landing here under enemy fire.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach fortificationCimetière américain de Colleville-sur-Mer (Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial) looks over the beach and is a sombre reminder of the costs of war.

Normandy American Cemetery and MemorialReflecting Pool, Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial The photos above are also on my Flickr photostream.

The Saturday Paper

It seems irrational to launch a print newspaper in the current milieu of newspaper-industry upheaval, and yet on 1 March this is exactly what happened. Imaginatively named The Saturday Paper, this weekly is published by Morry Schwartz (already known for The Monthly and the Quarterly Essay).

The Saturday Paper

Printed on high-quality stock (for a newspaper) in compact format, The Saturday Paper is all about long-form journalism and writing in its 32 pages each week. The first two editions contain only 17 articles each and none of the trivial/populist ephemera that dominates the mainstream “news” media. Full-page adverts offer a clue to their target demographic: Mercedes-Benz, Harrolds, Rolex, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of NSW, etc.

I’ve been concerned about the decline in the quality of journalism in Australia for some years now. The “broadsheets” (no longer printed in broadsheet format) have become almost as unreadable as the tabloids. Many of their best writers and senior journalists have left or been made redundant (with quite a few now writing for Guardian Australia and The Saturday Paper). This publication is a welcome addition to the Australian media landscape. Any new voice is crucial when we have the most concentrated newspaper ownership in the world (dominated by News Corp).

Winter is coming… to Sydney Uni

Studying for the physicians exams in Fisher Library a few weeks ago, I was delighted to hear the Game of Thrones theme being played on the University of Sydney Carillon (pronounced /kəˈrɪljən/). Honorary carillonist Isaac Wong was the one responsible, as seen in the clip below. Hearing it in person amongst the neogothic grandeur of the Quadrangle is quite epic.

 

My first Mac

It’s been thirty years since the Apple Macintosh was introduced on 24 January 1984. To celebrate the milestone, Apple have posted a Thirty Years of Mac feature on their website highlighting some of key machines introduced over the period and stories from prominent users. It also invites visitors to enter information about their first Mac – data is collated to determine the most popular machines and how people used their Macs.

Paper Mac and PowerBook G4

This is the only photo I could easily find of my first Mac – an Apple PowerBook G4 (12-inch, 1.33 GHz) from 2004. It’s there with its distinctive glowing Apple logo behind the Paper Mac. It was miles ahead of my old Dell laptop in terms of portability, design, power… and the sheer cool factor back in the days when Apple products were still niche.

We’ve come a long way since 2004 – x86 has replaced PowerPC, multi-core processors, solid-state drives, six major releases of Mac OS X, display technology has advanced from 106 ppi TN to 220 ppi IPS, &c. – but I’ll always feel a sense of nostalgia about my first Mac.

Canberra parking meters

Whilst in Canberra recently, I came across the following parking meter on Lonsdale St – an American POM Model N housing with modernised internals. This style of parking meter is also common in parts of the Melbourne CBD, but is rarely seen in Sydney (if at all) having been superseded years ago.

Canberra parking meter

I quickly noted several issues with this traditional-style meter (not counting the fact that it doesn’t accept credit card payments nor 5c/50c coins).

1. Parking rate is not clearly marked

The rates are printed on a sticker within the “window” section at the same size and weight as the rest of the text in that section. Whilst I acknowledge that there is only limited space within that section, the text could be bold or colour could be used to draw attention to what is generally the most important piece of information to the user. (I presume a sticker affixed to the housing would not be viable due to vandalism).

2. Parking rate expressed in unusual increments

Most people have a time interval in mind when paying for parking and want to know how much it would cost to pay for that interval (e.g. $3/hour). The ACT government presumably thinks that people have a monetary amount in mind and want to know how much parking time can be purchased for a given amount – I can’t think of any other reason why the rate is expressed in the unusual manner above “10c = 2 mins” and “20c = 4 mins” (i.e. $3/hour). Also, Canberrans apparently can’t multiply by 2 and need it stated as above but then mysteriously seem to be able to multiply by 30 (to calculate the hourly rate).

I did see/use modern parking ticket machines in other parts of the city, so hopefully the city will eventually make the transition. Don’t get me started, however, on the inconsistent road signs, multiple models of traffic lights, etc. – that’s a rant for another day…

Sherlock: transforming the Tube

It was great to see the return of BBC’s Sherlock with series three’s opening episode The Empty Hearse (spoiler alert). Others have already commented that there were inconsistencies in scenes that took place in the Tube (London Underground), some of which are particularly obvious because of the division of the Tube network into sub-surface lines and deep-level lines with different rolling stock used on each line. A few of the more obvious things I noticed:

Not the District line

St James's Park security footage

The supposed security footage of a train running on the District line between Westminster and St James’s Park actually shows a deep-level tube station and train, either a 1996 Stock (Jubilee line) or 1995 Stock (Northern line). In real life, St James’s Park station is only served by sub-surface lines (District line and Circle line) running D Stock and S Stock trains.

Bigger on the inside

London Underground 1967 Stock

When Sherlock and Watson find the missing train car sitting in a disused tunnel, it’s now mysteriously transformed into a 1967 Stock train (formerly used on the Victoria line). When they enter the train, however, our protagonists find themselves inside a sub-surface D Stock train (District line). It’s bigger on the inside! (Is it a coincidence that co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss also work on Doctor Who?) But at last the train shown is consistent with the plot.

London Underground D Stock

I’m sure there were good logistical reasons for all the swaps – it’s likely that the producers used whatever footage and sets were available rather than incurring the expense of building new ones just for consistency.