About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

18 October 2008

Virtual Goods 2008

Or to give its full name, "6th International Workshop for Technical, Economic and Legal Aspects of Business Models for Virtual Goods incorporating the 4th International ODRL Workshop", held in Poznan, Poland. This workshop has had some interesting history; and I thoroughy enjoyed it last year and brings together a number of different aspects of computer science. As we become more digital, the concept of a virtual good becomes more tangible; and some of the ideas explored in the conference are more realistic that ever!

There were a few really interesting talks and presentations. The host university, demonstrated a virtual museum system, which had a wonderful way to interact with 3D virtual objects; in a very low tech solution; and a presentation by the general chair on why the "free" economic theory ultimately will not work was very interesting.

With authors from 6 continents (no one from South America, but a presenter from Tahiti!), there was a small, but very diverse group of papers and people. This was a very good workshop, and I hope I can contiue to be involved.

17 October 2008

Toilet Signs

The Poles use different signs to indicate male and female toilets - an useful guide to anyone needing a toilet in Poland :)

Triangle: Male
Circle: Female

Very different to other places in the world, and somehow more baffling ...

16 October 2008


It's reputedly the oldest town in Poland - oldest surviving town that is. And it shows - penty of old European buildings - but not as well preserved as those in Bruges :p But there is also a lot of Soviet influence - my hotel for one - and a bit of more modern influence. So the architectural mish-mash makes this place quite facinating.

Poland is reputedly cheap - but I am not sure why this reputation exists? My hotel for example is definitely not worth the money I am paying in my opinion - it is not bad per say; but definitely a bit overpriced. The same goes for the restaurants and cafes - the prices seem a lot steeper; even when converted and compared in Euros. But then other prices are very reasonable - the taxi from the airport to the hotel was quite reasonable for example - so I suppose it all balances out.

Overall, it has been interesting - there is no visibility of beggars or struggling people; but it's not posh - there are not too many fancy cars or shiny houses. It is I suppose, very industrial.

A big plaza near the centre of town

The University of Economics (host of conference)

A side street with some old buildings

"Merchant Quarter" of the old town centre

A WW2 Memorial (plus Autumn leaves)

14 October 2008

Car Insurance

So, the car I was driving since I came up to Jo'burg has been written off (although not strictly true). Basically, I stopped behind a person dropping off people (as if it was a taxi) and then I got hit from behind. The damage was a lot more than the value of the car; so it got written off.

Which is all a bit ironic; simply because I have been meaning to buy a new car anyway. But it is still damn inconvenient - I have had to rent a car for the past week or so; so that I can get around.

But what has been really interesting is getting quotes for car insurance. Being a single male aged 25; I automatically attract high premiums. In fact, I was told by one insurance agent that any car with an engine capacity over 1.6 l is considered high performance!

But what I found interesting is also the factors they do not consider when calculating risk; such as the regularity in consumption of alcohol, main driving routes, amount of Km travelled, time of travel and the maintenance record of the car - all the main factors that contribute to accidents.

Also interesting is the fact that many of the "low insurance" adverts were not low - Outsurance came out the most expensive (R4500!), Budget Insurance and Dial Direct were cheaper but still over R500 more than the quote I did take in the end. Also - Dial Direct, Budget etc - they are all still brokers - just brokers fronting for one specific insurance underwriter. So much for skipping the middle man.

So, I will get my car on 1 Nov (I am not in Jo'burg for most of October); and will post about that then ...

Movie: In Bruges

Bruges is a medieval town in Belgium; or as Ray (Colin Farrel) calls it in the movie - Hell on Earth. There are two hitmen hiding away after a job (which went slightly wrong); and it's a comic gem. Very fast dialogue - very English. It is a gangster movie meeting a comic movie set in an historic town. And it is done very well!

Movie: Vanaja

I don't usually watch Indian movies - well bollywood style movies anyway. It's not really the song and dance routines that bug me - but the actual storylines are usually all the same.

Vanaja, is I suppose also a movie about song and dance - but not the traditional musical. It is about a young village girl, who wishes to learn to dance the traditional Indian dance; and is taught by the mistress of the house where she works as a servant.

The storyline is somewhat heartbreaking; and somewhat bold for an Indian movie (dealing with child abuse for example) - the dancing is spectacular; and there is visible improvement as Vanaja improves through her training - giving a very authentic feel to the movie. And the writer/director submitted the movie as part of his Master's thesis!