The BOM gets it wrong

Well, we all know that they get it wrong, but that’s not surprising since it’s a tricky job to predict the future. However, since they don’t ever tell us how accurate they are, we never knew exactly how wrong they were. Until now.

Average of differences between temperature forecasts and observations (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth)

The chart above is the result of some analysis on the data I collected over a month (between 25th February and 25th March 2007) for the cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. The first thing you’ll notice is that the 7-Day forecasts are not as accurate as the 1-Day (i.e. tomorrow) forecasts, and that as the forecasts head off into the future, they get less accurate. This is as you’d expect.

Other things to notice are that (i) Maximum temperature forecasts are generally less accurate than Minimum temperatures, (ii) The Melbourne Maximum temperatures are the least accurate, while Sydney Minimum temperatures are the most accurate, and (iii) none of the curves are heading towards zero, i.e. the forecasts for the following day are still a surprise.

Since the data is collected over the course of only one month, it’s hard to say if this sample is representative of all Bureau of Meteorology forecasting, but at least we now have some idea of their accuracy. The rule of thumb seems to be that the next day forecast will be out by on average 1.5 degrees, and the 4-day forecast will be out by on average at least 2 degrees. This is better than I thought it was going to be, to be honest.

I’ll probably continue to crunch the numbers and see if anything interesting comes out, but I think I’ve won my bet.

Hints for hinges

We’ve had fun over the last couple of weekends putting together IKEA furniture. It was our first wrestle (although probably not the last) with assembling their flatpacks, and easier than I feared. Although, I now have to agree with a friend who pointed out that IKEA is a conspiracy against single people – it would be very hard to put together if there was no one to help hold things. On second thoughts, it’s more of a conspiracy against friendless, orphaned, single people. See, we all knew IKEA couldn’t be as squeaky clean as they tell us.

Anyway, there was a point in assembling one of the pieces that the instructions failed us. In case anyone else has the same problem, hopefully a web search has sent you here and all will be solved. We had a problem with the IKEA hinges. They are very good hinges (actually produced by a company called Blum), but we had a problem attaching the two parts of the hinges. But only on one piece – the Effektiv storage cabinet. Different hinges are used on different items, and the Effektiv hinge is on the left, while the Pax hinge is on the right.

Effektiv IKEA/Blum hinge Pax IKEA/Blum hinge

The hinges look very similar, but require slightly different approaches to attach. The Pax hinge (on the right) snaps on by clipping the clasp piece on the door onto the end of the cabinet piece nearest to the edge, then pressing the the hinge until it clicks at the back. The Effektiv hinge (on the left) is similar, but can fall off after you’ve done the above, unless you also tap the hinge with a mallet. This is all that’s required in order to fix the hinge.

I hope no-one else gets stuck like we did…

Forecasting Conspiracy?

Weather Station, MelbourneOn the weekend, I (perhaps impulsively) agreed to a bet with a friend who claimed that Melbourne’s weather forecasts are accurate, while I suggested that they were slightly better than totally random. I am to record the 7-day forecasts for the next month and see how accurate the 4-day forecast is for Melbourne (compared with say, Sydney or Perth).

Since the Bureau of Meteorology does not publish their historical forecasts on their website, or indicate their forecasts’s probabilities, I think they must be embarassed by how imperfect their art is (at least when it comes to Melbourne). In a month’s time, we’ll know if that’s true, or if there’s a more likely explanation…

Back from India

Sitting on the Cancer sundial in JaipurAlthough Kate’s written a great summary over on the travel blog, I just wanted to mention that I’m back from India. It’s full of amazing sights, sounds, and smells. And, it was incredible to be a small part of AD’s wedding over there.

The only negative was that I picked up a bug over there and fell sick the day after we got back. On one of the internal flights, I sat next to a guy who coughed on me for a couple of hours, so it’s no surprise really that I caught it. It’s just a bit mundane that it wasn’t the water, the food, or the animals, and it’s the sort of thing I could have picked up on a flight to Sydney. Anyway, all’s well now!

Queens of France and England

Why are we so interested in royals and Royalty? Is it their power, prestige or inbreeding? Certainly they live in a different world from the rest of us, and a couple of recent films make this point quite well.

The Queen

A watchable new take on the death of Diana.

This fictionalised biopic shows the early weeks of Tony Blair’s government in the U.K. and the development of his relationship with Queen Elizabeth II in the context of the death of Lady Di. The events of this film date back to 1997, so we’re talking almost 10 years ago now, but the impact still resonates today.

There are still unresolved conspiracy theories around Diana Spencer’s death. Blair is still in power and his government has led significant changes in the U.K. and on the world stage. The health of the monarchy in the U.K. continues to be debated. All of this stretches back to the material in this film, that weaves together fact and fiction seamlessly. We can really believe in this version of the characters.

The film also presents the massive contrast between the worlds of the U.K. Prime Minister and the U.K. Head of State. However, this is done with balance and a respectful touch. Both royalists and republicans will find something to enjoy in this.

I was surpised to find myself feeling considerable sympathy for Queen Elizabeth by the end of it all. Credit for this has to go in large part to Helen Mirren who carries the title role admirably.

My rating: 3.5 stars
***1/2

Marie Antoinette

Cinematic but slow.

Sofia Coppola casts Kirsten Dunst as the last Queen of France before the revolution. No, really. However, it’s quite clever, and together with a modern soundtrack lifts the historical Marie Antoinette character out of mythology (“let them eat cake!”) into a place where we can relate and almost empathise with her. This is the principle achievement in this period drama filmed entirely on location in France.

Coppola has based the movie on a book, but it could have been a picture book. There is little dialogue, but an emphasis on stunning visuals. Initially, I found this helpful to maintain the same sense of wonder than Marie Antoinette was clearly feeling at the same time. But as the film wore on, this feeling wore out. It all became rather dull.

Lost in Translation, Coppola’s previous film, has a similar feel, but it wasn’t as sparse and not as long. Marie Antoinette runs for two hours, and I was fidgeting a bit by the end. I think I would’ve preferred to flick through a coffee table book with photos of Versailles, clothing, shoes and food, rather than sit through a showing of the same images at the chosen pace.

My rating: 2.0 stars
**

Benno at CES

A friend of mine, Benno, is in Las Vegas at the CES conference this week. He works for Bluebox Devices and they’re launching their new media gizmo this week. After all the years of effort he’s put into it, it must be great to be there at CES showing and telling everyone about it.

Ron, David and Benno at CESHere’s a picture showing how excited they all are.

Well, maybe they are just tired. It’s from Graeme Thickins’ blog, where he covered several of the Australian contingent that’s over there at the moment.

Good luck guys, and hope you make lots of deals!

Bond Begins

I’ve read Ian Fleming’s original story, and I’ve seen the (really, really bad) Peter Sellers film version, so I was keen to cleanse my memory of that by watching the most recent movie adaptation.

Casino Royale

A bad Bond at his best.

This is not like most other film Bonds. Bond is less gentleman and more psycho, and the plot has definite “love story” overtones. It’s a bit of a re-imagining of the Bond film, rather like Batman Begins gave us a new take on the Batman film. And also like Batman Begins, it gives us an insight into the origins of the main character.

However, this results in some strange “series” continuity issues, with this film set after the Cold War, but a prequel to the other Bond films that clearly occurred during the Cold War. This is made light of in the film, but requires a bit more of belief suspension that in your usual Bond film, particularly if you’ve seen most of them.

On the other hand, there’s a fantastic Parkour running-and-leaping sequence near the start. It seems pretty unbelievable, but it’s performed by Sebastien Foucan, so it’s probably real. Daniel Craig, who plays Bond for his first time, has a fair go at some Parkour moves as well. It’s very cool.

Craig (I can sympathise with someone having a first name as a last name) is a rugged, and not traditionally handsome, Bond. He’s as different from Pierce Brosnan as you can get without having a Scottish accent. Given the richness of his version of Bond, I think we’re going to consider it one of the classic ones.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****

You can’t do this when you rent


Living Room – During

Originally uploaded by 4ndrewScott.

After much stress, we finally completed settlement on Friday for the new house. I can’t begin to tell you how outraged I was with the unprofessional conduct of certain parties on Friday, but we got the keys, and that’s the main thing.

On Saturday, Kate and I, together with Tim and Lynne, removed all the floor coverings in the front half of the house. The carpet in the front two bedrooms was easy, but the pink tiles in the hallway, living room, and dining room were more effort. It turns out that the tilers who put them in were very thorough; maybe a bit too thorough. The tiles were glued to a type of board, which was nailed to the floor. There were nails every 5cm or so. All up, a lot of nails.

We got a good technique going, and all the tiles were up by the end of the day. On Tuesday, new carpet will go down on the floorboards, and we move in on Thursday!

My first Bollywood

We’re heading to India for a couple of weeks early in 2007, and trying to get a little into the culture before we go. And what better example than Bollywood, which has more viewers than the movies coming out of Hollywood? Not counting more Western-oriented films like Bride & Prejudice or Monsoon Wedding, I’ve never seen a Bollywood film, and this was my introduction to them.

Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.

A surprisingly entertaining musical romantic-comedy.

It’s in Hindi, it’s got music, it’s got dancing, it’s got laughs, it’s set in Mumbai and there’s romance. Can this be any more stereotypical Bollywood? Well, anyway, it was enormously entertaining.

It was quite long, at 155 minutes, but I enjoyed it all. Similar themes to any Western romantic-comedy, but enhanced by the Indian angle. And gangsters always help. Also, the male lead’s father is actually his father in real life, so the tension and emotion they display together has an extra edge.

The “M.B.B.S.” of the title is similar to the “M.D.” suffix in Australia, and indicates that the character is a doctor. Or is he a gangster? Can he change? Will he make his father happy?

Given the length, the rather flimsy premise used to set up the plot, and the unknown (to me) Bollywood aspect, I wasn’t expecting much. But, I loved it! Maybe I’m just a sucker for a romantic-comedy. Or maybe it was the gangsters.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****

This is distributed in Australia by MG Distribution who seems to be the major Bollywood DVD distributor here. I’ll have to check out more of what they’ve got.

Gore for President?

When we go out to see a movie, Kate prefers not to have to sit through a heavy issues piece, and so we usually compromise on something more entertaining. However, as Kate’s out of town, I was able to easily go see a non-fiction film at the movies, and chose to check out Al Gore‘s call-to-arms on climate change. Better know for his U.S. vice-presidential role or his close loss to George W. Bush in the U.S. presidential race of 2000, here he takes on a humbler role trying to save the Earth one movie cinema at a time.

An Inconvenient Truth

A worthwhile film for intelligent, concerned citizens.

Al Gore has been presenting his views on climate change to audiences for the last 15 years or so, and this is probably his most effective presentation yet. It covers both the development of Gore’s personal devotion to this cause, as well as the scientific evidence that supports the claim that climate change has been caused by humans and now presents a real threat to our way of life.

I consider myself moderately well informed on this topic, having read Tim Flannery, Michael Crichton, and other less famous commentators, so the scientific material wasn’t new to me. However, it was presented very clearly and so effectively that most people would be left with little room for doubt on the issue.

One might be tempted to think that there was a team of researchers and writers behind Gore’s presentation. However, we only ever see him present, and there are many shots of him using Apple Keynote to develop the presentation, so we are obviously meant to think this is pretty much a one-man show.

That aspect, together with the very personal accounts of Gore’s life and development, tended to slightly shift the focus away from his message and onto him. It would not take much of a cynic to view this film as building a platform for him to take another stab at the White House. He himself says “political will is a renewable resource”.

If you are concerned about these issues, then you can probably skip the film and spend the time more profitably reading books that convey the scope and complexity of the problems. (Or better yet, spend time actually addressing the problems.) If you aren’t concerned about these issues yet, then you should probably see this film. Don’t worry – it ends with some positive things.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****

There is a good web site of the movie that also gives a taste of the material.