Well first the big news,

Cambridge won the intervarsity rugby by a narrow and controversial penalty
decision.  70,000 people went down to London to watch the match in utterly
miserable conditions - kind of mad really, but the outcome was favourable.

Secondly, a correction to the last edition.  A good friend and native to this
country has pointed out the following:

	> In Scotland they are partial to
	> deep frying things in batter, so you can get deep fried Pizza in batter

	Having actually eaten deep fried Pizza they don't use batter, just stick 
	it in the oil.


So there you  go, you are up to date on Scottish cusine.

the weather
Katriona and I had a deal that she could have one of the more amusing anecdotes
if I could use the weather in my update (there hasn't been a lot happening
here lately).  We had rather a cold week last week.  I think the wind comes
literally out of Siberia.  It went sub zero for a week basically.  The limiting
factor for outdoor strolls is how long you can last before your ears start
stinging unbearably.  One pleasant stroll home Saturday night was made through
-7 degree celsius conditions.  It did snow however !!! yay !! neither of us got
much work done that day really.  It's not as though we haven't seen snow 
before,  it's just that it never previously fell outside our windows at work.
We were kind of hoping it would sway the birds that chirp irritatingly outside
our window in the morning into migratory behaviour, but no luck so far.

The downside was that the frost completely killed the battery in my car.  I
spent one morning outside for 15 to 20 minutes waiting for the battery guy
to come, watching a very large tree near our flat *thaw out* - ice and water
were falling off of it for the entire time I was watching, in a steady torrent.
An umbrella would have been advisable had you been stupid enough to stand
underneath.  There were some other pretty-good sights around the place too.
All the spider's webs were frozen leaving beautiful patterns around the
place.  Probably the best sight however was the little canal near our place
which was frozen on top, complete with two people's bicycles poking through.
The weather has returned to balmy single digit but positive temperatures
but the days are getting shorter and it can still get pretty grim.. I still
can't believe we were arguing the other day about whether the dim  glow on
the horizon was the sun or the moon.  That kind of sums it all up really.

Beware of international cusine.
We took part in the international dinner at Pembroke the other night.  It was
generally fine with some delicious curries etc, but we were tipped off by
a fellow Australian to avoid the lamingtons.  Now it had never even occurred
to me that the humble Lamington was an Australian invention (A kiwi informed
me the other day that from time to time there is stern debate in 
soc.culture.newzealand about which side of the Tasman Vegemite comes from).
This person had made some Lamingtons and brought them, including one that was
nothing more than a washing-up sponge coated in chocolate and coconut.  This
would have been a simple party trick had it not been for the fact that most
people at the dinner had never eaten a Lamington before.  We saw one person
exerting great effort trying to cut the dudington into two pieces before trying
a "softer" lamington.  Two English friends of ours then had a tug-of-war over
the half-sawn lamington before they managed to separate their respective 
halves.  One girl knocked over half the glasses on her table when the 
lamington, held firmly in her teeth suddenly decided to let her "chew" off a
bit.  Undeterred, she decided that the best strategy was to lick off the nice
bit and leave the unpleasant centre of the lamington for later.  The remaining
question we have is "Just what *do* the scouts here sell door to door ?" :)

TV licenses
It costs AUD $160 approx to get a T.V license here which strikes us as just
a little steep.  It helps fund the BBC, so next time you watch channel 2 in
Oz, consider yourself lucky.  We are still resisting getting a tv.  On the
other hand, we have seen everything even half decent at the cinema.  We even
binge of two back-to-back movies on some occasions.  There is a new Wallace and
Gromit out (A close shave) - that may not mean much to some of you, we will
have a review after christmas for the rest of you :)

We are now reliably informed that these letters are making it by email, fax and
photocopier to various parts of the world.  If there are any other transport
media that we have overlooked, we would love to hear about it.  The bandwidth
for smoke signals is pretty low isn't it ?

The Sanger Centre Christmas party
Friday night was the christmas party at the Sanger Centre and I think Kona
has said enough to warrant me giving you a proper explanation.  My section
(informatics) decided that we had to prepare a skit for the pantomime that
would dispell the myth that we are aloof nerdy types.  Well fridays at the
pub being what they are here, we had soon decided on a Beauty pageant entitled
Miss Nymphomatics 95 ( no relations to certain Windows products that were
recently released), involving various elements of cross dressing.  I was
miss Antipodean.  So that
really capped off an otherwise busy week with op-shopping friday morning.
kona selected various dresses and I told her which one I liked.  She had gone
for sizes 16 to 18 (I really think she has delusions about what the gym has
done to me).  She told me there was no way I would fit the one I liked so I
tried it on and came out and bought it.  She was kind of silent till we got
out onto the pavement and we were heading off to respective places of work
when she finally spoke and said "I can't *believe* you fit into a size 12
dress (frown)".  Other than that, life has been kind of dull.  I am starting
to wonder about the company I keep as this is the second time I have got the
female role in the last 6 months.  Photos to come.  Check out 
htpp://www.cs.monash.edu.au/~darrenp     or

for the wedding photos with me wearing the veil.  The christmas party was
otherwise lots of fun :) and the pantos were quite amusing and peppered with
in-jokes and references to sequencing politics.  The Wellcome trust (our 
largest funding body) got lots of references in a song entitled
"Welcome to a Wellcome wonderland".  Lines like "the data is amassing , on the
French we are a-crapping .." will do wonders for cross channel relations no
doubt that are otherwise at an all-time high after John M's support for bomb
dropping - see following article .. :)

Views of Australia from afar
I had kind of mixed feelings about Australia when I was there - there were
a lot of really good bits and the standard of living is generally rather high
compared with a lot of other parts of the world (eg Britain :()  On the other
hand, I could see some pretty worrying social trends etc - I can't say I was sad
to leave the Victorian political environment of consensus and ruling for the
people (the British are in the process of creeping out from under that kind
of shadow after several decades of Thatcher and Major).  From afar however,
you get to see how different people really see Australia, and I think it has
made me a lot more positive about Oz and defensive of it.  For a start, there
is a trend here across wide sections of the media to report only stories that
reinforce the Australian stereotype.  Stories of racism, stories that reinforce
the impression that 90% of Australians live 200km from civilisation, stories
that give the impression that all Australians  are an ungrateful bunch, and
that we are all evil republicans :)  At the international dinner, we were
entertained by one of the junior fellows of the college who insisted that we
were being totally unreasonable re nuclear weapon detonation in our backyard
since we had "enjoyed" protection by the American nuclear umbrella for so long.
He went on about how cold war documents backed his view that it was only the
Americans that had stopped the Russians overrunning us.  When I pointed out 
that other documents showed we hadn't been far from not being alive to sit
here discussing this after Cuba, he changed tack and told me it was for safety
reasons that the French were upsetting everyone from Fiji to Antarctica.  The
American fellow on the other side was meanwhile busy extolling the standard of
living in the states in terms of GDP/captia and was completely unable to
understand how the thousands of homeless people on the streets everywhere you
go in the U.S came into the equation.  So you can be thankful for life at
home - at least the food is good and cheap, there is lots of space, and you
can rest assured that we are still happily unsetting various sections of the
British community.  I should add that the British people we have met,
are on the whole kind and sensitive types :) - you just have to watch the
ones with the "Cambridge" accent.  You also have to watch out for the 
Australians who aquire the C. accent over night upon arriving.  We had an
American friend scratching his head after meeting one such case and saying
he really hadn't realised just how diverse the Australian accent is.

Bovine Spongiform Encelopathy  (B.S.E) 
(not the batchelor of science engineering)
Speaking of standard of living, beef is not only overpriced here but now
probably lethal :)  Mad cow disease is in the papers.  This unknown
infectious agent is now thought to possibly be transmittable to humans
causing CJD like disease.  Depends on who you talk to.  The government is
still eating beef, and all the tests show it is not communicable.  The meat
industry has largely ignored Dept. Health guidelines, and lots of scientists
have stopped eating beef.  We have a friend who was working in virology and
who spent some time at the top secret meetings on this subject.  Let's just
say the 1980's weren't a good time to have eaten a hamburger.  The figures were
10^7 infectious units per hamburger.  It has a lead time of 10 years or
something.  Let's just say we are keeping away from beef, so it's all pork
and chicken at the moment.

I think that's just about all for now, and it's time to go shopping in the
gloom and to get some food (non beep products) to eat :)  Have a great
christmas everybody.  Thanks for all the wonderful correspondance - it's
nice to hear what's happening around the world.  Most of all, appreciate
your family this christmas, I hope you're lucky enoaugh to be near them,.


ps - no correspondance will be entered into regarding spelling, typos etc
unless you are completely unable to read this :)