31/3/2006

I’m raising 1337 h4X0r2

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:58 am

(1337 h4X0r2 = leet haxorz = elite hackers ;))

There was a phone message waiting for me when I got to work this morning from Alex. She was trying to install the game Zanzarah, which we own, at home, and couldn’t find the disc’s case. The case has the serial number code that is needed to unlock the game, so she couldn’t play. I rang back to try to help her out, but she said ‘Oh, it’s OK, I went on the net and found a serial for it and I’m playing already’.

I don’t promote or support software piracy – every game we have we own – but that kind of problem solving skill and self-confidence in a 12 year old is encouraging to me, somehow.

29/3/2006

Our Scars, Our Selves

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:35 am

When she was 2, Cassie decided to copy what Daddy did in the morning and shave. She didn’t have quite my expertise at that point, and cut her top lip. It bled frighteningly much, but wasn’t really that big a cut. She has a tiny scar at the centre of her upper lip that she frets about because she thinks it spoils the otherwise perfect outline of her lips. I tell her not to worry too much about it – it’s barely noticeable unless you know it’s there, and anyway, it’s one of the things that makes her herself. She has another tiny scar on the middle of her forehead from where she tripped on some brick steps when she was about the same age – and one of the scars on my heart is from having to hold her down when she was scared and hurting and didn’t understand to have the cut stitched.

I have plenty of scars of my own: don’t worry, I’m not going to do the Lethal Weapon 3 (?) slow strip and show them all to you. Some are from having skin cancers cut or burnt out (the legacy of all that shirtless time in the Aussie sun as a kid), some from surgery for my twice-broken leg, including a bone graft, some from not being careful enough with blades of various kinds. I even have a tiny one on my forehead that matches Cassie’s, though mine is from running full tilt into the hitch of a caravan at about the same age. My face is kinda acne-scarred too, though not too badly.

None of them are that large or disfiguring, and I certainly don’t mean that people who are badly burnt or badly scarred shouldn’t get all the plastic surgery they need. But I do think my scars are part of what makes me, me – and each one has a story to tell.

28/3/2006

English (not freakin’ USA)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:39 am

OK, it’s just a niggle, really, and not all that important. But so many web sites and software packages do it these days that it’s driving me nuts: when you choose which language you want to use there’s a list that has French, German, Chinese, Lithuanian, etc, and then the only English option is ‘English (USA)’.

Arrgghhh – English is, at least, ‘English (England)’, if it’s anything – those in the USA distort English significantly at the best of times (‘aluminum’, anyone?) And I guess it might be justified to have ‘English (USA)’ in a list that also included ‘English (England)’, ‘English (Australia)’, ‘English (Canada)’ and ‘English (South Africa)’, so that the Americans could keep their abbreviated ‘color’ and their addiction to the letter ‘zee’ without bothering the rest of us. (But I guess then the New Zealanders would be justified in complaining!)

But when the only available choice for English speakers is ‘English (USA)’, it fair makes my blood boil…

27/3/2006

Artistic endeavours

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:23 pm

Spent a big chunk of this morning building a WordPress blog to be used as a Noticeboard for a site that other people built. Actually, all the WordPress stuff was done weeks ago – today was all about the fact that they wanted this page to look exactly the same as the rest of the site.

Fair enough, but the rest of the site was built in Dreamweaver by someone with great design sense but little in the way of actual coding skills or even real understanding of the web. So each page is set to 640×480 in size, rather than (as is normal on the web) allowing the browser to dynamically size the page to fit the browser window/screen you have. That means that on my 1280×1024 monitor the site nestles in the top left hand corner of the screen.

So anyway, I ended up having to butcher the WordPress so that it does the same thing, and looks similar. Couldn’t make all the fancy Javascript rollover buttons look the same, though (well, if I had an extra 10 hours, and cared enough, I probably could, but…) I wasn’t gonna show it to you, but what the heck:

Main site
WordPress noticeboard

Remember that the main site is html/javascript and WordPress is php/sql, so even getting those two to play well together is a challenge. Basically, we have a bunch of people who know nothing about web development running the project and kicking in comments from the side, the main web developer who knows how to use a software package but not much more, and me who is self-taught and pretty much trial and error too… It’s amazing anything gets done!

Now, on to rewrite the dialogue in a play Sue and I have been asked to be in at church for Easter so that it sounds like something humans might actually say in a conversation.

25/3/2006

Another Bravus

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:42 am

Doing the good old ‘vanity google’ again last night, and found this guy. It’s not me, although he has the same nickname and is also a gamer: http://bravus.livejournal.com/ Wonder whether he ever vanity-googles…

24/3/2006

How It Looks

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:32 pm

Here’s a rough look at what the cover of my new book will look like. There’s a little tweaking to be done on the front cover yet, and the little bio text on the back will line up with the rest of the blurb in the final version, but this should give you the idea.

book cover

Click on the image for a larger version that is readable.

It’s not up on Amazon just yet, but it should be launched early next week.

23/3/2006

Target Practice

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:51 pm

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/raaf-precision-strike-sinks-heroin-freighter/2006/03/23/1143083906863.html

From The Age:

THE North Korean freighter used to smuggle 150 kilograms of heroin into Australia three years ago now rests on the ocean’s bottom, destroyed by a pair of laser-guided bombs.

RAAF F-111 strike bombers from Amberley in Queensland were dead on target with two 900 kilogram precision guided bombs as the 3500 tonne freighter drifted 140 kilometres off Jervis Bay. The bombs struck the Pong Su’s hull with massive blasts, showering debris over a wide area. The vessel sank quickly into deep water.

Well, I guess that’s one way to get rid of an unwanted ship… Be a nice new reef for diving on in a few years, if it’s not too deep.

Christians for Torture

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:44 am

I just can’t even comment on this:

… Andrew Sullivan introduces us to another new tribe in the big tent: Christians for Torture. Crunching the numbers on a recent Pew poll, Sullivan discovers that 57 percent of the people who describe themselves as “secular” say that torture is either never or rarely justified. Only 49 percent of white Protestants and only 42 percent of Roman Catholics are similarly torture-averse. “In other words,” Sullivan says, “if you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic.”

If Jesus had stayed in his grave he’d be spinning in it. As it is, I sure hope he’s charging up his Sword of Smite +5 …

22/3/2006

Up There With The Asteroid

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:20 am

I guess in a way it’s not such a surprise… but it should be shocking to us. Humans are leading to a wave of extinctions of other species on the earth that is unprecedented since the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. We’re not quite sure what caused the dinosaurs’ extinction (besides the Far Side cartoon that shows them smoking), but there’s wide speculation that it was the collision of an enormous asteroid with the earth. It’s kind of blackly humorous to think of ourselves in the same massive ecological disaster class as that…

21/3/2006

Irony Part 2

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:34 am

From the Melbourne Age newspaper today:

Bush calls Howard with cyclone tips

PRIME Minister John Howard was in the middle of a radio interview early yesterday morning when the White House rang to say President Bush wanted to talk to him about cyclone Larry.

President Bush, who took a hammering in the United States over the slowness of his response when hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans last year, clearly wanted to get in early this time.

Uhuh.

(rest of the article here)

Irony, Metal and Age

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:26 am

So, I was posting in a kind of ‘what are you listening to this month?’ thread on the William Gibson Board and said:

As to what I’m listening to at the moment:

Powerslave

I know, I seriously must be getting old. But this is my classical music.

It’s just funny to me that, to most of the younger people I talk to, and even some my age and older, the music that was so dangerous and transgressive when I was young is now considered hopelessly old-school and passé. Ah well, it happens to all of us.

I do still try to listen to my kids’ music with them, be knowledgable about it and not just dismiss it out of hand. Cassie isn’t very much into music, but Alex is a big fan of pop and hip-hop. I tend to prefer the old-school stuff like Run-DMC in that arena too, but I know enough to be able to talk with her about what she likes, and to identify things I like as well.

But it’s still just funny to me that the relationship I had to my parents’ classical music, my kids have to Iron Maiden. 😉

9/3/2006

Renewable Energy Can Replace Oil

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:31 am

(still on hiatus, honest! had to share this, though)

http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/index.html?blog=/tech/htww/2006/03/08/renewable/index.html

Opeth in Edmonton

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:44 am

So, we waited outside in the cold in a long line-up for about 40 minutes or so. Most hadn’t brought jackets because we didn’t want to coat-check, so there was a fair bit of shivering in the line (it was about -1 so not too bad). That meant I missed probably half of Dark Tranquility’s set, which kinda sucked.

As advertised (by everyone I’ve talked to), the sound at Red’s was pretty craptacular. Not surprising – the layout of the place was definitely not designed for acoustics. For Opeth’s set I had a great spot above the stage where I could see plenty, but it was to the right of the stage and the sound was just too muddy: I couldn’t even hear what Mikael was saying when he talked between songs. So I moved to a spot right behind the mixing desk for the rest of the show, and that was decent, though not as good as when I heard them in Vancouver.

I’d never heard Dark Tranquility before, but enjoyed their stuff, and they put on a great show. Their singer’s voice is naturally baritone, not tenor like Mikael’s, and his usual mode is more of a roar (it reminded me of Lemmy, and the guy from Kreator, and to my mind made the music sound ‘German’ somehow) rather than a full-on death metal grunt. Lots of heavy riffing, plenty of dynamics and some twin-guitar harmonies that reminded me of Iron Maiden at times but weren’t quite the same. Pity they weren’t the main support, I thought.

DevilDriver were very competent at what they did, played fast and well, worked the crowd… but it just didn’t do that much for me. It was an unrelenting wall of noise. I dunno – on a bill where that’s what I came for, maybe… but on a melo-death bill, the fit just didn’t seem to be there.

Opeth was amazing as ever. They played a heavier set than in Vancouver, with plenty of variety. If I remember right the setlist was:

Ghost Reveries
White Cluster
The Amen Corner
Closure
The Baying Of The Hounds
Under the Weeping Moon
The Grand Conjuration
Drapery Falls
Deliverance (encore)

Mikael moved around more and seemed to be really enjoying his singing and playing. Peter’s guitar sounded a bit ‘tinny’ in some of the parts, but that was totally the fault of the venue and the sound. Per Wiburg does a great job of playing the keys and singing backing vocals, and was more prominent in the stage show and more active than I’ve seen before. Martin Mendez stood still except for the headbanging and anchored the band with rock solid bass, and Martin Axenrot murdered the skins. (Do we know when/whether Martin Lopez is returning?)

Fantastic show from a fantastic band in an average venue… but I’m glad I went. Moving to Australia in a couple of months, it’ll probably be a long time before I get to see Opeth live again.

I, Nanobiobot

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:43 am

(of course as soon as I announce a hiatus there suddenly are numerous things about which I need to blog! consider this just punctuation in the hiatus – I’ll tell you when I’m back for good)

This article from Salon about the future of nanotechnology/biology and the end of the human race is scary, exhilarating, fascinating. Check it out.

6/3/2006

Short Hiatus

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:21 pm

Hi All

You’ve probably noticed that my posts have been less frequent lately… a few a week rather than one most days. Partly that’s because I’m working very hard on publishing a bunch of books and papers. Here’s what I’ve either sent off to publishers and journals already or will over the next month and a half (ones in bold and italics are already written, ones in just italics still have to be written but the ideas are there or there are old conference papers to be adapted):

  • The Undead Theories book, mentioned here (for Sense Publishers)
  • With Helen Wildy, Bill Louden and John Wallace – ‘Security’ and Value Added as Complementary Measures of School Effectiveness in Physics Education (probably for Research in Science Education) and Cohort Size, Gender and Socio-economic Status as Predictors of Success in Year 12 Physics in Western Australia, 1987-1997 (probably for Teaching Science)
  • With Mark Hirschkorn – Bridging the research-practice gap: Research translation and/or research transformation (for the Alberta Journal of Educational Research) and Re-imagining Teacher Preparation (possibly for the Australian Journal of Teacher Education or another teacher education journal)
  • With Frank Jenkins – two papers, one probably for The Science Teacher and one probably for Science & Education, about his ‘create/test/use’ distinction in the ways school science labs are used to teach science content
  • With Karen Fiege – one or two papers, possibly for the Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching or similar journals, about (a) videoconference teaching of maths and science in rural high schools and (b) professional development of teachers for videoconference teaching
  • By myself – probably three papers on various facets of my physics teacher explanations research: one on ‘what students want from their teachers’, based on the student interviews, one on ‘what students, teachers and parents think about the purposes of high school physics’, based on the surveys from those three groups, and one on the actual explanatory frameworks used by teachers. That last one will probably go to the Journal of Research in Science Teaching
  • By myself – at least one paper and maybe more based on the research I’m currently doing for the Carnegie scholarship

And a couple of tentative projects that I’d like to start but will be longer term and take a lot of work:

  • Guest editing a special edition of the journal Distance Education on international initiatives in using videoconference in teaching and learning.
  • Editing a book of collected papers on the topic Beyond Constructivism. I planned to do this along with someone else but between our various commitments it’s been on the back-burner for years, so I’ll likely just own it myself and move forward with that.

For some of those papers there’s still original raw data to be analysed, so it’s not just the writing. But all this is important because it sets me up in the new job to have a lot of publications in the first couple of years, and get a lot of grants, and therefore get past my probation period and gain permanent tenure and the rank of Associate Professor (which I already have here but which is at a higher level and still needs to be attained in Australia.) So I’m putting lots of work into writing papers (in addition to a bunch of committee work, more research still (two projects are gathering data right now) and preparation for workshops and other commitments) and there’s not so much time or inspiration left for writing in the blog.

The other part of the equation is that I’m just not coming up with the original ideas – between the 450 or so earlier posts, the fact that I hate repeating myself and my current state of mind, I’m just not finding the subjects about which I can write interesting, engaging stuff that meets my personal standards. I’d rather take a break and write nothing than write bad or boring stuff. And the fact that I considered writing about the Oscars this morning shows that it’s time!

Not sure how long I’ll go quiet for – maybe a few weeks, maybe a month and a half or so – but I’ll announce the resumption of the blog at the William Gibson Board and the Adventist Forum, as well as here, and I hope you’ll rejoin me then. I’m hoping that taking off the pressure to post something every day, and giving my subconscious some fallow time to stew up new ideas will rejuvenate my ability to write something engaging here.

Thanks so much everyone for your support over the past year and a half.

2/3/2006

The Disclaimer

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:19 pm

I wrote this last year in a different context, and it may be stronger on the religious side of things than I usually get in this blog, but particularly in the context of the last couple of posts, and also some feedback from others where it seems I might have come across as thinking I have all the answers, I wanted to share with you: The Disclaimer.

Care For Kids, and Society Will Care For Itself

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:05 am

One more reminder that the right thing to do is also the successful thing to do. This article from the Melbourne Age talks about a major study that was done that shows each dollar that’s invested in quality care and services for children (that includes care provided by their parents, not just daycare centres) has a return of $18 over a child’s life span. That’s a pretty amazing rate of return on investment: 1800%. of that, only $1 is in the form of extra income earned by the individual: the rest is in terms of costs saved by the community in special education and welfare support not needed, and crimes not committed. making sure that every kid has support and is protected is crucial.

The other factor identified is that the key to child development is secure, stable relationships between the kid and the adults in his/her life. There are actually neurological studies that show that kids’ physical brain structure forms less effectively if they’re in an unstable and insecure situation. Pretty sobering stuff, but important.

1/3/2006

Circle of Influence

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:33 am

This is not a brag, just a musing about why I do what I do, and why I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do. (And I’ve already said, probably ad nauseum, that my real legacy in the world is my kids.)

I teach on average about 25 teacher education students a year, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Assume my total teacher education career lasts 30 years, from age 35 to 65. Further, assume each of my students has an average length teaching career of 20 years (some will teach for 35, others only 5 or less), and that each student teaches an average of 60 students a year (that’s a low estimate, with class sizes of 20 (senior science sometimes has small classes) and only 3 courses a year – most teachers teach 4-5).

So, at that ‘second generation’ level of influence, the school students who will be influenced in some way by my teacher education career can be calculated as 30 x 20 x 60 = 36,000.

It’s pretty sobering: in fact, any one student in any of my classes will influence 1200 students over the course of his/her career, and probably many more than that. it makes me think hard about doing the best job I possibly can – about making that influence as positive as it can be. And that doesn’t just mean trying to help my students become good teachers, but trying to help them be good people: because that’s what will make the most difference to their students.