20/2/2009

Post 1101

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:29 pm

This is the 1101st post on this blog. It’s 185 days, or right on 6 months, since the 1000th post, and there were 189 days between the 900th and 1000th post, so the pace is reasonably consistent. I guess that means we should look for post 1200 sometime in August.

Maybe He Is That Into You

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:25 pm

The movie ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ is going around at the moment. It has a pretty good cast, and is probably enjoyable enough. But I’ve seen people already saying of it, as they did of the book it was based on, “It’s enlightening”. Maybe it is, in a way, and freeing as one possible set of explanations of why he doesn’t call. But I want to offer a counterpoint.

At least twice in my late teens or early 20s I went on first dates with gorgeous girls who I’d had to work up my courage to the max to ask out. I’d love to have been in a relationship with them. But I never called them back after the first date.

Why? Because I was not that into them? Nup – because I was shy and insecure and had a very low opinion of myself. Basically, I assumed that they had dated me out of pity, and had done their duty with one date, and would be relieved not to be hassled by a loser any further.

It wasn’t until years later, when Suzie had done enough work on me to give me a slightly more realistic self-concept, that I realised what a dick I’d been. (Though heck, there’s still enough of that guy in me to think maybe they were pity dates after all!)

So maybe, if he doesn’t call, it’s not because he doesn’t like you, but because he doesn’t like himself much right at the moment. And I know, insecure guys can be more trouble than they’re worth… but I think I eventually ended up OK.

And heck, it’s the noughties, not the 50s – if you want to see him again, you know you’re allowed to call (or text, email, IM, etc) him, right?

Less formulas, more honesty.

The Callipygean Ideal

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:05 am

So a fragment from the fairly distant past floated to the surface of my mind this morning, as they sometimes do. I remembered reading a snippet about a female celebrity who had failed to get her own TV show, or a modelling gig, or a role in a movie or something. The comment was ‘Producers said her ass is too flat. Which will be news to the thousands of women all over America toiling for hours on Stairmasters to achieve that exact outcome.’ Or words to that effect.

Leave aside the irony that Stairmasters were later shown to lead to larger, rather than smaller, glutei maximii. It seems to me that both the celebrity and her sisters on the Stairmasters were approaching the same point, but from opposite directions. In both cases, what they were falling short of was the callipygean ideal.

Much as we might like to think that such an ideal is something eternal and universal it is, of course, very much a matter of fashion and taste and culture. I suspect that the ideal for the mainstream Western male was always more curvaceous than fashion would dictate, and that movies and other media have started to catch up with that. This is no doubt strongly influenced by African-American appreciation: “…I can not lie/you other brothers can’t deny…” High fashion, whose aesthetic is largely determined by gay men, rather unsurprisingly remains the last bastion of boyish slenderness in terms of ideals for women.

Many young women report that callipygeaneity is a prime requisite they look for in young men… yet, oddly, at the same time fashions for young men – large baggy shorts, and/or the wearing of pants slung below the relevant area, seem as though they are designed to conceal, rather than reveal, such assets. Or perhaps to offer a fan-dance illusion of imminent exposure without actual exposure. Still, I suspect those (straight) guys who are smart enough to buck the trend and wear a well fitted trouser may have a significant advantage in the being-admired stakes over their droopy-panted brothers.

18/2/2009

Developing Australians’ scientific understanding to face the challenges of the near future

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:15 pm

I’m applying for an Australian Leadership Award, and part of the application package is a 500 word statement. Here’s the brief:

In 500 words (maximum) describe:

  • Your economic, social or cultural vision for Australia
  • How you are working to achieve your vision
  • How you are promoting issues of particular relevance to your industry
  • How receiving an Australian Leadership Award and participating in the Future Summit will enable you to better achieve your vision

And here’s my attempt. Including the title (above) and my name it runs to 498 words, so any suggestions for things to add need to recognise that it will also mean cutting something else. But I’d love your feedback. Is it clear? Not too much jargon? Accessible? Compelling?

H.G. Wells said ‘Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe’. His statement is truer than ever in 2009. As I write this, large areas of Queensland and NSW are flooded, while Victoria is recovering from tragic bushfires. It is difficult to directly ascribe these events to global climate change, but it is clear that climate change is occurring and that extreme weather events are likely to increasingly threaten Australia’s welfare.

Climate change is only one challenge that will face Australia, but it shares two features with many of the others:
1. it has significant scientific components, mixed with social, economic and cultural issues,
2. it is global in scope and requires a global response.
Examples of similar issues include the threat of a pandemic, challenges posed by peak oil, providing food and fresh water for an increasing population and the role of nuclear energy.

My vision for the future of Australia is focused on developing the scientific understanding of all Australians. This involves ensuring that there are enough trained research scientists and engineers to develop solutions accompanied by the recognition that it is also necessary to do a much better job of ensuring that every Australian develops a good understanding of science and technology. This ‘science education for all’ approach focuses on connecting science learning to the experiences of students and to understanding – without being paralysed by fear of – the real challenges that face Australia and the world.

Creating a more equitable Australian society that extends opportunities to those who have historically been disadvantaged is also an important part of my vision for our future.

I am working to achieve my vision in three main ways:

Through teacher education: ‘Teaching teachers’ at universities in Papua New Guinea, Canada and Australia for over 10 years. My teacher education practice is focused on a global perspective and on ‘science for all’. My students have already taught thousands of school students and will teach thousands more.

Through research: My research in education has focused on science education in a variety of contexts, on the use of new technologies in teaching (and to offer science courses to students in rural and remote contexts) and on the ways in which our society can extend its advantages to more Australians.

Through writing: I have recently completed a chapter on science education for an international book on ‘Citizenship Across the Curriculum’ and am currently co-editing another book on ‘Connected Science’.

Advocacy of education, social justice and science education for all is an important part of achieving my vision. Receiving an Australian Leadership Award and participating in the next three Future Summits will give me a platform from which to communicate, and access to Australian thought leaders with whom I can discuss these issues, share my ideas and commitments and elicit theirs.

We owe it to Australia’s future to back education to win over catastrophe.

Procrastination

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:32 am

I lubed the chain on my bike this morning, and it felt much happier on the ride in. I’d been trying to get around to doing it for a week or so, but I was away for 3 days, and left home before it was light another couple of days, and just never got around to that brief but messy job. Worth doing though, to make my newish $400 chain and sprockets last longer. Plus the bike just purrs when it’s freshly oiled.

Similarly, the light globe in our bathroom blew about a week ago, and I haven’t replaced it. My bedside lamp is in the bathroom as a makeshift solution, but that’s not satisfactory either there or because I can’t read in bed properly. It’s a pain, and only a 5 minute job to fix, but I just haven’t managed to get it done. Pathetic, I know.

Not sure what makes for this kind of petty procrastination, where the irritation caused by *not* fixing something is greater than the hassle of fixing it… and yet it doesn’t get fixed. Just a human thing, I guess… or maybe it’s just a ‘me thing’?

13/2/2009

Out of the Loop, or plain Loopy

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:44 am

Those who are also Facebook friends will know from my status updates that it’s been a pretty intense few weeks, and shows no real sign of lightening up any time soon. No personal tragedies or anything, I hasten to add, and there are plenty of people doing it tougher. Just a whole lot of overlapping work demands that are keeping my busy and stressed out.

But our friends Cam and Jen invited us to go camping for this weekend, and we stretched it to a long weekend, so we’ll be chilling by the pool and on the beach at the Sunshine Coast from this evening until Monday. No computers, no phones, no stress, just good company and the bush and a few cold ones and the odd game of cards or whatever.

Luxury.

11/2/2009

Joss Whedon on Good and Evil

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:11 pm

Very few people are entirely evil… everybody has two sides, and I believe that not only are people often less or more righteous than they understand, but they often don’t know what part of them is actually the good part.

It’s the last phrase that really rings so true to me.

10/2/2009

How I Know

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:10 pm

David Mitchell answers a question I get asked sometimes:

Gotta Have Fun With Words

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:06 am

I’m probably a freak, but in telling the members of my research team that our ethics clearance has come through and we can start the study, I just used the phrase ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’ I also suggested in an email to someone I’m working on a grant application with, who happens to be my boss, that we could save a ‘metric buttload’ of space in our application by using a different referencing scheme.

9/2/2009

What I did this afternoon

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:09 pm

I wanted to use some animations that some other people had developed in my research project, but they had the answers on the same page as the questions – which is fatal with high school students, because alas we’ve trained them so well to be grade-earning machines that once they know the answer they completely lose interest in the question – and a few other things I didn’t particularly like.

So I carefully copied their code, aided by the generosity of one of them in making the source code for the Java animations available on his site. Then hacked the html and Javascript back ends of the site to make them the way I wanted them, and posted them on my own server. Here they are:

Constant velocity motion with a ‘ghost’ to show the intervals

Accelerated motion with a ‘ghost’ to show the intervals

Giving a(n air) hockey puck a ‘kick’ at right angles to its motion

Accelerating a satellite at right angles to its motion

Probably not that exciting to anyone who is not trying to learn basic physics, but cool for my purposes… and just fun to hack on!

Oh, and for a price I’ll tell you the answers to the last two. 😉

8/2/2009

An Observation

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:25 pm

In discussions of religion, when someone says ‘people hate what I say because they hate the truth’, it’s almost always the case that a fairer comment would be ‘people hate what I say because I’m an arrogant dick’.

Good to have that off my chest.

25 Random Things

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:30 am

It’s a Facebook craze at the moment, and if you’re on Facebook at all and haven’t been (multiply) tagged yet, you will be.

Thought I’d share mine here, partly because I’ve probably thought of another half a dozen since, and can be completely self-indulgent here and paste them as comments!

  1. At various stages in my life I’ve taken lessons in piano, guitar, tae kwon do, karate and ballroom dancing. I can now do all of them badly, with piano probably being the baddest since it’s getting on for 40 years since I played.
  2. I played guitar, badly, in a blues band in Melbourne, but got kicked out before they played their first gig. The fact that my guitar was all spiky and metally probably should have tipped all of us off to the fact that I didn’t really fit playing 50s rock’n’roll and Chicago blues…
  3. I spent about 6 months as a Trainee Anesthetic technician, which had me working in operating theatres pretty much straight out of high school. It was a pretty amazing experience, but I got the sack. I’d had this bright idea that I wouldn’t touch anything sterile accidentally if I kept my hands in the pockets of my overalls whenever I wasn’t using them, but my boss, the head anaesthetist, interpreted this as evidence of a slack attitude. I’m heartily indebted to him, because if I hadn’t got sacked I may still have been doing the exact same menial tasks every day, 25 years later.
  4. I generally drink two large mugs of coffee with breakfast, then switch to Diet Coke at work, with coffee breaks for meetings. I occasionally go cold turkey on caffeine and last a month or so before I get back into it. I basically do it because I enjoy it – and there are not a lot of other tasty, zero-calorie drinks around. If I can just start replacing the Diet Coke with water every day I’ll save money and probably be healthier.
  5. I really am just blissfully, blissfully happy in my marriage… and worry about seeming smug about that in front of others. But I just kinda hope it gives people hope that it’s possible.
  6. I’ve just missed a couple of goals – I’d like to have had my PhD by 30 but ended up getting it at 34, and I’d like to have hit Associate Professor by 40 but ended up doing it at 41. By coming back to Australia I’ve slipped back to Senior Lecturer, so I hope I can make it *back* to Associate Professor soon, but it won’t be by 45 ‘cos that’s only a couple of months away. And Full Professor by 50 is probably pretty ambitious too… but I might only miss it by a year or two, and continue the pattern.
  7. My worst ever job was in a hot Australian summer. I and another guy had to climb inside a boiler, which was cylindrical and about 4 feet in diameter and about 20 feet long. We had instruments about like razor blades but a little bit thicker, and had to manually scrape the crust off every inch of the inner surface. It was hot and cramped and dusty and dark, and my boogers would be black for days afterward from inhaling the dust.
  8. I’m afraid I did inhale. My friend Greg and I found some poor stoners two lonely plants, growing out the bush, and stole most of the leaves and heads. We dried it, poorly, in the bush on Greg’s grandparents’ farm, and smoked it over the next few weeks. I enjoyed it, but it never really did all that much for me, and I saw friends later who became habitual dope smokers and it just seemed to lower their IQs over time. Like Richard Feynman, I enjoy playing with my brain too much to risk damaging it.
  9. I was once invited to speak at the Banff Television Festival, which meant I spent a weekend among television people. Surreal.
  10. As you can probably tell by now, I tend to be too verbose. I *hope* it’s because I enjoy writing and storytelling, rather than because I enjoy talking about myself…
  11. I had girlfriends from about Grade 3 to Grade 10 or so, then none for almost 10 years. I occasionally stayed over at a friend’s place for the night, usually because my parents were teetotallers and I was too drunk to go home. I think my Mum assumed I might be gay… I wasn’t.
  12. I still get acne at nearly-45, so I’ve basically had more or less continuous zits for 30 years. I rationalise it for myself by saying I still have the hormonal make-up of a teenage boy. And pretending that’s a good thing.
  13. I probably read an average of 2-3 books a week, and have done since the age of about 10 (when I discovered the local library). Maybe it’s slipped to 1-2 since the advent of the web and my discovery of gaming. But still, call it an average of 2 books a week for 35 years, and I’ve probably read somewhere in the vicinity of three and a half thousand books. Make the half thousand repeat reads and it’s still a lotta books.
  14. I’ve been a denizen of the William Gibson Board for just over 6 years. Many of my friends are online friends, though I’ve met maybe a dozen people from the board – including William Gibson – over the years.
  15. There exists a photo of me, aged about 12, in flared jeans and a purple paisley shirt. It’s zealously guarded.
  16. I’ve published 5 books with my name on them, with 4 more to come this year. Isaac Asimov doesn’t have much to worry about.
  17. I’m about 5’8″ (173 cm), and depending on the time of year and various other factors, I don’t get a lot of change out of 100 kg (220 lbs). But I don’t really look like it – my doctor couldn’t believe that I weigh as much as I do. I think I’m dense.
  18. I have two children, I’m one of 4, my father is one of 7 and his father was one of 10. I assume that’s happening in most families, but on the basis of this sequence we appear to be doomed.
  19. My blog (http://www.bravus.com/blog/) is about 4 years old and has nearly 1100 posts.
  20. I once taught a high school physics class of 12 students, when I was in a room by myself in Edmonton, Alberta, and they were in four other classrooms, spread across a whole county, 800 km further north. It was audioconferencing plus some web connections and an interactive whiteboard, so none of them could see me, but I couldn’t stop myself doing the hand gestures as I explained physics concepts anyway.
  21. When I was teaching at a Seventh-day Adventist college in Papua New Guinea, it was dangerous enough in that country at that time that the campus was ringed with barbed wire, lights and guard towers. The college’s beliefs prevented it from paying guards on the Sabbath (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday), so the lecturers were rostered on about once a month to act as security guards and patrol the fences on a Friday night. I know, right? But as it happened I was paired with a colleague who was a very smart and very interesting guy, so I have some great memories of walking along, talking philosophy, just inside the barbed wire and under the warm PNG night.
  22. I’ve met a few of my gurus over the years – people whose published thoughts have transformed my perspective on life. And I’ve been blessed, because they’ve all been good people, if not in exactly the ways I expected.
  23. I get frustrated with the entrenched anti-intellectualism in evangelical Christianity. But still hang on to God in some form…
  24. I think it’s so easy, and so fatal, to lose our sense of wonder at the universe and the world around us. Not just the beautiful stuff, but the endless variety. If we feel as though we understand life, the universe and everything, we’re in mortal peril.
  25. It’s relatively easy to be an optimist when you start and end each day in the arms of the one you love.

7/2/2009

The Point is Moot

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:58 am

Alex was approached by her Legal Studies teacher yesterday and asked whether she would be interested in entering the ‘Moot Court’ program operated by Bond University1. It’s where legal studies students from high schools all over the state prepare a hypothetical (‘moot’) court case, then actually go into a courtroom and behave as barristers. Real judges preside in the fake trials, and also judge the quality of the students’ preparation and presentation, and it’s a competition.

Alex

Alex was particularly pleased because the teacher said her school has not sent a student to this competition in about the past 5 years – just didn’t feel it had the students who were ready – and for about the 5 years before that only Year 12 students participated. So she’s the first Year 11 student to be invited in a very long time (along with one of her friends who she sits next to in Legal Studies), which is quite an honour.

Since her goal in life is to be a lawyer, and has been since she was about 10, you can imagine how exciting this was for her.

  1. Bond is on the Gold Coast and is where Alex would *really* like to go to uni, but it’s private and a law degree would cost something like $120,000, which we don’t have. She’s pretty much resigned to going to the public Griffith Gold Coast instead, but there is at least the whiff of scholarships associated with this program, so I guess we’ll see.

6/2/2009

Going Nuts

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:16 am

As a teacher educator I’m very aware of the issue of peanut allergy and how it plays out in schools, with peanuts often being treated about like high level toxic waste. So this article from Salon was a relief to read.

And just one more example, if one was needed, of why we need good science education.

5/2/2009

Of Drought and Flooding Rains

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:51 pm

The urinals (almost) featured in the Restroom shots (heh, made you look!) are water saving waterless urinals, installed during the recent droughts in our area. But the headline in the paper this morning says “60% of Queensland covered in floodwater“.

Now it’s not flooding here, but if it was true that would mean an area more than one and a half times the size of Texas was covered in water.

It sounds pretty suspect, and someone in the Letters column of the paper suggested the more plausible idea that local council areas that have been listed as flood-effected cover 60% of the state, rather than the floodwaters themselves.

Still, it shows how right Dorothea McKellar got it in her poem ‘My Country’:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

Camera and a Bike

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:21 am

OK, so the first couple of photos taken on the new camera (apart from a couple goofing around learning to use it when I first got it) were for the Restroom Project thread over at the William Gibson Board – I won’t bother posting those here.

The next one was this one of my bike, which I dug out of storage where it had been mouldering for 5 years last weekend and fixed up. It’s running well now and I’m enjoying the exercise and just the ability to grab it, throw on a helmet and head down to the shops or the park.

Shogun mountain bike

I’ve also managed to tire out both Sue and Alex when they accompanied me on Sue’s bike, which I also rehabilitated – but I think I already crowed about that on Facebook.

Next stop, vlogging!

3/2/2009

A (Pro/Se)ductive Day

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:59 am

I had 3 specific jobs I needed to chase up yesterday, plus two meetings. Then I got an email message with a little more trouble-shooting to be done. By the end of the day, all had been accomplished. I had also won the eBay auction for this camera:

Red Casio Exilim EX-Z77

I’d conceived the idea a few days ago of getting a small camera to sit in my pocket all the time so I can share images, here and elsewhere, of the interesting things I encounter day-to-day. I imagined spending 60-70 bucks. Went to various shops and soon discovered that it’d be more like 160-170 for what I wanted, so I jumped on eBay and bid on a couple of older cameras and this one. It turned out that this one went for $66, so right in the target zone, and it will be perfect for my needs. I’d bid on a couple of 4 MP ones, but this is a 7 MP, so that’s cool. (And, fortunately, I’ve now been outbid on all the others so I don’t end up with more than one camera!)

So anyway, it also records video, so look for more various multimedia here in future…

But the really big news of the day is that an online friend offered to give me a guitar! An offer that I jumped at with unseemly haste. It’s a PRS Santana SE, and this is what it looks like:

PRS Santana SE

Totally sweet, and has the kind of neck and pickups I’d been looking for. It’s being mailed from the US and will be a few weeks getting here, but when it does I’ll post some video of me playing it.

All in all, an awesome day.