Archive for the ‘Quick Thoughts’ Category

A question has arisen.


I started to think about this.

There has to be at least 8. This is not in dispute. But one cannot rule out additional unviewable holes in the back of the shirt. Making the question relatively difficult to answer.

Further, we must consider the definition of “hole”. If “hole” can be interpreted to mean “gap in the cloth”, then at a small but still marginally macroscopic scale, then the answer is asymptotically close to infinity. In addition, at the quantum level, the sudden departure of an electron from one place and arrival in another without appearing to travel through the intervening space must unarguably involve a hole of some kind. Given the relative liveliness of the average electron, and the cumulative mass of the shirt, the number of these holes must also by asymptotically close to infinity.

This presents us with a problem. We have two simultaneous instances of almost-infinity within the one garment. Since there cannot mathematically or physically be even one infinity, and here we seem to have 1.99999999-recurring infinities, we have a paradox, and, therefore, technically the shirt cannot exist at all.

Which is the correct answer, because it’s just a jpeg.



Posted: 25/04/2013 in General, Quick Thoughts

I do worry about the dignity of Anzac Day.

I see young hoards descending upon Gallipoli, a killing field and a cemetery, in bright T-shirts whooping & cheering, I see breakfast TV presenters and their OB crews switching back and forth between locations, interviewing each other keenly, commentating upon proceedings, and rabbitting on about the “celebrations”. I see the whole thing becoming something of a spectacle. The tone of the day is, in places, less about respect than it ought to be.

When I was a kid, they told us about the wars and how so many, many men had gone off and not come home, many ending up simply buried and left to rot under the battlefields upon which they fell in their tens of thousands. I sat there and thanked God that it wasn’t my generation that had had to endure it, and then wondered if ever the same may come to pass for us one day. I truly came to understand the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I”, which to me has always been a central tenet of Anzac Day.

I understand that I was born a mere 26 years after the end of World War Two, and that it, and to some extent even the First World War, were still strong in living memory, and that as the generations roll over the perspective and the understanding of Anzac Day will need to evolve to survive and stay relevant, especially in view of the service and sacrifice of new generations of diggers, fighting some other incompetent diplomat’s pointless wars.

But I really feel that at its core, Anzac Day needs to be a day of quiet reflection, and, yes, profound regret, that, no matter how long ago it was now, ordinary people had to go off and be slaughtered so appallingly at the hands of forces they had no real idea about. And that it is still happening.

The only thought I have on Anzac Day is: Those Poor Bastards.

Lest We Forget.


I’m a bit annoyed. I have been for years around about Australia Day, but I haven’t been able to articulate it properly until now.

I am seeing an increasing amount of talk each year from the capital-city self-confessed-expert set about how Europeans invaded this continent and how we inherit some sort of burden of guilt as a result, thus rendering Australia Day a day of shame, etc. This is poisonous nonsense. Uttering views like this without reference to the context of history is completely disingenuous and can’t be taken seriously from a logical point of view.

There’s almost no example in history of establishing a nation without upsetting or displacing someone. Throughout history, it is what we have consistently done as a species. Perhaps Iceland and Greenland escaped this fate, but I’m not even sure of that. People displace other people.

In the context of Australia, it was utterly inevitable that someone was going to come here and claim the continent for their country, be it the French, the Dutch, the Spanish, or someone else. That it was the British who finally did is more of an accident of history. Probably somewhat fortunately, all things considered.

As of about the middle of the 20th century, the world really started to wake up to the fact that all men really were created equal, and to take the idea seriously; obviously a great thing. Only since then has this talk of invasion etc come along. It’s a concept invented by the more careless and sanctimonious descendants of those who were actually there.

So let’s stop whining about historical inevitabilities that happened 220 years ago, realise that the human race is what it is, even if we are inclined to try and learn from history and thereby improve the current version of the world (which is no bad thing), and take a moment just to consider how lucky we are. None of us are going back to Europe, so this talk of invasion is hypocrisy.

Revisionism is poison. It’s fine to look at history and say “We shouldn’t ever let that happen again, knowing what we know now”. But anyone who says of people in history whose culture was still learning about the world and their fellow man “They’re bad people for not getting this or that right” are themselves bad people and just making a fool of themselves into the bargain.

In short: Move forward, getting things right from here. Don’t try to judge the past with your 21st century eyes.

I am usually incredulous when someone – usually clutching an iPhone or an iPod, or even the owner of a Mac  – professes ignorance as to who Steve Jobs is. I find it incredible. Given his role in the personal computing and now wider electronic media industries, it defies logic that he should be anything but a household name. But it seems he remains invisible to many outside the geekosphere.

I’m not going to attempt to explain Steve Jobs to the world. That’s Wikipedia’s job.

This week came the news that Steve Jobs is to go on indefinite medical leave. Again. The speculation has of course started as to how long he will be away and who would ultimately replace him. Or at least, who would take the reins (cum reign) at Apple.

All of the cold, practical considerations around Steve Jobs’ succession planning, and the effect his absence will have on Apple’s fortunes and share price, are all well and good, and it’s a necessary discussion. But as a guy in the industry who cut my teeth on, and still have massive affection for, Apple ][s, and who from my early teens took a deep interest in all of the stories surrounding the germination of the personal computer industry in the 70s & early 80s, and who lived through the times that saw its initial genesis, I can’t help putting all of the intellectualism aside and just hoping that this doesn’t signal the end of Steve’s career, or indeed an inexorably downward spiral in his health.

Steve’s an icon and a giant of the industry. This sounds blindingly obvious to say. But for many of us around my age, he is in a very real sense the father of our careers, and the founder of a not insignificant proportion of our way of life. I just hope all of the non-geek Apple customers out there can appreciate what the man has achieved in his lifetime. If & when Steve is lost to us, whenever that may occur, it will really feel like the captain has left the bridge.

Long Live Steve Jobs. And I’m not even an Apple fanboy.

Google’s doodle today commemorates the 160th anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson’s birth. The popup text reads simply “Robert Louis Stevenson’s 160th birthday”, as if he was still alive.
I started to wonder if this was strictly appropriate, but then I quickly remembered something I once heard said as part of a tribute to someone who had recently passed – whether it was in fiction or a real person I remember not, but that’s irrelevant. The speaker said that a person’s life wasn’t truly over until the effects of their having lived were no longer felt. That’s a lovely sentiment, and one not without some significant truth to it.

So long live Robert Louis Stevenson, I say, and the same goes for every other magnificent bastard who ever did something to make the world a better place.

And let’s all of us maybe try to live our lives such that we may be perhaps counted as a magnificent bastard one day ourselves.

I get into trouble all the time for not being able to find things. Constantly. And I always have. I swear it’s not my fault. “You had a ‘Boy-Look’, didn’t you? LOOK! There it is right there!! Dufus!!”
This is common littany, spoken of furtively in gentle sobs wherever men gather to share their tribulations.

Thing is, it’s not laziness, stupidity, or the vague general inadequacy that women love to tell each other, and us, we’re the very personification of. It’s the inbuilt search technique.

See¹, looking for something is Hard Work. Moreso if you only a vague idea where to start looking, and there’s seldom anything so frustrating. So we seek to make it easier on ourselves by selectively scanning based upon the characteristics we expect the object in question to have. If we think it’s blue, we look for “blue”, to the exclusion of all else. If we’re looking for what we think is a blue stapler, and it happens to be red, we haven’t got a snowflakes’ of finding it. Like, ever. Even if it’s right in front of us.
If it’s square and we thinks it’s supposed to be another shape, no cigar. Unless it’s actually cigar-shaped, in which case we stave off cries of “Useless!!” for one more day.

This trait is so common among men that it has to be an evolved functional characteristic. All morphology is functional – this is axiomatic. The trait therefore must have its place, and that place is not looking for stuff right in front of us around the house. I’d guess that scanning for particular physical characteristics is useful in long-range scanning in a range of lighting conditions, when the full detail of the object being sought is not available.

So the next time a woman in your life decides to lambaste you for being blind, stupid, lazy, or some soul-dampening combination thereof, rest easy and, yes, quietly smug, in the knowledge that you’re filling your evolutionary niche admirably, and that if she wanted the bloody stapler she should bought a blue one.

1 No pun intended.

As soon as she walked in the door, I ceased to exist. This is probably as it should be – daycare is a reality where Daddy is Elsewhere, and where this is in fact just fine. It’s just interesting to watch the transition.
The immediate repercussion of her arrival, once the Surrendering-Of-The-Favourite-Toy ritual had been observed, was that her and a partner in crime proceeded to flood the place with coloured balls, sourced from an inexhaustible wellspring of the things in the corner. This to my conservative sensibilities seemed effronterous, however chastising one’s child in what is essentially her territory would have been tricky at best, and in any case I had other things holding my attention by the ears. I barely had time to conduct some administrivia with the daycare Mum and flee with my life before having to run for it, Indiana-Jones-style, being borne down on by an inexorable coloured ball avalanche.
Then, as per spec, the natives gibbered something incomprehensible at me as I made good my escape, holding onto my hat for effect.