The Angels Song Of The Day Thread

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:55 pm

I contemplated doing this here, but thought it might get a broader audience on the WGB, so click here to check it out if you’re interested.


Giving 110%

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:20 pm

An e-mail forward from a relative:

From a strictly mathematical viewpoint:
What equals 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been in situations where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 101%?

Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:
Is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 2122 23 24 25 26


H-A-R-D-W-O-R- K
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%
AND, look how far the love of God will take you
L-O-V-E- O-F -G-O-D
12+15+22+5+15+6+7+15+4 = 101%

Therefore, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that:

While Hard Work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it’s the Love of God that will put you over the top!

Well, ya know, since we’re being ‘strictly mathematical’:


19+20+5+1+12+9+14+7+3+1+19+8 = 118%


12+15+22+5+15+6+13+15+14+5+25 = 147%

And, for an absolute top score:


15+2(16)+18+2(19)+9+14+7+20+8+5+23+15+18+11+5+18+19 = 275%!!

Wow, I’m glad you helped me to understand this strictly mathematical proof of what’s good and right in the world!

Who I’d Like To Be

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:03 pm

From the preamble to an interview at The Register:

Most companies have a tame “guru” – someone presented as a world authority on the subject in question and so amazingly intelligent that they are above the tacky world of commercialism. Sadly, many such “gurus” merely debase the term and turn out to be exactly what you expect – mouthpieces for the marketing department.

One of the great exceptions to this rule is Jim Gray, who has managed to combine an outstanding academic career (you don’t win an ACM Turing Award for your attendance record) with a very practical one. During the 1970s he was responsible for some of the most fundamental work on database theory and practice. To put this into context, it’s because of Jim’s work that we understand enough about transactions to be able to run multi-user databases effectively.

Over the years Jim has worked for DEC, Tandem and IBM. He is currently the head of Microsoft’s Bay Area Research Centre and a Microsoft distinguished engineer. This is a man for all seasons – completely unpartisan. No matter who currently provides his pay cheque, he tells it as he sees it. I’ve heard him say, talking of the company for which he was then working: “We screwed up big time; it’s as simple as that.” This ought to make him a PR nightmare, but his standing in the community means that it has the opposite effect. People trust what he says.

If all that wasn’t enough, Jim Gray is further renowned for being a humanist. One of the most decent, honest, upright, pleasant people you could hope to meet. After speaking at conferences, he is mobbed by attendees, but always finds time to talk to them and leaves each one feeling as if they have just been chatting to a friend.

Even hardened cynical computer journalists treat this guy with serious respect. Several of us were privileged to talk to him recently. In true guru style, he fielded every question without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Not that I think of myself as any sort of guru at all. But the people I’ve met who were my gurus, including Max van Manen, Lee Shulman and William Gibson, were all like that. Unafraid to say what needed to be said, but very kind and open-hearted – as well as very smart and well informed.

It’s who I’d like to be as a person, and something I see developing over time, but I think that ‘guru’ status is something that’s developed over a lifetime of good choices – and it’s also something that has to emerge by itself, while you’re pursuing other goals.

Intriguing perspective on religion

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:32 am

Interview with Karen Armstrong: http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/05/30/armstrong/

I’m not quite where she is, but in some ways much closer to that than to fundamentalism of any stripe, and a lot of what she says resonates strongly with me.


Carnegie Scholarship Final Report

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:58 pm

If you’d like a little more detail on one of the (many) things that have been keeping me busy this year, and that I’ve mentioned here before, this link will take you to a 4 page Word document that is my final report on my Carnegie Scholarship research project on my own teaching. We also buld these cool on-line thingies called ‘Snapshots’ but they haven’t been released to the open web yet: I’ll link to mine when it is. One thing I like a lot about this Carnegie mob – they like relatively short texts that are easy to write (not a lot more than a blog post) and easy to read. Makes sense to me as a way of sharing what we’ve learned.

Blogging – harder than it looks?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:55 pm

My good buddy Paul Donnett at The Nuggery is hanging up his jock and heading for the showers when it comes to blogging. He hung in there for a good long time, and wrote some great stuff, but ended up just feeling like it was work, and like he had other things to write. I’ve taken down the link to his blog in my blogroll at the right, since it’s officially retired, but you’ll always be able to link to it from this post.

Of the half-dozen friends who got into blogging at about the same time last year, really only Lorne and I are still standing… the quality and quantity go up and down, I think, but when I tried to take a break I just found I was running into ideas I wanted to write about again. So sometimes it’s hard to do, but Paul, it’s also hard to stop…

One less thing to worry about

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:08 am

…because I sold the car last night. Well, took a deposit from a guy, so he can reserve it and get all his registration and insurance ducks in a row. We’ll probably settle up next Sunday, which gives us another week with a car, and leaves us only one weekend in Edmonton without one.

This was the main thing that had been worrying me – the time was getting awfully tight and we hadn’t had a lot of calls, and it would have been a huge hassle to have to leave the car behind for friends to sell for us (so you can breathe a sigh of relief too, Lorne!), plus we’d then not have had the cash to buy a car when we got to Brisbane. Now all we have to do is avoid spending any of what we got for the car on other things between now and then… 😉

He had actually seen an earlier ad I’d put out on the web with a higher price – we’d dropped it because of the short time – but I had it in the paper for $6500 yesterday, and I felt in all honesty I had to tell him that. He was very happy with the lower price, and didn’t haggle at all: so I was happy too because I’d been expecting to have to drop from $6500 in negotiation. That will turn into about AU$7700 at current exchange rates, so we’ll probably spend $5000 or so on a slightly older car (plus registration and insurance and our drivers licenses) when we get there and put the rest aside for my bike, which is not so urgent.

Probably something like this:

ford falcon

It’s a 1992 Ford Falcon, so about 7 years older than our current car, but this particular one has done 40,000 less kilometres than ours. It’s a 4 L V6, so a little thirstier than our 3.3, but the key point for us these days is back seat legroom – Alex is within maybe a centimetre or less of being as tall as me, so she needs her space. Given that we’ll probably do a lot of trips to Sydney (900 km) and Melbourne (almost 2000 km) to see family, something that’s happy cruising on the highway is also important.

Apologies to anyone who didn’t need this much detail! The cool part for us is ‘no borrowing to get vehicles’ – or at least, no further borrowing, because we’re probably still paying off the one we’re selling, although it’s hard to tell after various consolidations. Picking up cars this age means you lose little or nothing on depreciation, which is one way out of getting ever deeper in debt.


The Da Vinci … Thing

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:25 am

I’m not referring to the book and the movie here. I’m referring to the fact that our pastor is doing a two week series using the Da Vinci Code as an occassion for evangelism and encouraging all of us to do the same, and that virtually every other Christian church I pass has a sign out the front suggesting they’re doing the same.

Forget the fact that it’s opportunistic. Forget the fact that they’re giving loads of free publicity to a Hollywood movie whose messages they oppose, and likely boosting what might otherwise be lack-lustre box office numbers. It just seems to me like a really bad idea. It’s clear that there will be people who will have religious questions coming out of the movie, but (a) if those people can’t figure out that the book was fiction and the movie was fiction, and that the ideas it advocates about the origins of Christianity are likewise fictional, then those people have larger problems and (b) I think the pastors fail to recognise that their proposed response — “Well, this is what the Bible says” — is just non-responsive, since the questions raised by the book and movie include questions about the provenance and authority of the Bible.

It comes down to ‘your narrative is wrong, ours is right’… and it gives a pretty ordinary book and movie a lot more weight than it would otherwise have. It would make a lot more sense to me to completely ignore the book and just show the world how we live like Christ…


More hockey

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:17 pm

Maybe I’m just a cynical guy… but the Oilers pretty much sucked tonight except for a couple of passages of play, and lost 3-6 to the Ducks. If they’d won it’d have been the end of the series, meaning that three games (with lots of ticket sales and other associated earnings) wouldn’t have been necessary. I’m not saying they took a dive, but I suspect they weren’t too disappointed to have a couple more games. I suspect they’ll want to wrap it up next game in Anaheim… and I’ll be most annoyed if they lose the next 3 in a row and the series!

It’s the knowledge, stupid

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:40 am

From Salon:

David Warsh’s terrific history of how economists have come to understand growth, “Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations,” has a very clear thesis. Economic growth is a function of the accumulation of knowledge in society. Access to raw materials is not the critical issue — knowing what to do with those materials is. Ever since the industrial revolution the world has witnessed an astonishing, accelerating buildup in knowledge — and there has been no slowdown of late. Peak oil doomers like to argue that civilization will collapse when oil gets too expensive, but oil isn’t the key resource. Smart people who can figure out new ways of doing things (with less energy, with different sources of energy, etc.) represent civilization’s salvation. Anything government can do to increase the number of highly educated people in a given society and the ease with which knowledge can be transmitted is to be encouraged.

…and (are you listening, Australian government?) that certainly doesn’t mean making university education much more ‘user-pays’ and trying to shift as many children as possible into fee-paying private schools and slashing the proportion of GDP that goes to fund education and R&D. Quite the opposite – the countries whose economies are growing in a sustainable way (i.e. not with the boom-and-bust of ‘digging it up and shipping it off’ economies) are the ones that are pouring resources into education for everyone.


Go you Oilers!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:53 am

I know very little about hockey – I don’t mind it, but I’m not a huge fan. But I’ve been swept up in the fever of the Oilers’ playoff campaign, and now I’m watching every game on the TV tuner on my computer.

When they won the series against the San Jose Sharks, coming back from 2-0 down in the series, I said I thought they’d go on to do well int he current series against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. But I said that quietly, because I don’t know enough about hockey, and because enough of the commentators on the radio who do said the Ducks would be tough to beat, and even predicted a series loss for Edmonton.

But the Oilers did the tough job of winning the first two games out on the road, both 3-1, which gave them a huge advantage in the series, because the Rexall Stadium crowd in Edmonton is a huge home ice advantage, so coming into the two home games it was tough to see the Oilers losing both, which would put them up at least 3-1 in the best-of-seven series… or even wrap it up 4-0.

The first home game was played last night, and was a nailbiter – the Oil was always at least 1 goal ahead, but it went back and forth right down to the last few minutes of the game. But they won it, 5-4, so they now lead the series 3-0. That means for the Ducks to win the series they have to win 4 games straight… and although they stepped up last night and made a game of it, it’s tough to see them managing that.

So Game 4 goes tomorrow night at Rexall: it’ll be huge, and I’ll be watching!


The Treadmill – Evidence of Decadence

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:02 pm

OK, stay with me on this one…

The fact that people – huge numbers of people – exercise on treadmills is evidence of a society in decadence in so many ways:

  1. If you have to go walk on a treadmill for half an hour just to keep from getting fat, you clearly have more to eat than is good for you.
  2. Treadmills used to be used to actually power things so that work got done. Now they consume energy because they’re powered. So eat too much energy, then consume some more to get rid of it… decadent!
  3. What happened to going for a walk outside? Well, I dunno, I guess weather (decadent), crime (decadent), pollution (decadent)…
  4. The gym membership or the treadmill at home (plus the room to put it in) requires expenditure that could be avoided by taking that walk outside, or by the even less strenuous exercise of pushing back from the dinner table a bit sooner…
  5. See the image above
  6. I’m sure you can think of many more….

Possible solutions? Eat less, or embrace your fatness. Or go outside for a walk. Or do some physical labour. Or ride a bike.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:29 am

There’s been a bit of discussion on the William Gibson Board lately about SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles, four wheel drives, whatever they’re called where you come from) and their environmental impacts. It’s been a good and interesting discussions, but the biggest pro-SUV voice owns an SUV and believes he needs it for his lifestyle, and the biggest anti-SUV person lives in central London and has never owned a car.

Made me think a bit about how our position in the world somehow influences our position in any particular debate. Similarly, on the Club Adventist forum at the moment there’s discussion of why it’s appropriate to have Black colleges and Black History Month and other such named events and services but it would be seen as racist or inappropriate to have White colleges or White History Month (although, as someone pointed out, the other 11 months are all white history months). One guy grew up as a poor white kid himself, so his concern is with affirmative action programs that are based on race rather than on poverty or social class.

And of course, the discussions we’ve had right here between me (lefty Christian university prof who lives downtown1) and my buddy Lorne (rightish agnostic quality auditor working in the oil industry who lives on an acreage outside of town2) about issues as diverse as climate change and gay marriage have I’m sure to some extent reflected our different positionings in the world.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this effect, and I don’t think it’s just about naked self-interest or bias.

One is that we know what we live – we have the insider perspective, and as much as we try to inform ourselves about the rest of the world and others’ perspectives, the issues that we think about most urgently are the ones we really understand, through our experiences.

Another is that we don’t want to be hypocrites: it’s pretty easy for my London friend to make big sweeping statements about the evils of cars in the environment, simply because no-one can come back to him and say ‘so what are you doing about it?’ His positioning as a lifelong non-user of cars makes him safe from that charge of hypocrisy.

I don’t think we can ever fully escape from our positioning, but being able to see our own, and to think about to what extent it colours or even conditions our perspectives on certain issues, might be one step toward self-knowledge and a more balanced view of the world. Seeing others’ responses to us partly in terms of their positioning might help us to better understand them, and to realise that they have good reasons for thinking as they do.

  1. to characterise myself in an incredibly shallow and reductive way
  2. to do the same to him


Some Foundational Beliefs

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:27 am

I’ve gone about this in the opposite order to the way I often approach (the discussion of) a problem. I usually lay out the assumptions and the theoretical position, then move on to look at the practical implications. In this case, yesterday’s post laid out some very concrete, practical (although by no means simple or easy) steps that could be taken to help Aboriginal people help themselves. Today I want to try to lay out some of the commitments that informed those suggestions.

  1. People are very similar to each other all over the world. There are cultural differences, and those differences are important, but the basic values of humanity are fairly similar. It could be said that it’s racist or paternalistic to try to enforce some of the steps in yesterday’s post on people against their will… and that’s a difficult issue. But I would argue that it’s more racist to believe that Aboriginal people – purely because they are Aboriginal people – want to live in situations with massive disease, abuse, violence and dysfunction. I believe all people want to live in peace, health, freedom and safety1.
  2. Things like drug and alcohol abuse and petrol sniffing are more attractive if someone’s life seems hopeless than if it is hopeful. The reasons to avoid such things are to protect your health and life ‘for the future’… but if it seems like there’s no future, there’s no real disincentive. This kind of substance abuse is generally a poverty problem2 rather than a race or culture problem, and the solutions involve dealing with poverty and its consequences as well as harm minimisation with the substances (e.g. closing grog shops and using ‘unsniffable petrol’).
  3. Non-indigenous Australians (and Canadians) do owe something to the original people of the land. On one level it’s just what we owe to any poor person anywhere – our compassion and what help we can provide. On another level, Aboriginal people’s whole culture/life/spirituality was rooted in the land, and we displaced them off the land. There is no way back, because there is not enough land to support their pre-contact lifestyles, and the present problems are part of the struggle for a way forward. That way should not be complete assimilation into non-indigenous culture, but some blend that builds on the past and creates a future. Creating one that’s viable is a responsibility for all of us.
  4. I agree with those who say that welfare and ‘handouts’ tend to kill initiative and to trap people into cycles of dependence. I disagree vehemently with their proposed solution of simply ceasing such welfare and letting Aboriginal people fend for themselves. We owe them, and there are also consequences in terms of crime and other things of having a permanently dysfunctional group of people. So the solution is to use the resources that are currently devoted to welfare in building systems that give people hope, meaningful work and meaningful job skills. So yes, the government needs to build more and better housing for indigenous people – then create the teams of maintenance workers from within the communities to keep them in good condition. Pride in a community is what leads people to take responsibility for caring for it – and in these cases that pride needs a kickstart.
  5. Welfare also tends to trap people in cycles of dependence where the incentives and programs are badly designed. Often the gap from welfare to work in terms of income is tiny, and the loss of a bunch of benefits means that someone has to choose between going out and working 40 hours, versus sitting around relaxing, and having about the same amount of total income. That means the incentives are set up all wrong. Keeping some benefits for those on low incomes, raising minimum wages to make them attractive and restructuring welfare programs (not punitively) are all steps in making that leap from welfare to work much more attractive.
  6. All the incentives in the world won’t help people into work if there is no work. And I mean real, meaningful, productive work. Maintenance, policing and community building are all valuable forms of work, but there would also need to be the establishment of some other skilled trades or industries. That’s something that would require investment, and serious thought about what kinds of work can be done in these remote locations, with a workforce with a minimal but developing skill set. It might be set up as not-for-profit initially so that wages can be high enough to be attractive, but should move toward self-sustainability – not primarily to relieve the burden on taxpayers, but because that takes it out of the hands of the politicians and their whims and the election cycle and makes it sustainable, and also because that makes the work real, not fake.
  7. Such programs would require committed, thoughtful, knowledgable leaders who understood their underlying goals and had a real vocation for working with Aboriginal people. As just one example, it would require quite strict approaches to punctuality and attendance at work, with pay-docking and other means to enforce that, to create habits of work that would extend the participants’ employability in other industries, but at the same time sensitivity to culture-specific commitments on the part of Aboriginal people such as attending funerals. Finding that balance is very difficult but very important.
  8. Educating Aboriginal people is crucial, but so is educating non-Aboriginal people about the history, background, culture and world of Aboriginal people. Contrary to the Howard government’s approach of demonising and marginalising the ‘other’ (foreigners, Aboriginal people, anyone who is not like Howard), all these solutions will require understanding on the part of the Australian people as a whole, and that inter-cultural education role is a central one in making real changes.

I do realise that these are difficult and complicated changes, being proposed into a difficult and complicated situation. I’m not confused about how much hard work such changes would require, or even about their universal success. But I am convinced that it’s something we need to try: the alternative of going on as we have is not acceptable.

  1. All people in the sense of cultures – there are always sick individuals.
  2. Someone is sure to say, or think “but there are wealthy drunks and druggies too”. Sure, but I’d argue that the hopelessness/no discernable future argument applies there too. It might not be obvious, but I suspect many substance abusers have some of that feeling – and of course it can become a vicious cycle in which the drugs take away the future too.


Steps Toward a Solution for Australia’s Aboriginal People

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:10 am

It seems like an intractable problem: Australia’s indigenous communities in the remote areas of the country have been in crisis for decades now, and seem to be getting worse if anything. This is just the most recent story, but there have been recent ones in the Australian papers about more men dousing women in fuel and setting them on fire, and about endemic child abuse and violence against women, as well as crisis levels of diabetes and even TB. Children are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and many end up sniffing petrol and giving themselves lifelong brain damage. Initiation rituals have been twisted by drug and alcohol abuse into situations of extreme abuse.

I defininitely don’t think it’s a simple problem or one that’s going to be solved quickly and easily, but here are a few key steps that might get things moving in the right direction:

  1. Dramatically curtail the sale of liquor into these communities. The area around Alice Springs, a small town of around 40,000 people, has 90 alcohol shops, something like 3 times as many as is the average for a town that size in Australia. I’m sure the people living in town don’t mind a beer, but the majority of the extra is going into the ‘town camps’ – the squatter settlements of Aboriginal people around the town – and causing untold misery. I’m not sure how someone lives with their conscience selling grog in that kind of situation, but people do, so some political will is needed to dramatically cut the sheer volume of alcohol flowing in.
  2. Give people real jobs and real prospects, and expect high standards of work and behaviour, and the development of real skills, if people are to be paid. Part of this is making sure that there are jobs available that are respectable and valuable – real, productive work, not make-work – and that they pay significantly more than unemployment benefits. The jobs need to include benefits like housing (in the Australian system healthcare is already largely covered). This would require real political will and investment: there just are not really the industries around Alice, or even less so somewhere like Wadeye (the place in the linked story above). They would need to be established.
  3. Massive programs of building and maintaining decent housing for Aboriginal people.. What has been built so far has been too little, and hasn’t been maintained. Real employment for teams of Aboriginal people in building, cleaning and maintaining their communities is essential, and so is real development in infrastructure and health care. Even basics like fresh clean water and electricity are missing in many of these communities.
  4. Committed, focused leaders with real vision need to be chosen from both the Aboriginal community and the Australian community more broadly. These leaders need to have a broad vision of advancement and success and what that would mean for Aboriginal people, both in terms of preserving the key elements of indigenous culture and in terms of addressing the crises in health and community life. Adding non-indigenous Australians to the leadership team would also move beyond problems where Aboriginal leaders have tended to direct resources toward their own people (a big part of the problem is that other Australians tend to see Aboriginal people as a single homogenous bloc rather than as a number of very distinct tribes and nations).
  5. An education for all Aboriginal children that has as its aim both preserving Aboriginal culture and equipping them for success in the broader Australian culture. Dramatically lower standards in Aboriginal education are just perpetuating disadvantage for Aboriginal people and limiting their opportunities. Part of that is going to have to include insistence on attendance at school… And the easy, free and close to home provision of on-going education for Aboriginal adults to expand their opportunities also needs to be a priority.
  6. Community policing initiatives and the recruitment and training of more Aboriginal officers are urgent, essential and long-term needs, but in the mean time a very strong police presence in remote communities and the realisation that (to paraphrase Paul Feyerabend) “there is no culturally authentic rape and murder, there is just rape and murder”, and to treat people that way, is important. I don’t mean an American-style ‘culture of incarceration’, but a much more active law enforcement presence, that is proactive in addressing lower levels of abuse before they escalate to murder, would go a long way toward making these communities safe for everyone. Of course, law enforcement alone without attention to the other areas discussed here won’t get the job done.

Any or all of these could be seen as paternalistic, and as working against Aboriginal self-government and self-determination – even as taking away what should be inalienable rights for people to make their own decisions. But in the final analysis, the effect of these changes would be to help prevent the effects of some people’s bad choices effecting others so grievously… and movement toward a free, proud and healthy future for the country’s first inhabitants.

(The situation for Canada’s Aboriginal people is similar in many ways, and many of these solutions may also be relevant to that situation.)


The Terminators

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:50 am

I spent half an hour or so hanging out at the Alberta Agriculture office yesterday, waiting to get some forms signed to allow us to import our cat to Australia with us. While I was sitting there I was reading the ‘Western Producer’, a newspaper for farmers. Not really my usual fare, but very interesting nonetheless1.

An article caught my eye which was basically a rant against the big agricultural/biotechnology companies and their use of ‘terminator technologies’ (great title, huh?) in seeds. The argument was that as long as humans have had agriculture (which, non-coincidentally, is about as long as humans have had civilisation), part of the process has been saving seed from this year’s crop for next year’s planting. The biotech firms are now creating crops from which the seed is infertile, meaning that instead of saving seed from this year’s crop, you have to go and buy seed from the company again next year.

On the one hand, I can see the author’s point: greedy companies using technology to subvert agriculture and keep on dipping their hands in farmers’ pocket. On the other hand, there is one key point she missed.

The upside of ‘terminator technologies’ is that they stop genetically modified crops from spreading outside the farmer’s field into the wild. If the seeds are sterile, birds can’t carry them off to other places, and seeds that fall off the truck can’t germinate beside the road. And given that genetically modified crops are made to be particularly hardy and robust (or, in the context of supplanting native plants, virulent), and since they are made to be immune to the pests that tend to control naturally occurring plants… the unbridled spread of genetically modified plants into the wild is a Bad Thing.

This is part of the complexity we run into when we start ‘messing with nature’ through biotechnology. I’m not saying we should never do it, but I am saying we should understand what we’re doing, and recognise that the issues are complex. But it’s not only biotechnology – all technology interacts with the natural and human worlds in complex, and sometimes unpredictable, ways. Part of a good science and technology education is about teaching students to navigate through that complexity, and to find solutions that both keep the farmers happy and protect the wilderness (don’t worry, the biotech companies will get along just fine).

  1. There was an excellent 800 word or so article, which I totally would have stolen for later use if the receptionist hadn’t been right there, outlining in very practical terms features of scientific method for farmers who are conducting experiments in their fields with different treatments (seed, soil, water, fertilisers, planting depth, compost, etc.).



Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:33 pm

“All we need is just a little patience…” (sound of whistling)

OK, it’s a quote from a Guns ‘n’ Roses ballad, which might be a bit of a ‘grandpa rock’ way to start. This musing is related to one very simple and minor observation, though: when anyone else in my family gets into the elevator in our building, she hits two buttons – the one for our floor1 and the ‘Door Close’ button. When I get in, I just hit the one for our floor. Sure, it takes an extra 2-3 seconds for the door to close, but I have time and don’t really see the point in rushing.

Maybe it’s a personality quirk, or maybe it’s something I’ve developed over the years, particularly working in non-Western countries like Papua New Guinea and South Africa. I think growing up in Australia has something to do with it too… and the further north the more leisurely in Oz2 (Sue grew up in South Australia and I grew up in New South Wales).

I have a theory about this (surprised? ;)) See, in northern Europe, and here in Canada, the growing season is really only about 3 months long. What you get done in that time is what ensures the survival of you and your family for the whole year, so everything that needs to get done has to happen right now. In warm countries, by contrast, the growing season lasts all year long, and food isn’t hard to come by. If something doesn’t get done today, tomorrow is fine… or maybe next week. Plus of course it’s too hot to get too excited about anything.

OK, the patience required to survive long winters with not much to do is a bit of a crimp in my theory, but it seems to work out: people from cold places bustle, people from hot places snooze…

Here’s to mellowness, patience and mañana. Now if I could just get my girls to chill on that elevator button thing.

  1. My security-minded friends, see how I didn’t say which floor?3
  2. Which means Brisbane should be mellower yet, and Cairns and Darwin positively supine
  3. I realised that footnotes, which used to be a trademark of sorts, have been sadly lacking from recent posts, and resolved to restore what was lost


Two things… (and another)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:41 am

…in the news that I’ll be watching for today. The ‘Plamegate’ grand jury meets today, and there’s lots of speculation about an indictment for Karl Rove, so it’ll be interesting to see what news comes out of that meeting, if any. And the Edmonton Oilers play Game 6 of their playoff series against the San Jose Sharks here in Edmonton tonight. It’ll be a big game and a big night, with lots of celebrations if they win, putting themselves in the Western final for the first time in 14 years.

…and I’m preparing for a seminar session I’m giving here tomorrow on my research. Not that (m) any of you will be able to make it, but just to give you some idea of what I’m up to, here’s the announcement:

“Integrating Knowledge, Developing Identities: Web-based Support for Science Teacher Education”

Student teachers develop their identities as teachers through integrating knowledge and skills from a variety of domains with attributes of their own personalities.

I teach an intensive 5 week set of three linked courses at the University of Alberta for 4th and 5th year science education majors, who immediately after my courses go into classrooms for 9 weeks of practice teaching. My courses involve helping students integrate the knowledge of science gained from their science courses with their knowledge of educational practices gained from education courses and from their own lives as students.

An on-line tool that allows student teachers to build rich, connected sets of web-based resources for teaching was used as one means of enhancing and exploring science education student teachers’ integration of their own knowledge. As a result of this teaching/learning/research project, it is possible tell compelling stories of the development of these excellent young science teachers, and of their developing teacher identities.

This session will involve description of the contextual features of the project along with the telling of some of these ‘student stories’ around science education, technology and teacher identity. It will also include discussion of the ‘catalytic validity’ of the research activity itself as it focused students’ attention on their own development, and of the ethical challenges implicit in playing the roles of both instructor and researcher in relation to students.

Thursday May 18th
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Room 358/366, Ed South

About the speaker: David Geelan is Sue’s husband and Cassie and Alex’s Dad. He has taught high school science in Australia and Canada, worked in teacher development in South Africa and been a teacher educator in Papua New Guinea, Australia and Canada. David has published two books on research methodology and science education (‘Weaving Narrative Nets to Capture Classrooms’ and ‘Undead Theories’), and is a 2005-2006 Carnegie Scholar.


Rats, Roaches and Lemmy

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:56 pm

Watching a documentary about the making of Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ album tonight, and the best line wasn’t even Lemmy’s (he’s a funny, funny guy…) but someone else’s, talking about Lemmy’s survival through 30 years or so of massive drug and alcohol abuse: “After the apocalypse, it’ll just be rats, roaches and Lemmy”.

Getting close

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:33 am

A month from today we’ll fly out of Edmonton. We’ll be on the road for a couple of weeks, and arrive in Brisbane on July 2.