Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:34 pm

Alex worries that she’s considered to be a nerd, mainly because she gets the best marks in her class, as well as because she… knows stuff. And she enjoys learning. And she more than knows her way around a computer.

She went back to school today, and the school has instituted an electronic rollcall and records system. The teacher was explaining that teachers can insert notes in students’ records, saying that they’ve been naughty (or good), noting tardiness and recording detentions.

One of the students said “But what if some ubernerd hacks in and changes all the comments?”

…and every eye in the class, including even the eyes of the new guy, unanimously turned to Alex.

And she just smiled and said “We don’t use our powers for evil”. 😉



Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:19 pm

Cassie’s boyfriend, Shawn, returned to Canada this morning. He has been staying with us for the past 2 months over the Australian summer school holidays. Shawn is home schooled so it was easy for him to make space in his program to have this experience – which I’m sure he learned a lot from.

The most important thing to say is that he’s a good guy. He has always treated Cassie very well, and is full of (often clever) compliments and affection for her. He is also smart as a whip, and very well informed on a huge range of issues – he ‘got’ a lot of my jokes that even the girls didn’t, which was fun.

They met in Canada but were really just friends at that stage. He asked her out on the web, and she eventually agreed on the web. It’s a new world in that way. they’ve been consistently together, with only MSN and videoconference contact, for well over a year, so it was great that they could finally spend some time together on the same continent.

Have to admit that, although he was no trouble at all, it does feel good to have the house back with just the family. Apart from anything else I have to be a bit less careful about wandering around in me jox.

No idea where the relationship will go from here, and whether they’ll end up together. But he’s made Cassie’s first experience of being in love a great one, and I’m very grateful for that.


ABC Radio informs and entertains

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:11 pm

I had a bit of a run-around to do this morning – had to drop my bike off for a service at the bike shop and get the car, so I rode the bike to the shop early before it opened. Then Sue picked me up from there in the car, and I drove her to the station to get the train to work. Loitered for half an hour or so in the car waiting for the bike shop to open, then went in and chatted to them and dropped off the bike. Then I had an appointment with an accountant to discuss our property investments, and that was on the other side of the city.

So all in all I was in the car for about an hour and a half, mostly by myself, just listening to the radio and driving. I listen to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the publicly owned station here) Brisbane station most of the time, then flick over to the ABC’s Radio National service if I’m finding the Brisbane program boring.

In that driving time I heard at least three things that fired my attention and got me interested… and this is why I love listening to the ABC. So anyway, this is a blog posting with subheadings!

Our Amazing Bodies

There was one story about a 6 or 7 year old girl in Perth (from memory) who needed, and got, a liver transplant. In a checkup a few months later the doctors were amazed to discover that her blood group had changed from what it had been to that of the donor. They were even more amazed to find that her whole immune system had been switched to be like that of her donor – so now she no longer has to take antirejection drugs like most transplant patients, because he immune system ‘recognises’ that liver. (Not sure why she doesn’t start rejecting her own organs.) Anyway, a pretty amazing story. It obviously doesn’t happen that way for everyone, but what a boon for transplant recipients if it did. Or if it were possible to study her and find out how to better deal with rejection issues. (And by the way – have you got your donor card filled out? As the slogan says ‘Don’t take your organs to heaven, we need them here’.)

Genius and Bad Behaviour

There was an interview with Patrick Gale, a novelist who had written about a woman artist who was a great artist but a terrible mother. He was asked ‘is genius an excuse for bad behaviour?’ He said it was, and although I’m sure he was half joking, said ‘Oh, the kids can have therapy but the work of art endures’ or words to that effect. But I disagreed on two grounds (perhaps hence my strong negative reaction to the novel Leaning Toward Infinity by Sue Woolfe as well). First, if we betray the next generation, society will eventually crumble and its members will be too busy scrambling through their nasty, brutish and short existences to appreciate works of art anyway. And second, what is the proportion of people who think they are geniuses to the proportion of people who actually are? So how do we decide who gets to neglect their children and be horrible to everyone around them because they are geniuses, and who does those things but creates complete crap? I know artists play around with this idea, but I firmly believe that a great artist must also be a great soul and a great person, and would therefore be someone who treats those around them with respect, care and affection.

Can’t remember the other issue I was going to chat about here, although there was a heartbreaking story on child sexual abuse in Aboriginal settlements in northern Australia, and the woman had a very sensible framework for the kind of generational changes that are needed to address it. But I guess my point is that brain food is useful and necessary – and as close as the radio dial.


Tied Up In Knots

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:08 pm

OK, so I was walking into the Library this morning and there were three people walking in front of me. They were going very slowly indeed, and one had a hat on and another a Muslim headscarf. When they arrived at the door they basically stopped. Another white guy arrived at the same time as me, and like me was stuck behind them. I just patiently waited, and smiled at that guy, and gave a little exasperated eye roll to acknowledge that we were in the same predicament. Eventually they figured out what they were up to and wandered on through, and we walked away.

I immediately started worrying that my eyeroll might have been interpreted as ‘Oh, these Muslims’ or ‘Oh, these Asians’. I hadn’t meant that, of course, just ‘Oh, these people who don’t know what they’re doing and aren’t being particularly considerate’. So I wondered whether it would be better not to have rolled my eyes at all. But would I have rolled them if I’d been held up by a blonde Anglo Aussie? Absolutely? So isn’t it maybe racist to not hold all people, no matter where they’re from, to the same standards of being considerate in walking around?

But then, maybe Indonesia (where I’m guessing these people came from) has a much less frenetic pace and people typically just meander along, instead of rushing everywhere as we tend to do in Oz (yep, even in Queensland!) So then judging people from a different culture by the same standards would be unfair, because they’re working on different expectations.

It was no big deal, and it’s not as though I was racked with guilt or anything, but I’ve actually been shocked by some of the racism displayed by my fellow Australians during the recent election campaign and since. I don’t want to be seen as supporting that, even with an eyeroll. But it’s easy to end up chasing your tail in thinking about this kind of thing.


A different take on Facebook

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:47 am

CIA plot? Or just capitalist fantasy? Here’s an intriguing article about Facebook and the people behind it:



Scary stuff

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:29 am

From Mike Huckabee, one of the Republican presidential candidates in the US:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

Linkage: http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Huckabee_Amend_Constitution_to_meet_Gods_0115.html

14 More Years

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:51 am

Found this in the paper this morning:

“People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average 14 years longer than people who don’t.”

I think I do most of those (if one cigarette at 14 and never smoking again counts as ‘quitting’), though I could do a bit more exercise than I currently do1. The article posed the question ‘What would you do with an extra 14 years?’, and it’s a good one.

  1. Though I’m suspicious – one of my colleagues had a near-fatal heart attack while running the other day, and you quite often hear of runners keeling over. I’m sure people have heart attacks sitting in front of the computer too, but I’m still inclined to believe that exercise, like most things, is best enjoyed in moderation.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:26 am

Been spending a bit of time on Facebook lately, as mentioned here a few days ago. Cassie set up her page yesterday and invited me to something called ‘Meet New People’. Sounded social and OK – and it wasn’t until it was set up that we figured out it was basically a dating site that allows you to send ‘flirts’ to people based on their photos. Signed up yesterday anyway to help Cass out (and because you have to sign up to get in to find out what you’ve signed up for), and by this morning I had 3 flirts! Wow!

Trouble was, given that I’m really not interested in flirting with anyone but Suzie, I’d just left the default settings alone… which meant it was set to say my interest was in males my own age! So three lovely gentlemen are now flirting with me. Not sure whether to be flattered or horrified!

Simply in the interests of science, I’ve now flipped the toggle to ‘Female’ (I’ll be deleting the application soon). Any bets on how many flirts I get from women in the same period? Anyone?

Why Strine is Unintelligible

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:22 am

‘Strine’ is a term used to talk about the way Australians speak English (because ‘strine’ is how we pronounce ‘Australian’ here). It includes lots of slang you probably already know, but some you don’t. Someone on the radio this morning, talking about her relationship with a boyfriend, said ‘I think he’s a bit Alan’. The co-hosts hadn’t heard that expression, so she explained it was rhyming slang: ‘Allan Moffatt = gone off it’. To make the link, though, you have to know that Allan Moffatt is a Canadian-born Australian racing-car driver from the 60s and 70s…


PEBCAK on the stockmarket

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:16 pm

As you probably know if you listen to the news at all, the stockmarket is having a bit of a rocky start to the year. It’s looking increasingly as though the sub-prime mess will drag the US economy into recession, so stocks are dropping. When that happens it’s still possible to make money on the market, using what’s called ‘short selling’. It’s possible to sell shares before you buy them, so you can sell them when the price is high, and then buy them back (because now that you’ve sold them you owe the market some shares) when the price drops. It’s as though I sold you an apple now, for a particular price, with delivery to take place next week, because I know apple prices are going to fall. I go next week and buy a cheap apple and sell it to you for the higher price already agreed. (Incidentally, Apple (the computer company, not the fruit) shares did fall last night!)

I’ve been doing that, and making some money at it (though at this stage not enough to cover the price drops on the shares I own – but those will come back up in time, so it all works out). Set up one such trade for a clothing company called New York & Co (NWY) last night. For a short trade, you *want* the price of the share to drop. And due to the way I trade, losses and gains are magnified quite a bit. So when NWY dropped over 6% in price overnight, I should have made a 60% profit.

But computer helpdesk people have a term they sometimes use when talking about users who are having problems – PEBCAK. It stands for ‘problem exists between chair and keyboard’. In other words, it’s the user that’s the problem, not the computer. I entered one tiny little detail wrong when I entered the order. Fortunately there was enough profit that I still came out ahead, but I made around 15% profit for the night on that trade rather than 60%. Now 15% in one night is definitely nothing to be sneezed at, but still… there was more on offer if I hadn’t made the mistake.

Still, it’s an important lesson in making a trade and checking it twice… and I didn’t pay for that lesson with any of my own money.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:01 pm

I will have been writing about the drumbeat for war between America and Iran for a year in a couple of days. Further posts on the issue here, here and here.

In the last month or so there has been a clear (US Intelligence) report that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program years ago, and in the last couple of days Iran has agreed to answer all remaining questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

And yet also in the last couple of weeks there’s a trumped up incident of confrontation in the Persian Gulf, and in the past couple of days Bush is talking tough against Iran still, and apparently now we learn the Americans are arming the Saudis to help them against Iran. You may remember that the vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis

In general I don’t believe in wishing my life away, waiting for things in the future. But January 2009 and a new US president cannot come fast enough. Probably still won’t be quick enough to avoid war in Iran, though.


Dr Seuss at the Speedway

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:23 am

We went to the Brisbane International Speedway last night to watch the sprintcars (and the smaller litre sprints and dwarf cars). The sprint cars, if you’re not familiar with them, have hot 410 cubic inch (6.9 litre) engines in light 700 kg bodies with huge wings on the top, and race on a 1/4 mile oval dirt track. They hit speeds of 140 km/h or so on the straights.

The track in Brisbane is clay, and it’s been rainy, so it was rougher than usual and very exciting. We were sitting on Turn 3, and tended to get showered with little chunks of mud (and later dust as the track dried) when the cars came past. Nothing like grit on your teeth for feeling part of the action!

So what’s someone who claims to be concerned about the environment and climate change doing watching motorsport? I guess I could go into a whole long justification (rationalisation?), but I think I’ll leave it for the great sage, Dr Seuss:

“These things are fun, and fun is good”.


5 Years on the WGB

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:25 am

Today is my ‘boardday’ – the day I celebrate another year of participation in the William Gibson Board, the discussion forum for readers of William Gibson’s novels.

Gibson started out writing ‘cyberpunk’ – near future science fiction. In fact, he was one of the originators of the genre. His last couple of novels have been set in the present, but have continued his trend of understanding new technologies and the ways they interact with society. They’re highly recommended.

But the Board is only peripherally about Bill’s books any more – we discuss them, but we also discuss everything else. I count a large number of the WGB’s denizens as personal friends, and have met perhaps a dozen of them face-to-face over the years. On one memorable occasion in Vancouver the man himself joined us for noodles and a chat.

There are members from all over the world – I just got a postcard from Mexico this week and I’m expecting one soon from Wisconsin. I can’t even list all the countries people post from, and the range of occupations and lifestyles is equally broad. There are also several married couples who met there.

It’s a form of life that wasn’t really possible 15 years ago – which means that it has been impossible for more of my life than it’s been possible. But if I lost it it would feel like losing a limb.


I has an award!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:22 pm

Lorne gave me this very nice (and very Canadian) award…

Now I have to fire up my php/css brains and figure out how to display it on this blog!

Facebook and Family

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:25 am

We were at a 70th birthday party for my Dad last week, and caught up with lots of the family. Chatted quite a bit with my cousin Tracylee, who I hadn’t seen for a long time, but who I had also taught when she was a high school student and I was a beginning teacher, a long time ago. She indicated that a lot of my cousins were linked up on Facebook. I’d had a Facebook account for a while because my friend Lyndon Jones had invited me, but not really done much with it. Went back to it and connected with a heap of cousins and other relatives, and also with a lot of old friends… very cool. I’m sure I could get hooked on the various quizzes and other Facebook activities, but just as a way of keeping in touch with friends I’m impressed with it.

Here we are again

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:22 am

Hi All

Lorne and Dawn had said already that they missed this blog when it died. Then when we met up with Paul and Vanessa over the holidays they said the same thing. Couple that with a new year and new energy, plus the fact that various ideas and issues have been bubbling up and making me wish I had an outlet to share them… and here we are again!

Dunno how daily the updates will be – depends on both time and the number of ideas that bubble up – but hopefully there’ll be something at least a couple of times a week.