News from August 2000

(These are entries from my blog from 2000 and early 2001. They were originally hosted on a small server at Macquarie University. Most of the links are dead now, but I have kept them as they are here, for nostalgia’s sake.)

Thursday, August 31, 2000

10:14 PM ~ I was delighted to find that someone had trawled through pages of search engine entries to find this one. What was the search for? It was procrastination. This was on the tenth page of results. Our searcher might procrastinate, but she/he surely is persistent about it.
6:19 PM ~ [Tibor's Present]I think I'd like to know more about Tibor Kalman. He seems to send people interesting presents.
11:13 AM ~ Today's Listening: Tie Me At The Crossroads.
It's more blessed to give than it is to receive
Except when it comes to free advice I believe
Go explore the new Cockburn Project website for juicy Bruce Cockburn goodness.
9:58 AM ~ Hmm. Does this mean that if I'm going to drink coffee, I ought to make a habit of it?
In another study of fifteen healthy volunteers, Dr. Georg Noll and colleagues at the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, showed for the first time that coffee drinking result in a pronounced blood pressure increase in non-habitual coffee drinkers, but did not apparently have the same effect in regular coffee drinkers.
Just as well that I do make a habit of it.
7:49 AM ~ Greg Restall ~ Log: I guess it's a bit like spying, but with permission. Thanks, Pragati, that's made my morning. Now for that cup of coffee to render me conscious.

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

4:03 PM ~ I have a sordid confession to make. I indulge in middle-brow science fiction. My first love in science fiction is the more creative and wild material, like Stanislaw Lem and the socialist political novels of Ian M. Banks and Ken MacLeod. However, occassionally I have been known to descend into the more mainstream material, such as Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. One author of a similar quality is the Canadian, Robert J. Sawyer. My guilty secret to reveal is that I have spent a couple of hours in a bookshop in the middle of Calgary, reading (and not paying for!) his Factoring Humanity. I had an excuse. I was wanting a lazy afternoon, I had just explored the museum, and it was pouring with rain. The bookshop had comfortable seats, and I sat and read an agreeable tale.

Now I find that he's written a new book Calculating God, with the intruiging premise that aliens come to earth, looking for proof of divine creation. O for another rainy day in which to waste some more time.

2:25 PM ~ This seems to be a picture of the new graphite mode for Aqua. No blue. Just plain greys.
8:48 AM ~ The one piece of good news about the upcoming MacOS X beta:
The CEO touted a few features that Apple has not previously revealed in its public demonstrations, including one, aimed at graphic artists, that converts the interface colors to graphite to avoid visual conflicts with artwork.
Nice. Very nice. I'll be able to do work without staring at all those candy blue buttons.

Tuesday, August 29, 2000

2:21 PM ~ Today's Listening: Lemon.
And I feel
Like I'm slowly, slowly, slowly slipping under
And I feel
Like I'm holding onto nothing

And these are the days when our work has come assunder
And these are the days when we look for something other

Midnight is where the day begins
Midnight is where the day begins
Midnight is where the day begins

As they say, some days are better than others.

Monday, August 28, 2000

3:58 PM ~ Ouch! My Newton has survived a 2 metre drop onto concrete (landing on the corner with the pen holder) without any damage to the screen, and with only a small dent on the corner itself. No such luck for the owner of this Handspring Visor.
3:11 PM ~ [Police at Woomera]I find that I'm repeating myself. In June I wrote:
The breakouts in these detention centres might just have something to do with the fact that we treat these people badly. It's a simple matter to do the obvious background security checks first, then release people into the community while the rest of their case is assessed. But no, we lock them up in prison conditions for the whole time.
It hasn't got any better. Now news reports tell us that there's serious rioting and the authorities are using water cannon and tear gas on the rioting asylum seekers. This is not the outcome you'd get from a sensible or humane policy. But then, common sense or humanity is in scarce supply when it comes to our treatment of asylum seekers.
8:14 AM ~ is a portal for all of your bioethics needs. For example. Today, I find out more than I wanted to know about organ donation from patients certified braindead. I didn't need to know about the heartrate elevating, or the patients "wriggling" when the organs are removed.

Sunday, August 27, 2000

5:08 PM ~ Well, it didn't take long for the first mp3 of a song from U2's new album to get leaked.

Saturday, August 26, 2000

5:41 PM ~ This morning and afternoon featured a lovely ferry to Manly (and back). Fresh air, excellent fish and chips, sand and sun at the beach watching a water-skier repeatedly fall attempting spins and turns, a buzz of people with different accents and Sydney tourist guides clutched tightly, way too mutch kitsch at the Saturday markets, and a delightful coffee while waiting for the return ferry. Winter is going, and it's being replaced by thousands of people, and a city looking brighter and almost ready for the influx of millions more, both physical and virtual.

It's just as well that in the thick of things we'll be in Toronto and Pittsburgh.

Friday, August 25, 2000

5:54 PM ~ Advice for Olympic Visitors 1: If you're swimming at Bondi beach and a siren sounds and you see everyone else swimming in to shore, don't be worried. This is just the local custom to vacate the beach, to give untrammelled access for our foreign visitors. If you happen to see a shark, do not be afraid. Sydney sharks are friendly creatures, who really appreciate being tickled on the nose.

(The local radio station has been compiling a list of helpful advice to give our international visitors.)

1:19 PM ~ Interesting Reading 1: Matt from Interconnected provides us with some Random Kant for inspiration.
11:09 AM ~ Interesting Listening 1: Lectures on God and Computers by the inimitable Don Knuth. He rightly describes the lecture series as Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About.

Thursday, August 24, 2000

4:02 PM ~ I'm enjoying Reich Remixed. It's not the pure, trance inducing music of Reich (hearing Double Edge perform Piano Phase was a transformative experience for me). Reich Remixed not even a reinterpretation of Reich. It's Reich in a completely different key -- you could call it non-minimal club-style minimalism, based on Reich's themes. It goes to show how much you can do with the beautiful tune-fragments Reich has worked with.
2:42 PM ~ Witness the drama of Eris Joan Barnes' entry into the world. Amazing. I first found this the day before her birth, and I've been following the drama daily ever since.
12:35 PM ~ I finally have ethernet access to the network on my PowerBook at work. Zippy downloading at last.
10:13 AM ~ This would be a fun university course to take (both as an instructor, and as a student). Look at the homework.

Wednesday, August 23, 2000

10:09 AM ~ [A Picture of a Picture Frame: Cornelius Gijsbrechts]Life's rather too hectic at the moment. Lots to do, not much time to do it in. Email piling up, and lots of other things to do. No more web browsing today. Off to get some work done.
9:57 AM ~ I don't normally comment on the rest of the weblog "community", but I'd like to point out that Tom Coates has moved his residence from to The new place has a clean non-derivative design. It must be that Style vs Design thing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2000

6:59 PM ~ New Scientist has an interesting article on wealth distribution. Apparently physical models are doing well to predict weath distribution, using only minimal assumptions about people and what we do. There's no link to the website of the researchers in the article, but you can find a gaggle of econophysicists here.
4:39 PM ~ Deepleap, Inc. :: Signing Off. This is saddening. I didn't use deepleap much, but when did, I appreciated it, and I liked where it seemed to be going.

Monday, August 21, 2000

4:53 PM ~ You're writing a paper. Or rather, you're attempting to write a paper, and you're getting bogged down. It's not going anywhere, and you're in need of some help. You search your computer for references to Carnap and you discover a draft of a paper you wrote in 1995, with a full four pages of interesting, unpublished and useable material on the topic you're working on now. The feeling? Relief. And gratitude to your past self.

The moral of the story. Don't trash your drafts. They come in handy after they've had a chance to mature and mellow with age.

Sunday, August 20, 2000

6:54 PM ~ I did draw a crowd yesterday. It was a buzz, telling prospective students that they ought do philosophy because it was the ultimate transferrable skill. Philosophy never goes out of date because it doesn't apply to anything in particular. (It applies to everything in general.) Not like those applied computing degrees where everything is outdated in a few years' time.

They swallowed it, at it looks like we might have a few philosophy students next year.

Saturday, August 19, 2000

8:50 AM ~ [Quang Duc's Immolation]These screenshots of the video-game of life are uncannily disturbing. (Via peterme.)
8:40 AM ~ How am I going to cope today, going up against the chemistry magic show? Will I draw a crowd?

Friday, August 18, 2000

8:14 PM ~ John Clarke: Yes, well farnarkling's a very good example, where I was actually doing a television series on which I did something about sport each week, and that was OK in Australia when we were in the summer, but it got to be a problem when we were in the winter, because there was a different code in a lot of the different places to which the program went. So I decided to standardise it by the invention of a completely different sort of sport, no less bogus than any of the other ones, (have a look at the Colonial Stadium) but full of its own things, it's own terminology and its own kind of heroes, many unsung, and a hero has to be unsung to a certain extent, sung heroes are you know, Shane Warne and so on, you're in trouble there. So yes, and I really did enjoy doing it. And I grew up in New Zealand of course, where Rugby is a religious matter, and these people were regarded as being geniuses, people who frankly weren't geniuses, but were wearing the right clothing. It's all a bit silly.
8:01 PM ~ Carnap, Carnap, Carnap, Carnap, Carnap, Carnap, Carnap [pdf file], Carnap [another pdf file] and Carnap. Phew!

Yes, today has been brough to you by the one and only Rudolf Carnap.

3:28 PM ~ Want to solve a few interesting problems? The Clay Mathematics Institute will pay hansomely for a solution.

Thursday, August 17, 2000

12:04 PM ~ Want to see an interesting view of the bibliography of my book?
9:47 AM ~ There's been lots of talk in the media about how silly it is that the Russians aren't accepting outside help in rescuing their submariners. The common explanation is that they want to look like they can do it themselves. I would have thought that the real reason was much more obvious.

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

10:54 AM ~ I've added a few links to my research links page: chiefly the journals that made my desktop look like that. If you're accessing a journal website through an institution which subscribes to the journal, you can download papers too. (The journal providers do the detection by IP-address logging.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2000

10:27 PM ~ I've spent too long ironing out silly Netscape 4.x CSS bugs in these pages. Now this shouldn't look so terrible in Netscape 4.x browsers, which simply botch the stylesheets.
9:41 AM ~ Remember this, Greg: has neat royalty-free stock photos, useful for all sorts of illustration purposes.
9:18 AM ~ I agree with Lindsay that this clause of our wondrous GST Legislation is rather odd.

Monday, August 14, 2000

11:12 PM ~ [A full desktop]After a day of browsing some journal websites (the equivalent of an afternoon in the library, I suppose, without the tedium of photocopying) I'm officially gorged. Now for the reading and filing.

(The especially nice thing is that the text in all those pdf files is automatically indexed by my computer for really neat searching when I'm doing research. I wish my filing cabinet automagically indexed my photocopies, but alas, that doesn't happen.)

2:59 PM ~ I love Jay Garfield's work. He's a great example of someone exploring a particular religious tradition (in his case, Buddhism) and working within interesting areas of analytic philosophy. His paper "Temporality and Alterity" addresses some of these issues. The quote which leads the article: "If Western philosophers don't think that philosophy can lead to liberation from cyclic existence, why do they do it?" Great stuff.
11:10 AM ~ I've spent a few hours browsing the ScienceDirect archive of academic journals. It's getting way easier to use these net-hosted archives of academic publications: download times are dropping as we get faster net access, and nicer computers mean that the rendering of pdf or postscript files is much more bearable. However, the user interface still stinks compared with browsing through a library. There, I can just pick up a journal and flick through the pages. It will be a while before net-based publications can match this ease of assimilating vast swathes of information quickly.

Sunday, August 13, 2000

6:43 PM ~ Depressionet: a helpful Australian site with resources on depression.

Saturday, August 12, 2000

11:19 AM ~ So, yeah Calvinism is hip, I guess. (Found via Caroline at prolific.)
9:13 AM ~ Want to get from where I grew up to where I live now? Here's how.

That's a lot more direct than my journey, which had some detours.

Friday, August 11, 2000

5:26 PM ~ In a shock decision by the International Farnarkling Board, the Dutch Farnarkling team have been disqualified from playing in the 1999 World Series for using a non-regulation Furby during practice. Spies sent from the Dominican Republic revealed that they had obtained the illegal Furby from a Zulu pict during Hogmanay in Abergavenny, and was thus two kilos under weight. This allowed the Dutch team to avoid passing while during knip, as the Furby could safely be bounced along the ground at a rate not equal to the speed of mud.
8:41 AM ~ Nethack's precursors Hack and Rogue were a serious timewaster of my honours year (1989). It's nice to know that the game is still around. (It's not so much of a timewaster now.)

Thursday, August 10, 2000

5:18 PM ~ [Solar Flare]König's Lemma is beautiful. Deceptively simple to state, obviously true, but difficult to prove. Finitely branching trees with finite branches are finite. Or dually, finitely branching trees which are not finite have some infinite branch. Just imagine that you're at the start of a branching series of paths, which divide and divide again, off into the horizon, and a sage tells you: some of these paths have dead-ends, but the whole network is boundless. How do you go about finding an infinite path?


2:38 PM ~ Today it's tidy the desk day.

Wednesday, August 09, 2000

10:39 PM ~ To read: What Cookies are For.
5:05 PM ~ Working, working, working. Meetings, tutorials, worrying about modality and indeterminacy. No time to update this website today, not even for this.

Tuesday, August 08, 2000

3:37 PM ~ [Gratuitous Advertising]Last night's episode of The Games was characteristically fine. (Especially funny: Bryan's Book of Mormon and his Greek/Australian hairstyle, and Nicholas' traditional Greek outfit at the end. They all play straight-guys very well.)
3:30 PM ~ Well, meetings are a strange sort of thing. I've spent all morning in a departmental meeting. We didn't actually decide much. It was one of those meetings where you seem to spend most of the time deciding what it is that you need to decide, and what doesn't need decisions. The actual decisions seem to come later. At least I seem to have a pretty good grip on what's happening in my own department, as nothing blindsided me. (I think it's taken me a couple of years to actually get to this point.)

Now to actually do some work.

Monday, August 07, 2000

10:28 PM ~ Here's today's work for my intro logic class. I hope you like it. More importantly, I hope they like it.
2:48 PM ~ What a great weekend! I received some nice super-top-secret news on Saturday which I might tell you all about sometime soon. (It's nothing to do with work, for those of you who know who know the rumours swirling around in that area of my life.) Some work done, a great squash hour (we're getting nice longer rallies now), good meals shared with great people, and even the requisite amount of sleep. I'm relaxed and in the groove.

Now, I'm working on a fun teaching project, and even today's visit to the dentist was relaxing and painless.

Saturday, August 05, 2000

4:24 PM ~ Tenure decisions are sometimes tense. I had no idea that they could get this tense.
9:40 AM ~ [A Screenshot]I have a love/hate relationship with my web browser. My current pet peeve is the way it breaks lines. Completely crazy. Can anyone tell me why it has such a brain-dead linebreaking algorithm?

Friday, August 04, 2000

9:49 AM ~ My friend Daniel Nolan has a way with words. Here is an excerpt from his review of the movie Gladiator
arrows with flaming pitch or whatever on them are going to do less good than arrows with little metal bits on the end, which instead of bouncing off people and startling them actually go into them and make them all hurty inside.
There's much more where that came from.
8:40 AM ~ Just yesterday I was talking with friends over lunch about "logical cranks" who submit "refutations" of famous theorems of modern logic like Gödel's incompleteness Theorem or Cantor's Diagonalisation proof. Lo and behold, overnight I get an email from the author of this inviting me to check out his great refutations.

Thursday, August 03, 2000

10:07 PM ~ Do you want to know about Arthur Prior?
9:29 PM ~ Newsflash: I'm really enjoying teaching. There's a crazy buzz involved when you're addressing a bunch of students. Of around 450 or so students in a large theatre, and by-and-large, they look and sound like they're listening and interested, and sometimes, they even laugh at your jokes! Teaching is a Good Thing. I didn't realise how much I'd missed it when I was on study leave.
10:12 AM ~ A story of a life, or at least, a week: I must think about this and this for this. However, I must also, of course, keep up with this, this and I mustn't forget these, and helping someone with this. Then, of course, the there are the very important this, that and the other which cannot be named, or at least, linked, at this stage.
10:05 AM ~ The latest policy announcement on research fellowships from the Australian Labor Party is a Good Thing. I say that, not just because I suppose I'm in the target market for research fellowships, but also because I care about the higher education system here in Australia. However, boosting funding for research fellowships is not going to stop the brain drain in and of itself. What makes overseas so attractive to me, is the general state of the universities here. Merely having an elite class of researchers on cozy fellowships is not enough. How attractive do you think it would be to be a well-funded researcher in a department which is struggling to make ends meet, and attempting to cope with inflated student numbers and staff numbers?

Increased funding for research will only pay off in the context of a healthy university environment. This includes teaching as well as research.

Wednesday, August 02, 2000

3:16 PM ~ Should I be worried or delighted that a search for cosmetic surgical arts appeared in my referrer logs?
10:13 AM ~ Let me say something about rights. I'm not going to address Russ' issue of rights to free speech (I think I have nothing clarifying to say about that issue). What's exercising me at present is the news that our federal government is going to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to prevent its use against state laws which attempt to limit fertility treatment for people outside of heterosexual relationships. I don't want to focus on the subsantive issue at the moment. What interested me this morning was hearing the rhetoric the Prime Minister used to defend his decision. He said that a child's right to a mother and a father is paramount.

Now, I can understand him saying that it is good for a child to grow up in a stable home, even a stable two-parent heterosexual relationship home. Goodness, I can even understand him saying that it's best for a child to grow up in a family constituted of a husband and a wife who got married in a church and live in a nice two-bedroom house with a picket fence! (I have nothing against church marriages, having had one myself, and I have nothing in particular against picket fences, though I don't have one of them.) What I can't understand is him saying that this is a matter of rights. That has to be wrong.

Why does a child not have a right to grow up in a family with a mother and a father? It's simple: a right always brings with it a corresponding obligation or duty. If I have a right to x, I have a duty to not take x away from you. If I have a right to free speech, you have a duty to not prevent me from speaking. If I have a right to food, you have a duty to not take all of the food away from me.

Now, how does this work in the case of parenting? Did my parents have a duty to not separate, because of me and my brother when I was a child? I don't think so. I agree that had my parent's had a functioning relationship it would have been in my interests for them to stay together. But I don't see that as a matter of my rights. If I had rights as a child, they were rights to be cared for and looked after, and my mother did that very very well. My rights were respected, even though my parents split up. Let's take a more stark example. Does a mother who's partner dies before childbirth have a duty to get another partner before the baby is born? Surely she should if the baby has a right to two parents. No, it's sad that the baby will not be raised by both parents, but no-one would want to say that she must find another partner to father the baby.

No, this rights talk is all a furphy. I agree: Children have a right to be cared for. I don't see how this means that they have a right to two parents.

Why does the Government talk of rights in this context? It's simple. If the P.M. simply said "we think it's good for children to have two parents" and directed its legislation accordingly, then the government would be seen as engaging in the kind of social engineering they take belong to the other side of politics. And we can't have that.

I know that the way I've put this is contentious. Do you agree with me? Or disagree? If you've got somthing to say, post it at the Comments page.

Tuesday, August 01, 2000

3:57 PM ~ I bet you didn't know that I am the One True Believer of the Logicians' Liberation League?

No JC I didn't meand that you didn't know that. You did. The rest of my readers didn't.

11:24 AM ~ Similarity Strangeness at Google. What do you make of this? According to the search engine, is similar to, but is not similar to I would have thought that if x is similar to y then y is similar to x, but I'm prepared to stand corrected. (I can think of a couple of reasons why this result might surface. I wonder what the real reason is.)

This meditation on search engines is brought to you by Neale's revelation that he is rather special.

10:38 AM ~ [Stalin's Happy Family]Confirmation that evil tyrants can have kind, gentle and sensitive offspring. (Who knows what I'd do if I knew that my father was responsible for the deaths of 15000 Poles? Who knows what Yakov Dzhugashvili would have done had he known the true extent of his father's actions?)
10:34 AM ~ Here's something I've been working on. Let's see if I can get this off the ground this year!


I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and the Director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre for Logic, Language, Metaphysics and Epistemology I like thinking about – and helping other people think about – logic and philosophy and the many different ways they can inform each other.


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