News from February 2001

(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.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2001

That's all folks! This is my last post here using blogger. Tomorrow, I'll be somewhere else entirely. I'll let you know then. The year from March 2000 to February 2001 has been one thing. The year from March 2001 onward will be another thing entirely. Join me there.
Just in case you needed to restock your supply of musical instrument jokes.
This Friday, some friends and I will be doing this. I hear that the view is rather special.

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Neale is back. But note what the man says: it's not a blog. No date! No links! No daily update! It's good to have him back, though.
Here's some more Tim Winton to add to last month's selection. Here his his essay Kiss no bum, tug no forelock on the music of Midnight Oil.

Monday, February 26, 2001

Lots of fun things about mathematics in the public domain at John Allen Paulos's page. He's written some clear and accessible pieces available (pity about the background image, though).
10:37 AM ~ To see: Time Code, a lomo action sampler kind-of movie.

Friday, February 23, 2001

Neale bows out, for now, anyway.
The Hey Hetero advertising timed to coincide with Mardi Gras is excellent thought provoking advertising. It helps to know that straights are the targets of attacks in 0.05% of sexually motivated attacks on people.

Do the mathematics, and grieve for our violent culture.

Thursday, February 22, 2001

Now a faith-based missile defense system would truly provide the best of both worlds for the United States, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Things are gearing up for the transition. Soon I won't be here. I'll be somewhere else entirely. More details will emerge as the bugs get ironed out.

Speaking of changes, go explore the archives of the laboratorium, and wonder what Jason will dream up next.

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

I'm attempting to understand this interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. I'm not succeeding yet, but it does seem like the labour could bear at least a little fruit. There's more here: sufficient to keep me occupied for a little while. Or it would be sufficient to keep me occupied were I not already ridiculously busy.

Monday, February 19, 2001

I suppose they had to fill out a form to re-enter the United States.
I am back. I am tired, stressed, and I have a pile of things to do, but I'm back, slowly working through them. Attention to this website is rather low on the list, so expect activity here to be rather sporadic for a short while.

The 2001 Queensland Election was fun to witness. (Go John!) It's surprising when a conservative federal MP says that the stunning victory by the ALP was the best possible outcome, but then, politics is never completely straightforward in Queensland.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

I'm off to Brisbane for a few days, and will be out of net-contact until I get back, on Monday next week. Enjoy the break. I will.
A dystopia by Anatol Lieven.

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

This is very very helpful. What is it? It's Google's acquisition of deja's Usenet news archive. The interface is simple, clean, and dead-easy to use.

Monday, February 12, 2001

This last week has been one of reorientation. Not only have I been able to throw out one and a half large bins of paper from my office, but almost all things which need filing have been filed, and almost all things which need doing have been ... well, some of them have been done, and the rest have been put on my list of things to do. This list now contains over 50 items, but at least they're where I can see them, instead of languishing around in my office waiting to scare me when I tip over a pile of papers under which they've been ignored.

The best part was throwing away half of the contents of my filing cabinet (and my large boxes of things to be filed in the filing cabinet whenever I got the time) when I realised that I had copies of these papers neatly filed away on my computer as pdf or postscript or dvi files. (I'm an academic, I collect papers by other people. It's a great way to avoid writing them yourself.) Anyway, it's much more productive for these things to be filed away on my hard disk than filed away in my filing cabinet, because my computer is smart enough to index the disk, and I can search for papers by looking for words I know feature prominently. (This is in case I forget the author and title of the paper.) The point is this: I'd like the rest of my filing cabinet to be in my computer too. To do that, I'd need to scan those papers. (Or get files for them in some other way, I suppose.) To scan the papers I'll need a scanner (not too hard to access) and software. Here's where you come in. I want to know if there's software which will do the following:

• Scan a multiple page paper and produce files identical in layout/pagebreaks/linebreaks/etc to the original paper. That is, each page is a real replica of the corresponding page of the paper I'm scanning. Including the silly technical symbols you're prone to find in logic papers. (That's easy. An image file is an easy file to create.)
• Create a file in a type which is publically documented and will not become obselete in the near future. So, Postscript and PDF are fine, JPEG too, but Microsoft Word DOC files are not. (This is easy too, I think that Adobe Acrobat will do these two for me, scanning papers into pdf.)
• At the same time as those requirements, I'd like the text of the paper to be scanned and encoded as text so that the paper can be indexed along with the rest of the documents on my disk. I know that this can be done. The people at Octavo have done it in style with old manuscripts. Is there any way for this to be done affordably by mere mortals such as myself?
Once you've answered this question, reward yourself by browsing through this journal of online opinion.

Friday, February 09, 2001

Simon Blackburn on Freddie Ayer "In short, there appeared not to be anything inhuman about him, only something enigmatic, perhaps lonely, undiscovered, and not fully understood, sort of a don's version of James Dean."

The whole article is revealing, and it is nice to see the famous anecdote of the encounter between Ayer, Mike Tyson and Naomi Campbell in print at last.

Thursday, February 08, 2001

One day I'll get a photo of Erasmus as she yawns. There's something unnerving in the combination of relaxation and the yawning space created when she opens her mouth wide. You can see that this cavern is designed perfectly to eat creatures. We live with a carnivore.
Buried under a pile of unexamined paperwork in what used to be my in-box, I find a print-out of Five Steps to Easier Paperwork, from June 1999. That intention bit the dust somewhere along the line.

Wednesday, February 07, 2001

Matt Haughey has redesigned, spectacularly. It's definitely a season for change. (I have some changes here in the works too. Nothing like that, but a change in style to match my upcoming change in lifestyle.)
Rory used to be here. Then there was a hiatus. (For not even a week.) Now he's here.
It's cleaning out the office week, and I've been distracted by piles of student assessment forms from days gone by. In 1998 I was on the team, teaching Critical Thinking (then called the sexy Reasoning and Logic, before we did our market research). One comment says
Although I disliked the subject I thought Greg was a highlight & was a great teacher. It's a shame he teaches logic though.
And the next:
Shame someone so humorous (lectures were always funny) had to deal with something so sterile and tedious as truth tables.
I even had students happily write that they didn't fall asleep once on my classes. 1998 was a mixed year. Students liked me but didn't like the subject.

Would I prefer it if they fell in love with the subject, but didn't like me?

Tuesday, February 06, 2001

The way not to drown
Is to swim far out
And dive deep down.

Monday, February 05, 2001

Here is a blast from my past. From 1986, to be precise, the first year of my undergraduate degree, and the year I fell in love with the music of the Housemartins. Clean, simple British pop with a Marxist/Christian edge. Think for a minute:
Something's going on, a change is taking place
Children smiling in the street have gone without a trace
This street used to be full, it used to make me smile
And now it seems that everyone is walking single file

And many hand their heads in shame
That used to hold them high
And those that used to say hello
Simply pass you by

Think for a minute, Stop for a minute
Think for a minute, Stop for a minute
I hear that some of the band have gone on to other things.

Friday, February 02, 2001

There are some things you can truly admit to have learned through years of experience, and my knowledge of vending machines is one of these. Let me share an experience from yesterday.

It was time for my afternoon coffee, and with the Grant Application Writing going slowly, I felt the strange desire for one of the large chocolate chip biscuits (a "cookie" for you American readers) available from the downstairs vending machine. So, out of the office I get, and down six flights of stairs to the ground floor of my building to the vending machines. On the way, I check my wallet. Two two dollar coins. I know that the biscuits are $1.60 -- you pay a premium price for those large chunks of chocolate -- so I consider myself well equipped for the vending machine. A chocolate chip biscuit will be mine. Down on the ground floor, in front of the vending machine, spying the bottom right row to check on the supply of chocolate biscuity goodness (check!) I get one$2 coin and put it in the slot.

It makes its journey, not to the money bin in the machine, but directly to the coin return slot. I try it again, after checking that the coin isn't malformed in any way. Again, the journey is swift, but my coin is rejected. I check the machine, and only then do I notice the "correct change required" sign flashing right next to the coin slot. This makes sense. If the machine requires correct change today, it will reject a $2 coin, because the$1.60 chocolate biscuit is the most expensive of the delights it holds. But now I have a problem. The machine wants exact change. I have two $2 coins. I have no other cash. I want a chocolate chip biscuit. Fortunately, this desire can be met because of the other vending machines in the room. Next to the confectionary machine with your standard chips, chocolates, and sundry things to much is the dreaded Coca Cola machine. It will accept$2 coins, but it is notorious for accepting them and giving you nothing in return. No solace there. No, my salvation will come from the much despised $1coffee, tea and hot chocolate machine. The coffee, tea and hot chocolate from the machine is no doubt excerable. (My coffee is nicely brewing upstairs thankyou very much.) However, the machine is a necessary step on my journey to fulfilment. This machine also accepts$2 coins. So I put in $2. Then, I decide that I do not want a hot beverage from this machine. So I press the "reject" button. The machine thinks. This person gave me$2. I must give this person $2 back. It does. In the form of two$1 coins.

Now I am on my way. I consider putting one $1 coin back in the machine and pressing "reject" again to see if I will get any closer to my goal of getting 60 cents in change, but I think better of it. Chances are, the machine is filled with$1 coins. No, I have $1 now, and that is perfectly acceptable to go into my original vending machine. No in it goes. Remember this is the machine which thinks you must put in your exact change. (This is basically a licence for the machine to not give you any change if you put in$1.60 for an item worth $1.50.) Well, I put in$1, and then press the reject button. And what do you know? This machine, which allegedly is running low on small denomination coins and will require exact change, dispenses $1 for me, in five 20 cent coins. Thankyou very much, O gods of vending machines! Three of these newly dispensed 20s, together with my one$1 coin later, I ascend (in a lift) with my sugar kick for the afternoon.

The Grant Application still isn't written.

Thursday, February 01, 2001

This image is the last of the series, chronicling the journey from Central to Lewisham. Lewisham is where I usually get off the train, so the rest of the line from Summer Hill onwards, I'll leave that for you to explore.

This morning, however, I managed to take the car to work. Rummaging through the cassettes in the glovebox long ignored though ripe for re-listening since we now have a car with a useable tape player, I found this, which provides today's lyrics:

Every now and then I seem to dream these dreams
Where the mute ones speak and the deaf ones sing
Touching that miraculous circumstance
Where the blind ones see and the dry bones dance
You can download that song here, and many more lyrics and details of Mark Heard's music can be found here.

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