Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coco, Googolplex and G64

Today Coco and I went for a walk. Coco is 5 about to turn 6. At one point, we ended up in front of the locked front gate of our friend Jimmy's house. Coco wanted to ring and go in for a play date. I didn't. Coco decided to use an argument settling technique which her parents had learned (and thereafter rather warped) from marriage counselors Les and Leslie Parrott. She asked "Dad, how much out of 10 do you want to *not* ring and ask for a playdate?" I answered

B: "10 (this is one of the two typical answers to this question in our household), and how much out of 10 do you want to ring and have a playdate?"

C: "Googolplex" (this is in the vein of the other typical answer in our household)

B: "Coco, do you realize that even most adults don't know what a googolplex is?"

B: (to a middle age couple walking by) "Excuse me, do you know what a googolplex is?"

Strangers: "No--what is it?"

B: "It's a very large number"

Strangers: (with look which seems to communicate "You are one wierd cookie") "Ok, thank you for that."

B: "Coco, did you know that there's a number even bigger than googolplex?"

C: "No, you said that was the biggest number."

B: "Oh, did I? Well I learned a bigger one. It's called G64"

C: "Oh, OK, I want G64 out of 10 to ring and have a playdate"

Rabbit Proof Vest

Please note the last definition in the this google search for "define: pathetic"

Smallish "Hooray!"--doomsday clock shifts

Saturday, January 30, 2010

22nd most generous.

"I do not accept second place for the United States of America."

-Obama, in his recent state of the Union address

Well, Mr. President--how does 22nd place strike you? 22nd most generous.

(Australia really isn't doing that hot on this list either, at number 15.)

See also the Committment to Development Index, on which the U.S. ranks 17th in a list of 22 rich nations.

Or, for those who would argue--show me an objective measurement which puts the U.S. in first or second place as most generous. And keep in mind the story of the poor widow's offering.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What if

What if generals, commanders in chief, bomber pilots, ammunitions corporation CEO's, gunship assembly line workers et. al. were simply required each and all to experience firsthand the sight and smell of the blood of those to whose violent deaths they contribute?

What if soldiers were first required to achieve intermediate competency in the language of anyone they were likely to shoot at?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All wars are religious

I remember learning this in a conversation I got into on the way home from University on the city bus with a fellow who was doing his doctorate in history, 2 years ago.

The figure for the U.S. in this table is wrong. It's closer to 7%, which puts the U.S. in the top 7. Everyone else in the top 7 are Muslim countries or Israel, which was stolen from Muslim countries by Jews supported by Christians.


By the way, don't get the wrong idea. the U.S. may be only 7th in military expenditure as a percentage of GDP, but we still spend well more than the rest of the world *combined* on "defense"/military expenditures. The reason we're seventh is that we have by far the largest GDP. This makes a certain sense--if you're the richest, and 2 billion people are living in extreme poverty, then of course you're going to have to build an increasingly expensive military fence to keep them out and maintain such an imbalance. In the same way keeping your house 40 degrees cooler or hotter than the outside temperature is a lot more expensive than than having it the same temperature, and also a lot more expensive than having it 10 or 20 degrees cooler or hotter than the outside temperature. As the difference in temperature increases, between inside and outside, it becomes increasingly expensive to maintain.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Retrograde orbit

Learned today--retrograde orbit--used to describe a planet which rotates in the opposite direction as the rotation of it's star.

Also learned, in trying to figure out what that means--stars rotate about their axes! And thus the sun, Sol, rotates about its axis (I was tempted to add an incorrect apostrophe in "its" there, just to annoy other nitpickers like me.) Morever, it's rotation is differential, which means it rotates at different speeds at the equator and the poles--a rotation every 27 days at the equator, and a rotation every 31 days at the poles. Given the circumference of the sun at the equator, this means that anyone standing on the equator is not only moving enormously faster than someone standing near the pole--they are moving *even more* enormously faster. Kewl. What is the speed of someone standing on the equator of the sun relative to the sun's axis?

If a dude stands at the pole, and another dude stands at the equator, so that they are on the same longitude, then given the differential rotation, what is the period between which they first are on the same longitude and they again are on the same longitude? Hmmmmmm.

Feel tiny yet?

How does the goldilocks zone of VY Canis Majoris compare to the Goldilocks zone of Sol, in AU?
I bet it's *way* further out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Good on Amazon.

As part of a lawsuit settlement, sent the following to me today. I like the way the company has handled the whole thing.

Dear Kindle User,

We’re sending this note to remind you about proper attachment and use of your Kindle cover and about Amazon’s Kindle warranty. You can view instructions and illustrations here:

To install the Kindle, open the cover and lay it on a flat surface. Then insert the bottom attachment hook on the cover into the bottom slot on the left edge of the Kindle. Rotate the Kindle to insert the top attachment hook. Then slide the switch down slightly to lock the cover attachment hooks in place.

Be sure to place the Kindle flat on the cover during installation. Do not tip the Kindle at an angle during installation, as that may cause the cover attachment hooks to bend.

When using your Kindle with the cover, be careful to open the front cover only. If you open the back cover and pull the cover away from the Kindle, that may cause the attachment hooks to bend and could result in cracking or other damage to the Kindle.

How kewl is that--a simple little instruction about how to prevent damage to your kindle? Kind of like telling a new car owner to change the oil regularly and drive gently and sensibly. Now I know. Nice work Amazon. Here's to the justice system working well for sensible people.

Your Kindle is covered by a One-Year Limited Warranty you can view here:

If the attachment hooks on your cover have become bent, or your Kindle has developed cracking or other damage near the location where the hooks connect to the Kindle, please contact Kindle Support by phone or email regarding warranty replacement.

You can reach us via phone or e-mail through our website by clicking the Contact Us button on our help pages at or directly by calling one of these numbers:
Inside the United States: 1-866-321-8851, Outside the United States: 1-206-266-0927.

For more information, please see the Warranty Service section of the Kindle Return Policies Help page:

The Kindle Team

Please note: this e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.

Think I'll move to .... (Wait for it)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I was in prison ...

View Larger Map

Is Jesus saying that those whose visit the folks in these get in, and the folks who don't don't? Nah. Couldn't be that simple. Must be something more complex and easier than that.

Apparently it's a lot easier to find one to visit in the U.S. than in Australia. (Hey check it out--the U.S. has it's very own private color on that map. I wonder if "defense" spending is correlated with incarceration rate? I hypothesize that it is.)

If I were in prison, I'd want people to visit. Lots of people. I'd want to know they were coming back regularly. But I've never once visited anyone in prison. You?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pathetic Irony

I found the combination of the story and the ads currently on this page striking.

Civilian casualties soar in Afghanistan

According to this United Nations Report, 2009 was the worst year since the U.S. invasion and occupation in terms of number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

I know what let's do. Let's spend an extra US$33 Billion to send an extra 30,000 guns and FSM-knows-how-much extra ammuntion into the country. That'll fix it for sure. And there will be the added bonus of lots of extra income for this guy, the CEO of ATK

ATK, the world's largest maker of ammunitions for "small" arms, says in its 2009 annual report to stockholders:

Fiscal year 2009 was another strong year for ATK. Sales were up 10 percent to $4.6 billion—our 6th consecutive year of double-digit sales growth. Absent a non-cash, non-deductible charge, earnings per share (EPS) increased 23 percent to $7.75—the third straight year of EPS growth in excess of 15 percent. And importantly, we generated strong cash flow to invest back into our business, drive our growth, and strengthen the value of our company for our shareholders. By all accounts, these are outstanding results. For 2010, we are again forecasting higher revenue and EPS.


Nathaniel's writing in this post resonated with me. My sense is that by "Out of" here he means "Having gotten away from", or even "Having escaped"

Out of this life-long struggle to be right is emerging a powerful new way to love: accepting another right where they are, whether or not I want to follow their ideas or way of life.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti and Afghanistan

Obama wants to send US$100 Million to help out with the disaster in Haiti, population ~10 Million.
He wants an additional US$33 billion to "help out" with the disaster in Afghanistan, population ~12 Million.

Deaths via earthquake in Haiti ~50,000
Deaths via Operating "Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan ~30,000

Here's what $100 million and $33 billion look like written out:


People who will get even more filthy rich from aid efforts to Haiti--no one that I'm aware of.
People who will get even more filthy rich from war efforts in Afghanistan: well--there's a long list, but for instance: Kenneth Dahlberg, CEO.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Division by zero

has the sneaking suspicion that the ratio of the number of my friends on facebook to the number of actual friends who live within 100 kilometers of me may be undefined in normal algebra.

That's if one defines "actual friend" as someone who's not a family relation AND whom I am likely to call up any evening of the week to arrange a beer date with.

This is a make-believe about which I feel unhappy. Perhaps I'll discard it for a happier-making one. Or perhaps not. Perhaps I'll take Jack's advice and just fully feel it in the now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thoughts on Cameron's "Avatar"

(warning: spoilers)

I've seen Avatar twice, both times in 3-D. I enjoyed it as a story--I thought it did its storytelling pretty well, moved along, and kept one engaged. The first time I saw it, my general response was "Well, nice to see the little guy win in the movies, since that hardly ever happens in the real world (to wit: native Americans, native Australians etc. etc. etc.)"

The second time I saw it, I went straight from the movie to Sunday dinner with not one but TWO Australian Anglican priests (NOT Episcopalian, but honest-to-God Anglicans). The younger of the two said, in response to a question about his opinion of the movie, that it was "the same old American tale rehashed yet again" and that "Hollywood has a limited number of narratives". He went on to say the Americans are just retelling their own story of the little guys standing up against the overwhelmingly superior military power and somehow (miraculously) winning out against all odds--the whole Revolutionary War/War for Independence.

This fascinated me and I found myself mentally casting the movie in a new light. I realized that while on the surface it seems to be very clearly castigating W. (with his whole Bush doctrine/preemptive strike against the people who are (arguably justifiably) pissed off at us) and the whole American military/industrial complex (to wit: the U.S. represents 5% of the world's population but spends 55% of the world's budget for guns/bombs/miltary aircraft et. al.), underneath the movie is really just perpetuating the myth of redemptive violence which leads (more or less directly) to the *existence* of the military/industrial complex, 100,000 extant nuclear warheads, etc. etc. etc.

Which is to say that it would have been way kewler and way more heartfelt, somehow, if Cameron had done something more interesting like have all the natives lie down in front of the bulldozers with their babies (see: Rachel Corrie) or all show up at the physical location of the humans factory/compound and simply wait to be let in, totally unarmed, until they starved or were helped, after their home tree had been destroyed. Something more Ghandi/MLK Jr.esque.

Instead what we have is Sully convincing himself of the idea that he is no longer one of the humans--to the extent that he calls them aliens at the end of the movie--in the same way that Americans have more-or-less convinced ourselves that we are no longer one of the Brits/leaders of the most-powerful-and-thus-necessarily-increasingly-Machiavellian empire. Thus *we*, unlike those evil humans/Brits/what-have-you, can now exercise violence for the good, rather than for something far-less-than-the-good (which is what "they" were using it for).

I'm not convinced. In the real world, the Native Americans commit fewer atrocities than the Americans of European descent not because they have a better religion and thus can exercise violence more benignly, but rather because they simply got their butts royally kicked. In the real world, the Na'vi, having gotten a taste for butt-kicking, would have done exactly what we Americans have done--emulated, more-or-less, the worldview (oh dear FSM, I've used that word) of the seemingly more powerful culture whose butt they just kicked, and built bigger starships to go take over earth and export their morally superior Na'vi ways to the humans, with only the very best of intentions. This would have led to humans being 'accidentally' tortured to death in prisons on earth by a few "bad Na'vi apples". etc. etc.

There's my 2 cents.

Still, for the kewl 3-D thing and the pure swashbuckling adventure, and even just to climb on the increasingly large bandwagon, I'd recommend going to see it in the theatre, in 3-D--preferably in IMAX 3-D. Go on--you can afford the $15-$20. I mean if you're reading this, you're probably not one of the 2 billion people living on $2/day or less.

Learned today: "Dob in"

Another Australianism which means "to turn someone in to the authorities"

Also learned: 43 degrees Celsius is equal to 110 degrees fahrenheit, and feels like a furnace, and one should stay inside where (hopefully) it's cooler.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Learned: "Cool change"

An australianism.

A rant re: Gran Prix in Albert Park

Not only is there going to be obnoxiously loud, greenhouse gas superproducing, grass/park destroying gran prix racing in the park next to our place in march this year, but it's sponsored by Bridgestone, which has been linked with the use of child labor in Liberia rubber farms.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Go (Aussie female) figure

This story today about a U.S. Marine Captain who wrote a letter to the editor of the Northern Territory News in Darwin, Australia, complaining that the local girls were wearing clothing that was too skimpy.

It reminds me of my lovely wife being told by the women at a church in the U.S. that her skirt was too short. My lovely mother in law, who had purchased the skirt in question for my wife, responded to the story with "Well, they're just jealous, sweetie".

Here's to whole-body envy disguised as cultural imperialism. =)

Dumpstering, and Megsie as Eve

Dumpster of Eden from Mary Janisch on Vimeo.

You kick ass, beautiful one.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wow and Hooray!

Our lovely and brilliant new friends Brian and Ashley and their two awesome offspring are moving out of their apartment in St. Kilda and going on a multi-month road trip. They needed to get rid of all the stuff in their apartment. So ... they gave it all to us. Now we have beds, tables, chairs, clothes washing machine, fridge, pots, pans, plates, spoons, forks, coffee press, clothes drying rack, bath mat, sheets, blankets, and lots of other various and sundry items, for when we get a place of our own to live. We don't have to start with next to nothing.

Wow. I am blown away by their kindness and graciousness and our good luck to have met them and I am bummed that they are leaving Melbourne 'cause we won't get to hang out with them in future.

As my friend Avak tells me: There is abundance everywhere around me. Hooray!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Our Enuring Relationship

It seems U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich recently spoke to a "large audience" in Melbourne where he spoke of "the strong and enuring U.S. Australian friendship".

In case you were wondering, here's the definition for "enure".

Maybe I should write to the ambassador and see if he want to hire me as editor for the embassy's web site.

Or maybe not. Maybe it's on purpose. It feels very Australian.

(This made my day. I learned a new word and I laughed and laughed)