Meditation on chopsticks

Wed Jun 6, 2007 by brett

Chopsticks are great - until you get to that last bit of food at the bottom of the bowl that is. Then you’re left trying to turn a pair of round sticks into a spoon. They’re not so good with soup, or steaks. Maybe the satisfaction of eating with chopsticks is simply the extra effort needed to get food to mouth without detouring to table.

7 days of Yoga and Skiing!

Tue Feb 13, 2007 by brett

We’re baaack! 1.5 hours of yoga in the morning with the Eiger towering above us. Another hour of yoga in the evening after a full days skiing, and we’re back after 7 days at Wengen, Switzerland with barely an ache. Our hotel was very confortable, and had an incredible view of mountains, snow and valley. There might have also been drunken yodellers as well. Here is the view out the window:

View over the mountains

Helen entertained the locals at Karoke one night in the local pub, doing her best Kate Bush impression (to a standing ovation). I wimped out decided not to sing because of the avalanche risk. I don’t think our insurance covers me singing (more terrorism that natural disaster I guess).

Our hosts for the trip were Michael and Michelle of YogaTraveller, and they really looked after us! I think we’ll book in for the Tanzania safari later in the year.

"Hard" Sci Fi and the Future of the Human Race

Wed Jan 24, 2007 by brett

I’m a big fan of the “hard” science fiction genre - sci fi that attempts to visualize what life will be like in the distant future, by extrapolating from current scientific knowledge. Authors like Greg Egan, Richard Morgan, Alastair Reynolds, and Neal Stephenson.

I love the following quote by Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal and professor of cosmology, and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge:

“I’d like to widen people’s awareness of the tremendous timespan lying ahead — for our planet, and for life itself. Most educated people are aware that we’re the outcome of nearly 4bn years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6bn years from now. Any creatures that exist then will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.”

Wow! Think how complex we are now, and consider that homo sapiens probably evolved about 2 million years ago, and I think that we are evolving at a faster rate now than we ever have in the past. Also we are evolving ourselves, with body modifications, brain modifications, and tools. I find it hard to imagine what we are going to be like in 1000 years, let alone 6 billion years!

First post for the new year!

Tue Jan 9, 2007 by brett

OK, better late than never, I guess. I actually promised myself that I would be posting more often in 2007, but that resolution is lying still-born on the birthing room floor. Probably buried in amongst the champagne and party poppers.

I have stopped working this January in order to concentrate on studying mathematical methods. This has felt very, very weird. I feel far more stressed about taking time off than I would have in the past, I think for a few main reasons:

  1. Things here are very expensive. Rent is expensive. Taking a month off feels like being in a big black tunnel and seeing a light at the other end, and half suspecting that it’s an oncoming train.
  2. Maths is hard. You think you know something, then you encounter it in another form and all of a sudden it’s like a gremlin that just got coated in water - it’s got teeth, a mo-hawk and it wants to differentiate you to the bottom of the food chain. Having a maths exam as a deadline is just no fun at all!

As a consequence, I need to have a holiday from the whole non-working thing. Luckily Helen and I have booked a skiing/yoga retreat in Switzerland for the beginning of February. Maybe that actually IS daylight at the end of the tunnel!

Great Quotes

Tue Dec 26, 2006 by brett

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” - Stephen Henry Roberts

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.” - Albert Einstein

“All models are wrong but some are useful.” - George Box

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” - Epictetus
Note that there is also a great Zen story about this idea.

“I am rarely happier than when spending entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand.” - Douglas Adams

Rowdy Santas

Sun Dec 17, 2006 by brett

Last night Helen and I heard some hullabaloo coming from Oxford Street. We went out onto our balcony to be greeted by the sight of a huge crowd of rowdy Santas milling on the corner of Oxford Street and Wardour Street.

My own pet theory is that they were a group of dyslexics devil worshippers (who had sold their souls to Santa). They were probably supposed to meet up at Oxdorf Street or something and sacrifice an elf.

Alternatively they could be the famous Santa A cappella band “Santana”.

Helen says that they all piled on a bus, so maybe there was a reindeer strike. I guess we’ll never know.

Dyslexic Devil Worshippers

The Pope in Turkey

Sat Dec 2, 2006 by brett

I know I’ve been posting on religious issues fairly frequently recently. Been watching Richard Dawkins of The God Delusion fame, talking at Lynchburg. Want to test the consistancy of your beliefs? Try Battleground God. But maybe you’re too stupid to be an athiest?. Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams has a blog entry talking about the Pope in Turkey. Funny.

Paying off debt

Sat Nov 11, 2006 by brett

I just read a very interesting blog post, about an extreme way to pay off debt. The girl who wrote this post went and lived on the street until her debt was payed off, working two jobs and showering at the gym.

Fallacy to Doctrine

Sat Nov 4, 2006 by brett

So I was at our morning programmer’s coffee and the topic of religion drifted onto the agenda. We started talking about how much misinterpretation of hebrew scriptures has made it into religious doctrine. The Virgin Mary… I mean, come on! Married and still a virgin? Apparently the word for “virgin” and “maiden” are pretty similar, if not the same. Check out the Wikipedia entry for more details. Anyway, there’s a pretty funny video on YouTube which is an animation based on how ridiculous a literal translation of the Book of Job is. Check it out!

God is a DJ

Sun Oct 15, 2006 by brett

Quite a nice short film…