Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Well, I'm off.

Australia schedule

[re-bumped] The schedule, including flight departure and arrival times (given in local time for each airport), is:
  • June 30: depart Virginia, carrying a thick book four books and a suitcase.
    • Norfolk to Dulles, 12:50 to 13:49
    • Dulles to LAX, 15:00 to 17:26
    • LAX to Sydney, 22:30 to 6:30 July 2. I'm crossing the International Date Line and don't get a July 1st. As my mortgage is due on the first; I assume this means I don't have to pay my mortgage.
  • July 2: Sydney to Brisbane, 8:05 to 9:35. This is a continuation of the Norfolk to Australia trip. I have no idea how many hours I'll be spending on a plane. Frankly, I'd rather not know. 
    • Things to do in Brisbane: Get Josh, see Griffith University, get Josh's stuff, empty his bank account, flee ahead of any pitchfork-wielding mobs which just happen, by coincidence, to be in the area. 
  • July 3: Brisbane to Sydney: 11:15 to 12:50. Because at the end of this trip, we only have one day in Sydney, and one day is, we've been told, not enough. 
    • Stay at the Challis Lodge, Potts Point
    • Things to do in Sydney: Take the Harbor Ferry, visit the Rocks District, visit Manly, see the Opera House, possibly climb the Harbor Bridge ($200 each to climb it? ROFL). 
  • July 5: Sydney to Cairns, 14:00 to 17:15. 
    • Staying at Cairns Colonial Club Resort.
    • Things to do in Cairns: Josh goes scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef for three days and two nights. 
    • I'm taking a one day snorkel trip--can't go to Australia without giving the saltwater crocs (also sharks, sea snakes, killer jellyfish, poisonous octopi, attack snails, etc etc, yes, I know) at least one shot at me. 
    • Drive to Port Douglas along the coastal road and see the rain forest. Drive to Kuranda. Stay an extra day after Josh's dive expedition so he can, literally, decompress.
  • July 10: Cairns to Ayers Rock, 7:15 to 9:35.
    • Staying at Outback Pioneer Hotel
    • Things to do at Ayers Rock: see the Rock. Climb the Rock. Walk around the Rock. Ride a camel?
  • July 11: Ayers Rock to Alice Springs, 10:15 to 11:00.
    • Things to do at Alice Springs: get to the train station. 
  • July 11: Alice Springs to Adelaide, leaving at 15:00 via the Ghan Train .
  • July 12: arrive in Adelaide
    • Staying at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Hindley
    • Things to do: 
  • July 13: Adelaide to Sydney, 14:55 to 17:15
    • Stay at the Challis Lodge, Potts Point
  • July 14: Wave goodbye to sunny Australia
    • Sydney  to JFK, 10:15 to 17:25 (it's a lot longer than seven hours in flight, remember all times are local)
    • JFK to Toronto, 20:00 to 22:00
  • July 15: Staying at an undisclosed location in Toronto. Niece's wedding rehearsal dinner.
  • July 16: The Tominator and his motley crew plan to escort me on a recon of the Royal Ontario Museum, including the Chinese terra cotta warrior exhibits
  • July 18: Fly home
    • Toronto to Philly, 17:44 to 19:15
    • Philly to Norfolk, 20:29 to 21:28
Yes, this does equal eight thirteen planes and a train in less than three weeks.

Things I've been asked to buy (or otherwise obtain) in Australia: opal, flag, shot glasses, sheep, dice, two boomerangs, koala, aborigine art, something surferish.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let A Thousand Nations Bloom

Hat tip to  Marginal Revolution for a pointer to Let A Thousand Nations Bloom:
Our blog begins with the truth of Winston Churchill’s comment on democracy–that it is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried. Unfortunately many then falsely deduce that democracy is superior to all forms of government which can ever be imagined. We believe this assumption to be deeply misguided.
Like any technology, democracy was once a radical innovation, thought unlikely to work. Now, it is the industry standard. Our aim is to find, analyze, and debate the innovations in governance today that may become the standards of tomorrow, especially those that utilize the best technology for social organization ever developed–the market. We are particularly interested in the meta-innovations that will alter incentives in the governing industry to improve the rate of innovation.

ADAMS: Inside the Black Panther case - Washington Times

ADAMS: Inside the Black Panther case - Washington Times

Sunday, June 27, 2010

SCA combat

As I was driving back from the beach yesterday, I saw signs for an SCA event. I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism 25 years ago, so I stopped in to say hello. Back then, all combat was medieval style--I fought with spear, two handed sword, mace, and brush hook. Now, however, they've added rapier, including cut-and-thrust, and that looks like it would be a lot of fun; I'm thinking of adding a rapier to my Christmas list.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24

It's been a busy week at work, and at home as well due to making arrangements for our trips. Diana will be going to Canada the day after I leave for Australia, and then we'll rendezvous in Toronto.

On June 24 in AD1314, Robert the Bruce led about 13,000 Scots to victory against 40,000 English under Edward II at Bannockburn.

Rather less well known is the naval Battle of Sluys in 1340, in which the outnumbered English fleet destroyed most of the French navy.

And O Canada was first performed on this day in 1880.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Neda Agha-Soltan

Remember the Iranian girl who was killed in the protests stemming from the government-rigged elections? It happened one year ago today. -- Hundreds of Possible Alien Planets Discovered By NASA Spacecraft -- Hundreds of Possible Alien Planets Discovered By NASA Spacecraft. The Kepler space observatory looked at 156,000 stars and found 706 possible planets. Not an encouraging ratio of planets:stars. On the other hand, 25 years ago we didn't know of any extra-solar planets; now we have a list 400 confirmed plus these 700 candidates.

Nomads in boats

I saw a video of orcas herding a penguin, and looked at the boat trips available for diving off the Great Barrier Reef, and read a little bit about Somali pirates and a bit about nomads. Had this vision of a tribe of sea-going nomads, with their yurts on their boats, following the fish and using dolphins to herd them, wandering up and down the coast. They'd be sea-going Mongols, for all in tents and porpoises.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Difference Engine

In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper proposing a Difference Engine.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


We finished off the first planting of lettuce from our deck garden, and got the first red tomatoes, and the first hibiscus blossom. We also had our first watermelon of the season, although that wasn't home grown; and the first mosquito.

Friday, June 11, 2010


The Naro Cinema is showing Serenity and Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog tomorrow. Shiny!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Methane based life on Titan

Just ran across an article that suggests there are signs of what might, possibly, be methane based life on Titan. I don't have the deepest faith in PopSci so I won't be surprised if this turns out to have been disproved already, but...if it's a possibility, it's pretty cool.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Must read books

Books which I consider necessary reading. I'm limiting this to fiction which I actually have on my shelves at the moment, and no author gets more than one entry.
  1. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  2. The Warrior's Apprentice or other Vorkosigan novels
  3. Three Hearts and Three Lions
  4. A Ship of the Line or other Hornblower novels
  5. Kim
  6. The Mote in God's Eye
  7. Guards, Guards! or other Discworld novels
  8. The Well of the Unicorn
  9. The Face in the Frost
What's your list?

Addendum: The reasons I like them are different. Mote is, as advertised, the quintessential First Contact novel. Moon and Well of the Unicorn are for the ideas. The Vorkosigan, Hornblower and Discworld books for the characters, with extra points to Hornblower for the history, and Discworld for the humor. Kim is for the setting, the little details of India which Kipling obviously knew and loved. Three Hearts and Face in the Frost make this list because they each build to a great climax--they're good stories.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Little do they know

This was an email exchange at work today:

Karen: Re: Bruce R--is he going to pay?
Me: Georgette says she's all over it.
Karen: Good, thanks
Me: She did not, however, say "like a hobo on a ham sandwich" [that being an expression one of our top salesmen uses often. Apparently our top sales guy doesn't talk to Karen, however, because she replied...]
Karen: Has anyone ever told you that you're a little strange?
Me: No -- no one has ever said "a little".

Little does she know....

Some years ago, in the second Found Me A Sheep (the Official First Game, since all parties deny that the first game ever happened, not that I was there anyway, I was reading in my hotel room), Roger Burton West's character was wearing powered battle armor. This armor covers the entire body, shrugs off machine gun fire without a care, leaps over small buildings in a single bound, etc. Not Iron Man level, but pretty tough. Roger was attempting to herd sheep, but one of those sheep was Baamelia, who squealed "You brute! You brute!" Immediately the other sheep in the area came after Roger. Roger either forgot he was invulnerable inside his armor or thought these might be unusually deadly sheep; in any event, he panicked and ran, followed by the enraged flock. He slipped and fell; they caught him and piled on, completely covering him. The sheep jumped up and down on him with their little hooves, doing absolutely no damage but embarrassing him mightily.

So if you said "Fill in the blank: I'm all over it, like _________", a normal person might say "a hobo on a ham sandwich"; but I'd think "like sheep on powered battle  armor."