Saturday, 30 June 2012

Mother is finally home and I'm officially unemployed

The last ten weeks have been a roller coaster of drama and long waits.
Like combat I guess: long periods of burnout punctuated with moments of sheer terror.
I have spent almost every day for the last five weeks either sitting next to my mother in hospital, in traffic, in pharmacies, and waiting.
The endless waiting.
Nothing to do except wallow in tiredness, depression and bad thoughts.
Can't do anything, run out of things to say and can't leave.
And the fear. The overwhelming fear.

There have been several near misses over the last three weeks where she might have gone.

But she pulled through, survived pleurisy and pneumonia and gave the grim reaper the finger but not before ordering him to get her a gourmet sausage roll and a coffee.

You know it's bad when you realise that you've spent half an hour staring at your mobile phone and the most momentous thought you had was whether to take your shoes off. And you decide against it in case the phone rings and you have to hightail it to the hospital. Which then happens.

In any case I finally took mum home this week.
She had a panic attack the previous day which scared the bejesus out of me as I had to run to the hospital to see what was wrong.
Preparing for the worst I might add.
So at 8am I was sitting next to her waiting for the doctors approval to take her home.
Not until 11:45am did he arrive.
Not his fault I might add, but it's a helluva long time just sitting.
And then the drive back to her place, installing her in her armchair, then racing back to the hospital to pick up her medications, then running back to her home, then talking with her and my siblings.
Didn't get home and have something to eat until 7pm.
At least she's ok.

You forget sometimes that the things you take for granted take ages for elderly people.
It took nearly half an hour to get her downstairs and in the car.
Something you or I could do in <5mins.
And twice Ben and I had to dash across to stop her falling over because she's so damn stubborn and wouldn't wait to be helped.

In any case I took her to dialysis this morning and she is looking much, much better.

And yesterday I received my "FINAL" pay-check which means I'm now officially unemployed.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Gold Coast: Not as advertised

It's frickin' freezing down here.

One has to remember, btw, that Australian houses are designed to leak like sieves to get rid of heat.
So no comments about "Eee up! When we were lads and lasses we had to endure -40C!" or "You call that cold? We live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and that's bikini weather!" (I lived there once: Winter 1985 so I'm not talking out of my ass)

It's all relative.

And just for the record, the lowest temperature for this specific day right here was set in 2004 and was 3.8C.

Having said that, I'm seriously considering getting double glazing.

We now have a T-Shirt shop!


And since the "When life gives you lemons..." post was so read, we made a T-Shirt for it.


I think I must be from another planet...

I just don't understand people. Or my family. Or even me for that matter.
People keep saying things that don't make sense.
At least not in any sane way.
Maybe there is some planet somewhere where I fit in.
But obviously not this one.

For example, it was raining. And in an elevator a person turned to me and said:
"Miserable weather"
What? How can water condensing out of the atmosphere be miserable?
I don't understand.
That's like saying you had drinks with a depressed brick last night.
Or bumped into a terminally ill bus stop weeping quietly.
Or having a bunch of tulips living in fear of the coming of the great shiny cutters.
It makes no sense.

And later that day I was also in an elevator and the building supervisor said:
"Good weather for ducks"
What? Whenever I see ducks and it's raining a lot, they seem to me to be generally clustered under a bush or something for shelter. I've yet to see a bunch of ducks riding skateboards shouting "Weeeeeee" or twirling around lampposts while singing and dancing when it's raining. They're frickin' ducks. 
"What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts"
What? Whenever I go on a swing I get violently ill. I don't avoid roundabouts on the off chance I get it back. I can honestly say that I have never been on a swing, then transferred to a roundabout and got a face full of heave. Well... Once. But it wasn't *my* heave. I *think* they mean that you may lose in one activity but you will win in the next. Not possible. Not working in IT at least. In my experience, what you lose from your budget will be matched by the loss in staff. So no gains. 
"Talk is cheap"
No. No it isn't. Look at your phone bill. And woe betide you if you think that chattering inanely to your boss will be cheap. Quite expensive in my experience.

What the frickin' hell are they talking about?

I once listened intently to a discussion between a group of people once and figured out that at least nine out of ten of the statements they made were meaningless drivel. And what's worse is that the remaining 10% was being actively ignored by the others. I decided that the only appropriate analogy would be if you placed 4 radios on different channels and placed them around a table and you'd get the same result.

I've been told it's called 'bonding'.

I'm confused.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Book Review: "Advanced Quantum Mechanics" by Freeman Dyson

Do I feel dumb, stupid and uneducated or what.

This is a reprint of Freeman Dysons lecture notes from 1951.

My God It's Full Of Equations.

Hundreds and hundreds of equations some of which were a page long.

I loved it even though I felt like a complete idiot 90% of the time.
Each time I thought I might catch up, I was dumbstruck by the sheer enormity of the maths.

I seriously need to get a handle on the mathematical basics first because the use of the word "Advanced" in the title should have warned me I would be out of my depth very quickly.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sie haben Fledermäuse in Ihrem Glockenturm! Or... How to write Perl and C++

Just been trading insults about various programming languages with Ben.
In various languages.

It's fun I tell you.

So he said that to write C++ you have to have bats in your belfry.
In German. Hence the title of this post.

So I said that writing Perl is having an epileptic cat on the keyboard and adding comments to explain it.
In English.
I could have done it in another language, but I was clearly drunk. 
I tried russian but fell about laughing and was unable to respond.

His response...
esset operari
It's latin. "But it would work"


Attributed to Socrates by Plato

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life."

"By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

I see the truth of it.

Except... The gobbling up of dainties. WTF is a dainty?

450BC. Nothing changes.

When life gives you lemons, charge them with C4 and lob em back

Had a 'Cicero' moment yesterday.
Contact with youth.
Made my blood boil.

So. Here's the situation.
My mother is in hospital.
And they, as a policy, don't allow people over a certain age, to wear their own underwear.
They require the use of special 'approved' underwear.
It's from the super-market and don't cost much, so it's not that much of a big deal other than embarrassment.

Anyway, I went to the super-market to get some for my mum as she was running low.
As I approached the section where they were stacked, I noticed 2 guys and a girl with a stroller and young baby.
They were laughing themselves silly pointing at the incontinence pads and the special underwear.
Making jokes, pretending to have just peed accidentally and what not.
They had passed by the time I had figured out which pack I had to purchase.

But it got me thinking.

You evil, malodorous, small minded, snotty nosed, pimply faced, vacuous, little herberts.

One day you'll either be in your 50's buying special underwear for your mother, or you'll be in your 80's embarrassed as f**k asking your daughter to buy them for you.
And god forbid that kid in your stroller will be the one having to buy them for you.

I got to the 10 items or less checkout and they were there.
Still making jokes.
I turned and gave them my most evil 10,000 yard gimlet stare.
Looked up at the mother.
Looked down at the kid.
Smiling brightly, I waved the pack of special underwear at the kid and said "One day. One day you'll have to do this for your mother."
The young girl went beet red.
The guys looked like I'd bashed them with a fish.
Several other people smiled or clapped.

Doesn't happen often when you have the perfect comeback, but chance favours the prepared mind.

Update Wed 27 Jun: Just FYI, this post had so many views we made a T-Shirt...

More fan-bl**dy-tastic Cicero quotes

“Those… who allege that old age is devoid of useful activity… are like those who would say that the pilot does nothing in the sailing of his ship, because, while others are climbing the masts, or running about the gangways, or working at the pumps, he sits quietly in the stern and simply holds the tiller. He may not be doing what younger members of the crew are doing, but what he does is better and much more important. It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not … poorer, but is even richer.”

“…it is our duty…to resist old age; to compensate for its defects by a watchful care; to fight against it as we would fight against disease; to adopt a regimen of health; to practice moderate exercise; and to take just enough of food and drink to restore our strength and not to overburden it. Nor, indeed, are we to give our attention solely to the body; much greater care is due to the mind and soul; for they, too, like lamps, grow dim with time, unless we keep them supplied with oil.”

Love that guy.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Cicero's comments from 43BC

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

“It is foolish to tear one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.”

“No one dances sober, unless he is insane.”

“Times are bad, Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”

(Or blog)

43BC. Nothing changes.

Had a conversation (read painful process) with a brogrammer once.

This happened a while ago, but I thought it might tickle the programmers fancies.

Ok. I don't normally program in [insert your language here]. But a site was failing inexplicably. So one of the management team pointed me at the problem 'cos I tend to get stuff sorted.

A young [bp]rogrammer was struggling to fix the issue.
Mainly by mashing buttons and pulling levers.
So here is a summary of the conversation.

Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me. Slow down. Slow down. Look at the loop.

Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: No. Wait.
Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: Stop. 
Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: No. Look...
Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: For pities sake stop!

Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: [places hands over keyboard] WAIT!

Him: What?
Me: Look at the loop.
Him: [not bothering to look at the code] So?
Me: No [insert your initialisation code here] or [exit loop condition here].

Him: Ah. I see. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: Wha?

Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]
Me: [grabbing keyboard away from young dude] Stop. Think. There's no [exit loop condition here]. [types some code that initialises and stops the runaway infinite loop]

Him: [grabs keyboard from me] Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]

Him: Ok. Ok. [mash] [pull] [mash] [push] HEY! It works. Great work dudette! It frickin' worked.
Me: [stunned silence]

Him: Cool. Hey! I am so cool. HEY EVERYONE! I FIXED THAT PROBLEM! PUTTING IT LIVE NOW! [mash] [pull] [mash] [push]

Me: [shakes head sighs]
Him: All Right!!! FIGJAM dudette. Wanna come round to the bar for a beer?

Me: [approaching him with clenched fists] I. Have. Anger. Management. Issues. I. Better Not.
Him: No worries. OK IT'S LIVE PEOPLE! COOOOOOOOOL! Thanks.

Is it any wonder I fear for humanity...

Friday, 15 June 2012

After a series of false starts, mother is looking much better

Just got back from the hospital.

Mother can manage to get herself in/out of bed without paroxysms of pain and can sit up without help.
This means the pleurisy has cleared up.

Still got pneumonia though.
The drip should clear that up in the next few days.

She managed to have a cup of coffee (without a smoke!) in the fresh air for the first time in weeks which is a huge plus for her confidence I would suggest.

Still going to be a while in bed, at least another week, but they moved her to a new ward with a view and sunlight!

I'm still shattered, worn out and doing laundry every day, but feeling much more hopeful about how things will work out.

Odd. Just realised. Haven't written a line of code for over a week. Record!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

No more bats! B-Mashina for Bats.

A recent story got me thinking. This is the original:

Industrial music?
Oh the possibilities...
Oh My Mind Is Exploding!!!

No more culling required.

And Ben went nuts and started on a wonderful flight of fantasy and stream of consciousness.

Rammstein, Laibach et al at high volume echoing across Queensland farms.

Rammstein Du Hast!
In (bad) German: "du hast mich gefragt, und ich hab nichts gesagt"
In English: "you have asked me, but i did not obey"

Can you imagine it? The sheer jaw dropping frickin' brilliance and gorgeous-ness of it. B-Mashina at full blast all over S.E. Queensland.
"The Horror. The Horror."
Here is my parody of the opening of B-Mashina (Go watch it btw) in English:
"Only one day is left.
Only one day.
We are leaving the others.
We're going away.
Today we all steal nectar but we have lost ourselves.
Our souls are from the wild and wings to reach the sky.
Let the sun fall into the ocean, let the earth erupt in loud music.
It is enough to have the strength and knowledge to raise our our wings into the sky.
Let them sleep who do not know the final day is here, the very last and we leave at dusk.
Millions of us have thunder in us.
There is no force and no power to stop us now and change our fate.
Before we rise now every problem is destroyed.
We raise our wings and bodies to the peak.
Into the Universe - towards the food we go.
Sending ourselves up to the sky."
B-Mashina for Bats. It's frickin' sad when you read it out loud as if you were thinking as a bat.

Du Hast indeed.

Maybe we could get Rammstein to do a special "nicht mehr Fledermäuse" for us.

Gold Coast TechSpace meet-up review

Very cool.

Small crowd but very enthusiastic.
Not surprisingly as it was freezing cold and late on a Wednesday night.

Newcomer helped fix the magnetic sensor controlled roller door.
Ben, amongst others, tried unsuccessfully to open an ancient vending machine with a barrel lock of some kind for which there was no key. One guy will be bringing in a grinder to get at the back end of the lock.
RepRap running printing parts for a new Raspberry Pi case.
Arduinos running lasers and LED displays.
LEGO mindstorms running a Rubiks cube solver.
Raspberry Pi's being used in LEGO boxes to control TVs via XMBC.
Resolved a long standing issue with what to do with 20 or so busted OLPC machines with one of the newcomers having fixed various PCs in the past. They will shipping up for them to be fixed or frankensteined and given to needy school kids.
Young kid getting the goss on what languages and systems to learn to program in. (Python btw since Raspberry Pis and XOs use it)

Loads of talk as well as action.

Met a very nice man, Walther, who has this great idea for... Well... I was going to say 3rd world bootstrapping and transforming communities. But not really since it applies to everywhere from inner city places to remote Aussie towns to India or wherever. The idea is so simple is frightening. I could go into detail, but would need approval.

We suggested contacting the Global Village Construction Set ( or just crowd fund it. Only $3,500 to get started and he has it planned in great detail.

So. If you wanna help or have ideas on how to get this going, go to and leave a message!

And if you wanna muck about with robots, LEGO and just hang out with makey-people, then go!

There's a meet-up/hangout on this Sunday afternoon from noon or so on. See here: and see their details at

We're definitely going and will be joining. If you can't, then just check out the web-cams from the site.

Oh. One more thing. They need shelving. Hammer lock style. They did a blog about it here: They need shelving!

Frickin' love it.

(Update: Forgot to add the facebook link:

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Book Review: "The Cosmic Code" by Heinz R. Pagels

I bought this book because it was yet another pop-sci theoretical physics book released in 2012.
It is actually a reprint of the original from 1982.
I felt disappointed as I felt that it was unlikely that I would learn anything new from a 40 year old book on such a dynamic subject.

I was wrong.
Very wrong.

The book is broken down into 3 parts.

Part I is the obligatory historical basics of Quantum theory.
Part II covers the detail of the specifics of the heart of the matter (if you will oblige me).
Part III is a personal take at the end of which I wept at the sheer beauty of it all.

No massive formulas. Just plain talk.

For example, he devotes chapters to Quarks, Leptons, Gluons, Fields, Vacuum Invariances as well as my favorite: Gauge Field Theory. Each has a plain talk explanation without the breathless enthusiasm of Greene. Each shows details and data which had my mind stand up and go "Woah! I didn't know that."

The explanation of the reasoning behind the dispute over EPR and Bells Theorem are cases in point. The invisible cross-correlation that is rooted in the fact that the defining factor that makes human human, is not opposable thumbs, but massively effective (and sometimes faulty) pattern matching and (sometimes faulty) abstract reasoning.

His discussion of Gauge Field Theory and his general discussion about fields in general cleared up several nagging issues I had. Nice.

I was sad to find out he died in 1988 ( in a climbing accident at the age of 49. Given the last words of this book this fact has me in tears right now. But there is a certain joy in me because of the very last line of the very last paragraph of the very last chapter:
"As I continued to fall into the dark void, embraced by the vault of the heavens, I sang to the beauty of the stars and made my peace with the darkness."
Thoroughly recommended.

I go weep now.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Book Review: "EVE" by Tony Gonzales

This is one sprawling space opera.

Multiple space civilisations on the other side of some long dead Terran star-gate. Dozens of characters, masses of politics, pirates, commerce and war. Frickin space battles the like of which haven't been seen since the days of E.E. "Doc" Smith.

Makes Babylon 5 look simple.

I read it in just a few sittings despite it's 520 page length and I have to admit I kept getting lost. I had to keep going back and re-reading sections to try to figure out who the frick this new character was and why they seemed to be so important. I kept seeing details and had many "Who where with the what now?" moments because it seemed that this little paragraph I was currently reading was dripping with meaning and I just couldn't figure out why I wasn't seeing it. Gallenteen? Are they the "Federation?" Oh. I remember reading them referred together about 50 pages ago.

Wait. What? Vitoc? Oh yes. That's the slave drug. I vaguely remember reading about that a 100 pages ago.

It was only on the exact last page I figured out why I was getting lost in the supremely massive wealth of detail that seemed irrelevant and why so many terms were used as if you were supposed to just 'know' what was being spoken about.


EVE online.

I should have realised, but I'm a bit dim sometimes. Or maybe it's because of recent events that had shattered my concentration.

Doh! It's a book set in the MMORPG. I've never played it. Never seen it. Never so much as looked it up on wikipedia.

Despite that, it's a darn good story and if you love politics, massive space battles, space pirates and chicanery, have played the game and want ideas, then go out and read it.

Friday, 8 June 2012

I don't frickin believe it. She may make it!

A fall.
Death rattle breathing.
Her cardiologist said he was concerned that she wouldn't make the weekend.

But this afternoon she sat up and complained.

COMPLAINED that she couldn't have a cup of coffee and a cigarette out in the fresh air.

She is much better now.
Seems the anti-biotics are working. And, bugger me, is complaining.

She complained about the 94 year old across the ward talking too much.
She complained about the food - "bloody awful".
She complained about the coffee - "bloody awful".
She complained about not being able to have a smoke - "It's just a cigarette! What do I have to worry about? Cancer? I'm f**ked anyway. I'll bloody die on my terms."

For f**ks sake they don't make women like that any more.

I'm dry-retching with stress and she's 81 and complaining about the food?
What the frick' do I have to complain about?
Fish and chips?

I worked with her in the 70's in a hospice, so I know the risks about a 'late' recovery.

But she looks so much better.
She may make it.

FYI on Tuesday I'm taking round a frickin' great pile of chocolates to the nurses.
If I believed in angels they're the archetypes.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

I feel guilty

It's pneumonia now.

The reapers calling card.

I feel guilty.

I feel guilty when I walk across the room when my mother can't even get out of bed.
I feel guilty when I can breathe when she can barely get a word out.
I feel guilty when I have a drink and she can't.
I feel guilty when I eat a meal when she can't.
I feel guilty because I don't have any way to save her.

I feel guilty because:



I even feel guilty that I'm writing this.

I feel guilty because I am alive and by the weekend she may not be.

Sigh. The roller coaster of life.

Mother had another fall last Sunday.
So off to hospital again.
Chest pains, back pains, breathless.

Spent most of the day with her on Monday, then half a day again on Tuesday.
She looked absolutely awful and was obviously in serious pain.
May be pleurisy or just a chest infection - X-Rays, ECG and so on while they figure it out.

So. Dialysis Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and again today.

I was finding myself wondering if this was 'it'.

Then I found myself on Wednesday morning at 6am washing her underwear with tears rolling down my face knowing I had to go to work after a visit to the hospital.

I realised I had to trim down the things I'm dealing with at present.
Mother, Health, Work.
Had to lose one.


So I composed myself and a letter to the company I helped build and delivered it Wednesday.

So. This afternoon I have been dry-retching with stress and to top it off I seem to have developed a cold so I'm may now be an infection hazard. It's probably just stress but I can't risk it. So I can't go in and see my ailing mother this afternoon. I've advised the nursing staff, and in particular Imogen (A spectacularly nice person), to tell my mother. My sister has also been advised.

If I'm not in such a state late today or tomorrow morning, I will go in. Right now... Well. I need to calm down.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

War Machine, Venom and Iron Man stumble upon a field of chocolate alien eggs

OMG. War Machine, Venom and Iron Man were talking a short walk after a day of action when they stumble on...

A field of Alien Chocolate Eggs!

(Didn't they listen to the background music?)
Oh What? Venom is having a close look...

It's opening. You twat! Don't you watch movies?

Oh That's it. They're f**ked.

Ah. War Machine has the right idea. He's off.
But No! Iron Man (Not LEGO But MegaBloks) says "Take it b*tches" and responds! With Fire!

I'm 56.
Is this normal?

This is Kenny. My travelling companion since 1981.

Since 1977 I have travelled all over the world.
From business class to rickety wooden trawler.
In 1981 I picked up this little cute fuzz-ball in San Francisco:

I immediately named him Kenny.

For the next 14 years he sat in the top pocket of my old M-65 jacket while I drove or flew to hundreds of mine sites all over Australia until around '95 my 'ex "accidentally" threw the jacket out.

Since then he has sat on the dashboard of multiple cars across the UK, Europe, US, Australia and a road-trip from Toronto to Vancouver alongside my other adorable travelling companion and now betrothed.


Both Kenny and Ben were with me when I stood on the podium at Zeppelin field in Nuremberg.

It's Kenny's birthday today.
Happy birthday Kenny.

Friday, 1 June 2012

LEGO Iron Man gives the finger to Fish and Chips (With Fire)

Crappy photo. I'll get better with time.

More "LEGO Iron Man gives the finger to [something] (with fire)" soon.

May be I need a better camera... Hint... Hint...