Sunday, March 20, 2005

Democracy is not a spectator sport!!!

Ok, I'm frantically trying to finish my thesis right now so this will be kept short. Just wanted to point out a few places on the net with good surf (isn't it funny that no-one ever talks about "surfing the net" any more.). I'm very pro-political action today, check out:

  1. Caolionn O'Connell from Quantum Diaries wrote an excellent post about contributing to the science funding lobby. Check it out here.
  2. Margo Kingston and some of her friends have just launched the "Your Democracy" website.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I must submit before Mike Slackenberry!!!

I'm guessing everyone that reads this blog has at some stage been exposed to the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper. The main character is Mike Slackenberry, he's an eternal PhD student working in some tech-driven field. Anyway, after years of making procrastination look like an art form, it looks like Mike is going to submit his thesis very soon!

So, now I have a goal: Submit my thesis before Mike!!!!

The thread on Mike's "thesis defence" starts here.

Bob Brown is the shiznit!

Bob Brown is the leader of the Australian Greens. Sometimes the man is brilliant and demonstrates his intelligence and devotion to his ideology. Sometimes though, he politically misses the mark, he gets a little driven by his ideology... Not that I think that's a bad thing, I'm driven by ideology all the time. It's just that sometimes his ideological rants leave him stranded without a lot of voters, something you kinda need in a democracy.

So why do I care? Well, if he had a bit more electoral support he'd be able to control the attention of the media a bit more and there would be more intelligent debate in this country. For instance, today he came out with this brilliant quote (from ABC news):

"Prime Minister Howard's quite prepared to spend millions of dollars sending
another 450 Australian troops to Iraq in the name of democracy but he's not game
to even use the word democracy when he meets President Hu Jin Tao in Beijing."

If only people were actually listening to him...

Friday, March 18, 2005

Oh my God 2!!! The Reds win a game!!!

I've just read that the Queensland Reds rugby team have won their first super 12 game of 2005. Yay!!! It's about damn time! They beat Waikato Chiefs 20 to 6.

I think I should point out that they did it when Nathan Sharpe was captain, instead of Elton Flately...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Oh my God! Someone is hiring theorists!!!

The QiSci group at UQ has just advertised a new research fellowship for senior(ish) scientists working on quantum information theory. It looks to be a pretty sweet position If only I were a few years older and actually good at physics...

UQ has also advertised a new round of UQ postdoctoral fellowships. If any of you are thinking of doing a postdoc with the QiSci group here at UQ, you should defintely apply for one of these.

Come on, you all know that you want to join this group... Just look how pretty we are:


Saturday, March 12, 2005

It's official: Queensland rugby is in trouble

The Queensland Red's just got pasted by the Canterbury Crusaders, 59 to 24. Things are looking very bad for Queensland this year. They are pretty much out of finals contention in the Super 12 just three weeks into the tournament!!!! I think the years of poor administration of Queensland Rugby is finally beginning to show on the field... It's nice to see some Queenslander's, like Jeremy Paul and Gene Fairbanks, are at least doing well with the Brumbies. It's sad that both players were told they would never be good enough to make the Queensland team...

Inspirational music

The Quantum pontiff posted an article about working to music. This is something that I do a lot, I especially use music as motivation. Today the song "Breathless" from Nick Cave's "Lyre of Orpheus" album is getting me through the day. Those of you familiar with Cave's work are probably scratching your heads thinking "Nick Cave as motivation?". Well, it seems that in Nick's old age he is mellowing a lot. While normally I'm a fan of Nick's older, and totally "unmellow" music, this song is probably by favourite song of 2004. This song is also a great example of Nick Cave's masterful lyricism.
If you are feeling reflective today, I suggest taking the time to read the lyrics and to ponder what the subject of the song is:
It's up in the morning and on the downs
Little white clouds like gambolling lambs
And I am breathless over you
And the red-breasted robin beats his wings
His throat it trembles when he sings
For he is helpless before you
The happy hooded bluebells bow
And bend their heads all a-down
Heavied by the early morning dew
At the whispering stream, at the bubbling brook
The fishes leap up to take a look
For they are breathless over you
Still your hands
And still your heart
For still your face comes shining through
And all the morning glows anew
Still your mind
Still your soul
For still, the fare of love is true
And I am breathless without you
The wind circles among the trees
And it bangs about the new-made leaves
For it is breathless without you
The fox chases the rabbit round
The rabbit hides beneath the ground
For he is defenseless without you
The sky of daytime dies away
And all the earthly things they stop to play
For we are all breathless without you
I listen to my juddering bones
The blood in my veins and the wind in my lungs
And I am breathless without you
Still your hands
And still your heart
For still your face comes shining through
And all the morning glows anew
Still your soul
Still your mind
Still, the fire of love is true
And I am breathless without you

Monday, March 07, 2005

Why do some people fear knowledge??

John Howard our notorious Prime Minister today put forward another good reason for me not to like him. He's encouraging year 10 students disenchanted with school to drop out and do a trade. Why would he do this you ask? Well, two reasons as far as I can tell:

  1. He's getting his arse-kicked about the economy. He needs to divert attention from the bad figures released last week. He has raised this non-issue because of the perceived economic issues related to a skilled labour shortage that is about to hit this country (which is largely a result of his government failing to adequately fund training institutions for the last 10 years.... but that's another story). His solution, students that are feeling down on school probably aren't suited to it and they should be encouraged to quit and do a trade. It'll get the op-ed pages of the newspapers to focuss on this debate and not on rising interest rates!!
  2. He hates education. For every extra year that someone is educated, the probability that they will vote for his conservative style of politics diminishes. He knows this too well. It's why he enforces the view that universities are primarily vocational training institutions. It's why he dismisses academics as out-of-touch elites.

Enough of my ranting. To see a great rant on this topic see Andrew Hines' blog.
Oh yea, just for fun. Here's an old school photo I found of Andrew to lighten up the mood a bit:

Andrew Hines in his senior year of high school... he was school captain by the way... I think I've stirred up the hornets nest now. I can only hope I have more embarassing photos of him than he does of me!!!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Interested in visiting Queensland???

Any early career scientists or grad students interested in visiting the University of Queensland's quantum information science group should check out this post from Michael Nielsen's blog.

Our group is offering visiting fellowships to postdocs and grad students who are working in quantum information science or a related field. There are approximately 20 fellowships available for travel in 2005! Successful applicants will receive a return airfare to Brisbane and have accommodation provided for a 3-5 week stay.

The first round of applications are due March 18.

Oh yea, the weather in Brisbane is absolutely awesome from the end of March pretty much straight through to December (when it begins to get damned hot!).

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Motivation, PhD's, and running marathons

Caolionn O'Connell posted an article yesterday about her difficulties motivating herself through the tail-end of her PhD.

It's kinda nice (though I don't think "nice" is really the right word) to see that someone else is going through the same thing as me. It seems that whenever I have some success with my writing, my brain takes its foot off the accelerator and decides that I should spend a whole lot of time, bored, depressed and surfing the net. I know this is bad, I know this is dumb, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot that I can do about this.

I'm finding that all the analogies between PhD's and marathon running aren't that wide of the mark. I've done a bit of both and now I'm at the end of my PhD I'm definitely feeling things that I've felt when at the end of a long run.
If you are going to run a marathon, you spend a hell of a lot of time training. You watch what you eat. You drag your arse out of bed in the morning to go for runs. You spend your evenings at the gym. Basically you focus a lot of your life to get ready for a race. The first few years of a PhD is a lot like this lead-up time to a race.
In the last few weeks before the race starts you make plans. You decide on the time that you want to run. You develop a strategy. You spend a lot of time talking to other people about how the race is going to go. Then, comes race day...
The race is where it all gets very tricky. You are excited, you have big plans for how the race is going to go. With some luck it all goes to plan and you come away feeling tired but good and you cross the finish line with a brand-spanking-new personal best time. Maybe though, things don't go to plan. You might find that you are a kilometer away from the finish with no energy left, your hamstrings burning, calves cramping, a pain in your hip-flexors that you never imagined was possible, and a really nasty case of chaffing! All of your wonderful plans have come down to "run for 100 paces, walk for 100 paces".
In your mind you are cursing some day weeks ago when you didn't stretch properly and pulled a muscle. You probably didn't even think about it then, but now you are a few steps away from tearing that muscle in two. Your plan for a personal best is reduced to "I just want to make it over the line" and maybe, "geez I hope I'm actually running when I get to the line and not being carried over by some ambulance officers".
I'm finding that now, at the end of my PhD, I can see the line though I'm all out of energy. I put in a sprint and I get a bit closer but by the end of the sprint I'm thinking that it is too hard, I'll never make it, and I want to collapse. Then I slow to a walk and after a while my stubbornness convinces me to try again. Not long after that I'm sprinting again, and praying that in this sprint I will make it to the line because I'm not sure if I have the determination to give it another go if I don't.
Luckily, I'm also noticing that as I get closer to the line there are a lot of friends in the crowd cheering me on.

New blogs worth a mention

Hey, just thought I'd advertise a few new blogs while I'm busy procrastinating.
ReasonAndRhyme is Mohan Sarovar's new blog. He definitely thinks too much and likes music that is far too whingy - aside from these things his blog is a great read :-).
three-thirteen is Andrew Hines' freshly unpacked blog. Andrew is Mohan's office mate, they both inhabit the fabled Rm:313 (though "club qi" is far cooler). If Hinsey's blog sounds like mine it's probably cause we've only known each other for about 12 years... Nice to see he's keeping up the tradition of starting a blog just after starting to write his thesis!
I'm guessing both of these blogs will discuss a healthy amount of politics, physics, music, rugby, cricket, and maybe even ultimate frisbee in the coming months.

And the bastards will get away with it...

Alan Ramsey gives a great example of how the Murdoch press works with conservative parties to achieve political means in this article in today's Sydney Morning Herald. The most distressing aspect of this example is the complete lack of noise in the media about this.
With any luck come the next Oztastic election Margo Kingston's efforts to give democracy a jump-start in this country will be successful. To read about her plans to circumvent the media and the political obstacles that occur in the current party-political system check out her new website.
Can the internet revolution foster social change in any non-economically driven way? I guess we'll just have to wait and see - though history tells us that the printing press did, radios did, as has television...
By the way, I'm still not finished my thesis so I shouldn't be posting - but the political animal in me is strong, and I have a small index finger.