A Brief History of Time Spent Thinking About Stephen Hawking

Someone once called A Brief History of Time the most popular book that nobody had finished, but in my case that wasn’t true: I was reading quite a few popular science books at the time it appeared, and there was none more popular than that, so I bought it and read it—all the way through. It was only a few years after my own peak science period, when I’d taken advanced maths and physics in grade 12 and moved on to a maths degree. (That eventually became a computer science degree, and then gave way to postgrad studies in political science, so thoroughly did I fall out with calculus and linear algebra at university—although I kept the stats going until the end).

Read More · 14 March 2018 · Comment · People

The Point of Percentages

The Commons Brexit committee has just published the official internal Brexit Impact study leaked to BuzzFeed last month, and it clears up a question I’d been debating with someone on Twitter the previous day. It started when MEP Seb Dance tweeted the list of Brexit impacts on regional growth of -2% to -11% and compared them with “Worst UK fall in 2008 crash: -2%”.

One commenter said, “You’ve confused a % reduction in growth with a fall in gdp. These are not the same.”

Read More · 9 March 2018 · Comment · Politics

The Hounds of Love

One of the greatest Google searches there is.

Read More · 5 March 2018 · Comment · Weblog

Edinburgh Drift

Today is the kids’ first day back at school since last Tuesday, after a Siberian weather system swept over Britain and blanketed Edinburgh with the most snow we’ve seen since 2010. It was unusual snow for us, too: dry and powdery, Rockies-style. Good skiing weather, if we only we could have got the car out of its snow-covered side street and driven to the hills.

It didn’t feel particularly cold once the wind dropped, but the whole place ground to a halt. It snowed for a few days in January, too, but that was fine—the kids went to school, we went to work. This time, not only were the kids off school for three days, but my university closed early on Wednesday and stayed closed for the rest of the week. I can’t remember it ever closing because of snow before.

Read More · 5 March 2018 · Comment · Journal

Attention span, attention span,
Does whatever gets mentioned, man.
Surfs the web, any time
Tempting links catch its eye.
Look out!
Here comes a shiny thing.

27 February 2018 · Comment · Whatever

Let’s Swallow Our Pride

What #StopBrexit needs is more home-made campaign graphics. Here’s my attempt to get to the heart of the matter. (Why should Leavers monopolise the red, white and blue, and lions, or any other symbol of Britain for that matter?)

Read More · 25 February 2018 · Comment · Politics

Mad Brexit

Mad Brexit 2: The Trade Worries

“I remember a time of chaos... ruined dreams... this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the mania called Brexit.”

Read More · 20 February 2018 · 1 Comment · Politics

Hardly a Question

It’s already almost a week since Boris Johnson’s supposed valentine to Remainers, and the debate has moved on (most recently, to David Davis’s invocation of post-apocalyptic Australia), but one part of Johnson’s speech hasn’t attracted as much critical attention as it might have. Perhaps it was such a high-pitched dog-whistle that it escaped most British commentators’ hearing. But to Australian-British ears, it was a clanging bell:

But we also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers—and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people.

Read More · 20 February 2018 · Comment · Politics

Brexit Logic

“Look, the jury found you guilty and your execution is set for March 2019. You need to stop complaining that it was a mistrial, stop pointing out new evidence that has emerged since, stop lobbying the governor for a pardon, and get behind the original decision. Otherwise I question your commitment to justice.”

Read More · 13 February 2018 · Comment · Politics

How About Now?

Time to catch up on some links.

Read More · 13 February 2018 · Comment · Weblog

Hoots, Mate!

My kids have been learning some Scots poems at school for Burns Night over the past week—Burns’s “To a Mouse” for my older son, and “Twa-Leggit Mice” by the late Edinburgh poet J. K. Annand for my younger daughter. Cue a week of her asking for a snack by exclaiming, “Jings! I get fair hungert.”

I amused them both by reading out the Annand poem in my broadest Aussie accent. (It’s more honest than trying it in faux-Ewan McGregor.) Which reminds me that Burns Night on 25 January aligns with the morning of Australia Day on 26 January back in Oz, thanks to the time difference. Jings, I could go a snag.

Read More · 25 January 2018 · 1 Comment · UK Culture

Memories of the Ekumen

In my undergraduate years I decided to get serious about science fiction, which I’d read and loved since childhood, and used a critical guide (David Wingrove’s Science Fiction Source Book) to identify gaps in my reading that needed filling. This must have been what steered me to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, which I read at around the same time as The Female Eunuch; the combination swept away any tendency I might have had to see 1980s Australia as enjoying an acceptable state of gender relations. But it was left in the shade by The Dispossessed.

Read More · 24 January 2018 · 1 Comment · People

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