Christmas and Boxing Day weekend

Christmas is over for another year. We spent our first Christmas in our new home, and managed to squeeze it in by a matter of days. Suzanne and I didn’t really buy for each other but chose to concentrate on the kids. We did our best to get them excited about Christmas but it seems some of the magic was lost during the move which is a bit sad. Ashton got a camera, and Jett scored a new bike which he’s still wary of riding. I think having new neighbors who have active kids will help, as Jett and Ashton will both try and be included in all the fun and games along the street including riding bikes.

We spent the rest of Christmas day down the road at Suzanne’s brother’s house with the rest of her family which was kinda cool. Because there’s so many people and because present buying can be so expensive we hold a lottery where each person buys just one present for just one other person. It isn’t necessarily secret, but it’s a good way to keep costs down.

For boxing day we took a little drive down to my parents house where Natalie and Dave had spent Christmas Day along with their new son James. More presents were distributed to the kids and then commenced a long two days of eating ourselves silly. I mean really, what are you supposed to do when faced with mountains of succulent turkey, pork, beef, ham, vegetables, salad and desserts. Not to mention the Rocky Road and Snickerdoodles and other nibblies.

The day after we took another little drive out to The Berry Farm. A nice place, but not really my cup of tea. If it looks like we took the long route then, yeah. We only started following the GPS about 15 minutes into our journey. The address had somehow been mis-keyed (I’m not naming names or pointing fingers here) and we eventually worked out that we were actually on our way to Queensland rather than the South West of WA. By the time we worked it out, the rest of the journey involved some dodgy back roads and unsealed tracks but we got there eventually.  We stopped by in Margaret River for lunch and marveled at how busy and commercial this sleepy little surfing town had become.

But like all good things it had to come to and end and we were back home on Wednesday to finish moving a few things from our rental to our new place and clean it out for final inspection. As a reward for the kids we went to Scitech, where I managed to get everyone together for a nice portrait.

A spike in the grid

Wow, I need to do this more often. I’ve had quite the spike in the last few days, coinciding with the worldwide release of Tron. I had almost 1000 vistors and 3000 pageviews in one day there. I expect it’ll taper off and settle down within a week.

Christmas lights

This is a house near us on one of the canals. It’s facing the water, but across the water there is a bridge rather than another house. This gives a great platform for viewing the lights these guys put on at Christmas. This house was one of the finalists in last years suburban Christmas Lights competition run by a local TV station. I can’t remember if it won, but if it didn’t then I’d love the see the winner. I think the occupants live upstairs for a month and vacate the ground floor because they have nativity scenes and other displays taking up the whole living area. On the upper balcony they have a large LCD TV showing things like The Wiggles Christmas, along with The Three Tenors Christmas and other shows. I guess the neighbours don’t mind the traffic and noise so much because they’re back again this year.

Sorry if the shots look a little ratty, I haven’t cropped them or anything. They’re raw.

Waking up in the new house

So we spent the first night in our new house last night. I’m pretty tired from painting until late after work for the last week or so. Mercifully, dad has come up and stayed a few nights to help me out. We moved all the heavy stuff yesterday which leaves Suzanne (mostly) the task of getting all the smaller stuff.

We still gotta do the crossover from the street to our driveway, the flooring and some curtains pretty quick. Fencing should be done today, and landscaping is thrown in the developers some time at the end of January. Until then, unfortunately it’s going to be a bit dusty.

Your regularly scheduled program will continue shortly. Probably after Christmas.

Fast Karts

I went Karting last week as part of a team building exercise at work. It was quite a day. It was at a place called Warren’s Ultra Fast Karts, at a place called Barbagallo Raceway north of Perth. We were all excited. The Australian Festival of Speed had been held the previous week which was a once off petrol-head dream showcasing the best of Australian motor sports. Mark Webber had even driven a few laps in his top of the line RB6 Red Bull Formula 1 car.

Now, were were led to believe that we’d be racing on the actual raceway in twin engine super-pro karts at more than 100km/h on the same track that you see the V8 Supercars competing. Something got lost in the translation somewhere, and we ended up on a shorter track in smaller karts. We felt a bit disappointed, but looking back it’s probably just as well we were in smaller underpowered karts.

The marshals explained to us that we were under a mix of official international race rules and house rules, which meant a “strike” system. If you broke some of the “cardinal” rules, you would be shot on sight, no questions asked. These rules included taking your helmet off, getting out of your kart and generally doing something completely unsafe and idiotic. There were also “crash and burn” rules, which involved ignoring directions from the officials, overtaking while under the yellow flag, causing contact. Three of these strikes, and you’d be thrown out on your ear and never invited back.  And finally, there were “points rules” which meant race points would be deducted from you for spinning off track and generally making racing mistakes.

The only thing they didn’t explain was scoring. Being a competitive guy that I am, I really wanted to win the respect and admiration of my peers as well as a shiny trophy. If I had known how we were to be scored, it would have changed my whole strategy.

Anyhow, we had a ten minute practice run and five races. The first four races we were lined up on the grid by car number, once in order then once in reverse order. I was in car 20, the highest numbered car and so I started last in the first race. I was cautious as well, because I could remember the last time we did indoor karting. My workmates couldn’t tell the difference between real life and X-box gaming and I wanted to stay clear of everyone. In the second race I started on pole, which was good. In the first race we were all a bit cautious and apprehensive, even with the ten minutes of practice were were given to familiarise ourselves with the cars and track. During the second race you could tell everyone was going hell for leather, pushing the envelope and beyond into the kitty litter. Seeya, suckers. Unfortunately I was involved in an “incident” and managed to bend one of my wheels. Three wheels wasn’t going to cut it. The marshals were unimpressed, citing the “crash and burn” rules and the fact that there was only one more spare car for the entire event so I better take care of it. Man, it wasn’t even my fault! That was on the second to last lap so I didn’t manage to get any more times in.

We pulled in after the second race, and had a look at the results. I came last in the first race and first in the second. Between all of us we kind decided that it was all just a fun, noncompetitive scoring scheme since those who started at the front generally finished in the first three positions, and those who started towards the rear scored only minor points.

We had two more races, again starting in car order then reverse order. I was being pretty cautious because I really didn’t want to wreck another car so I was holding back a bit and not doing much overtaking.

Then for the fifth race we were handicapped according to points. I started third last, and I felt ok about that because I knew I was in the top three racers. Knowing that it was a handicap and remembering how some other guys raced I knew that everyone would bunch up about three quarters of the way around the track and there’d be havoc so I decided to take the last race nice and easy. No way was I getting close to those other Kamikazes. The race ended with more spins than a Dead or Alive song.

After the race the final results were announced. I ended up coming fourth. We also found out that points and positions had been decided by fastest lap times, race by race. Not by finishing order. There were transponders in each car which registered every time the car went over the start/finish line. Man I wish I had known that at the start. I still could have won the last race by holding back for a lap then blasting away at a couple hot laps with nobody in front to slow me down.

It was a good day and we all had fun, but I hope we can try something different next year.

The motion blur is real man, not photoshopped.


Dog maths

Been busy painting my house for the last few nights and I don’t have much queued up in the blogmatic pipeline. In the next few days/weeks or whenever I get around to it: “Why we need Wikileaks”, “Are we slavemasters at heart?”, and “Why the baby boomers would kick Gen-Xs and Gen-Ys collective arses in a Generation War”. But here’s a little mathematics joke for ya in the meantime.

A farmer is wondering how many sheep he has in his field, so he asks his sheepdog to count them. The dog runs into the field, counts them, and then runs back to his master.

“So,” says the farmer. “How many sheep were there?”

“40,” replies the dog.

“How can there be 40?” exclaims the farmer. “I only bought 38!”

“I know,” says the dog. “But I rounded them up.”

You, statistically speaking, are completely impossible and have amazing cosmic significance

It may be slightly cliched but the size of the universe is truly inconceivable. Proxima Centauri is the closest star and only 4 light years away, yet even our fastest spacecraft (say the Voyager probes for example- zipping along nicely at a breezy 11 miles a second) wouldn’t reach Proxima Centauri for tens of thousands of years.

In about 40,000 years, Voyager one will pass AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

A million years to cross the backwaters of one spiral arm of a galaxy which is merely one of hundreds of thousands of millions just like it.

Are we insignificant? Probably.

Although, there is a chance that right now we could be the only way that the universe is aware of itself.

Which would mean mankind has amazing cosmic significance.

You, personally, are a massive anomaly, a statistical outlier on an enormous scale. With 23 chromosomes in the human DNA significant for reproduction, even assuming none were mutated in any way, the chances of you getting precisely the ones you got from both parents is 1 in 16,777,216. The chances of either of your parents getting precisely theirs was identically low.

Go ten generations back and you, personally, are such a statistically insignificant probability that calculating your personal likelihood of existance would be a fool’s errand, a waste of time. Forty generations back and you, as an individual, are less likely to occur in the exact manner that you did than the entire population of Australia is to collectively be struck by lightning sometime in their lifetimes. Humans have been around in a similar form to now for over two hundred thousand years. That is, making a few really safe assumptions, approximately 1,000,000 generations. At that point, you are best regarded as impossible. But that’s not all.

The statistical chances of the centillions of breeding pairs throughout all of evolution leading to this point being exactly as they were is even worse. All of this has been conducted in a vacuum, but it can’t be. We have to add in the likelihood that any given one of your heptillions of ancestors would meet a grisly end before reproducing. Slim margin, that. Even worse, the chance that life will form at all.

Then we have the statistical likelihood that our star will gain a planet with our orbit, our size, our makeup, and our atmosphere. Then that our precious star, Sol, will form at all. The milky Way, also, is a matter of chance. Perhaps the universe, even, is a matter of likelihoods and odds. Standing in the only point available at the time, roughly 13.7 billion years ago, and looking around at the rapidly expanding forms around you, nobody, not a single person on this earth no matter how precise or how exacting, would judge you for even half an instant for saying that you, statistically speaking, are completely impossible.

Nothing ever in the history of existance has ever been as improbable as the current state of affairs in the universe, and in a haptosecond it will be several orders of magnitude less likely to have occurred. But it did. So no matter how improbably, no matter how unlikely, there is a very real probability, more real than the probability of your existance 13.7 billion years ago, that tomorrow morning, round seven fifty three AM, I will turn into a dinosaur.

Alternatively, there’s the view that we aren’t at all existing by mere chance, and that the world was created for a purpose, and that we have been placed here on this particular world, at this time in particular, for some particular purpose.

Korean Tron Posters

I found a couple new Tron posters from Korea, all 1024 x 1448. Korean characters make everything look better.

Not long now. Only two weeks! Gotta start convincing my wife that we need to go see it together. It has been a long time in the making.

Looking for the 1980s Tron movie? Or the Tron Legacy Soundtrack? Try Amazon!

Hit me with your best shot

So I’ve been looking at the stats for my sites. They’re improving which is nice. I’m making some money on them, which is even better.

Ive tried a few strategies, mixing it up a bit with different subjects, writing styles and schedules. For example, I once went for 30 days straight where I wrote at least once a day, but this November I’ve only got 7-8 entries. I’ve tried appealing to trending web searches by compiling lists of the the “Top X blankiest blanks” as link bait which have actually proved quite popular, so I’ll be doing more of those. I’ve tried some longer articles and shorter ones, some more and some less personal, some humorous and some serious. I think I’m still finding my feet creatively and technically, but it’s a satisfying pastime for now.

By far the most popular article has been the Spud Shed experience. Naturally, most visits have been from Perth as Spud Shed isn’t found over east and it has skewed my visitor map pretty wildly. This article has also generated my first hate mail in a long time which is quite an achievement and has been educational in terms of what people want to read, why they want to read it and why people keep coming back.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing and marketing on the Internet it is this:

Create new, unique and useful web pages, host them on a user-friendly website that Google can understand and make sure the right people know about them.

It’s a broad philosophy I’ve committed to memory from some SEO web site on how to attract visitors, and therefore money. There’s a lot in there if you break it down but it all needs to be done and done well if a web site is to be successful

This blog has had visits from 155 countries so far. Getting the first 100 was easy. Getting the next 50 has taken ages. Getting another 15-20 is going to take as long as it has taken to get the first 150, I estimate.

Google Analytics and the raw web statistics have proven I’ve increased readership steadily, sustaining around 10 visitors an hour for the last few weeks. Small potatoes, really, but still quite satisfying and enlightening as I try to find the right mix to attract visitors. Now, I need to apply this to my other web sites which are stuck on around 25 visitors a day and aren’t earning their keep. It’ll come though. I just with I had more time to invest.