Dork Geek Nerd

"Rational romantic mystic cynical idealist"

Friday, February 14, 2020


The convex lenses we term magnifying glasses have been around since truly ancient times. They allow us to view items enlarged and to start fires by focusing sunlight on a point on combustible material.

This is the 3000-year-old rock-crystal Nimrud Lens, from an Assyrian palace dug up in Iraq.
The first m/g I owned as a child was small and made entirely of clear plastic. It came with either a stamp-collecting kit or a Bug Catcher toy. I do not remember which one.
Discovering I could use it to burn a hole in a dry brown leaf was an astounding scientific breakthrough. But I never used it to fry unsuspecting ants. Nor did I ever hit them with a cricket bat, as depicted in the background of a scene in "Reckless Kelly", a 1993 Aussie comedy on which my mate DB was an extra.
I was 20 when that movie dropped. Years earlier, though, another friend, DP, had shown me how a magnifying glass could add “battle damage” to action figures. He liked to have two copies of the same figurine, and swap in the scorched version after the character lost a gunfight.

He also crucified an Action Man high on a tree in his backyard.
Seeing an m/g makes me think of Sherlock Holmes and, by extension, a further image from my youth – the canine mascot of the MS Read-A-Thon, attempting to hunt down a cure for multiple sclerosis.
These days, it has also become the universal symbol for a computer/internet search of some description. The icon isn’t usually red, but I just happen to like this graphic. Sue me.
There’s a rumour that men with grey creeping into their goatees now need to employ a magnifying glass when reading magazine articles of a certain font size. To study the finer points of an insect or stamp, the sad bastards would probably require a microscope.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Snakes, rodents and alien technology

When I was a lad, the three aspects of popular culture that mattered most to me were, in reverse order of importance: Atari, "Star Wars" and BMX.

I rode a Cobra, a brand manufactured by the Toowoomba Bicycle Company. Here's me on my bike when I was 7 or 8. Pretty sure that was the Christmas morning when I got it.
I never thought much about the name at the time, although because I was the only kid within a few blocks who rode one (there were numerous BMX brands), it did lead to peeps calling me "Cobra" and "Cob".

In hindsight, the serpentine mascot was clearly the TBC positioning itself as an Australian alternative to top US brand Mongoose.
But don't mongeese snack on cobras? According to Wikipedia, infrequently. "The Indian gray mongoose and others are well known for their ability to fight and kill venomous snakes... However, they typically avoid the cobra and have no particular affinity for consuming its meat."

In the end, Cobra didn't survive, while Mongoose did. Today, they produce a range of modern BMXes (that I dislike), and recently released a sweet replica of Max's bike from "Stranger Things". A shop a short car trip away claims to have some of those in stock. It's tempting.
Of course, if I could hang any BMX on the wall to admire and fill me with nostalgia, there'd be no competition -
1. Mongeese are rodent-like but not actually rodents, so my blog-entry title is technically incorrect. Yay!
2. Those badges aren't a fair comparison as the Mongoose example is decades newer. Best Cobra badge I could find, soz.
3. I made a million changes to that bike over the years - enough for a far longer post. Maybe one day :-)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Heart Strings VII

Only five this time:

* Liu Yifei (32) in the forthcoming live-action movie of "Mulan"
* Lindsey Stirling from the clip for her song "Artemis" (hey, a violin bow is still a bow)
* Supermodel Linda Evangelista doing the fashion thang
* Sophie Skelton in online series "Ren - The Girl With The Mark"
* Caroline Munro on the cover of the compilation album "Hot Hits 11".

Friday, January 17, 2020

Gleaning the cubes

While at PAX, my workmate AH purchased some sort of tabletop-gaming lucky dip. Among the contents was a packet of "Doctor Who"-themed Rory's Story Cubes, which he kindly gifted to me.
The face of each cube represents a being, other object, place or situation. The instructions stress that these are simply a guide, e.g. The Master could stand for any mad scientist.
The idea is to roll the cubes like dice, group them into three lots of three, then use those trios to tell a tale with a beginning, middle and end. OK, let's give it a crack...
For the record, those nine faces represent (left to right, top to bottom): Sontaran, Choking, Sonic Screwdriver, Adipose, Guillotine, Custodian Helmet, Psychic Paper, Silurian, Planet.


Once upon space and time, a Sontaran playfully throttled Steven Moffat for overusing the sonic screwdriver and turning it into a magic wand. During the confusion, the Cuteness Police took the opportunity to behead every last Adipose. Fortunately, that's where the violence stopped as Madame Vastra used the psychic paper to prove Silurian ownership of Earth, then she and Jenny Flint lived happily ever after. And Strax, too. Actually, for continuity's sake, let's say that he did the pretend choking earlier. So it was basically a Paternoster Gang adventure where we rid ourselves of the Adipose. Hooray!

Current not-so-instant noodle recipe

* Two different types of noodles
* Handful of fresh bean sprouts
* Cashew nuts and/or peanuts
* Plenty of dried onion flakes
* Parsley
* Garlic granules
* Turmeric
* Japanese red pepper
* Splash of quality soy sauce

Note: I don't use the powders or oils that come with the noodles.

It tastes better than it looks, so rather than a snap of my noodle bowl, here's Akari Hayami in the title part on "Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles" (Japanese telly series of the fun manga).

Pool removal

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ha'amonga 'a Maui

Waited ages to take a phone photo of the "Tongan Stonehenge" without any fellow tourists in the picture. Snapped a bunch because it was bright sunlight and hard to aim/frame. Got back on the idling tour bus, checked them and realised I'd accidentally selected selfie mode. So instead of a mysterious ancient structure, all I could see was my own ugly mug. Deleted the images in disgust. Suddenly, the bus lurched forward and I had *just* enough time to shoot the following pic through the window. No posing tourists visible - only half a frickin' tree!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Eating game

Add me to the list of impressionable folks who've altered their diet after watching docofilm "The Game Changers" on Netflix.

The main reason I'm doing so is not because I believe I have a better shot at becoming a super athlete. It's 'cos the makers convinced me it will improve my circulation and heart health.

I'm not going full vegan.

I've cut out meat completely and switched from moo juice to soy milk. But I'm not ready to give up eggs or the occasional bit of cheese yet.

And it's only been a week.

Previously, the longest I lasted on a vegetarian diet was three months, after I began suffering dizzy spells my GP couldn't explain. (Note: my iron level was fine.) So there's plenty of time to fail.

I have to say, though, that it feels easier than before, and I'm enjoying the meals more. The nutritional science has progressed and likewise the supermarket/restaurant options.

I reckon I can stick with it :-)

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Open slather

The UK's highly regarded Open University has a spin-off website called OpenLearn that offers more than 1000 free courses.

These are separated into three levels - Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced. They range in estimated length from one hour to 100 hours, though I'd say most are under 20. Often, they are excerpts from OU degrees (they tell you which).

The material isn't taught only via text and pics/maps/tables/graphs/etc. but also audio, video and links to external news articles or essays.

While students aren't graded, they may be asked to do quizzes, write responses and, in one case I've seen, contribute content to an online forum.

At the completion of any course, there is the option to print a nice-looking statement of participation giving the name and duration of that subject.

Since discovering OpenLearn a few weeks ago, I've finished the following:

* Being An OU Student
* The Incredible Shrinking Chip
* Library Of Alexandria
* Does Prison Work?
* Eating For The Environment
* How Do Empires Work?
* Galaxies, Stars And Planets
* Approaches To Software Development
* Art In Renaissance Venice
* Energy Resources: Tidal Energy
* The Business Of Football
* Babylonian Mathematics

And I'm currently working through another doozy on the philosophical problem of imagination.

My pal AH asked me how these free courses might be used to improve a resume. My suggestion to him was to avoid a scattershot approach like mine and do everything on a certain topic, then include a line like, "Completed a total of 50 hours of Astronomy courses on the Open University's OpenLearn website." (Made-up example.)

Sounds all right, doesn't it? What are you waiting for?