Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Three lions? Not on my shirt

I was watching the England Germany match the other night and came to a realization that I didn't really care for the England team any more. Big deal you say? Maybe....

I'll tell you why this is significant to me. I was born in England and lived there until I was 4. I had an 'England - World Cup Winners 1966' pennant on my wall. I played soccer as a kid, terrorizing the opposing goal as an under 10. I watched replays of the English premiership on tv at a time when liverpool dominated, people like Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes, Grahame Souness. I loved soccer. The first world cups I remember watching involved the Brazilians, people like Zico and Socrates, who we only got to watch once every 4 years. Then there was the 'hand of God' incident where I learned to dislike the Argentines, and I also had to dislike the Germans for knocking out England in penalty shootouts.

Watching Gascgoine play in Italia 90 was a great memory. That extra time goal by David Platt against Belgium.

Euro 96 was a blast - that awesome goal from Gascoine against the Scots and then Shearer and co. hammering the Dutch, only for penalties again.

France 98 looked promising, with a young Owen on the rise, but the Argentines again, with the help of a stray Beckham leg, put an end to it. Lots of good memories, followed by disappointment.

Growing up in Australia and having come from England, I felt a bit different to the others. I had a slightly funny accent. I sort of felt Australian, but I also felt English, even when I didn't really remember England much anymore. I supported England in the soccer, because Dad did, because I still felt English, and because Australia had no team to speak of. I never remember the Australian team being on TV, whereas during the world cups England were sort of a proxy team for Australia. Most people, I think at that time, wanted to see them do well, because English soccer was what they knew.

I went back to England for the first time when I was 22 and I had a great time. I got along with my relatives really well, and I really felt comfortable there, it's a great country. But it made me realize that I wasn't English, I was Australian. I think that this is pretty common for children of first generation immigrants who go back to their country of origin.

So what took me so long to arrive at this decision? I had a habit of following the England team, and I was a loyal supporter. I would watch games with my England shirt on and jump off the couch when they scored. This world cup I watched most of the England games in bed, and even if my achilles tendon hadn't been broken, I'm not sure I would have jumped around too much. When it came to the final game against Germany, the disallowed goal was just plain wrong, but teams with heart can fight against adversity rather than capitulate into disarray. I just didn't feel anything for this team, they threw it away for whatever reason (and many have been postulated). I realized at that moment that I was done. Thanks for the memories, we can still be friends, but I just don't love you anymore.

I will be happy if the England team win something in the future, but my support is now firmly with the Australian team. I wish they weren't called the socceroos, it's just plain wrong, but I'll live with it. It's an exciting time for soccer in Australia. We have challenges ahead playing in the Asian conference against teams like South Korea and Japan who are starting to establish themselves on the world stage. We have some old players who have served well, but should now be shipped out to make room for the new generation. I'm looking forward to it.

That's it. The three lions are going on ebay.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Burping on demand

After such along delay in writing, I need to coming back with something gripping. Well it isn't going to happen.

But as a consolation blog I'd like to let you know that I taught my mother, who just turned 65 last week how to burp on demand. Yes that's right, how to burp on demand, and I can tell you she was quite happy with herself.

Its interesting how times change. If I had done that as a kid, Dad would have called me 'uncouth', i.e. lacking in polish and grace. That was Dad's word, uncouth. He never called anyone couth though. hmmmm. Is couth a word? I just looked it up and apparently it is, it means refined.

Mum's couthness has taken a dip, but I have to admit I'm pretty impressed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Publishing a paper

I wanted to share an email exchange I had earlier this year. I thought that I had sent an email to Paul Peterson, a colleague who I was writing a paper with (but have never actually met in person), when in fact I sent it to Jeff Peterson, a friend from Ithaca who is an anthropologist turned librarian. I also actually addressed the letter to Jeff in mistake.

My original letter is in blue, and Jeff's comments are in light green. (If you are bored by 'science' then stop reading now).

Jerry and Jeff,

I have made some revisions to the paper as suggested. I have also had another read through and made some other changes. Attached is a document describing revisions – if you could take a read through my responses and suggest any other changes I would appreciate it. The original uploaded paper with line references is also attached.


Hey, I know nothing about this, but that sure hasn't stopped me before. I'm far from a classic Renaissance man, but as a librarian I like to think of myself as somewhat well-rounded. But I must have oversold myself somehow if you were thinking I would be a great contributor here. Still, I would be happy to make up some stuff for you. See below.

The only outstanding matters which I would like your comments on are:

1) ‘Describe the type of grinder used (Wiley or cyclone or ??).’
Jerry – do you think this is necessary to include? Do you have a sentence already?

I like the idea of the cyclone one. It sounds cool.

2) (3, 6-8) ‘This statement needs a reference. It is too broad--some would argue for other constituents under specific conditions. What type/class of livestock is being referred to? Dairy cattle?’
Jerry – can you provide a reference for NDF as the principal forage quality characteristic of concern? What about livestock class?

Here you are getting into the natural kinds debate. You need to slow this down. It's important to understand that species and types are not rigid categories. There aren't any really good rigid definitions of species that work in real world situations. Rather than representing discrete chunks, species boundaries are fuzzy. Take the fox in the circum-polar region. Foxes that are adjacent to one another around this circuit can mate and produce viable offspring with each other. But if you were to mate two foxes that came from sufficiently distant points in the circum-polar region, then you would find that they are unable to produce offspring. So when you ask "what type/class of livestock is being referred to" you aren't acknowledging the nuances here and may be asking the wrong question. See John Dupre's "Natural Kinds and Biological Taxa" in The Philosophical Review Vol. 90, No. 1. and Richard Boyd's "Kinds as the 'Workmanship of Men': Realism, Constructivism, and Natural Kinds".

3) (8, 49) ‘Do you have statistics to back up this statement? It is relatively simple to compare statistical differences among linear slopes.’
‘Either add some statistics to indicate whether slopes were truly different from each other, or avoid making statements that speculate on such differences.’
I still haven’t decided what to do here. It is relatively simple to compare the differences between 2 slopes, but not so simple when you have more than 2. Here are some web articles on it:
The problem is that the methods I have read about work okay for either comparing 2 slopes or using orthogonal contrasts to compare more than 2 slopes. Because we want to compare each slope with every other slope we can’t use orthogonal contrasts, and we can’t use the 2 slope method because of the potential compounding of errors. We need a multiple comparison procedure, like Tukey’s test but for slopes, and I am not aware of anything available. The stats guy here is not around so I haven’t been able to ask anyone about it. Maybe the simplest think is to just cut back on the interpretation.

Look, I don't use statistics. This is too positivist. In the classical world rather than being wowed by numbers people were really suspicious when they were used because they thought they were trying to trick you. Just talk about what all of this means to you.

Good luck,


That’s all for the moment. We don’t have too much more time on this but if you send me your comments I will make some changes and re-submit it.


So I replied to Jeff:

Hi Jeff,

Sorry I sent you the message earlier which obviously wasn't for you. I chose the wrong Peterson! Hope all is well. All the best for 2009.


And Jeff replied:

"obviously" wasn't for me? I'm hurt by the word obviously. I was really hoping to sneak my name onto your paper. I could have kept going with that.
I could use this on my cv. Oh well.

But hey, even though my information is ridiculous in the context of your paper, I should say that I really didn't make any of it up (it's all true, except for the part about it being over the top to use any stats at all. I don't really think that). And just for fun, I actually do recommend reading the two papers I mentioned. I think the Boyd paper is potentially helpful for just about anyone.


And here's my final response to Jeff, with his comments inserted:

Hi Jeff,

Sorry I haven’t replied earlier. Busy times!

Thanks for the reply. I assume you are pretty busy. I'm thrilled to know that I have made a contribution to Agronomy. This makes me feel like a real Renaissance person, and I can consider this to be one more box checked off on my to do list before I die.

I would like to read about the fuzzy species boundary at some stage, it sounds interesting.

...but probably not very practical. But yes it is interesting and I think I think it is worth reading about. John Dupre's "Natural Kinds and Biological Taxa" in The Philosophical Review Vol. 90, No. 1. is a real paper that I recommend. And as I mentioned I really do recommend the Boyd paper for just about anyone. Categories are important in most disciplines. You never know how things might apply. I actually drafted a section in my EQ notes on the Godhead (if you still are on the list) that connected to this discussion on categories and natural kinds. I was going to talk about the criticism that is sometimes offered against the Bible: the Law of Moses classifies the bat with birds. I am not sure who it is that really fires off these kinds of criticisms; they seem kind of puerile to me. At any rate, I think Dupre and Boyd's papers help us to understand (if we need the help) why I don't think this is really a "problem". And I wanted to tie this open understanding about categories into the discussion on the Godhead. I can't tell if this is all obvious or not, but since people seem[?] to have trouble speaking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God, I thought this might help. But then I scrapped it because it seemed like too much. But you just never know how things are going to be connected.

I appreciate your contribution and will add it to the acknowledgements – I was thinking : ‘The authors would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions, and also Jeff Peterson for encouraging us to publish in the Journal of Experiential Agronomy. All statistics were omitted on Jeff’s advice.’

:-) I like it.
(comedy aside for a moment, I'm actually not one of those anthropologists who completely stays away from numbers. I'm all for using both qualitative and quantitative data).

I’ll try and send future papers your way. At least you responded a lot quicker than everyone else!

Regards, David


I would be happy to see any papers that you are working on, although I can't promise any helpful comments



In the true spirit of Jeff, he always manages to find something interesting in what other people have to say. I'll have to collaborate with him on a paper one day...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hattie Science - Why did the dinosaurs die?

I’d like to introduce a new segment to my blog - Hattie Science
This week’s topic:
'Why did the dinosaurs die?'

Here are her various hypotheses:
1.       Maybe they walked into a fire. Maybe they didn’t see the fire and so they walked in it.

2.       Maybe they walked into a trap, and they didn’t see the trap. Like a big trap.

3.       Maybe they walked onto the volcano, and then died. Like our mountain which was a volcano (Mount Wellington). I’ve never been on a volcano. Are people allowed to go on volcanoes?

4.       Maybe they banged into something. Maybe they banged into a pole and then fell down. Would you die if you banged into a pole?

5.       Maybe they were too old. They could be too old.
Concluding comments: 'Just tell me why they died dad. Tell me. Just tell me right now.'

Friday, October 30, 2009

Who stole the leg of time?

I think that for all of us there are names that if we hear we cannot help but think of something else. So I've decided to give you my top 5, based on the strength of the mental connection. I apologize in advance for offending people who may have one of these names (really your mother should be apologizing).
Let's start off with number five.

5. Cecilia/Celia.
Yes this one was predictable. "You're breaking my heart." I don't think this needs any more explanation.

4. Nigel.
"We're only making plans for Nigel". Nigel was pretty popular for kids of my age - I had two school Nigel friends.

3. (insert chosen prefix)-ene, e.g. Joelene, Raelene, Lurlene, Francine, Charlene. I can't help but sing the Dolly Parton song. We had a friend in the Falkland Islands, and I would always think "Charlene, Charlene, Charlene, Charleeeeeeeeeen." Enjoy the lovely clip.

2. Dennis.
"I didn't know you were called Dennis"
"Well you didn't bother to find out did you?"

Good old Monty Python. I haven't seen or heard a lot of Monty Python for about 20 years but the words are still stuck in my head. This scene has everything.

And now for number 1 (drum roll please).

1. Terry.
"It was TERRY. TERRY. TERRY stole the leg of time".

If you have never experienced the wonders of Bill Bailey then sit back and enjoy.

So there it is. So when you are asked "Was it the man with the key to the door of reality, underneath the mat of insignificance?" You can say "Nope. it was Terry".

What names do it for you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009