A test thing in Tableau: use of selected words as % of total words in some great works of philosophy

This is just a test.  It needs work.   Fun, though!

A metaphysics primer (draft)

Sometimes I miss teaching philosophy.   This evening I wanted a quick project, so I tried to design a metaphysics primer using only dots, circles, and arrows.  Philosophers would object to some of my characterisations, but that's fine.  The job of this primer is only to start discussions, and to give students a visual aid to consider the history of metaphysics.  

If you teach philosophy, you're welcome to use and improve this, but please attribute it to me.  (CC BY)


Still learning how to make illusions - Munker!

I'm still enjoying learning how to make optical illusions.  These ones are all Munker illusions.

Both of these ladies are the same shade of red.

illusion - monker - ladies-01.png

This time I tried using three different colours of lines.  Both of these philosophers are the same shade of red.  (I thought Descartes would be fitting.)

And this next one is my favourite so far.  All the splotches are the same shade of green.

And this next one is my favourite so far.  All the splotches are the same shade of green.

illusion - splotches-01.png

Learning to make optical illusions

I've been learning to make optical illusions.  It started when I got fascinated by this piece by Akiyoshi Kitaoka. There are no red pixels in these strawberries, which is sort of nuts.  I put it in Illustrator, to find out how it all worked, by sucking out swatches.


Based on what I learned, I made my own illusion.  Some people in the comments were suggesting the effect only works because we are used to seeing strawberries as red.  But that's not right.  It works because of Additive Colour Change.  I made one with sneakers.

illusion - mark - no red-01.png

Christmas Present Ideas 2017

As tradition demands, here is my annual list of present ideas, to help you if you're stuck.

  • Pierre the Maze Detective seems like a very cool book for puzzle-minded kids. I sort of want it myself.

  • This wooden tool set or this wooden doctor set.

  • Buffalo Zine is a weird London fashion magazine that won Stack's magazine of the year.

  • Dot is a rad magazine for kids.

  • Home made fancy granola in jars. Dried cranberries make it sweet and festive. Here's a template recipe to customise to suit your taste. We've used it many times, and it works great.

  • Home made lime simple syrup (for mixing into cocktails, or serving with iced soda water). You could buy a bunch of those little bottles you find in hotel minibars. That way, a single batch could be distributed among many bottles, and then many stockings.

  • Alternatively, you can buy really nice syrups, tonics, and bitters from Only Bitters online store.

  • This children's market basket . We have one, and Po loves wheeling it about, full of vegetables, at the markets on an early Saturday morning.

  • Art by my sisters, Mondocherry.

  • I think a child would like custom stickers - maybe with their name, or initials, or something. That would be easy and fun to do at Moo.com.

  • Here are some card games that are fun for the whole family: Port Royal, Sushi Go, Hanabi, Coup

  • Tickets to a comedy show.

  • A gaming mouse or keyboard, if that's what they're into.

  • Juggling balls or clubs. I like stage balls, but they’re more difficult for beginners. Scarves are good for kids. They’re very easy, and would fit in a stocking.

  • I love cookbooks. The ones I covet at the moment are: Sweet, Honey & Co, and Supernormal

  • If you gave someone a cookbook, you could add some fancy pantry spices, or rose water, or pomegranate molasses - whatever the particular recipes require that the person doesn't have.

  • Raspberry Pi has been a round a while now, but keeps getting better. It's is a sort of tiny computer that you have to program yourself. It would be a great present for a budding computer scientist or programmer.

  • Monocle Guide to Good Business. This is sort of a crossover between business-lit and a coffee table book.

  • Circuit Cubes are designed by STEM teachers and interoperable with Lego. They do cool things, and teach kids about electricity. Similarly, the "make your own controllers" by Makey Makey, or Little Bits. Actually, yeah - I'd go with Little Bits.

  • Kettle bell, rock climbing shoes, pouch to store keys/phone in while running, ballet shoes, new shiny cricket ball, frisbee, etc.

  • Do they go to the cinema on Boxing Day? That's a tradition for some folks. If so, you could make them the ultimate cinema snack pack. I don't know - jarritos, pretzels, chocolate almonds - whatever weird things they like.

  • Microphone. This Rode smartLav+ mic would be good if they want to get into podcasting or making videos for something.

  • An overnight travel bag.

  • A playlist of your favourite podcasts. A mixtape for the 21st century. (Free!) This could make a good mail-out gift to lots of people?

  • A fruit plant. Passionfruit vine? Dwarf lemon, lime, or mandy trees?

  • Subscription to the NYT crossword puzzle app for ipads and wotnot.

  • Fancy sunscreen would make a nice stocking filler for the summer.

  • If they're sort of a lefty, or just like good journalism, they'd probably like a subscription to the Monthly.

  • Straws are nice for smoothies and milkshakes, and fit in a stocking.

  • Voucher to play an escape room. I recently enjoyed the new Quest Escape rooms in South Brisbane.

  • A portrait camera lens.

  • Fancy-ass stationary

  • Olive oil / balsamic vinegar.

  • A cheap laminator from Office Works. Preserves kids drawings, makes things waterproof, can be used to make fun card games for kids, etc.

  • Tactile memory game for kids. Briohny found this. Very cool, although the price to ship it here from the States is sort of ridiculous.

  • Similarly, these beautiful wooden play dough stampers.

  • A new office desk chair, or a second monitor for sweet dual screen efficiency.

  • A box to organise their precious things, whatever those are. E.g. a better tool box, an antique sewing box, a box with lots of little drawers to sort different kinds of small things, etc.

  • A tripod. Maybe they want a mini one like this, or a bigger one like this. I have both of those, and they're both useful.

  • A young child needs these books: Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer.

  • Earphones. I get through at least 12 pairs of cheap earphones a year. Maybe I should stop listening to podcasts while I sleep.

  • A wall map of the world.

  • James Acaster's Classic Scrapes was the funniest book I've read this year. If they're into British comedy panel shows, they'll know James, and will like this.

  • Along the same lines, I haven’t read, but would like to read, Joe Lycett’s Parsnips Buttered.

  • Inflatable pool toys.

  • If they have a Pinterest account, stalk their pins, and get something that you find. Pinterst, it seems to me, is more or less a ‘wish list’

  • Seeds. Maybe sugar snap peas? Or cherry tomatoes?

  • We really like Jericho wines - especially the Tempranillo, which is delicious for about 20 bucks.

  • This 17yr old kid will make a social-media-avatar of someone for $6.60. You send him the photo; he'll make it a cartoon.

A teaching philosophy statement

I'm applying for this fellowship that requires a "Teaching Philosophy Statement".  It's a reflective piece of writing about how you approach pedagogy.  Here's a draft.


Teaching Philosophy Statement

No single piece of advice could capture what it means to teach effectively, but this might come close:  

   It is not enough to give the students flour and sugar and butter; you have to bake the cake  
   with them

I can’t remember who gave me that advice, but it is good advice for a number of reasons. First, it highlights the systematic nature of learning. Deep learning is not the endless memorising of concepts, but an understanding of how concepts interrelate with one another. Second, it highlights the collaborative and active nature of learning. The teacher bakes the cake with the students, and not for them. Third, it highlights the importance of teaching both skills and facts. Giving the students a fact is like giving them flour – somewhat useless and unpalatable by itself – but combined with the right skills, can be used to make a delicious cake, or any number of other things.  

I have aimed to apply this to advice in my work – as a university lecturer, and as a designer of training programs for industry, government, and academic researchers.  I’ll address those three elements in turn.

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Draft course design for a MOOC about Open Science

Here’s a quick course design that I offered to Jon Tennant for his forthcoming MOOC about Open Science. Ten glass modules. Glass is a nice metaphor for openness, obviously. 

I saw Jon’s course, which looks amazing, and figured offering a design would be a nice evening project. Open science is certainly something I support; I’ve previously designed this one page overview of Open Access Journal Publishing.

As a general thing, I really believe having an overall course design is really important.  It’s not enough to just illustrate concepts one-by-one in each lesson. You have to somehow tie the whole course together into a coherent whole, as I’ve tried to do here, here, and elsewhere. 

OS MOOC draft

What is innovation? A brief history in quotes.


“The Athenians are addicted to innovation, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution.”
                                                           - Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War(c400 BCE)

I got interested by the history of “innovation”. It turns out it’s old.  And opinions of what it is, and whether it’s good, have evolved over time.  So, I figured it would be fun, and possibly instructive, to put together a one-page history of innovation in quotes – from Thucydides to Management Consultancy, or something like that.  Here’s a draft pdf.  You'll probably have to zoom in to read it.  It prints nicely in A3 landscape.  Contributions very welcome!

A present

I think I've previously mentioned that my mum collects four leaf clovers. In any case, she's since taken to breeding them. She took a sneaky cutting from a particularly prevalent patch outside a local library, and then selectively bred the patch for more leaves per clover. The natural prevalence of four leaf clovers is about 1 in 10,000. Mum's patch gets, like, 10 or 20 per day in a small cluster.

Anyway, for Christmas Mum gave me a cutting of her own clover plant. Very cool.

I planted it, and on the first day, possums or birds came and ate all the leaves. A tragedy. But then I replanted the small leafless stump in my vegepod (under the cover of netting), and now (a couple of months later) I'm getting 3 or 4 per day.  Here are some I picked yesterday.