Irrational Fear: Spiders vs Mosquitoes

Is fear ever rational? You tell me! The more I learn about spiders, however, the more I am convinced that there is no rational basis for the vast majority of people’s fear of spiders. Let’s contrast them with mosquitoes to set things in perspective.

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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Life


What did you learn from that?

Children’s education is a big topic. We scrutinise everything they do and look for its educational value. We wonder what they’re learning. If they choose an activity in which we see no learning potential, we disapprove, and show our disapproval in a variety of ways. We may say they are wasting their time. We may try to steer them towards a more “worthy” activity, one that we feel has more learning value. We may also ask them: “So what did you learn from that?”. 

And that’s a rhetorical question of course. We simply won’t be satisfied with any answer they give us, because we’re not really expecting an answer, we just want them to agree with us and feel bad about how they’ve just spent their time.

Reality, of course, is quite different. Of course they’ve learned worthwhile things. However, instead of discussing the list of things worth learning, I want to talk about the hypocrisy of asking such a question. Then I’ll discuss the nature of learning, and the difference between content and context.

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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Life, Psychology and Sociology


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From homeless to home owner in 8 hours

Anne-Marie and I have been married for 13 years, and we have been tenants all that time. We’ve always wanted to buy our own house, but could never get enough income, or put together enough deposit for a loan application. And our experiences with renting have been mostly positive all that time, so the incentives to buy haven’t been great.

However, the chain of events I’m about to relate has changed everything, and in a very short period of time.

During Joshua’s first 4 years (he turns 4 in December), he has already lived in 4 different homes. This is very stressful for him, and plays an important part in our decision to start looking for something more permanent. But as of July this year (2013), it still felt like a far-off goal. We had recently been told that our rental in Bray Street, Bunbury, was being sold, and we had a strong feeling that our lease would not be renewed in January 2014. The distance to Perth was also a factor, with my work requiring more frequent meetings, and the difficulty in attending the Temple and visiting with extended family.

So after much deliberation and consideration of options (including moving to Melbourne, France and Canada!!), we decided to return to Mandurah. This begun the most frustrating house hunting episode we’ve ever had. I will spare you the details, but the half-dozen property managers we dealt with displayed such incompetence, disrespect and dishonesty that we started to feel very much fed up with the whole renting idea.

Finally we found a suitable rental in Mandurah. Its landlord had just put it for the first time on the rental market, and it met our budget and all other requirements. We applied and got accepted as tenants, but the property manager kept postponing the signature of the lease agreement, because the owner wanted to do a few repairs and remove some items from the property.

Having had our application accepted, and since our current lease wasn’t expiring until December, we had to find new tenants to take over our lease, and organize the lease break with our property manager.

However, after two weeks we still hadn’t been able to sign the lease, and time was running out. We had found some new tenants that were due to move in on the 8th of October, they had signed the lease for our current property, and we had organised a truck for that weekend. Finally, plans were going smoothly.

Then we got a call from the new property manager. The owner had decided to withdraw his property from the rental market. Suddenly we were contemplating being homeless within 5 days, and spent several days gathering as much information and options as we could, to see which one would be the least traumatic for our family.

I posted about our dilemma on Facebook, and got an overwhelming number of responses and offers of assistance from concerned friends and family. We decided to take up the Standley’s offer to temporarily rent their parent’s old home in Bunbury, while we regrouped and planned our next move.

But our final destination was completely unexpected, and was not amongst the many options we had considered. It came up the morning following a dinner we had with some good friends of ours, Ryan and Carmen Cox, and Cyril and Margaret Sherriff. After mulling over our dilemnma during that night, Cyril felt strongly that he should do his best to get us to move to Harvey, a rural town 30 minutes northeast of Bunbury to which we have felt strongly attracted over the past year. He woke up early that morning, and called us around 9am to tell us about a property that seemed suitable for renting in Harvey. It was for sale, but had been vacant for months, and he thought the owner would be keen to get anyone in there.

Suddenly we thought, if it’s for sale, why not see if we can buy it? It had been our plan to rent for another couple of years while we save up for a deposit, using my new full-time job I started early 2013, and then buy something in Mandurah or Harvey. We did the maths, and realised that this house was well within our budget, even if I decided to return to academia some time in the future. The opportunity seemed too good to be true.

Furthermore, the house belonged to a member of our church whose late wife Anne-Marie used to visit, and that same was being sold by Joel Standley, the very property manager through whom we were temporarily renting the Standley’s old house! Like planets aligning themselves for some event of cosmic significance, everything seemed to be set in perfect order for us to buy our first home. Even the entire series of frustrating experiences with property managers during the last few months seemed to play a crucial part in our decision to consider the option of buying a home. In fact, if the owner of the Mandurah rental had not withdrawn his property, we would have moved there by now, and would have never considered that house in Harvey!

So, after this phone call from Cyril! we called Joel and organised to pick up the keys to the Harvey house, so we could take a look at it. By lunch time we were inspecting it, and Cyril and Margaret met us there. By 3pm we were back in Bunbury and completed the offer of purchase documents, and by 6pm our offer was accepted! It took us a long time to get used to the idea of what we had just done, but it felt so right, neither of us ever had a second’s doubt that this was the right choice.

And after nearly three weeks since this happened, we still haven’t had any doubt. We feel at peace, we feel happy with this decision. We love the Harvey community and environment, we feel that it will be a wonderful place for our children to grow up, and will enable us to do more of the things we are passionate about, without being distracted by the hustle and bustle of big towns like Mandurah, Bunbury or Perth.


Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Life


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Come to our Discussion Evening!

As a way to apply the wisdom we’ve learned during the last few years, we’ve decided to start hosting Discussion Evenings at our home every Thursday evening. We want to meet people, talk about what makes life worth living, and most of all we want to discover the goodness in people all around us. 

Everyone is welcome, just make sure you let us know before you come, or else you may find yourself drinking your hot chocolate on the front porch: we don’t have a big house! Don’t worry though, there’s a rocking chair there :-)

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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Life


A reconstruction of computing history

Hi! I’m a time-travelling archeologist from the 25th Century. For centuries we’ve been struggling to understand the mess that were the 20th and early 21st centuries based on archeological digs and archaic storage devices, but we were only just starting to piece things together when some clever twit invented the time machine. So I’m here to share some of our theories before I explore your century to see how accurate we were.

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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Musings


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We value only what we can measure

In all the literature I have read, I know of few statements more profound than the following quote from St Exupery’s Little Prince:

The wise fox

My secret is this. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye

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One reason I dislike iPads

One reason I dislike iPads


No comments…

Actually let me comment before I get flamed for being ignorant. The real way to add attachments to an email on iPad is to first open the app that opens the file you want to attach, then “share” the file by email. This makes two assumptions:

  1. You have an app that can open this file type
  2. This app knows how to share the file through email

If either of these assumptions is violated, you’re out of luck: you cannot attach that file to your email.

So what if I want to share a non-standard file type, like a password manager database created on my Linux machine, and there are no iPad apps that can open it? Or what if my PDF reader was written by ignorant coders who didn’t include a “share” button?

Too bad, welcome to the non-productive, all-entertainment world of Apple mobile devices!

and while I’m at it, let me share two more things that completely infuriate me: typing in any sort of online text editor is an absolute joke, with jumping cursors and buggy selections galore; and WHY ARE THERE NO DIRECTIONAL ARROWS ON THE VIRTUAL KEYBOARD???

Oh wait I get it…. I’m supposed to buy a Bluetooth keyboard, right?

FAIL, Apple, FAIL!!!



Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Life


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