When Kipling met Twain

Blessed is the man who finds no disillusion when he is brought face to face with a revered writer.

Rudyard Kipling interviewed Mark Twain in 1889. This surprising fact was revealed to me as I perused one of the books which emerged when I recently successfully ‘downsized’, moving across the road from a house to a townhouse. It was an opportunity to take stock of my motley collection of books, discarding a few (not as many as I should have), reminding myself to re-read some favourites and planning to read a few unread titles. Continue reading

Who is that on the $50 note?

Australian currency is a curious mixture, with the coins dominated by the monarch and varieties of fauna, apart from the $2 coin, which has QEII on one side and Gwoya Tjungurrayi, an Aboriginal tribal elder, on the other. The notes exhibit a motley collection of Australian notables, some more well known than others (by me, anyway: BanjoPaterson, Edith Cowan, Nellie Melba, John Monash). Less well known are Mary Reibey on the $20 note (a rags-to-riches story of a girl transported to Australia as a 13-year-old convict) and the Aboriginal man depicted on the $50 note, David Unaipon. Continue reading

Who sent the first rocket into space?

Very few people seem to know who sent the first rocket into space – well, I didn’t anyway. The following quote provides a not-very-helpful clue:

… we have invaded space with our rocket and for the first time – mark this well – have used space as a bridge between two points on the earth; we have proved rocket propulsion practicable for space travel. To land, sea and air may now be added infinite space as a medium of future inter-continental traffic. This day … is the first of a new era in transportation, that of space travel.

Who said these words, when were they spoken and what was the occasion? Continue reading

Surfing goes full circle

My first memories of being in surf are as a child in the late 1950s, floundering around at Marion Bay (Tasmania) on what we called a Li-Lo. It was longer than the ‘surf-o-planes’ (surf mats) that had been invented in Australia in the 1930s, more like a floating mattress than a surfing device. My only recollection of it is being spun sideways and thrown off as the whitewater broke over me. I have no pictures, but recall it being blue and white striped on the top and plain blue underneath. Continue reading

A reminder of my mathematical past … and my connection with a princess

Browsing 3 Quarks Daily, my eye caught a particular title: ‘AI has cracked a key mathematical puzzle for understanding our world‘. Reported in the MIT Technology Review, the article’s sub-title explains that “Partial differential equations can describe everything from planetary motion to plate tectonics, but they’re notoriously hard to solve.” Continue reading

Interactive video teaching and learning – decades ago

Students and teachers around the world have been engaged in various forms of online and video-based education this year. Overall it seems to have been reasonably successful, another step in the advances in teaching with technology.

But is it new and innovatory? No, of course not. And, coincidentally, I’ve been cleaning out cupboards, drawers and shelves lately, in preparation for a move, and came across a project report from over three and a half decades ago concerning this mode of education. Continue reading

My greatest contribution to Monash University – changing one letter

A fine moment – but not my finest!

I worked for Monash University for eight years, in two stretches – from 1998 to 2001 and from 2005 to 2008. My first appointment (the more pleasurable) was as Associate Professor of Flexible Learning in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), and the second stint involved a progression in a number of steps, culminating in my role as Professor and Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching. I resigned/retired hurt in 2008. Continue reading

Why I love sailing

Though I’ve never owned a yacht, I’ve always liked sailing, especially in small dinghies. This comes from my early teenage years, when I was lucky enough to spend summer weekends as a forward hand with a couple of school friends. Hobart is the perfect place for sailing, with its large river estuary and regular southerly sea breezes blowing up the River Derwent. There are plenty of clubs scattered around the bays and points, and the one I joined was the Sandy Bay Sailing Club. Continue reading

Reminiscence – Kevin Sinclair

In 1985, as a young family, we moved to Hong Kong, where I had obtained a job at Hong Kong Polytechnic, now (in)famous for the student occupation and protest of 2019. As an expatriate staff member, I was entitled to subsidised housing, and we were duly allocated to Pak Tak Yuen, out at Shatin in the New Territories. The accommodation was spacious by Hong Kong standards, and we shared the quarters with a motley collection of families from around the globe (UK passport holders were unsurprisingly predominant, and there were also Hong Kong Chinese families, albeit with foreign passports). Continue reading