2015 ends. Time to breathe.

This year moved too quickly to keep track of things as we went. Let's see; all in the middle of the busiest year as a lecturer I've had yet, this happened:

  • Drove to Perth and back Christmas 2015/January 2016
  • Applied for a $400,000 research grant (but didn't get it)
  • Conceived (secretly)
  • Proposed
  • Visited Perth again
  • Visited Germany, finally (conference+holiday)
  • Had wedding, back in Perth
  • Visited New Zealand (conference)
  • Had baby
It's a huge relief to get to the end of this most ridiculous year. Some assorted thoughts.

The day after Benjamin was born, I woke up early after a late night and walked back to the Women & Children's. The walk mirrored the path I have taken almost every day for the last ten years, passing through the University that I've been living in for over fifteen years. That walk was a transition from my old life to the new; it started slowly but near the end it seemed like every step that I took was shaking up old memories and casting them in a new light.

The walk to work on a Saturday night at the chocolate cafe. Always needed a few drinks or more to wind down; a fun time of my life. The early days of my PhD, hurrying up and down steps carrying library books that would take me years to understand. The building now demolished that I attended as a first year student, nothing figured out yet. Even a memory of the gel pens I bought and the patterns I decorated my first-year books with, and the friends I made that year. The lawns where we gathered for a seeming eternity, waiting for the next lecture or just enjoying the sun and the bright young things we were. Many lifetimes ago.

Before, I'd spoken to people who'd said that the birth of the first child is the kind of experience that cannot be comprehended until it actually happens. At the time I nodded in a very meta kind of way. Now, I still agree with this, but the comprehension still comes slowly. I didn't fundamentally change from one day to the next. The differences take time to appear. I still have my old habits and old flaws — how frustrating! My crazy ideas are still lurking, but with more responsibility with a little one perhaps I can't afford to be so fanciful.

Many year back I heard a saying that your 20s were for being crazy, your 30s for working hard, and your 40s onwards for enjoying life. I'm sorry to say that I'm now well into my 30s, and my years for being crazy are now indeed behind me. The hard work has been a worry. To put it simply, I've been doing too much, letting too much slip. My goal, with Benjamin now firmly in mind, is to somehow focus. The topic of focus has received much attention in the 3min self-help parables that are easy to find via sharing websites. "Focus is about saying no", for example. But that's hard: an academic's life is all about juggling projects, so the focus I need to find I believe lies within me.

The focus to keep myself organised. The focus to get jobs done. And yes, the focus to say no to those new things that present themselves. The focus to get a day's work done in just eight hours, so I can be home to spend time with my new son. Also the focus to get up early and get to yoga. Then the harder things; the focus to give up distractions. Especially the fun distractions. Oh, how they're hard to deny.

Now here we are. 2016 begins, and my only resolution is vague. I'm looking forward to a year that's less hectic. A year in which I can perform good work rather than do just enough to get by. And to get to know little Benjamin. A precarious balance!


Movies on Netflix Australia

I recently signed up for Netflix Australia. It's great for watching recent US TV shows, especially Netflix-produced ones such as Daredevil.

Netflix Australia, however, has a terrible range of movies. According to finder.com.au, the entire sum of films in Netflix AU can be summarised by the following histograms of movies per year:

In case you're not seeing that too clearly, here's a zoom of movies pre-2000:

Or perhaps we should just look by decade:

1920 2
1950 1
1960 5
1970 18
1980 26
1990 106
2000 572
2010 689

That's right. You can watch any movies from the 1950s as long as it's "Seven Samurai" (hey, at least they picked a good one). Any movie from the '60s: "Sanjuro", "To Kill a Mockingbird", "Come Drink With Me", "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", and "The Graduate". And at least 1/3 of the movies from the 70s are Kung Fu ("The 36th Chamber of Shaolin", etc.). What a bizarre selection.

This is pretty damning. While I have no reason to doubt finder.com.au, I also don't know how accurate these figures are, but they ring true to my success (or lack thereof) in browsing for movies I want to watch. And that larger number of movies after 2000? They're mostly crap you don't want to watch:

If you're interested in movies, don't get Netflix Australia as of December 2015. But if you just get Netflix for the TV, it comes with a few good movies as well.


‘The sleep loss epidemic: hunting ninjas in the dark’

Entertaining editorial in the Journal of Sleep Research by Nathaniel S. Marshall:

There is a pervasive feeling in our scientific community and widely reported in the media that humans get less sleep than we used to. The narrative is that as a society we have become chronically increasingly sleep-deprived since the halcyon-days of the 1950–60s—one just has to forget the warm comforts of the Cold War and the barbiturate, benzodiazepine and amphetamine epidemics (Rasmussen, 2009).
Certainly, no one can actually reference any high-quality data (Matricciani et al., 2011), but the whole concept simply intuitively ‘feels’ correct. The Ninja is hiding in the room somewhere: we just have to look harder and ignore all evidence to the contrary. Much like Russell’s rhino, however, if the Ninja is really not there it is going to be impossible to prove it (additionally, Ninjas have a reputation for being very good at hiding).
Our research group, for instance, has failed to locate the hidden epidemic. We looked worldwide using a systematic review to identify all previously published nationally representative repeated cross-sectional studies of sleep duration, and found data from 12 countries dating back to the 1960s (Bin et al., 2012). In six countries sleep durations declined, two had mixed evidence (including the United States) and we found another seven countries where sleep has actually increased (including Britain 1961–84).