Sunday Nerding: The Enigma Code

With the recent release of the film The Imitation Game about the life and times of Alan Turing, the key scientist – (a mathematican) – in solving the problem of being able to quickly break the German enigma codes of World War II, I thought it might be time to explain in simple terms what he really managed to achieve.

Too many people don’t really know.


While the film has been criticised as distorting what really happened at Bletchley Park during the war, the historical significance of the work should never be forgotten, and the work of everyone at Bletchley Park celebrated.

You Don’t Know What Non-Fiction Means

Just spotted this in the local Target store while wandering around on my lunch break.

Non-fiction?

Yeah, I don’t think you know what that means!

Seriously eBay – Not Cool!

I discovered this email from eBay in my inbox this morning, and immediately thought “holy shit!”

Click the image for a larger view:

The email is about selling up unwanted gifts on eBay, which some people may be inclined to do at this time of year.

My nanna passed away 31 years ago, so while I was bit shocked that such an email would be packaged up in this way, it didn’t upset me particularly.

But how many people received this email, whose grandmother has passed away recently and for whom the wound would still be open, and would still be upset?

Ouch.

Insensitive much?

I’m sure your intent was benign, but how about thinking things through a little more next time?

Seriously, not very cool eBay!

Sunday Nerding: History Of The London Underground

Back onto a train theme today, with an interesting – (albeit slightly older) – documentary of the London Underground.

Amazing how things come about!

That Other Essendon Comeback

The comeback from 69 points in arrears by Essendon against North Melbourne in Round 16 of 2001 is widely regarded as the best comeback in football history, and the game itself is sometimes described as one of the greatest of all games ever played.

It is the greatest margin from which any team has recovered from to win, so in mathematical terms, it is certainly the greatest comeback in history. If you count the 12 points we won by that day, it was an 81 point turnaround.

I was lucky enough to be at that game – (and if you know where my reserved seat is, you can actually see me in the crowd during the telecast) – and it is a day I’ll never forget, but I have slightly fonder memories of another Essendon comeback I was fortunate to attend – on Anzac Day 1992 against Melbourne.

After an early goal to Melbourne in the last quarter, Essendon – (who had been thoroughly outplayed for the entire match) – found themselves 47 points behind.

At the three quarter time break, I had turned to my dad and said “we’re still going to win this” – he and all those around me just laughed, but it was only 30 minutes later that I was the one who was laughing:

Why did I think we would still win at the last change? Basically, at the end of the third quarter, Melbourne looked spent. They had smashed us all afternoon, but they looked tired. I just had a feeling it was on.

And it was, and the aftermath was insane. Complete strangers in Essendon paraphernalia were running up to each other and hugging. I remember looking up into the upper levels of the Great Southern Stand and seeing people dancing with each other in the aisles.

It was remarkable.

This video is actually something of a rarity – back in 1992 not all games were covered on television, and the footage shown here is just standard pool footage that was used for the highlights reels on the evening news. You couldn’t even buy a copy of the game on DVD because it wasn’t in the AFL archive, and I was never aware that this pool footage had been saved and overlaid with radio commentary from Geelong’s K-ROCK radio station.

It has been more than 22 years since that day, and this is the first time I have seen it since. It might not have been quite as large a comeback as the game against North Melbourne nine years later, but I’ve always felt this one was just a little bit better.

But they were both awesome, and I was at them both!

Triple 8: Attention To Detail

Last weekend, Triple 8 Race Engineering’s Jamie Whincup completed his sixth Australian V8 Supercars Championship title, moving him into first place on the all-time champions list, ahead of Pete Geoghegan, Dick Johnson and Mark Skaife – all of whom won five championships.

Rarified air.

Before I continue, I’d like to point out I’m not specifically a fan of Whincup and Triple 8 – first and foremost I am a Holden fan – so this is by no means a “fanboi” piece. I hear a lot of people commenting about how they are sick and tired of Whincup winning all the time.

Indeed, all six of his championships have come in a seven season block – missing out in 2010 when he came second to James Courtney.

The bottom line is that as a combination, Triple 8 and Jamie Whincup are so good that frankly everyone else needs to try harder. Whincup himself has even said as much this week, calling for other teams to “raise their level”.

That might appear a bit conceited on the surface, but ultimately he’s right. He’s not going to step back a little just to give others more wins, and others do need to lift their game.

But what makes them so good? Like many other dominant teams in motorsport – (for example, McLaren Honda in the 1988 F1 season, who won every race, bar one) – it is about attention to detail.

Even with the best car in the series – (and McLaren did have that in 1988) – it is the little things that lift you just that little bit higher – the desire to achieve that pushes those extra few tenths of seconds in lap time out of cars and drivers.

Allan Moffat is often quoted that in motor racing “the harder you work, the luckier you get” – and he’s right.

Here’s an example from just last weekend during the rain-shortened Saturday race. Note the normal blue headlights – featuring the Komatsu sponsorship on a Triple 8 Commodore:

When the rain started, as did most drivers, Whincup turned on his headlights, shining through the blue headlight covering:

When the race was suspended, and the cars were waiting in pit lane, the team were carefully wiping around the doors, getting rid of as much water as possible:

And what else did they do during the stoppage? Unlike any other team that I noticed, they ripped off the headlight coverings, and when the race resumed under the safety car, the full power of the headlights was useable:

You may love another team or driver, but you can’t deny that Triple 8 think of everything, and go that little bit further to do everything they can to get across the line.

Did removing the headlight covers win Whincup the race?

Probably not – but the team were thinking on their feet and giving him all of the tools he needed. I didn’t see any other team do anything like this. The other cars in the screenshots with blazing headlights don’t have their headlights covered normally.

It is this attention to detail, this hard work, that makes Triple 8 so “lucky”.

So yes…other teams? Lift your games.

Not Necessarily The End Of Ford In V8 Supercars

With today’s announcement that Ford Australia will cease official involvement in the International V8 Supercars Championship from the end of the 2015 season, there has been an outpouring of emotion and disappointment, particularly – (and understandably) – from Ford fans.

As a Holden fan, it might easy to celebrate the demise of the “old enemy” in the sport, but the fact is that isn’t how I am feeling about today’s events.

What is the point of having an “old enemy” in sport, unless you have the chance to go up against them from time to time, and defeat them? And sometimes be defeated by them?

Isn’t that one of the points of sport?

Can you imagine the AFL without Essendon versus Collingwood, or the NRL without Penrith versus Parramatta?

Supporters of each of these teams would probably get a kick out of seeing the demise of the others, but in the end you would just miss the chance to beat them and celebrate, or lose and start planning revenge for next time.

And if Ford disappeared from the championship, I for one would miss the chance to see a Holden team grind them into the dirt, race after race.

Or the chance to get shitty when a Ford beats a Holden.

That’s what makes it special.

The point everyone seems to be missing today is that Ford’s announcement does not mean there won’t be Fords running in the championship.

Come 12:01am on New Years Day 2016, the fleet of existing Ford racing chassis won’t suddenly stop working. Their internal combustion engines won’t suddenly seize up and start rusting.

They’ll work just the same, and any team who wants to keep running them will be able to keep running them for as long as the vehicles continue to meet the prevailing regulations of the category.

Will it be harder for Ford teams to work without official technical and/or financial support from the factory?

Of course it will be, but a smart and astute team – (and lets be honest, most of the current group of teams are some of the most professional racing teams in any category, anywhere in the world) – would see this as an opportunity to really adopt the Ford fans who are hurting tonight and loudly say:

“You know what? We don’t need Ford’s money to do this – we know what we’re doing – lets get money from someone else and make these Ford fans feel a whole lot better!”

And if I know Ford fans, they will get behind any team who bites that bullet – and so they should!

When General Motors officially removed itself from all motor racing activities worldwide in 1980, it didn’t kill NASCAR. It didn’t kill racing in Australia.

Holden’s most successful team at the time – (the Holden Dealer Team) – didn’t cry foul, pull up stumps and go home.

It put its nose down, developed a new funding model, and carried on its merry way – winning the ATCC championship that very same year, and winning 5 of the next 8 Bathurst 1000’s, including the 1980 race.

Today’s announcement does not have to be the end.

With the regulations in for a major shakeup in 2017, and production ceasing in 2016, the Ford Falcon certainly won’t last as the logical platform on which a Ford team might race beyond 2016 – but that doesn’t stop a team from moving to another model with the new regulations.

Do they pick up the Mustang? Or the Mondeo?

Who knows? But a team with the guts and determination to do it will pick up something a whole lot more valuable.

A very large group of very passionate fans.

Sunday Nerding: The Dark Web

There’s little doubt that recent years has seen many people have their concerns about privacy, security and anonymity online heightened by increasing overreach by governments and their agencies.

Why should we be concerned? And should we be concerned at all?

Watch this excellent BBC report on the topic and decide for yourself.

There are many questions to be answered.

No No No – This Is Not News!

There is no doubt that the various social media platforms that many of us use and enjoy on a daily basis have created an avenue for people from all walks of life to have their voices heard.

For many, those voices are drowned out in a blurry haze of tweets, Instagram photos, and Facebook posts, and one might wonder if it’s all really worth it. To really cut through that haze, one has to be particularly visible. When you have a name, your message bubbles to the top.

But is the mechanism for getting your message through more important than the message itself?

Caught a glimpse of this in Monday’s print edition of the The Age – with a detailed analysis of various Twitter accounts of Victorian parliamentarians in the lead up to this weekend’s state election.

“Victorian parliamentarians have amassed a cacophony of more than 150,000 Twitter followers but lag behind many of their federal government counterparts.”

You know what? Who cares? Is the “median number of followers of Victorian MPs” actually relevant – to anything?

Print media is struggling enough already to get enough eyeballs to survive in the medium to long term, so why waste time and effort on this?

Report the news – don’t invent something that isn’t news, and write it up as if it is.

We’re smarter than that – so respect that.

Sunday Nerding: The Illusion Of Time

Do you have a little time to watch this documentary? You do?

Think again – you might not!

This one is a bit super-nerdy, but quite interesting – as Brian Greene tries to answer what time really is.