Monday, March 16, 2015

QUT Introduction to Robotics

I'm half-way through a 6 week online course at Queensland University of Technology with Peter Corke. The course consists of two video lectures every week, live video sessions, forum, multiple choice and Matlab tasks. There is also an optional task of building a simple, two-joint, robotic arm and programming it to perform a simple task. Here is version 1 of my Lego Mindstorms robot:

The black ball is from a Lego Star Wars series - there is another, heavier ball inside and it works as a counter-weight for the motor. The green guy is a creeper from Minecraft - purely for decoration. :-)

I don't know if I will be able to program it from Matlab, because both ways of communication with my Mac Book Air: bluetooth and USB are broken - Lego's drivers are not working.

If you wonder how Matlab programs look like, here is an example:

This code defines a cube as a series of corners and edges (indexed pairs of corners), and then draws it as seen from coordinate frame C:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Australian Citizenship Test - Study Notes

The test is quite easy. It consists of 20 multi-choice questions. You need to answer 15 correctly to pass. Here are my study notes from the testable section of the 2014 issue of  Our Common Bond booklet. It takes about 1-2 hours to prepare for the test if your English is good.

-- part 1
40000-60000 years ago aboriginals already lived in australia

11 convict ships - the first fleet - arrived 26 jan 1788 - now a public holiday
under command of captain arthur phillip - first governor of new south wales colony

first free settlers from great britain and ireland

1851 gold discovered in nsw and victoria
chinese - the first large group of non-europeans
between 1851 and 1861 population doubled

1901 commonwealth of australia
4 million people, not incl. indigenous

post ww2 migration - millions

over 22 million today and over 1/4 born overseas

national language - English
200 languages spoken in Australia

6 states, 2 territories (north, act)

nsw: icons: harbour bridge, opera house
sydney - the biggest city

victoria: smallest mainland state

qld: second largest

wa: largest state, wine regions
3/4 live in Perth

sa: wine regions, colonial architecture in adelaide

tas: smallest state, bass strait, hobart is capital

act: parliament house, high court of australia

26 jan: australia day
honour history and the people
on the eve of australia day pm announces in canberra australian of the year awards
citizenship ceremonies

25 apr: anzac day
australian and new zealand army corps landed in gallipoli in turkey on 25 april 1915
remember sacrifice, honour courage

Australian Flag

official flag: australian national flag:
blue white and red, it has:
1. union jack - flag of GB
2. commonwealth star under it
it has 7 points: 6 states and 1 for all territories
3. southern cross

Aboriginal Flag

aboriginal flag:
black, red and yellow
black - the people
red - the earth and spirit
yellow - sun
Torres Strait Islanders Flag

torres strait islanders flag:
green, blue, black and white
green - land
blue - sea
black - people
white - dancer's headdress
points of the white star - island groups
white - peace

Coat of Arms
coat of arms:
national unity
authority and property of australia
shield - six states, federation
kangaroo, emu - native animals
gold commonwealth star
background: golden wattle - national flower

golden wattle: small tree - south easter au
bright green leaves
golden yellow flowers in spring

green and gold - national colours
national gemstone: opal
rainbow touched the earth

anthem: advance australia fair

--------- part 2

parliamentary democracy
parliament: make the laws
rule of law - all equal under law
living peacefully - reject violence
compassion, mateship, volunteering,
freedom of speech, expression
cannot harm others
freedom of association, religion
secular government
judeo-christian heritage:
good friday, easter sunday, christmas

obey laws
serve on jury

work in public service or defense
seek election to parliament
help overseas
register children as australian

referendum: a vote to change constiution
federal, state, territory voting is compulsory when on
electoral roll - over 18 years old

local government voting
is not compulsory in some states

18 yo - can be elected to parliament

--- part 3
pay a fine - if you don't have a good reason for not voting
AEC - austr. electoral commission
secret ballot

1 jan 1901 6 colonies united
british act of parliament 1900
house of representatives
high court
double majority to change const.:
majority of voters in majority of states

head of state: queen - elizabeth II
queen appoints governor general
on advice of prime minister

constitutional monarchy

gov. general:
signs all bills passed (royal assent)
sign regulations
ceremonial duties
approves appointments of government,
ministers, federal judges
reserve powers

head of state: the queen of australia
governor - each state
gov. general - federal
premier - state
prime minister - federal
gov minister - must be member of parliament
MP - representative of people
senator - representative of state in parliament
mayor or shire president - local council
councillor - elected

australian parliament:
house of representatives

150 in house of reprs. - voting for 1 person
based on the size of population

senate - upper house, house of review
states are equally represented regardless of size
12 from each state = 6*12 = 72 plus
2 from from each territory

leader of territory: chief minister
nt: administrator instead of governor

state responsible for:
public transport

... there was a bit more but I stopped taking notes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jethá

The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality - by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jethá. First published in 2010.


The authors argue, and prove, that human sexuality has more in common with chimps and bonobos, especially bonobos, than with other apes and monkeys. Humans had a common ancestor with chimps and bonobos about 5 million years ago. 

"Our DNA differs from that of chimps and bonobos by roughly 1.6 percent, making us closer to them than a dog is to a fox [...]"

Christopher and Cacilda show that in hunter gatherer societies, in which humans lived for much longer than in agricultural societies, the roles of men and women and the sexual norms were quite different from what is a norm today. Sharing was the norm, paternity was uncertain, possessions were few, conflict was rare, and food was free and not hard to find. 

A few interesting societies are described. For example the Mosuo of southwest China, were people do not practise marriage, but instead have a system called "sese" - walking - where sexual partners are friends, not husbands and wives. 

"The Mosuo are a matrilineal, agricultural people, passing property and family name from mother to daughter(s), so the household revolves around the women. When a girl reaches maturity at about thirteen or fourteen, she receives her own bedroom that opens both to the inner courtyard of the house and to the street through a private door. A Mosuo girl has complete autonomy as to who steps through this private door [...] The only strict rule is that her guest must be gone by sunrise. [...] There is no expectation of commitment, and any child she conceives is raised in her mother's house with the help of the girl's brothers and the rest of the community."

There are a few chapters about anatomy, which supports authors theory about humans prehistory being polyamorous rather than monogamic. 

There is also a mention of one particularly practical research about the effect of contraceptives for women. Contraceptives which contain hormones affect the partners women choose. Women who are on the pill may choose a partner who they would not choose if they were not on the pill.

Finally, the book ends with a review of perils of monotony of current marriages and a mention of swinger's clubs of American WWII air force pilots and their wives.

Free, legal download is available from

Friday, December 19, 2014

Personal Good News of 2014

In no particular order:

  • Applied for Australian citizenship. Hoping to make the pledge in a few months.
  • Kids and wife doing well or very well at their schools.
  • Brother going amicably through a difficult process of separation with his wife.
  • Mama starting to live normally with a pacemaker.
  • In-laws in good health.
  • Family trips to Japan and Melbourne.
  • My project at work coming closer to a successful completion.
  • Moved to a new, much better rental townhouse - no motorway noise, nice new kitchen and bathrooms, enough bedrooms for all of us.
  • Maintaining contact with friends worldwide.
  • Started training Krav Maga and trying not to lose hard earned Karate skills.
  • Our community initiative - The Polish Language School in Gold Coast completed its second year of operation. A big thank you to all parents and the Helensvale Library for hosting us.
  • Following the example of my American Australian colleague from work, I asked this year my closest family to donate to charities in lieu of Christmas presents for me.
  • Donated at work to Fred Hollows Foundation - our boss matched our donations!
  • Donated to Wikipedia and UNICEF.
  • Learned about an idea that I would like to copy someday:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dock Dogs 2014 Australia

Today we watched, for the second time, Australian Dock Dogs competitions.

The event was taking place on the Bond University campus in beautiful Varsity Lakes, Gold Coast.

It was quite entertaining. A new Australian record was set today in the Extreme Vertical category.

Big Air category - after landing.

The new Extreme Vertical champion.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Currumbin Swell Sculpture Festival 2014

Another year, another Swell in Currumbin beach front. These are the pieces I found most interesting.
A giant green octopus?

AK-47 made of car parts.
[Daniel Clemmett]

AK-47 detail.

Manta rays made of plastic bags.
[Lauren Grey]

Detail of the manta ray.

Make your own postcard.

A cold tree.
[Vanessa Anseline]

An awesome wolf made of chicken wire.
[Ivan Lovatt]

The eye of the awesome wolf.

A funny creature from Mad Max?
[Christopher Trotter]

The real driver.

Stone pods of soft eggs. A pleasure to look at and very touchable.
[Glenn  Manning and Kathy Daly]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Savage Continent by Keith Lowe

Keith Lowe looks at Europe as a whole in the aftermath of WWII. He describes what happened and provides well researched statistics and context.

Keith's aims in writing the book were: "to break away from the narrow Western view that tends to dominate most writing on the period" and "to clear a path through the labyrinth of myths":
"Many of the 'massacres' I have investigated turn out, on closer inspection, to be far less dramatic than they are usually portrayed. Equally, some quite astonishing atrocities have been hushed up, or simply lost in the sweep of other historical events".
"Statistics really do matter, because they are often employed for political purposes. Some nations routinely exaggerate the crimes of their neighbours, either to distract attention from their own crimes or to further own national causes."

For many eastern Europeans the war truly ended only in the 1990s with the retreat of the Soviet Union armies and regaining of independence.

I learned many things from this book. For example, I learned:
  • that Lithuanian partisans were fighting the Soviet Union well into the 1950s - the last partisan group in Lithuania was destroyed in 1956,
  • that Jewish population in Bulgaria increased during the war,
  • how the Greek communists lost the civil war, despite large popular support,
  • how Stalin gradually took control of Romania and other central European countries.
Central and Eastern Europe lost freedom after WWII for 50 years.

The 20th century European history is fascinating, because it shows how low people can go, but also it gives us hope: shows that forgiving and living together in peace is possible.