Tom Lehrer

August 23, 2007

I have always been a huge fan of mathematician and musical satirist Tom Lehrer. In fact I had a precious autograph, dating back to the late 50’s, on a scrap of paper taped to my piano until it got lost in one of many house moves only a few years ago. His irreverent, clever and somewhat anarchic songs appealed to my particular sense of humour and I learned many of them. My mother laughingly regarded allowing letting her children listen to Tom Lehrer and read Mad Magazine as amongst her greatest failures as a parent.


I was delighted to have stumbled upon a site which features some new (to me) Tom Lehrer songs. It seems that young Harvard physics professor and later Nobel Prize winner, Norman Ramsey recorded (for those technically minded – on a wire recorder) a 1951/2 physics department review written by Tom Lehrer called The Physical Review.   

Some familiar songs such as ‘The Elements’ and ‘Fight Fiercely Harvard’ originate with that show but a number of them never made it to record. Fortunately the recording of most of those unreleased songs are available on the website.

It is worth noting the CVs of Lehrer’s fellow performers. These were not young students in an undergraduate review. These were already a very distinguished bunch of post doctoral physicists.

I hope that even though these are tight times for universities, there are still groups of high-flying PhD’s treading the boards.   


Lego Again

August 22, 2007


Whilst I don’t wish to be seen encouraging the reading of the bible, I could not resist the efforts of the somewhat bizarre Reverend Brendan Powell Smith and his so called Brick Testament.

The Brick Testament is a series of stories from both the old and new testaments retold in Lego.

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Perhaps not as clever as my earlier discovery – MC Esher in Lego – but you have to admire The Reverend Brendan Powell Smith’s dedication … and his chutzpah. He writes of himself “Most ministers, priests, or other religious clerics would not actually use “The Reverend” before their own names, for to do so would be presumptuous and rather vain. The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith is not an ordained member of any earthly church, and is widely regarded as being both highly presumptuous and extremely vain.”

Wolfgang Sievers

August 10, 2007


Like many others I was familiar with this photograph entitled Gears for Mining Industry 1967, an iconic Australian industrial record. What I didn’t realise was how prolific the photographer was, nor much about his life and politics. Wolfgang Sievers who was born in Berlin but lived in Australia from1938 has just died at the age of 93. He spent his life recording industrial and architectural scenes, often employed by the companies whose works he photographed. There are tens of thousands of Sievers photographs in the Digital Collection of the National Library of Australia. They cover a huge range from mining, office building, scientific processes, schools and both light and heavy industries. Most are in black and White, though he was also a very fine colour photographer.

In the 19050’s he was hired by the Australian Government to help change the image of Australia from rural and agricultural to industrial and manufacturing .

Unexpectedly, as well as his many industrial and architectural pictures there are also many lovely people pictures, including some from Colombia.

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One of the companies who employed Sievers was the now defunct Vickers Ruwolt (sited at what is now my local shopping centre!). A former employee of that company maintains a website that records the company’s history. The site features Wolfgang Sievers photographs and contains this quote about him – “Often controversial, his strong beliefs, intolerance of racism and increasing concern at the destructive practices of capitalism also led him to question the morality behind many corporate entities, in many cases his clients.”

Wolfgang Sievers donated $1 million worth of photographs to raise money for justice and humanitarian causes and was strongly opposed to the Australian Government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

An interesting man.

Maze Generation

August 3, 2007

As a self-confessed cyberslacker, I pass by a great deal of extraordinary crap in cyberspace. Some things deserve the few moments of wonder, laughter or interest and a very few are good enough to pass on or blog about. Most are either too silly, offensive or bad to even pause at.

One form of website is the most frequent provider of longer term interest – those which have useful online or downloadable utilities. I have a fine collection of dictionaries, wordlists, filing programs, graphics utilities and so on. 

I have just fallen upon a site which contains – amongst other things – a maze generator, together with the code to generate it and the ability to automatically solve it. I have no idea why I would want this utility but I still find the idea somewhat compelling.


I am sorry that I don’t have enough Latin or Greek to be able to coin the word that describes something which appears at first to be useful but turns out in the end to be a bit disappointing. That would be a great addition to my cyberslacking vocabulary.