Headspace: Farewell Moments

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On October 1st of this dastardly year of 2020, as a family we suffered the loss of my father.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to find any kind of words to make sense of this loss – but I’m actually coping a lot better than I thought I would. Dad was unwell for about 10 years, but the last 6 months saw a rapid decline in his health, and we knew the time was near.

So it was not a surprise, but it was still a shock.

I’ve been trying to focus on what it means to me going forward. He had three children, and four grandchildren – all of whom he adored.

He was a bit of a workaholic during his working life, but he did that to support the family. We didn’t always get everything we wanted, but we always got whatever we needed.

There are so many stories I could write about – countless stories that would take years to complete.

We were always going to lose Dad one day – it is one of the truths in life that everyone we love will eventually pass – so I’d been prepared for that for quite a few years as his health steadily declined.

In the nearly two weeks since his passing, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what his passing means to me.

I will of course miss him. I’ll never be able to pick up the phone again and talk shit about the football or the car racing again. I’ll never again be able to tease him for falling asleep in my comfy lounge chair the moment he sat in it.

Those things – (and so many others) – are gone, but I knew that would happen, so that’s okay.

While preparing his eulogy with one of my sisters – (read proudly by her at the funeral) – I figured out what I will miss the most, are not the complex memories, but the intangible moments.

There was a section in the eulogy about a football game he and I went to on ANZAC Day in 1992. Our beloved Essendon, versus Melbourne.

We were getting absolutely smashed, and at three-quarter time, we were 41 points behind – but I had a feeling that Melbourne were tiring, and I turned to Dad and said: “we’re going to win this!”

He said I was “out of my mind” – (though his actual words might have been a bit more colourful!) – but I had a feeling.

Thirty minutes later when the final siren sounded with Essendon one point in front, I turned and looked at him, grinning.

The look on his face was priceless – and I’ll never forget it.

It was one of those completely intangible moments – those moments you couldn’t just create even if you tried. It was a single moment, but borne of years of sharing our love of the game, and our Bombers.

Or the moment Channel 7 came back from a commercial break right near the very end of the 1995 Bathurst 1000, and our favourite driver Larry Perkins – (who had been racing from behind all day after an incident at the start) – had gotten into the lead with barely nine laps to go when the previous leader Glenn Seton broke down.

We were literally dancing around the lounge room in complete joy, completely on instinct. It just happened.

I’ll never lose those moments in my heart – (and there are many of them) – but what I will miss most is that there will be no more of them.

Luckily though, I do have the full set.

Fixing The 1990 Bathurst Victory – Again!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Sport

Earlier in the year, I posted about the 1990 Bathurst 1000, and how as part of the telecast, Channel 7 embarrassingly missed the winning Holden Commodore of Win Percy and Allan Grice crossing the line.

After finding in-car footage of the car crossing the line from the 1991 telecast, I moved to edit the video to include that footage, recording the car crossing the line for posterity.

Here is the resultant video from that first attempt:

I mentioned in my first article that footage of the car crossing the line did exist, and was broadcast as part of Derryn Hinch’s program on the Friday night before the 1991 race.

I had never seen it again since.

Now, with the recent release of the 1992 Bathurst 1000 on DVD, I have finally come into possession of the missing footage of the car crossing the line for victory – after discovering it within a profile of Grice as part of the 1992 telecast.

So, armed with that footage, I have revisited my edit, and finally – FINALLY – after 30 years I’ve been able to put it together for posterity.

Here is the entire final lap, with the footage of Grice crossing the line spliced into exactly where it belongs:

Enjoy it, Holden fans!

Sunday Nerding: Soyuz Clock

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

A while back, I published a link to a series of videos about the restoration of an Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) – the computer that allowed man to travel to and land on the moon in 1969.

Now the same team have been working on a Soviet-era clock from a Soyuz spacecraft.

The clock is in pretty good condition, so won’t take the time and effort it took to restore the AGC, but for the electronic and space geeks, this is pretty cool too.

I will add to this playlist as more installments of their work is added.

Bitly’s V4 API – Sample PHP Code

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

Recently Bitly have rolled out version 4 of their API, and if you’re using the old API, it is quite a change.

While users were asked to move from older versions to the new version before March 1st 2020, the version 3 API was to hang around until March 31st 2020 to give people a little extra time to move.

Given the current COVID-19 situation, this discontinuation has been put on hold for the time being as per an email sent out to API users.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely time to move to the new version to ensure that you can still automate the shortening of your URLs.

Given my professional working life, I’ve worked with very similar API implementations, so for me it wasn’t a big deal to change over.

Here is the simple function I wrote for PHP, to do a basic URL shorten. Your PHP installation will need to have cURL and JSON libraries installed and enabled.

function shorten_url ($access_token,$group_guid,$shorten_domain,$shorten_url) {

  # setup the JSON payload
  $json_payload = @json_encode(Array(
    "group_guid"=>"".$group_guid."",
    "domain"=>"".$shorten_domain."",
    "long_url"=>"".$shorten_url.""
  ));

  # initialise cURL handle
  $curl_handle = @curl_init();

  # define cURL parameters
  @curl_setopt_array($curl_handle,Array(
    CURLOPT_URL => "https://api-ssl.bitly.com/v4/shorten",
    CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER => TRUE,
    CURLOPT_ENCODING => "",
    CURLOPT_MAXREDIRS => 10,
    CURLOPT_TIMEOUT => 0,
    CURLOPT_FOLLOWLOCATION => TRUE,
    CURLOPT_HTTP_VERSION => CURL_HTTP_VERSION_1_1,
    CURLOPT_CUSTOMREQUEST => "POST",
    CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS => $json_payload,
    CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER => Array (
      "Host: api-ssl.bitly.com",
      "Authorization: Bearer ".$access_token."",
      "Content-Type: application/json",
    ),
  ));

  # execute the cURL request
  $json_output = @curl_exec($curl_handle);

  # decode the output and get the HTTP response code
  $json_decoded = @json_decode($json_output);
  $http_code = "".@curl_getinfo($curl_handle,CURLINFO_HTTP_CODE)."";

  # return results for further processing
  return(Array("json"=>$json_decoded,"http"=>$http_code));

}

The inputs are relatively straight forward:

$access_token – this is the same as your existing OAuth application access token – this has not changed, at least in my case.

$group_guid – this is the only new piece of information you might need. While you can query for this value via the API, for most people the simplest way to get it is to open into your Bitly account in a web browser, where you will find the GUID in the URL, as per this image:

$shorten_domain – if you have a custom domain – (for example, I have the domain “mwyr.es” for shortening purposes) – this is the value you need here. If you don’t have a custom domain, just use “bit.ly”.

$shorten_url – this is the URL you wish to shorten – simple!

So now you can call the function, with the required information.

Firstly, the input data required by the API is converted to JSON via the json_encode() function.

Secondly, we set up the cURL handle, and then supply it with the required data. Note the JSON data is passed within the “CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS” variable, and that the access token is passed as the “Authorization: Bearer” header in the “CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER” variable.

Then we execute with curl_exec() – and store and return the results for further processing.

That’s it!

To understand the returned JSON – (including the generated short link) – and the HTTP response codes, refer to the excellent Bitly API v4 documentation.

Sunday Nerding: Machine Learning

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

In today’s Sunday Nerding, we’re looking at what has become an increasing trend in data and data analysis – machine learning.

In simple terms, as described on Wikipedia, machine learning is:

Machine learning (ML) is the scientific study of algorithms and statistical models that computer systems use to perform a specific task without using explicit instructions, relying on patterns and inference instead.

Watch this video from former NASA engineer Mark Rober on what machine learning is in a practical sense, and how it can be used in a real-world scenario – in this case, sign stealing in baseball.

Fixing The 1990 Bathurst Victory

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Sport

The 1990 Bathurst 1000 was an historic event for a number of reasons.

It was the first appearance at Mount Panorama of the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R, commonly nicknamed “Godzilla”. It was also the first time the circuit had ever been fully re-surfaced since it was first sealed in the 1950’s.

There was also an unexpected winner – the Holden Commodore of Win Percy and Allan Grice.

Touring car racing in Australia at the time was dominated by the turbo-charged Ford Sierras, and soon it would be the Nissan GT-R doing all the winning. Holden were largely also-rans, and had only won one significant race in about four years.

In fact, until Larry Perkins hit the lead early in the 1990 event, a Holden hadn’t led a single lap at Bathurst since Allan Grice took the chequered flag as the winner of the 1986 race.

A Holden simply wasn’t expected to win – but come the end of the race, the #16 Commodore took the win against all the odds.

Many believe it was the re-surfacing of the track that was a major factor. The new surface gave everyone more grip, and the Ford Sierras spent the first half of the race tearing their tyres to pieces because of it. So they slowed down to preserve tyres and the Commodores could stay with them.

There was also another significant happening that afternoon. Long time broadcaster of the race, the Seven Network – renowed for their innovation in motorsport telecasts – (they introduced RaceCam to the world in 1979) – embarrassingly missed the winning car crossing the line!

This had always bugged me – but recently, I fixed this!

In the opening of the telecast of the 1991 Bathurst 1000, there was a short in-car sequence of Grice crossing the line for the win. Having recently come into possession of high quality copies of both events, I took it upon myself to fix the mistake as best I could.

Here is the result of overlaying the missing piece onto the original broadcast footage:

Fixed for posterity!

On a final note, there *is* footage of the car actually crossing the line somewhere in the Seven archives. The Friday night before the 1991 race, Derryn Hinch broadcast his current affairs program from the circuit, and within his “Thank God It’s Friday” segment, there was backpack camera footage from the pit lane of the car crossing the line.

I saw it at the time, and was pleased to see it – but I’ve never managed to get a hold of it. If anyone has a copy of Hinch’s program from 04/10/1991, I would love to hear from you and fix this properly!

Sunday Nerding: The Birth of BASIC

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Technology

Many people working in the Information Technology industry today, probably started their journey when they learnt the computer language BASIC – (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) – on computers such as the Apple II or the Commodore 64.

What many people won’t know is the fascinating story of how BASIC started, at Dartmouth College in 1964. In today’s “Sunday Nerding”, learn about the origins of this once ubiquitous programming language.


References

Quickshot: I Like Blue Light!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Quickshots

I’ve typically been a poor sleeper for quite a number of years – and when I added a colour smart globe to my lounge room recently, I thought I’d see if it made a difference.

I’ve been spending the evening before bed for the last couple of weeks under a steady blue light, and I swear I haven’t slept better in years.

If you have trouble sleeping, maybe give it a try too?