Extremism seems to be here to stay

White supremacists clash with police
By Evan Nesterak – White supremacists clash with police, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61723994

I’m still shaking my head over marches in Charlottesville where one of the white supremacist thugs ran down the crowd in a car, killing one woman. That dead woman, taking part in an anti-racist protest, was not only killed, the Nazis vilified her on social media. I will not put a link to any entries. I don’t want to encourage any publicity for these despicable people. They are just as evil as the Islamist fundamentalists. Don’t forget the young Nazi who went into a church and murdered nine black people.  That’s up there with the young Muslim who blew up innocents in Manchester. And now just yesterday, sixteen people were killed in another deliberate vehicle attack in Barcelona.

Many of us older people are wondering what happened after 2000? Everything seemed to be going so smoothly in the world, and then the wheels fell off. I think the answer has two arcs. The first is about the haves – the wealthy 1% who own more than the rest of the world combined, and the people in power wanting to return to the glory days of the past. And the second is about the forgotten people, those who can’t make ends meet, who find themselves without prospects, without hope.

History happens in cycles. I’d love to think we humans might learn from history, but we don’t. In 1920-30’s Europe,  Germans, resentful of their treatment at the end of the War to End All Wars (huh), looked around for someone to blame for the crippling debt and unemployment. A fellow called Hitler came along and told them it wasn’t their fault at all. It was those mongrel Jews. Germans were the Chosen Folk, blond-haired, blue-eyed Supermen, better than everybody else.

Over in the East, Stalin eyed the goings-on and decided to sign a treaty with Hitler, thereby giving him a chance to expand into Poland and Finland. Mussolini was anxious to emulate the Roman Empire and was happy to solicit help from the Germans. The US stood aloof. None of it was their business. China was something you bought for your dinner service – but Japan was rattling its swords, looking to expand its Empire.

And the West – particularly France and the UK – did nothing, hoping Hitler would cease his demands. As we all ought to know, he didn’t. Thus started a war that ended in a shattered, exhausted Europe divided between the Soviets and the West, and a flattened Asia – especially Japan. The world was shocked by death camps in Europe and across Asia. The UN was formed so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Now? The UN has outlived its usefulness. The security council is impotent because the five permanent members (Russia, the USA, UK, France, China) have the power of veto. We’ve seen veto exercised in resolutions regarding the situation in Syria. That fight goes on. The UN has become a pasture for retired politicians to keep living in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

We have a resurgent China making territorial demands in the South Pacific, which reminds me so much of Hitler’s demands for return of ‘German’ lands in Austria and Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s. The latter was the catalyst for the 1938 crisis where Europe teetered on the brink of war. I’m quite sure Xi Jingping is enjoying watching Kim Jong Un’s taunts at America. I can’t see him doing anything to stop that conflict any time soon.

We have a resurgent Russia with a leader who appears to be aspiring to the glory days of the USSR. Putin has already annexed Crimea, virtually annexed Georgia, and half of Ukraine. It seems Belarus is next on the agenda, and Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are watching with concern. And all this is happening while North Korea provides covering fire.

Around the world disaffected young (mainly) men are finding themselves marginalised, jobless, and hopeless. So they turn to extremism. Islam has its fundamental Daesh cult, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda. Several of these groups are alive and well in the Muslim communities in Europe, and they have adherents in Australia. On the other side, Nazism and other white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan have risen from the ashes. The Islamist cults promise death to everybody who isn’t them. And the white supremacists promise death to anybody who (er) isn’t them. That’s blacks, Jews, gays, transgender people, Gypsies. For both groups women are chattels, nothing more than baby factories. Fuelled by hatred, they kill people they don’t know, and often themselves as well. I wonder if any of them really know why they’re doing this, what they hope to achieve? I ask myself that question every time I hear of a new atrocity. Why? Even more to the point, why do we try to find excuses for these people? Nazis running people down is every bit as much an act of terrorism as Islamists doing so. Man Monis declared his siege at the Lindt cafe to be for Islam. Why should we argue with him?

I’m one of the Baby Boomer generation, born in the good times after WW2. Because of the devastation of that war, we had jobs and opportunities. And as I grew up, a lot of the old prejudices of the past were slowly dismantled. Women were allowed to keep their jobs if they married. The contraceptive pill was a huge advance for women, allowing them to avoid unwanted pregnancy. In Australia, aboriginal people were given the right to vote (in a referendum where 90% of eligible voters said ‘yes’). In America, black people won freedoms even in the South. In Africa, apartheid ended. Now, the factions of the right are clawing back power. The Republicans in America have frighteningly conservative Christian policies which marginalise LGBTI people and erode the rights of women. Their policies in health care favour the people who don’t need it (rich) and make it beyond the reach of people who do. I wouldn’t want to be sick in America. Closer to home, owning a house in Australia is becoming beyond the reach of most young people. Indonesia and Malaysia, our closest neighbours, are turning increasingly to conservative Islam and Sharia law.

I’m watching what’s happening around the world with dismay. It’s like the interregnum between WW1 and WW2 all over again. The world’s divided into armed camps, while down on the ground disaffected extremist groups scuttle around, killing everybody else. We used to be able to turn up at the airport and walk into the plane just before the gates closed. Now we turn up two to three hours before to endure a security check. I don’t begrudge the process. Once you have nutters prepared to bring down several hundred innocent people simply living their lives for the sake of a belief, this sort of thing is essential. In so many respects the terrorists have already won.

Still and all, the world remains a beautiful place.

The full moon rises above the sea

A Brahmani kite at dawn

The full moon in cloud. So atmospheric.

Lake Geneva with swan

The hazards of navigation

Last weekend we decided to go for a drive, to get out of town for a little while. We found a place on the map we figured might be interesting – Coalstoun Lakes, not too far from Gayndah and Biggenden, about 140km away. We’d never been there, and maybe there’d be, you know, a lake. Scenery to look at. Maybe some wildlife.

We had some fun confusing the basically dreadful navigation system on the Merc. To start with it wanted us to go to Childers via Torbanlea, but we headed to Maryborough instead. Undeterred, the girl in the console suggested that we should drive to Maryborough, then take the Bruce Highway to Childers, then go inland from there. If we had intended to go via Childers, we would not have gone to Maryborough first. That would have meant a hairpin bend in Maryborough to almost retrace where we’d come from. But I have to say, she’s a persistent little critter. In Maryborough itself she tried to persuade us to go around the block for ages. Even when we headed inland, crossing over the Bruce Highway onto the Biggenden Road, she tried to divert us back to the Bruce. To give her fair due, though, going via Childers would have been shorter. But who wants to drive on the Bruce if you don’t have to?

She gave up eventually, and worked out what we intended to do. She probably sulked.

Anyway, back to Coalstoun Lakes. It’s supposed to be a town just past Biggenden. Judging by the name (as you do) we were kind of expecting a Lake. Maybe two. Or at least a dry area where a lake used to be. But no. No lake on the Merc’s nav, no lake on Maps.Me on Pete’s tablet, no lake on the paper map (admittedly not detailed), no lake on Google maps (see above) – and (surprise!) no lake.

UPDATE: There are lakes! Two, in fact. Volcanic crater lakes. Well, golly gosh. Maybe we should have asked Google BEFORE we went out. Coalstoun Lakes NP.

Spectacular sunset

We pootled around a bit, drove through Biggenden which was NOT jumping on a Sunday afternoon, tried a couple of side roads that led to farm gates, shrugged our shoulders and headed for home. It is pretty country, though, with a range of hills that kind of rear up from the plains. I took a couple of pictures (see above). We’d had a spectacular sunset the previous evening, harbinger of the cloud bands in the photo, part of a front that brought the area (and us, as it happens) welcome rain.

On the way back I noticed a side road on the nav system that would cut off quite a long triangle of road – about 20 km, in fact. We could bypass Goomeri to get to Kilkivan. It was marked on the map as a minor made road, so we decided to give it a try. And this is where the essential not quite accurate nature of both our navigation systems let me down. (I’m the navigator, you see). We came across a left turn from the highway, and judging by the position of the little blue icon that represented our car, I decided this was it. We chucked a u-ey (having already driven past the turn-off) and went down the narrow bitumen road. Our first choice of a fork ended up at a farm gate. The second choice took us into rugged country. The bitumen petered out and the track started to snake around, and cross numerous gullies. Eventually we gave up and resigned ourselves to the main road, including that triangle via Goomeri that we were trying to avoid.

Back on the blacktop we drove another couple of kilometres – and lo – there was a sign which read Kilkivan 27 km! And so we went that way. We arrived home in Hervey Bay just before the rain.

I have been sacked from navigation until I have completed the re-training course.

 

 

 

Not every whale story is happy

The Great Sandy Strait

I’m busy editing my latest book, ‘For the Greater Good’. For anyone interested in that aspect of me, take yourself over to my spot at Spacefreighters Lounge for all the news.

The event that caught my interest this week was the ‘beaching’ of two juvenile whales in the Great Sandy Strait, which separates Fraser Island from the mainland. The strait is treacherous, with shifting sandbars and narrow channels, all exacerbated by the tides. These two young whales must have taken a left at Inskip Point, and simply run out of water in that area between the two occurrences of the words ‘Great Sandy Strait’ on the map, among those islands. A few years ago, a pod of orcas made the same mistake. Most of them made it out to the Bay, with help from the whaling community up here, although two died. Reports are starting to come out that Parks and Wildlife did not want help from the whaling people here in trying to rescue this pair. If that’s true, I’m horrified. Humpbacks have recovered well after having been at the brink of extinction and as their numbers grow, incidents are bound to happen. Some calves won’t make it, some whales will become sick, and some will get stuck in shark nets along their migration route. (I abhor those things – the reasoning is the nets are there to protect swimmers, but they catch anything that hits them – sharks, dolphins, turtles, fish, whales) Surely we must offer them help when they need it, especially if they’re caught up in situations where they cannot help themselves.

And in this context I’ll mention another recent incident captured on video – a humpback encumbered with bundles of heavy rope that had cut into its dorsal fin. Here’s the story told by a young man brave enough to go into the water to help the creature. Mind you, I know I would have, too. Anyway, the story is that the experienced people at Parks and Wildlife were not around to help with that whale because they were down south attending a training session. Which leaves me speechless. Whale season is from July to November, every year, without fail. The first arrivals are always the inexperienced youngsters, the teenagers if you like, and just like human teenagers, bullet proof and willing to take risks – or make mistakes. THAT’s when the experienced rangers should be on duty, to help prevent these mistakes becoming tragedy – especially when it’s about getting entangled in human ropes.

I’ll be going whale watching as part of a mentored photography group later in the month. I’m hoping there will be some happy photos. Meanwhile, here’s some photos from seasons past.

And here’s some of my previous whale watching posts.

It’s that time of year again 2016

The whales are back 2015

I had a whale of a time 2014

It’s whale time in Hervey Bay 2013

 

A whale leaves a footprint made by the huge tail

A young whale spy hopping – checking out the people on the boat

This is a fairly lazy breach. Just enough energy to give the whale a good look around

Check out the size of the whales against this runabout – and they’re not even bog ones

The real impact of ‘green’ thinking

Wind turbines in South Australia

An American friend recently sent me this article about the current state of America.  It’s entitled ‘why the greens lost and Trump won‘. Let me just quote the first paragraph of that article “It’s tough to prevail with an agenda that makes people poorer, more subservient and more miserable. That disconnect is one part of how this awful guy made it to the White House.”

I realise the article’s argument is probably an oversimplification, but it resonates all the same. It’s so easy to suggest we stop using coal and use solar and wind power. But the practicalities are different. People who can afford the thousands to install a solar array on their roofs will do so, and slash their power bill. But poor people, living from pay check to pay cheque (or welfare cheque) can’t. Businesses that operate during daylight hours, like banks, public service offices and the like, could substantially reduce daylight power costs by having solar arrays, and (IMO) they should do so. The more people have solar panels, the cheaper they’ll become, there will be less strain on the grid, and more research will be carried out to improve their efficiency and longevity. But they will never replace conventional power from the grid – because of clouds, and night. Alternative sources cannot provide the sustainable supply of power needed for the manufacturing industry, hotels, hospitals, and other twenty-four-hour concerns. Maybe they will in the future, but not now.

So if you shut down power stations without adequately providing alternative supplies for the population, guess who suffers? Let me help – pensioners, low-paid workers, single mums, the disabled – all the most vulnerable people in the community. Also industry, where rising prices and intermittent supply will impact productivity and cause some players to leave the market altogether, which will cost jobs.  Once again, it’s working class people without the skills to obtain other jobs, especially people outside the large cities, who suffer the consequences. One small business here in Hervey Bay is being slugged an extra $300,000 per year for power. Needless to say, plans for expansion are on hold. And Hervey Bay has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Let’s look at some alternative facts. Australia has huge coal deposits, some of the finest coal in the world. These days, coal fired power stations are much more efficient than they were in the past and make no mistake, China is still building them, despite a slowdown. One reason for that slowdown is the improved efficiency of modern plants, as described in this article. So where does our coal go? To China. We also mine high quality iron ore. I’ll give you three guesses where most of that goes. And then, when the Chinese convert our coal and iron ore, we buy it back from them as steel. And it isn’t very good steel.

The steel mill in Newcastle closed years ago, and the steel mills in Port Kembla are on a rocky road. The car plants have closed in Victoria. The mines have closed down in the West. These are all places that used to employ working class people without the skills to move into the burgeoning service industries. Granted, one of the reasons all these plants have been shut down is because the unions have negotiated/enforced such conditions that even if the companies can provide the pay and conditions for a time, they’ll back out as soon as they can. And with the cost of electricity sky-rocketing, they probably couldn’t afford to keep the industries going, anyway. Here’s a look at what’s happening in South Australia, which has the highest power costs in the country.

On the matter of the environment, yes, the Barrier Reef is important. But the Adani coal mining project is to take place on ground that isn’t used for much else. Why not give people jobs? It’s true there was serious bleaching of coral in the far north of the reef in a particularly hot year. Do the Greens really believe that a carbon tax will stop that from happening? Pulling stunts like pretending runoff from coal mines has polluted the land near the coal port at Abbott Point is simply lying. Here’s the story.  Climate change is here to stay, folks. Even the optimists have had to accept we can’t change it. Australia is responsible for an insignificant amount of carbon emissions. Taxing businesses even more will discourage enterprise, or send it to India and China where the imposts are smaller and the wages lower. The Paris Accord is just another junket for bureaucrats to get their snouts in the trough. Why don’t the Greens expend a bit more wind on cleaning up the oceans, which is something we can, and should, do?

Prominent Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young recently took her daughter on a trip to the Great Australian Bight to go whale-watching – at tax-payers’ expense. To quote an article, ‘Ms Hanson-Young claimed the premise of her trip was to talk to locals and players in the tourism industry which she said is under threat from “big oil”.’ Southern right whales come into the Bight to breed, and I’m delighted to say that numbers are at last starting to recover. One of the reasons for that is that the Great Australian Bight is a marine park, has been for twenty years, and has recently been expanded. There won’t be any oil drilling. Why does she not know that? Oh, and by the way, what about the emissions from a charter aircraft used to fly the senator to the site?

It’s all about balance. We can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels forever, but instead of destroying the viability of our way of life, maybe we should talk about transition. Until we can prove we can rely on sustainable energy sources, we shouldn’t be shutting down coal fired power stations.

And here are the weekly pictures.

The Murchison River gorges near Kalbarri. A wild place.

The cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. Whale watching from the tops of those cliffs is not exciting.

Whale watching in Hervey Bay IS exciting. This is a humpback, one of the flourishing community on the East coast of Australia, well and truly back from the brink of extinction.

A fiftieth reunion

I’ve been invited to a reunion. Fifty years ago (50) I was in my final year of high school, along with perhaps a couple of hundred other kids. I was sixteen, and I wouldn’t turn seventeen until my final exams were done and dusted.

It was a different world back then. Not everybody went on to the final two years of high school – many (especially girls) left school after three years of high school to join the workforce, or take up apprenticeships – for the girls, many saw that period as the hiatus before marriage and children. Those of us who did fourth and fifth year were supposed to be looking at university, or a professional career. My brother had to finish his Leaving Certificate (that was what it was called) to make the qualifications for pilot training in the RAAF. Me, I just wanted to go to university. I didn’t know what I was going to study, what I was going to do with that degree. A short term goal that led to a great deal of navel gazing a few years later.

It’s interesting looking back to fifty years ago. I’d attended the then brand new Bentley High School for my first three years. At that time it could not cater for senior students, so I had to go to Applecross High School, which my brother attended for all of his high school years. He’d left when I arrived, but his name was not forgotten, so I was ‘Fred’s little sister’ to several teachers. I was used to that from primary school. However, most of my friends from Bentley had gone to Kent Street High for their final years, so I knew hardly anybody, and the one friend I’d had at Bentley was in a different class to me. (She did maths and science, while I’d taken the ‘soft’ options of languages, history and the like.) But I knew two other girls who had been in my class at primary school, one of whom had been my best friend. They had been given special permission to attend Applecross for whatever reason. And one of those two was even in my class, so I became friends with her friends. Later, a new girl arrived from New Zealand. Although we weren’t all that close at high school, she became my very best friend during the university years, and after. (She’s the one who invited me to the reunion)

My BFF and I had attended the twenty-fifth reunion, but there were few people there we knew. Only one of my little clique turned up – the girl (woman) I knew from primary school. We chatted with several people, swapping stories, sharing reminiscences about some of the teachers. But we hadn’t shared many experiences with most of the people there.

I’ll share one little story. Quite a few of us (including me) despised sport, which happened every Wednesday afternoon. But there was a bright side – in Winter you got to pick a sport away from the school itself. My little clique decided we’d like to play squash, so we’d catch a bus to a local court, play a few games, then head off home. Needless to say, the games we played became shorter and shorter, or didn’t happen at all. Then one Wednesday afternoon, the entire upper school was ordered to attend a meeting on the oval. Except those of us who played hooky didn’t know. As I recall. the teachers were staggered at the number of no-shows. That was the end of our short Wednesdays. From then on if you didn’t play sport you did supervised private study in a classroom. (Even then, rock paper scissors was a popular subject for study. It worked fine – as long as you didn’t play it across the aisle between the desks.)

I don’t think either my friend or I were all that keen on attending the fiftieth. But she was persuaded to go by the woman who had been my best friend at primary school, so she rang to persuade me. The upshot is I’ll be going over to Perth in October to attend a reunion with a bunch of other old farts. It’ll be interesting to see who I recognize, and how much people have changed. And, of course, there will be people missing, people who didn’t make it to 2017, including at least one from my class.

As it happens, this year is also the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s sudden death. Ah, memories. He was only fifty-five. He wouldn’t have made it to a fiftieth class reunion.

Now for a few pictures.

A glorious winter morning at the beach

Clouds reflected in a calm river with boats

Have some fun – what are they talking about?

A win for the raptor – I THINK that’s a pigeon in its talons

 

A non-believer’s view of football

Sorry, folks, it can’t be avoided. Once again the Maroons have massacred the Blues in the State of Origin series. And without JT!

Actually, I have to admit I don’t much care, but watching Jonathon Thurston put his body on the line for an unlikely win in the second game even impressed me. I expected the Blues to win the third and  last match because JT wasn’t going to be playing. I was wrong. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

Why have I even mentioned it, you ask? It’s a topic nobody up here can avoid, really. Rugby League is something of a religion, just as AFL is in Melbourne. And it can all get very confusing.

I mean, why do they call it football?

The idea in rugby league and rugby union appears to be to tuck the ball under your arm and run like hell until a couple of guys on the other team throw you to the ground. If you’re in danger of getting mowed down you’re supposed to chuck the ball to somebody running a little bit behind you, and let them have a sprint. To score you have to ground the ball (that is, have it actually touch the grass) past the last line on the field, where the goals are – that’s called a try (which always reminds me of Yoda (do, or do not. There is no try)). Often tries are scored when the person carrying the ball flings him/herself at full stretch onto the turf. THEN you get your appointed ball-kicker to kick the ball, carefully positioned on a little mound, from a standing start. If the ball goes between the posts, you get two extra points on the four you got for the try.

The differences between rugby league and rugby union are a bit beyond somebody like me, who (don’t tell anybody) isn’t really interested in either of them. It has something to do with scrums (where everybody goes into a huddle with the ball in the middle until somebody grabs it) and line-outs (where everybody stands in a line and somebody throws the ball into the field and a player is lifted up by his/her colleagues to catch it). I think. And something about union being the upper class game and league being played by the working class. I’m not sure how the All-Blacks (who play – dominate the world – union) would consider that definition. But like I said – what would I know?)

Let’s move on to AFL, the Australian Football League. It’s a legacy of our colonial past, very closely related to Gaelic football and brought here by the Irish convicts. At least in AFL there’s a bit more of yer actual kicking than in rugby. But you can move the ball from player to player via handball, which is not the same as a throw (which is illegal). You kind of balance the ball on your hand, then punch it with the other fist. You are allowed to kick, though, which (usually) sends the ball a longer distance. Then we get to see some spectacular jumping to grab what’s called a ‘mark’. (That is, he caught it). Then they get a free kick for being clever. And you have to kick the ball to score a goal if it passes between the middle two uprights (six points), or if you only manage the outer two uprights, you get a point.

And now we come to the round ball game, played all around the world, where the best players can earn obscene amounts of money. Over in Europe and South America they call it football. Only the goal keeper can touch the ball with her/his hands. You can use your head, or bounce the ball off your body, but basically you’re supposed to kick the thing. So ‘football’ is actually a very apt name.

That’s why in Australia we call it ‘soccer’. After all, both codes of rugby, and AFL, are footy.

Yes, soccer is played all over the country, and is commonly played by school kids, but it’s very much second fiddle at the elite level. Our better players go over to Europe to make a quid, just as the basketballers go to America. Soccer is supposed to be a non-contact sport, which is why you see the play-acting on the pitch (or whatever it’s called) when somebody pretends to be kicked in the ankle. Union, league, and AFL are all brutal contact sports where they’ve had to bring in rules to prevent serious injuries. It’s a bit like gladiators, I suppose. Only nobody is supposed to literally, you know, die.

I guess in that respect we’re a bit more civilised than the Romans.

Lorikeets have their own form of contact sports. Here’s a few pictures.

 

 

 

I must be getting better at this

Melbourne Southbank

Like it says on the header – writer, photographer, animal lover, space nut. It has been a little while since I addressed the commercial part of ‘photographer’, so recently I decided to divert my procrastination in the writing arena into offering a few photos to the stock photo sites I use to sell my wares.

Most of the pictures I’ve had online have been of birds, insects, or whales. To be honest, I’d found Dreamstime (which is a large stock photo site used by a LOT of designers) wasn’t very interested in my landscapes and sunset/sunrise shots, so I stopped sending them. Then I figured, all they can do is refuse. They didn’t (!). There are millions of photos on these sites, many of the same place. I had a lot of excellent photos of our Rhine cruises refused because, “we’ve already got lots of the same subject and this photo isn’t better.” Which is fair enough. But it seems the Australian landscape category isn’t quite so full.

I’ve even added a few quite old pictures to my collection. That said, I can certainly see how the quality has improved over the years. What I might once have thought was an OK photo is these days relegated to the ‘meh’ basket. Or even deleted.

Dreamstime accepted all the pictures I posted – except one. That very nice (if I do say so myself) picture of Southbank in Melbourne was refused. I knew not to show any logos, and carefully removed the few that were visible. But even that was not enough. I would have had to obtain property releases (permission to use their building in a photo) for Dreamstime to accept the picture. I expect the main culprit for that one would be Crown Casino – but – it’s not that important to me.

Buildings can be copyrighted. You can’t sell a photo of the Sydney Opera House without permission, and that’s just one I know about, Here’s what Dreamstime has to say about these matters.

check carefully for copyright issues such as labels, logos, characters from cartoons or movies etc. Note that some buildings are protected by a trademark (such as new sculptures), cars like Ferrari and Porsche, Harley Davidson motorcycles, the Coca-Cola bottle, the Olympic logo circles.

Bright spinnakers contrast with the storm clouds in a yacht race near Fraser Island

This photo (above) was refused because of the spinnakers. There are no logos on those sails – just standard bought-from-the-shop colour. But as we all know, many racing boats have sponsorship. I might have tried explaining the issue didn’t exist for my picture, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered.

And I suppose all this makes sense. If a designer bought an image with a logo on it, then used it to sell something which would impact that logo, the owner of the logo would have every right to be annoyed. For example, a BMW bike ad showing a broken down Harley-Davidson (or something), I’m sure you can think of others. Any photos with recognisable people in them need a model release for the same reason, if the photo is for commercial use. You may think that’s not really an issue for me. I don’t take pictures of people – but it’s a consideration even if the people are in there by accident. For example, a photo of a whale spy-hopping. It’s nice to include people in those scenes, but I’d need a model release if the people could be identified, even from the back, like in the photo below.

Whale spy-hopping

Before you ask, I don’t sell many images. My best sellers (ha ha) are whale shots. So why do I do it? Well, quite a few people asked me if I sold photos when I posted pictures on Facebook. That encouraged me to try a stock photo site, where I quickly discovered that the quality required was quite a few notches above ‘looks good on Facebook’. And in the end, that’s why I do it. I get a silly little buzz when stock sites accept my photos simply because it means they’re technically good enough to make the cut.

And while you might think that ‘technically good enough’ is the same for all sites, it’s not. I’ve had photos accepted at Canstock and not Dreamstime and vice versa. So I guess there’s an element of subjectivity in the process.

Of course, you can see most of these online at Dreamstime. But I thought I’d share some, anyway. And one that didn’t make the grade.

Late afternoon sun lights up the cliffs at Geikie Gorge

A contrail catches the hidden sun as the horizon lightens

Sunlight strikes the rocks around Wilpena Pound

A moss-covered tree in temperate rain forest

Millaa-Millaa Falls is the highest waterfall in the Atherton Tablelands. I took out the people in the image before I sent this.

3 lorikeets fighting for position. This one wasn’t accepted by any of the stock sites – too much noise, too much out of focus. But there you go – those aspects are what gives the image its sparkle (IMO)

My little mates

Alarm call!

Rainbow lorikeets are without a doubt colourful birds, all wearing the same uniform with gay abandon. But they’re not identical, even to our human eyes. Over time we’ve started to recognise individuals, but I confess only if the element that sets them apart is distinctive.

Spot the variations

The most obvious difference is the breast patch, which can be anywhere from almost entirely yellow to almost entirely red. The lower belly, which is predominantly purple, also varies according to how many red patches are in the mix.

Backs are mainly green

Then there’s the back plumage. It’s predominantly green in all birds, making them almost impossible to spot in their favourite trees. But even the back feathers have variations. There might be a sprinkle of orange dots across the shoulders, or a line of yellow at the base of a lower wing feather. One of our regulars we’ve called Nike, because he has a distinct ‘Nike’ shaped tick on his back. Another has a shallower scoop shape.

They’re not dumb birds – parrots never are. And although they don’t match the big parrots in longevity (they can reach their sixties and seventies) lorikeets can live into their twenties, although seven to nine years is quoted for wild birds. They come to our yard for food, obviously. But they also come because it’s safe. No kids, no pets. They’re not the only ones – we get injured birds coming here for that reason, like a magpie which had hurt its leg. (It recovered) The lorikeets are interested in us, too. When they get to know us, they’ll come and look in the French windows to see what’s going on. Often I suspect it’s just, “ahem, we’re here. Any spare food?” But on one occasion we left the glass door open because one individual so often came up to the glass, peering inside. He came in, flew around the room a bit, perched on a chair, then flew outside again, curiosity satisfied. I’m not sure I’d want them doing that as a habit, mind. They shit a lot.

Keeping dry

Another way in which the birds – not just the lorikeets – find our house useful is protection from the rain. They perch along the fence under the veranda, mostly in their usual pairs, preening each other.

The bird bath, of course, is very popular. Lorikeets tend to dunk a lot of themselves in the bath, splashing water everywhere. Unlike the miner birds, kookaburras and blue-faced honey eaters, they don’t bathe in the swimming pool. One did drown, but I think that was a young bird that happened in accidentally. Even so – curiosity can be dangerous. I noticed one bird showing a lot of interest in the pool, looking over the edge into the water. Not long after that I rescued a lorikeet who’d gone in and managed to struggle up onto one of the pool hoses. Unlike every other bird I’ve rescued from the Big Blue Monster, this little bugger wasn’t even grateful. He bit my hand before he waddled off into the hedge to dry off. (He never tried the pool again.)

So there you are – a bit more information about our little mates. They’re a lot like us – can’t tell them apart – until you REALLY look.

I’ve posted a bunch more photos to Dreamstime. And I’ve added some words to the developing new book. Read a little about that at Spacefreighters.

Keep well, folks. See you next week.

Afternoon tea

Line-up on the pool fence

Strange fruit

They start to gather a couple of hours before sunset, when the shadows start to lengthen and the light takes on that late afternoon glow. Sometimes there’s a line-up on the pool fence, sometimes it’s a couple of stalwarts clicking their claws at the feeding table. When I appear the tension ratchets up. As I pour the juice into the two bowls a couple of the bolder ones will sidle up, one red eye fixed on me, to steal a sip before the crowd arrives. But they’re already gathering, landing just outside my field of vision in a flurry of sound. I step back and there’s a rush, everyone trying to get their beaks into the juice. They drop down from the fox tail palm above the table, or the trees on either side where they’ve been waiting patiently. Bossy boots and his missus try to claim both bowls as their own, but while it works for small groups, the pair is overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

Afternoon tea time

A flurry of golden wings

The din is incredible, a cacophony of screeching that reverberates in my head. There’s more than thirty birds trying to reach two bowls of juice. They argue, push, shove, take off for a break or try to fit in, a sea of heaving green backs and golden wings. The light from the lowering sun is at just the right angle to make their wings shine golden, like bad impressions of angels. Drops of apple juice sparkle in the air. I swear half of it isn’t drunk at all. There are too many birds, too close together, so we toss out other enticements – apples cut in half, or a slice of multi-grain bread. That gives them something else to fight over, and lessens the crush at the table.

Sometimes one smarty-pants sends up an alarm signal and they take off in force, only to return in minutes as they realise it’s a false alarm.

Alarm call!

It’s almost hovering, looking for a spot to land

We’re out of juice (This Winky s/he only has one eye)

It’s over in ten or fifteen minutes. The juice is gone. Some hopeful souls bend over to look under the table to see if more is forthcoming. Others repair to the bird bath for a drink of water or a splashing soaking. Yet others return to the trees for a preen, with each couple doing that hard part at the back of their partner’s neck.

As the warmth of the day fades they’ll leave in groups of six, or four, or two, heading North to the trees along the foreshore or the major road, where they’ll roost for the night. There are a few more raucous fly-bys with their mates, a bit more pushing and shoving for the best roosting spots. Then after the last light has drained from the sky, the noise ceases for another night.

 

It’s time for the bats to venture out.

Another Saturday morning – refugees, terrorists and Masterchef

The full moon – taken with the Big Lens

Things have been happening in the world since we returned from holiday. I wrote my blogs, of course, as memories of our journey, but during that time, the world has faced new horrors. Especially in UK. We saw the brutal murder of innocent kids attending a concert in Manchester, the slaughter of people enjoying an evening near London Bridge, and now the terrible fire at the Grenfell Tower. This account in the Guardian is awful reading as people inside try to survive.

I’ve wondered for a while if I could be described as Islamophobic, and I think the answer is I’d probably be labelled as such. The Weekend Australian magazine today has an interesting article written by two people, a man and a woman, both born in Pakistan and raised as Muslims, who have renounced their faith. The woman’s story in particular resonated with me. She is a psychologist who has studied the Quran, and has lived in Muslim society, so she know of what she speaks. She says she is no longer a Muslim because Islam is essentially misogynistic. And I think she’s absolutely right. However, I’ll add that there’s a big difference between fundamentalist nut-jobs and people just wanting to live their lives.

I suppose some people will say the men who committed the murders in Manchester and London were nut-jobs. Could be, but people who shout Allahu Akbar as they shove a knife into somebody are terrorists. So is the fellow who took a backpack bomb filled with shrapnel to kill and maim as many as possible at a concert, in a location where it would do maximum harm. All in the name of God.

Man Monis, centre of the Lindt cafe siege which led to the deaths of two people, was undoubtedly a nut-job. But  people in Iran asked why we had allowed this known criminal to enter Australia? Apparently Iran had asked to extradite this man. If he’d been sent back, two people might still be alive, and a lot more would not have been traumatized.

Then we hear that men accepted into Australia because they feared being killed if they returned to Iran actually went back home for a visit, at least one to get married. When the minister cancelled their visas they appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, who overturned the decision. Here’s the article in the Herald Sun. These ‘refugees’ deliberately lied to obtain visas in Australia. They should be packed off back to Iran (or wherever they came from) on the first flight.

We allow men in Australia to flout our law by having multiple wives (married under Sharia law, not Australian law) and even support the women and their kids through CentreLink. In other words, they are ripping off our welfare system.

And just the other day the Queensland government was apparently left ‘red-faced’ when a dinner for ‘movers and shakers’ in the Islamic community to celebrate the end of Ramadan included sauces made with alcohol. Okay, devout Muslims don’t drink alcohol. That’s fine. I want to know why the Queensland Government is hosting dinners for Ramadan? Does it host dinners for other religious minorities? According to the census, 2.2% of Australians are Muslim. But 2.1% are Buddhist, 1.3% are Hindu. Does the Government host special dinners for their feast events? Or do we only do it for the Muslims to prove we’re politically correct?

All this talk of food leads me to Masterchef. I said in a post a few weeks ago that I enjoyed Masterchef because it was about the food. I’m sorry to say that’s no longer the case. While we don’t have the sniping between contestants that seems to be the appeal in My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef is not about food either. We still get the occasional challenge where contestants come up with clever dishes given a list of ingredients. But several times already in this series contestants have been asked to complete ridiculously complicated dishes created by professional chefs (and no doubt a phalanx of sous chefs making each of the components) in a set amount of time, having been given a recipe pages long, and a taste of the original. One professional admitted it took 45 attempts to get his creation right. And amateur cooks, working alone, are being asked to reproduce these constructions in as little as 5 hours. It’s commendable that some actually complete most of the steps. So once again, the ‘contest’ is about how the participants shape up under enormous pressure.

Speaking of pressure, let’s put it on the table; some of it is contrived. Last year one of the contestants was an airline captain. This year we have a doctor, a GP. Yet early in the piece we were expected to believe these men lost their composure completely. Over a mistake in a kitchen? If that was true, I’d rather avoid the plane and the doctor’s surgery. Masterchef has become just another ridiculous reality TV show. And now the Ten Network is in receivership, this might be its last hurrah. Such a shame.

And now for a few unseen photos from the recent trip…

Cobbold Gorge is very narrow

A moorhen scudding across the dam

Pink and greys at dawn

Stoney creek falls

A whistling kite