Category Archives: Life and things

Best wishes for Easter

Good Friday is one of only two days in the year when it’s difficult to find a shop or anything else open in Australia. The other is Christmas Day. You can go to just about any town centre and shoot a cannon down the main street without any fear of hitting anybody. Both are holy days, the most profound in the Christian calendar – although, as usual, there are overlaps with many other faiths. For Christians, Good Friday (I’ve always had to wonder about ‘good’ in this context) was the day Jesus was crucified. The Jews celebrate the Passover, when the children of Jewish slaves were spared in Egypt.

Everybody knows that Easter incorporates a lot of ‘pagan’ symbolism about a time of rebirth and the arrival of Spring – eggs, rabbits, and so on, so I won’t bore you with that. But there are some modern discrepancies which I feel are worth mentioning. For a start, some of my UK Facebook friends say Good Friday is a ‘bank holiday’. I assume that means the banks are closed. Is anything else? It just seems to be a curious description for such a holy day. Is Christmas day described as a bank holiday? (Himself had a look on Google (as you do). Seems Good Friday and Easter Monday are both just holidays in UK, same as Oz. Gotta check Everything these days.)

In that most Christian of Western countries, the USA, it seems Good Friday isn’t a holiday at all. Pete tells a story of a business visit to the US. When setting up meeting dates, someone noticed some meetings were scheduled for Easter. “That’s Good Friday,” an Australian pointed out. “So?” the American replied, shrugging. Curious.

Needless to say, in our consumer-driven world, Easter and Christmas have been commercialised within an inch of their religious lives. Hot cross buns appear on the shelves pretty much as soon as the shops open after Christmas. Chocolate eggs and rabbits are not displayed until the end of February, and after that we’re all exhorted to buy seafood for our Easter feast. Shops are packed on the Thursday before the holiday as people stock up for that one shop-free day. The shops will also be packed on Saturday as people make up for that day of abstinence. Needless to say, Easter Sunday has lost its status as a shop-free day, and it’s almost back to normal trading. For most Australians Easter is an extra-long-weekend with Easter Monday tacked on at the end. They take breaks, go on holidays, spend time with family or friends. For others it is a time for worship and reflection.

Whichever way you celebrate the Easter break, we wish you all the best. If you’re travelling on the nation’s roads take care.

Stained glass window

Picture of roses from my garden

Roses from my garden

Waves

Lake Geneva

Who deserves Justice?

(c) Depositphotos_73325631

You might recall a few blogs ago I wrote a review for ‘They all love Jack: Busting the Ripper’ by Bruce Robinson.

It’s a dense book, packed with names and details, and I’ve read it again to pick up the details I inevitably missed the first time. I’ve also dwelt on its themes and what I think it’s REALLY about. For me, that comes down to one word: JUSTICE. The fact that the book is about the Jack the Ripper murders is almost incidental. They are graphic, horrific, revolting events, but they almost pale in comparison with the way the killings were treated by the Establishment. Whether or not you accept Mister Robinson’s argument that Michael Maybrick, much-lauded icon of the Victorian musical world, was the Ripper, the author has in my opinion proved the case that the Ripper murders were parodies (if that is an appropriate word) of Freemasonic ritual. Jack was either a Freemason, or someone who knew more than he should about Freemasonry. Robinson argues that the identity of the murderer was deliberately covered up by the Metropolitan Police, and through its leadership (Sir Charles Warren), the political system to which it answered.

I could not help but feel that our current Establishment is not very different.

My mind kept returning to the cover-up of child abuse in institutions set up to care for children. Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals covered up for paedophile clerics, moving these predatory monsters from parish to parish to PROTECT THE CHURCH. Never mind the kids. I can imagine one of these bastards rubbing his hands with glee as he took up his post in a new parish. Ahahahaha new blood. The hypocrisy of the leadership of these organisations beggars belief. Never mind the men whose lives were ruined because, as eight-year-old boys, they were routinely buggered by a pervert. If they  complained to the hierarchy (as some did) they were  called liars, making things up. We must protect the good name of the Church. In 1888, it was never mind the disgusting low-born whores, (there are plenty more where they came from), we must protect the secret rituals of the Freemasons.

It’s not just the church. In our day, in Western society anyway, the church is not the mighty edifice it was in Victorian times. Now, large institutions rule the roost. Remember the deaths of thousands of poor Indians in the Bhopal gassing? The owners were convicted of negligence and effectively slapped on the wrist with a minimal fine and a few paltry criminal convictions. Or the tragic story of men working with asbestos who contracted mesothelioma. The dangers of asbestos and its link to cancer were well known, yet even now sufferers have to fight a company for a share of inadequate compensation. These days, of course, we have the other side of such cases of industrial mismanagement, as lawyers offer to make claims against offending companies.

Coming closer to home, what about the Global Financial Crisis? It happened because of the greed of moguls in Wall Street and other financial hubs. Governments paid billions (and more) to prop up teetering banks. The cascading effect ruined the aspirations of millions of people: ordinary people trying to buy a house, or small companies trying to earn a buck were bankrupted. Jobs disappeared, rents skyrocketed, superannuation funds lost money. Many, many people took their own lives. The losers were, inevitably, the little people. The people who created this debacle might have spent a sleepless night or two. Maybe. But their wealth and position in society remained unaffected. There are plenty of programs dissecting what happened in 2009. Here’s a link to just one. I need hardly add that nobody went to jail. Oh- I tell a lie. One person was charged with insider trading, I think. Only the Iceland Government had the balls to cancel the debts and charge the bankers.

Okay, I’d better get off the soapbox.

I’ll finish with one more aspect of Robinson’s book. He claims that Michael Maybrick murdered his brother, James, and framed James’s American wife, Florence, with the murder. Be that as it may, reading the details of this travesty of a trial is gut-wrenching. Once again, Robinson argues that it was in the interests of the establishment that Florence should be effectively silenced by being convicted of a murder that she did not commit. This perhaps foolish woman was lucky to escape the death penalty, but was sentenced to life in prison. She was released after fifteen years. Here’s a Wikipedia article about the case.

It’s not hard to find modern examples of where justice was meted out to the wrong person. The case of Darryl Beamish is just one. Another case more pertinent to the Establishment is that of the Birmingham Six, convicted of planting IRA bombings during the Irish terrorism of the seventies.

I guess in such cases as Beamish and the Irishmen, justice has finally prevailed. Unfortunately, the greedy bastards who caused the GFC won’t get their come-uppance.  Such a pity. And certain cardinals and bishops will escape justice, too – let alone the disgusting perverts whose deeds they covered up. Many of them have died, and presumably Rest in Peace. It’s one of the few times I regret my lack of religion. I’d like to imagine one of those priests fronting up at the Pearly Gates and getting his ticket for the elevator downstairs, where I hope he rots for all eternity.

Pretty pictures. I’m sure I’ve got some.

Why does everybody have to go to university?

Since I went to school education has changed. I suppose it should in over half a century, but while some things are better, a lot (in my opinion) are not. I think the arbiters of education, the public servants in their ivory towers, have become so busy negotiating the murky waters of political correctness they’ve lost sight of the goal posts. Why do we send kids to school?

I reckon we send kids to school to learn how to read, write (type), and add up. That is, the fundamental skills. I was going to add ‘skills without which you won’t get far in this day and age’. But that’s rubbish, isn’t it? How often do you see kids (in particular) turning to a calculator to perform simple addition like 2 cups of coffee @ $3.50 each? THE most important thing you can do for kids in a classroom is get them to WANT to learn. Then (with the necessary skills) they’ll teach themselves. It sound a lot like the Montessori system. You teach kids about social studies, geography, maths, accounting systems, marketing etc etc by showing them what happens at a supermarket. Applied learning. Sure, I understand that greater discipline is required for those who want to go on to university. Scientists need more than basic maths skills, for example.

But not everybody needs to go to university.

All those years ago, I struggled with a choice: give up the ‘professional’ stream of study at high school, and join the other girls and boys intending to leave school at fifteen and learn a trade or earn a wage. I came from a working-class family. There wasn’t much money to spare, so I discussed my options with my mum.

To add some context, at that time high school students were placed according to academic ability as established in a public exam at the end of year seven before going on to high school. I was up there in 1A, signifying the smartest kids in first year. It went on from there to 1B, 1C and so on to something like 1M. (I’m a baby boomer.) At the end of first year, we were asked at the tender age of around fourteen, to decide where our school years would take us from then on. Back then, quite a few girls in 1A opted for the ‘commercial’ stream, where they would learn shorthand and typing. Boys in that stream would concentrate on ‘male’ skills like woodwork and metalwork, as well as basic maths and language skills.

My mum always had higher aspirations for me. She listened to my concerns over money and told me to take the professional stream.

The next hurdle in education was what was called the Junior Certificate, a public exam taken at the end of third year high school (year ten). At that point students with no aspirations for academic places could leave school and enter a brave new world. I obviously didn’t leave shool, and, with the help of scholarships to help fund my studies in years eleven and twelve and then to study at university, I graduated with a BA(Hons).

Which brings me to the point of this essay. I know life has changed since the sixties. I know there is less work for unskilled young people – or very skilled young people. But why is forcing them to attend twelve years of school going to help? In its wisdom the education system has watered down the public examination system by including continuous assessment components, and added Naplan, where little kids are tested at absurdly young ages. It seems they’re all being trained to fit the lowest common denominator. You don’t have A, B and C classes anymore. The brightest kids are put in with the dumbest, so nobody’s feelings are hurt. Teachers are expected to cope with vast variations in both ability, and expectations. Johnny wants to learn how to use a lathe, not muck about with history lessons. Mary doesn’t need Johnny’s disruptions – she’s there to learn.

Much is said about the quality of teachers. To which I say, if you haven’t been there, don’t presume to judge. I’m not saying corporal punishment is a great thing, but these days teachers have no means of controlling young thugs like Johnny, who doesn’t want to be there and is immune from any form of discipline. Teachers are asked to cover a multitude of subjects, and carry out education in matters which belong in the home, not the classroom. I’ve always thought that education should be about teaching people the basics, like reading, maths, and (these days) typing. Sketch in some geography and basic history – enough to get them interested – and then encourage them to use that wonderful device, the internet, to learn what they want. Perhaps THE most important lesson people these days need to learn is that there are fake media sites, Wikipedia is not the whole story, and that to understand something properly, it’s necessary to consult more than one point of view. I think we could call it ‘how to research’.

Back in the olden days we did research in libraries, where we needed at least a basic knowledge of the Dewey decimal system and how to use index cards. It’s so much easier now – but I’d suggest that there is still a need to follow the denser path and read the books.

But I digress. What has happened to the TAFE colleges? The Institutes of Technology? They used to be where people went to learn a trade, to delve into the nuts and bolts of technology, or carpentry, or commercial cooking. That’s where the kids from the commercial stream at high school went, to learn a trade as they did their apprenticeship. There are no TAFE colleges anymore, or Institutes of Technology. There are only universities. Because that way, even if you’re learning a trade, you get to go to university. Whoop-ti-do. It seems to me that the result of this move is that a drover’s dog can get a degree in something at an erstwhile TAFE. Maybe that makes the recipient feel good, but it devalues the degree I earned at UWA, because the assumption is those qualifications are equivalent.

I don’t believe they are.

Despite all being labeled as universities, they are fundamentally different in their approach.  Once again, I turn to my own experience. I have (as mentioned) a BA(Hons) from UWA (the University of Western Australia). I also have a Graduate Diploma in Education from what was then Claremont Teachers’ College, became a campus of Edith Cowan University, and is now a part of UWA. And I also have a Graduate Diploma in Business and Administration (with distinction) from what was then the WA Institute of Technology, and is now Curtin University. This was all back before 1990, I admit. I’ll add I’ve compared my experience with friends who had a similar mix of studies at various institutions.

We all agreed that the standards required at UWA were far higher than that expected at WAIT, and at Claremont Teachers’ College. The fact is they taught different skills. UWA taught you how to think, and do research, and pretty well left you to it. If you didn’t go to lectures, nobody cared. The results would advertise your lack of effort. WAIT aimed its courses at practical skills, like how to program a computer or carry out radiography. Lecturers there provided hands-on, practical courses with the associated ‘how to’ in documentation and the like. Ie. You will plan and present your work LIKE THIS. Claremont taught students how to teach primary kids (under 12), with an emphasis on practical work.

And here, I think, we come to the nub of all of this. Listen up, Government. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A PLUMBER, CARPENTER, RADIOGRAPHER, PROGRAMMER or CHEF. They do not need to be glorified with a degree. Horses for courses.

UPDATE: There are TAFE colleges, and they teach trades as they always did. However, in my defence, I based this article on my own experience in Perth. And it would seem there has been a re-think. Here’s a quote from the WA TAFE website.

“A recent change that occurred to the TAFE system in Western Australia saw a merger occur between the former Central Institute of Technology and the West Coast Institute of Training. The new organisation is the North Metropolitan TAFE, which combines the facilities and resources of both institutes to provide students with a better quality TAFE education. This formed part of a major change to the TAFE system in WA, in which all institutes were joined to form five new TAFE schools. in addition to the North Metropolitan TAFE, these include South Metropolitan TAFE, Central Regional TAFE, South Regional TAFE and North Regional TAFE.”

So you see, we’re changing names. Just as we renamed the Personnel Department to Human Resources. Same role, same staff. But now it’s two words.

And this week I have a new lens to play with.

A baby lorikeet. Note the detail

A couple of pink and grey galahs practising ballet on the TV aerial

A Western dilemma

This is my blog, so I can talk about whatever I want. And today I’m going to spill some thoughts that trouble me. And here the emphasis is ME. I expect some of you (especially those who communicate regularly with Himself) will have another point of view. As is your right. So here we go. This blog is about Jews, Muslims, Islam, and ‘racial’ hatred. For I hasten to add that neither the Jews, nor the Muslims, are a race, .

I cringe at the notion of pointing fingers at people and saying, “You’re a <insert religion of choice> therefore I hate you.” I hate extremists of any ‘faith’ who will kill and maim in the name of god. This includes Crusaders, Inquisitors, Conquistadors, Sinn Fein – and, of course, the followers of Mohamed who surged across Africa and the Middle East in record time in the sixth century.  Most people are not extremists. But even so I do not want to open the flood gates to Muslim immigration. Immigrants who are prepared to integrate with Western culture are fine. But people who come here and cannot and will not integrate because their basic beliefs are different should go somewhere else where they will fit in.

The Koran was written in the sixth century – the world was a different place. Rules that made sense then no longer make sense now, but Muslim clerics persist in peddling this antiquated belief system. We don’t need Sharia law here. We don’t need women having to wear clothing so they don’t provoke men. (It doesn’t work, anyway.) National hijab day? Give me a break. I don’t care what anyone says, it is a form of dress dictated by the mullahs. Look at pictures of young people before the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, or in the streets of Afghanistan before the Taliban. If women want to wear head scarves, that’s up to them. But the fact is the hijab (let alone the burqa) has become something that singles out Muslim women in our society. They’d be better off without it. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald expresses that view from a more compelling source than me. Note her comments about little girls wearing head scarves.

You might be wondering why I mentioned Jews at the beginning of this. Ah, that’s the other side of the argument, the point at which I am faced with a quandary. The Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years, because their religion was different, or they were an easy target, or they were rich. European Jews in 1920-30 Germany didn’t pose a threat to anybody. They contributed to society, paid their taxes, ran businesses. Lived. They were part of the community. But that all changed when the Nazis pointed fingers at them, and blamed them for everything that was wrong with the German world. Ordinary people either joined in, or turned a blind eye. The end result is well-known, although I fear it is starting to recede into distant memory, something that happened so long ago it doesn’t count in our modern world. Take heed, people. The Holocaust was genocide, a deliberate attempt to wipe anyone labeled JEW off the face of this earth. Sure, other people – homosexuals, the intellectually disabled, gypsies and others – died in  front of the firing squads, or in the gas chambers. But the vast majority of those six million people were Jewish. And for those who say it never happened, here’s the proof, pictures taken by the Allies as they liberated the death camps.

Think it can’t happen again? May I remind you of Rwanda. And of Kosovo. And of what’s happening right now in Sudan. And the slaughter of Christians in Syria by Daesh. In the name of Allah.

We must protect our nation from extremists. I watched the horror of the Lindt Cafe siege unfold.  I saw a kid shoot down an accountant in Sydney because he worked for the police. I recoiled at events in Nice, Brussels, Paris, Berlin. Some of the perpetrators were imported, but most were home grown. Home grown happens because the immigrants don’t integrate, don’t feel part of the society in which they find themselves. I can’t help but feel we’d be better off spending our money to help them stay at home, to rebuild their homelands and create a place like Lebanon used to be, when Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East.

Where do I stand with immigration to Australia? I’m an immigrant myself, tagging along with my parents not long after WW2. My parents got nothing from the Government, not even the ten pound Pom thing (on account of not being Poms). My family was dropped off at Northam and basically told to get on with it. No instant welfare, no handouts. I’m not saying it was ideal – but then, the country had just finished a punishing war and needed to rebuild. We integrated. Nearly twenty years later, my husband’s experience in 1974 when he arrived from UK was no different.

And there is the dilemma. On the one hand we have desperate people wanting a better life, on the other, people taking advantage of what we offer without contributing anything in return, in fact wanting to change the way we live. Yes, I’d prefer to allow Christians into Australia – because I think they would be more likely to integrate.  No, we should not let in everybody, because if we do, we will sow the seed for the destruction of the very thing they want to come for – our prosperity and our peace.

Bear in mind, too, our society has changed over the decades. Back in 1955 jobs were plentiful. Now, not so much, especially for unskilled people. Which is a good reason not to bring more unskilled people here. And we should certainly vet anyone who does want to live here, and extend the amount of time before people can claim Australian citizenship. Those who flout our laws should pay the price, as happened recently with a father arranging an underage ‘marriage’ for his 12-y-old daughter.

The very best thing the world could do for places like Syria is first, to end the fighting, and then offer the people help to stay at home and rebuild, just as what happened in Japan and Germany (and the rest of Europe) after WW2.  Accepting thousands of refugees won’t change things, anyway. I urge you to watch this 6 minute presentation that illustrates why it’s better to help the people where they come from.

Yes, folks, fundamental Islam frightens me. Any ‘religion’ which subjugates women and treats them as inferior frightens me. What is especially terrifying is that the barbaric custom of female genital mutilation is rising in the West – and this torture is carried out BY WOMEN on their female children. Seems to me the West is becoming a fast-dwindling outpost of sanity.Unlike the Jews, Islam is more than a religion; it’s a set of social mores than do not sit well with our democratic principles. I don’t want that in my country. Equally, I don’t want people being burnt at the stake because they espouse a different faith. For me it is a moral dilemma with no easy answers. We cannot change Islam. Only Muslims can do that. And they don’t seem to be in a hurry to consider the possibility.

If I were in the least bit religious, I’d be praying that we stand fast. Since I’m not, I’ll just have to hope our ‘leaders’ take note. One more thing – this is long, and was probably the reason I’ve written this post. History doesn’t repeat precisely – but it has trends. Things are trending right now.

And on that happy note, it’s picture time.

The Rhine at sunset

Eagle with snake in its talons

A Brahmani kite carries off dinner – a sea snake

Picture of a Noisy Miner Bird bathing

Noisy Miner Bird bathing in the swimming pool

The abbey at Melk

The trials of technology

It has been an interesting week as far as household goods go. We prefer to cook with gas, on account of it being easier to control than electricity. These days we have to contend with idiot regulations that stipulate one cannot own a cooker with gas burners, grill, and oven. One must choose either a gas grill OR a gas oven to go with a gas cook top.  So we elected to have a gas oven.

We don’t have household gas mains in our part of town, so we use bottled gas. And it appears some bottled gas is not as equal as other bottled gas. Before Christmas, being in somewhat of a hurry, and having 5 9kg bottles to refill, we bought ‘swap and go’ gas instead of waiting an hour or more to get them refilled. For those who don’t know, swap and go allows you to swap your empty gas bottle for a filled one for just the price of the gas. It’s also a good way of getting rid of your “soon to be” ten year old bottles that then need re-certifying.

When the oven started to play up, we called the gas fitters. We were informed that swap and go gas is not of the highest quality – although it’s fine for barbecues. Apparently our law makers, (yet to find out if it was State or Federal, suspect Federal), a few years ago passed a law that stated that bottled gas only needed to contain 51% gas or phrased another way, must contain at least 51% gas. We don’t know what the other (possibly) 49% is made up of but oil of some description is certainly part of it. Anyway the gas fitter explained that this “other” component of the gas cylinder’s content, (let’s call it gunk) will clog up your regulator and in particular the jets in the oven which although still working will reduce the pressure and result in less heat.

There you go. Lesson learnt, but only after the lasagne came out of the oven at the same temperature it went in. Thank goodness we have an outside oven/bbq. Needless to say, a late dinner ensued.

So we resurrected an idea we’d had for a time. Why not try an air fryer? We did some homework and decided upon a not very expensive model with good reviews.  You know the old saying, you get what you pay for? It’s not always true – you can often get a better deal by shopping around – but there are times when, yeah, it might have been wiser to shell out a little more. Anyway there were a heap of these things, all the same model, with prices from $110 to $299, so we took the $110 one and paid for delivery. Many others offer “free shipping”.

It wasn’t so much the unit’s performance. When it comes down to it, they all do the same thing – super heat air and circulate it quickly around the food to cook it with a minimum of oils or fats. But there are differences in the design of the oven. The one we bought looks a bit like a UFO, with a stainless steel removable tub. It said it came ‘with accessories’ but didn’t nominate which ones, so we ended up with less ‘accessories’ than the slightly more expensive units, some of which also had a non-stick tub. The one we bought was the same as the unit in this link – but we didn’t get the four items on the left (oil spray bottle, two flat plates, and the sort-of rotisserie thingy).

Hey ho. I had decided that we would try cooking a chook using a rotisserie provided with the oven. The (very meagre) instructions said that a whole chicken (and chopped roast potatoes, pumpkin, and carrot) would take 15 minutes at 250 degrees. After working out how to turn the bloody thing on (not explained in the Chinese Engrish) we gave it a whirl. Pun intended. We didn’t think the chicken would be cooked in 15 minutes and we weren’t disappointed. Apart from that, the prongs to keep the chicken on the rotisserie were a bit dinky. The chook slid down the pole to one end of the device and stopped turning – fortunately the cycle finished before we ended up with burnt on one side. The vegies weren’t cooked, either. We took the chook off the rotisserie and placed it in the tub with the veg and gave it another 20 at 220. Then we turned the chook over and gave it a final 15. By this time the green veg (on the stove top inside) was over cooked. But the chicken was lovely and moist.

Even after all that time the chicken could have used a little more cooking – it was still a bit pink at the joints. But that’s trial and error, isn’t it? And the oven was very easy to clean.

Apart from that, I have been watching the train-wreck that is America with growing trepidation. And I know it’s not just me. The highly respected New Yorker has an extinguished flame of liberty on its cover and Der Spiegel caused uproar with that highly evocative cover of somebody vaguely resembling Trump holding up the cut-off head of Liberty. There has been a rash of videos from many European countries urging Mister Trump to – sure, have America first – but what about us for second? I’m proud to say the Dutch started it. Many countries have joined in, but I think the best is Germany’s entry. (You’ll find the others listed on the Youtube page.) I don’t recall ever seeing a country’s leader lampooned quite so severely in his own country, and outside.

Meanwhile in Washington Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal of billionaires who know bugger all about the portfolios they have been given. The legislature’s descent into right wing Christian fundamentalist ideology is breathtaking.

On the other side of the world in Moscow several people who were suspected of being complicit in the West finding out about Russian hacking in the US election, have allegedly ‘disappeared’, and it seems one of Putin’s rivals has succumbed to mysterious poisoning. What’s the bet Putin will take over Eastern Ukraine any minute now?

And on that happy note, a few photos that have been artified by Photoshop.

Ancient hills in the Pilbara. Photo taken from the car (so a bit blurring and not great) but rendered acceptable by a PS filter. Paint daub.

Changing of the guard at Windsor Castle. This one was filtered as a poster, accentuating all those lines.

Autumn on the Rhine. I evened out the light in the water bottom left, and took out the power lines. The paint daub filter really brought out the Autumn colours

Geikie gorge. This was a good photo – but the dry brush effect is rather nice.

 

It’s all a matter of perception

Everlasting daisies in King’s Park

A few days ago a friend shared a set of pictures from Gardening Australia on Facebook. They are stunning photographs of flowers taken by Craig Burrows. It’s a shame they didn’t tell us what the common name was for each photo because with the “ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence” process, they are transported to the extraordinary. In fact, I was very much reminded of the world-building in the movie Avatar. Just for fun I took the above photo and changed the photo’s temperature right down to purple. This is what it looked like.

Not quite ultra-violet

Which got me thinking. We see the worlds around us very much from our own point of view, and we miss so much. Bees see the world in ultraviolet. I wonder if their view is like those pictures? Our sense of hearing is vastly inferior to that of dogs and other predators. I love Terry Pratchett’s description of sense of smell as experienced by the Watch’s werewolf, Angua. For her, smell tells a great deal about the maker of the smell. It comes in layers, and it has a history, so dogs can sense how long ago bitch X was here.

Then there’s hearing. Once again, dogs and cats can hear things we don’t. Elephants can communicate in wave lengths so low we can’t hear them, while dolphins use much wider frequencies that overlap our sense of hearing only to a limited extent. Here’s a brief article on that subject. Dolphins in fact use sound to ‘see’.

And all this is on our own small blue dot. We can’t begin to know what’s out there in the vastness of space. What will a;ien species be able to do? How will they use their senses? And you know, that was the disappointing part of Avatar for me. Pandora was inhabited by wondrous, diverse (if recognizable versions of Earth) creatures. But the dominant species was a new version of pick your location of indigenous tribe. I suppose that was necessary in a romance movie for humans.

For this week I thought I’d share some lorikeet pictures. They brighten our lives, amuse, and annoy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jostling over the apple juice. Note that one hanging upside down. I think they think that’s how the apple juice gets there. Also the two in the middle about to have an animated discussion.

This bird inserted himself between the two arguing – because there was a tiny gap

Things get a bit raucous

And sometimes they look like they’re dancing on the air

A brave new world for America

As it happens, this post coincides pretty much with the inauguration of the the incoming President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

Brave new world indeed. I have quite a few (online) American friends and most of the people I’m close to await the coming months and years with trepidation. That’s honestly amazing. I’ve never seen this happen before. George W wasn’t popular, but he didn’t meet with the bitterness Trump has engendered. Sure, it has a bit to do with fake news, social media, back-stabbing campaigns on both sides. But from where I’m standing, it’s not about the president – it’s about the Republican party, which has blocked and dodged and prevented for the last eight years. It’s not for me to judge Trump –  from what I know of him, he is not a person I would like. But then, leaders don’t have to be liked. They have to be respected. And many of my friends don’t respect him. For me, what is really frightening is that the conservative, god-fearing, anti-science, pro-gun, paternalistic stance of so many American leaders will come to the fore. Too bad if you’re not a white, heterosexual, male.

But… the people have spoken according to the US political system, which is in as much need of an overhaul as our own. I shall watch with interest, and thank my lucky stars that I live in Australia.

For myself, my latest science fiction romance novel will be hitting the internet in a week or so. Keep an eye out if such things interest you.

And here are a few photos to admire.

Early morning on my beach

Eucalyptus bark

Cloud across the hills in South Australia

Moonrise over water

That’s 2016. Done and dusted.

Our little piece of paradise – the beach just after sunrise

Well, that’s it for 2016. One more turn around Sol. It has been a momentous year in many respects, and, of course, in others it is just another collection of days, one rolling into the next as the planet rotates from west to east.

S0… what will the history books say about 2016? I suspect that in fifty or one hundred years, historians will reflect on the similarity of the 1920’s and 30’s with the decades after the  2008 Global Financial Crisis. We saw the British people vote to leave the European Union, Australia’s double dissolution failed to return a majority government, Erdogan in Turkey manufactured a failed military coup to tighten his authoritarian grip on his country, Donald Trump has become president-elect in the USA, Putin continues to wage war on his neighbours, Greece continues to implode, Italy is following suit, terrorism rocked Belgium, France, and now Germany.

I’ve left out the natural calamities – earthquakes in Italy, cyclones in Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines, massive drought and fires in the western USA. Nature throws disasters at us all the time. But the politics, I think, is ominous. Democracy has failed. Pretty much every Western country is now a Plutocracy – governed by the wealthy. Others are sliding into totalitarianism. In Australia, the Liberal party politicians are lawyers or businessmen, out of touch with the needs of people outside the big cities. The Labor (sic) Party politicians are almost all Union hacks, despite the fact that union membership is at an all-time low, and the Labor Party seems only to be concerned for the welfare of its unions, not of ordinary working people.  Every attempt by Government to curb the power and size of the public service seems to be doomed to failure. The plutocrats in government are supported by the faceless bureaucrats. The 1980’s BBC satire Yes Minister is well worth watching to see how these things work.

And all of this – Brexit, Trump, minority government, unrest in Europe etc – is a result of the fact that the People have had enough. Nobody trusts politicians anymore. Brexit and Trump are the outcome of people sick of a system where they have no say. They’re sick of the apparatchiks in Brussels, the swamp in Washington, and the ivory towers in Canberra. They’ve had enough of not being listened to, of having their concerns brushed aside, of ordinary folks suffering at the expense of migrants. People in Europe are afraid that their way of life is being subverted by people with different belief systems. There’s plenty of evidence to show that’s true. Even Angela Merkel has said multiculturalism doesn’t work. She said it in 2010, and repeated it in December 2015. And here in relatively peaceful Australia the young and the old and the in between are all feeling left behind. Gone are the days of the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home. An education will cripple most young people with debt, and the idea of a job for life has disappeared. And yet CEOs get higher bonuses, Labor politicians retire as millionaires, the rich get richer and the Government thinks it’s fair to retrospectively target superannuation. No wonder the peasants are on the verge of revolting. I’ve linked to this article (the pitchforks are coming) before, but it’s worth repeating.

I’m sure you’ll all have heard the Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times.” As it happens, it’s not a Chinese saying at all.  But hey ho, let’s pretend it is a curse. I think we’re there. We have arrived. We live in interesting times and 2017 will be a continuation.

That said, of course, lots of good things happened in 2016, too. There’s a vaccine for Ebola. Wild tiger numbers have risen for the first time in ages. Humpback whales are off the endangered list, as are Giant Pandas. And in Tasmania, it looks like the Tassy devil is beating the cancer threatening its existence.

Please note also that I didn’t mention the deaths of quite a number of entertainers this year (until now, anyway). Millions of people died in 2016, many of them well before their allotted time. The city of Aleppo comes to mind, as well as random bombings of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and the like, commuters in Brussels and Bastille Day revelers in Nice. And that’s without the regular carnage on our roads. At least those entertainers got to live – even if some of them died at a relatively young age. Even so, most were a lot older than my father, my brother, two of my sisters, a niece… Everybody dies. It’s part of the cycle.

But even so the death of Carrie Fisher does resonate. I’m a Star Wars tragic, so that one’s taken a little bit of ‘me’ with it. I was the same with Terry Pratchett who died a couple of years ago. I guess we all have our soft spots.

Anyway, that’s it for the navel gazing.

From a personal point of view, we’re doing okay. In 2016 we enjoyed a river cruise in Europe, an unforgettable trip to see Lake Eyre in flood, and drove clockwise around Australia, visiting old friends and relatives in Esperance and Perth, and newer friends in Karratha.  I blog our travels, and share the photos. You’ll find links to the trips here.

2017 will see more travel. After all, if you don’t do it while you can… And yes, I’ll blog our trips and share the photos. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as you have the previous offerings.

I want to wish everyone who reads my blogs a safe, peaceful and healthy 2017. And everybody else, too.

And as a finale, just a few photographic highlights for this year.

Last light on Geikie Gorge on the Fitzroy River

Lake Geneva and the French Alps

Sunset on Veere, the Netherlands

A distant view of the Flinders at dawn

Flinders Range – taken from the truck

Lake Eyre

A serious storm at sunset – heading away from us.

One of our little mates coming in to land

 

 

Celebrate your solstice

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The planet has reached the end of its eliptical course around the sun and down here in the temperate south the days will begin to shorten. It means we look forward to the eventual end of searing summer temperatures, cyclones, and humidity. But it’s not a time we dread. Neither is our winter solstice in June. Winters are not so severe here.

It’s a different matter for our forebears in Europe, though. Up there in the frozen north the temperatures dropped, snow fell, blizzards happened and the food you’d harvested in autumn would pretty much have to do you until spring and summer. That’s why the festivities associated with this season (Christmas is the best known) are really all about the winter solstice and the return of the sun. The evergreen fir tree covered with lights, the jolly man in the red suit, lots of food. Christians know their religion has become entangled with Pagan practices. And it hardly matters.

I hate the commercialism of Christmas, the endless buy buy buy ads, the sappy Christmas carols in the supermarkets, fake snow in the windows when it’s 35C outside. I’m also not interested in the traditional Christmas fare of ham, turkey, roast vegetables, mince pies, plum pudding and the like. It’s too hot for that sort of food here in midsummer. But I don’t begrudge anyone a time to share with family and friends. Pete and I will spend a quiet day at home and partake of various small servings of seafood. However you celebrate, I wish you well.

If any of you are interested in some holiday reading around the concept of Christmas and what it means, I recommend Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (also available as a movie). Good stuff, and many HO HO HO’s. In a nutshell, somebody is trying to kill the Hogfather (Father Christmas), and in his absence, Death takes over the gig. Which puts a lot of undue pressure on his granddaughter (yes), Susan, who is on that cover. Did you know that white horse Death rides is called Binky? Yes, true. I wrote a review.

And a very merry Christmas to you, too.

 

 

First Saturday in December

I really don’t have a lot to talk about today. I’m pleased that I’m well on the way to fifty thousands words for the new Ptorix Empire book. I’ve also decided to invest a bit of money, and some time and effort, in mastering Lightroom and Photoshop. They are both incredibly powerful programs – Lightroom to spiffy up your photos, and Photoshop to turn them into art.

I’m not an artist (in the painterly sense) although I have tried in the past. I know they say you don’t have to paint to anyone else’s standards – but my own art doesn’t please me. I’d rather take a great photo. I’m not advanced far enough in my training to be able to share any photo ART with you. But I can (of course) share some of my favourite photos. I hope you like them almost as much as I do.

Nature's artistry and reflections at Geikie Gorge

Nature’s artistry and reflections at Geikie Gorge

A bee in a mass of wax flowers

A bee in a mass of wax flowers

Three swans in the mist on the Rhine

Three swans in the mist on the Rhine

Whale spyhopping

A whale pops up to say hello

The folded curves of the Flinders Range near Wilpena Pound

The folded curves of the Flinders Range near Wilpena Pound