The end of 2020, the Year of the Rat, is finally in sight. It has been a difficult year, but that’s for another post. Right now, Pete and I are digesting an excellent Christmas dinner for two, cooked by us. We had intended to go on a little holiday this year, driving down to Adelaide and then going on a short cruise around Victoria and Tasmania, during which someone else would prepare Christmas dinner and do the washing up – but covid ended that. The cruise company went into receivership so we didn’t even get our deposit back. Hey ho.
It’s the day after Christmas, known in the UK and Australia as Boxing Day. It’s important here for three reasons:
The Boxing Day test match (cricket) which will be held, in accordance with tradition, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – but with limited crowds. The first day of a Boxing Day test usually fills the ground with eighty to one hundred thousand spectators. In this plague year, it will be limited to thirty thousand.
Then there’s the Boxing Day sales, our version of the US Black Friday sales. Usually, the people are massing in front of the shops well before opening time. I’m not sure how the Powers That Be will police that. But never fear, you’ll be able to spend your money online.
And finally, in Sydney it’s the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. But there’s been a covid outbreak in the northern beaches area of Sydney, so the race has been cancelled for the first time in its seventy-six-year history.
The covid outbreak in Sydney has had major ramifications, with many people forced to isolate during the Christmas period. This covid cluster is now at around 100. That’s, one hundred, give or take ten or twenty. No doubt the state premiers (except for eminently sensible Gladys Berejiklian in NSW) rubbed their hands with glee at another opportunity to slam their borders shut. The Spectator‘s James Macpherson had some fun writing this rather pointed article, Merry Christmas Corona Chaos from the Premiers. It’s well worth a read for the entertainment value.
I’ve said before that the premiers in the other states would do well to emulate the NSW approach, which is basically to contain outbreaks through excellent contact tracing, while letting the rest of the state get on with their lives. In comparison with the UK, USA, and Europe, we’re a safe haven.
I’m not at all surprised to see The Australian‘s Adam Creighton wheel out his favourite whipping boy, the Baby Boomers. Just the heading is enough to make me wince. “Boomers an Albatross Around Taxpayers’ necks”. It’s behind a pay wall but in summary, boomers get too much government support, the family home should be part of the assets test to qualify for a pension, and older Australians should pay for their own health care. Same old, same old. I think he writes this stuff because he knows he’ll get a truckload of comments. I wrote my own rebuttal of one of his articles ages ago, Baby Boomer Bashing. I don’t have much to add, except that Pete and I continue to pay for private health insurance so we’re not totally reliant on the public system. And that’s true for most Boomers I know. Here’s the most popular comment on Creighton’s article.
“I am approaching retirement Adam and I object to my taxes paying for your family’s child care allowance and other family allowances. Families should pay for their own childcare costs and other family allowances should be cut.
I also object to my taxes paying for subsidised electricity generated by windfarms and solar panels so all of you younger people can feel good about climate change.
I also object to my taxes paying for the dole to young single adults who have never had a job. There are jobs going begging on farms and elsewhere but younger Australians will not relocate – cancel the dole payments for anyone who is single and never had a job.
Adam if you are going to criticise older Australians for not paying more towards the costs of aged care then you might even up the playing field so taxpayers funds are used more wisely and cut-out all the fringe benefits.”
Getting back to nature, we all had the opportunity to see an “extremely rare” astronomical event, a conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter. Like so many of these things, it was touted as a big deal, a bit like the “super” moons, where the moon’s disc appears slightly larger because it is a little closer to Earth in its orbit. Some astronomer would have to tell you this was a super moon because your average punter wouldn’t have a clue.
Back to the Great Conjunction. It’s not a rare event at all; the planets regularly come apparently close to each other as they orbit around the sun, but this one is fortuitously in the night so people can see it and they are (apparently) quite close together. In fact Saturn and Jupiter are actually almost in line from the point of view of an observer on Earth but they are about 730 million kilometres apart. To the naked eye, they are two close-together, bright points. In a telescope it’s a spectacular sight, with Jupiter’s four Galilean moons, and Saturn’s rings and Titan all visible at the same time. But my 300mm lens can’t compete with that (see above).
Here’s a NASA graphic showing what the spectacle is like through a telescope.
And that 800 year thing? That was the last time the conjunction happened in the night sky and the planets were close together. In fact, the conjunction happens every twenty years. It’s well worth reading this article to get the facts.
It does annoy me when people talk about the event as the “Christmas Star”. But still, if it gives folks comfort… <shrug>
Next week 2020 finally draws to a close. Who knows what the week will bring? Stay tuned…