*take nothing for granted!
  • Sydney Australia

  • Luang Prabang Laos

  • Angkor Wat Cambodia

  • Halong Bay Vietnam

  • Yangon Myanmar (Burma)

  • Forbidden City Moat Beijing China

  • Great Wall Shuiguan China

  • Shanghai China

  • Terracotta Warriors Xian China

  • Giza Pyramids and Sphinx Cairo

  • Jemaa el-Fnaa Marrakesh Morocco

  • Damascus Syria - (Oct 2010 pre destabilisation)

  • Istanbul Turkey

  • The Sphinx ANZAC Cove Gallipoli Turkey

  • Saltzburg Austria

  • Cezky Krumlov Czech Republic

  • Prague Czech Republic

  • Champs Elysees Paris France

  • Oberbaum Bridge (over the Spree) Berlin Germany

  • Budapest Hungary

  • Rome Italy

  • Florence Italy

  • Venice Italy

  • Valletta Malta

  • Lisbon Portugal

  • Plaza Mayor Madrid Spain

  • Seville Spain

  • Alhambra Granada Spain

  • Mosque–Cathedral Córdoba Spain

  • Moscow Russia (from Moscow State University)

  • London England

  • Mumbai India

  • Udaipur India

  • Taj Mahal - Agra India

  • Varanasi (Benares) India

  • Kathmandu Nepal

  • Madurai India

  • Havana Cuba

  • Pyramid of the Sun Teotihuacán Mexico

  • Zócalo Mexico City

  • Buenos Aires Argentina

  • Ipanema Rio De Janeiro Brazil

  • Iguazu Falls Argentina-Brazil

  • Machu Picchu Peru

  • Lake Titicaca Peru-Bolivia

  • Queens New York USA (from the Empire State)

  • Boston USA (across the stern of USS Constitution)

  • Washington DC USA (from Arlington House)

  • San Francisco USA (from Alcatraz Island)

  • Los Angeles USA (from the Getty Museum)

Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2015

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>  Australia Day and Empire

british empire 1922 t
News

The reinvigorated Australia Day and Invasion Day dispute has caused me to move this link back up to the top. I wrote the article for last year's debate but it looks like the argument will now be an annual event, like Christmas and Easter.
If you read this article last year you will remember that I was caused to recall 'the first day of white settlement' day's origins in the late, sometimes lamented, British Empire - referencing: Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson.
Last year this seemed to have relevance to the recent American Presidential inauguration - Amerika über alles! - and all that.  
This year viewers of the Television series The Crown may have renewed their interest in our shared monarchy and that debate.

Read More...

 

>  Korea - addendum or: - How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Jongno Tower, Seoul, S Korea
Travel

The biggest news last year was on American Independence Day, the 4th of July 2017, when North Korea had launched a rocket that travelled vertically to reach an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) well beyond the orbit of the International Space Station. Thus demonstrating that they could put a nuclear weapon into orbit, to strike anywhere on the planet. That N Korea is not bound by The Outer Space Treaty, the convention that prohibits putting these weapons in orbit, is a point the media seemed to ignore.
Since then there have been even better performing rockets and an H bomb test.
So in the new year I've brought this article up the list a bit and added a further update.  Yet irrespective of these recent advances, not a lot has changed. 
As was already evident last July, it is now even more obvious that a land attack on N Korea would risk a retaliatory nuclear attack on the US or an indefensible ally like Australia and ,as ever, any solution needs to be diplomatic.
But like Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, we've learned to 'stop worrying and love the bomb'.
This is largely because of MAD - mutually assured destruction.
So, strangely, I find I'm not too worried.
Unless President Trump really is mad.

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>  United States of America - 'middle bits'

Old Glory
Travel

In October we returned from the United States where for over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations.
In these travel notes I've provided a separate chapter for each significant stop along our way, whether we stayed overnight or not.  My notes have turned out to be very long but could well have been much longer - as it's a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible and interesting.
Much of our time was spent in states that were for a short time in a separate country: The Confederate States of America.  Thus slavery, The Civil War and its consequences loomed large there. 
By far the longest chapter is Andrew Jackson's Hermitage - Tennessee that contains an explanatory short history leading up to that period and beyond that informs many of locations we travelled to.
Readers might like to 'cherry pick' chapters that could interest them for other reasons, like Graceland or NASA or the Grand Canyon, from the contents table.

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>  Luther - Father of the Modern World?

Luther and the witches2
History

If you listen to Radio National you too have been bombarded with programs about Martin Luther marking 500 years since he nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg and set in motion the Protestant Revolution.
It's caused me to recall an exhibition in Germany last year - Luther and the Witches - and to wonder how much impact this superstitious man might still have on my decedents, two of whom are German.
My research and speculations made this article quite long enough. So if you're interested in the witch hunts Luther contributed to click on the linked album within and see the exhibition for yourself.

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>  The Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon
Ideas

At the end of July 2017, we saw the musical The Book of Mormon in Melbourne.
It brought back memories of 1964 when I had a visit, very much like the one depicted at the beginning of the show.
I began to smile and then then giggle; then laugh uproariously; mopping my eyes. And the happy ending is also very clever. I loved this musical.
It topped off a Sunday during which we also visited couple of churches and a synagogue. So it seemed entirely relevant.

 

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>  Hong Kong and Shenzhen China

2 IFT Hong Kong
Travel

After our trip to Japan, reported below, our group returned to Hong Kong.  From here Craig and Sonia headed home to OZ while Wendy and I headed into China once again. Here are some observations on developments in Hong Kong and China.

 

 

 

 

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>  Japan

Shinkansen
Travel

Here is the belated story of our recent Japanese sojourn, a short introductory package tour: Discover Japan 2017 visiting: Narita; Tokyo; Yokohama; Atami; Toyohashi; Kyoto; and Osaka.
I had to get this report out of the way before we're off again - healthy life's too short.

 

 

 

 

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>  Denmark

Danish Royal Palace
Travel

Today I'm feeling pleased, as if I'd finally got around to repairing that annoying scratch on my car. All I had to do was commit a full day to inserting the images to publish my notes from Denmark last year. Now only Germany and Japan remain before our next trip. Anyway, better late than never... so here is Denmark:

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>  Romania

Capitoline Wolf
Travel

Here it is at last.  I've finally given up my fight with Google Pictures and accepted URLs the length of small essays, just so that I can store my images in The Cloud.
The essay on Southern England uses the old Picasa image storage. But in the middle of writing this, a few days later, Google withdrew it and introduced their mega-URLs. Then, before I could get any further with a solution, I found myself in hospital.  See below.

Anyway I hope this was worth the wait - particularly for those of you who like to travel and have not yet been to Romania.

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>  Southern England

Port_Isaac thumb
Travel

In mid July 2016 Wendy and I took flight again to Europe. Those who follow these travel diaries will note that part of out trip last year was cut when Wendy's mum took ill. In particular we missed out on a planned trip to Romania and eastern Germany. This time our British sojourn would be interrupted for a few days by a side-trip to Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark (later posts to come).
We spent the initial week in London and after our return from Denmark, toured about the West Country to Cornwall and then east along the South coast as far as Sidmouth.

 

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>  The Craft - Chapter 12 - The Cloud

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball
Fiction

This is a sample chapter from my somewhat saucy novella The Craft (be warned). It's a prequel to the earlier novella, also called The Cloud. So it's promoting or killing two birds with one stone.
If your interest is piqued go back to the beginning - don't click (Next >>)
Like painting, writing fiction amuses me, painting with words, but I acknowledge that I'm just a dilettante, messing about in retirement.  Yet some obviously find my stories amusing.  These two have attracted well over twenty thousand hits each and hundreds of sessions, in their various iterations, having evolved and grown over time.
Does practice make perfect? 
When I flick the pages at the remaindered book-stand at the Mall I'm quickly disabused. No perfection there! How on earth do all these books get edited, published and distributed - complete with cover art?  Most represent months or years of someone's life - now remaindered at less than the printing cost. And all those trees killed to no purpose.  At least I'm not guilty of that.

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>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data
Environment

Partly in response to my article Carbon Footprints (below) several friends and acquaintances have told me that Climate Change is a myth.

Might this be true?

 

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>  Mega Battery for South Australia

Have I still got the energy?Energy

The deal is now signed.  South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has contracted Elon Musk to provide the world's biggest battery, a 100 MW/129 MWh Tesla Powerpack, in a 100 days... 'or our money back'.  
Federal Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, cautiously welcomed the forthcoming delivery of "the 'world's largest' lithium-ion battery to help secure South Australia's power grid", while humbly submitting that: "it will not solve all the state's energy problems".  
Was he implying that 100 MW is a drop in the bucket, in a State with 1,600 MW of rapidly fluctuating wind generation?  
In an attempt to regain the initiative Josh proposed his 'superior' solution - a bigger bucket - 'package' pumped hydro-electricity.  The present cost of both these storage methods certainly brings water to the eyes. Yet could both 'fixes' be woefully inadequate?
Nevertheless, like Ol' Blue Eyes': 'ant and the rubber tree plant' both Jay and Josh have 'high hopes'.

Read More...

 

>  The McKie Family

McKie Ginger Beer
History

This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing now.  Other paths converged and merged as the McKies met and wed and bred.
Where possible I've glimpsed backwards up those paths as far as records would allow.
In six generations, I, like most people, have 126 ancestors.  Around half have become obscure to me. But I know the majority had one thing in common: they lived in or around Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England.

During that time Newcastle grew from a small port town into one of the World's most important and innovative cities.  Thus they contributed to the prosperity, fertility and skill of that blossoming town during the century and a half when the garden there was at its most fecund.

So it's also a tale of one city.

Read More...

 

>  Skydiving

Coming Down to Earth
News

For my 70th Birthday Wendy took me at my word and bought me a voucher to go Skydiving.  I've always wanted to try it and 75 is a limit for insurance. Not that I was likely to benefit from any insurance payout.  Skydiving accidents are usually fatal.

 

Read More...

 

>  The Meaning of Death

Etherial Richard
News

I was recently restored to life after being dead for several hours. 

'Really?' you say, 'dead?' What does: 'dead' really mean?

At one time a person who was no longer breathing; who had no heartbeat; was limp and unconscious; and failed to respond to stimuli, like being poked with a knife; or having their heart removed; was pretty certainly dead.
Yet while a death certificate may well have been issued for me in the not so distant past, today we set no store by the heart or the lungs or even reflexes as indicators of life but rather the potential recovery of the brain and central nervous system.

Thus I was not actually dead. The colony of cells that is me remained relatively undamaged, still a viable living organism thanks to continuing oxygenated blood supply. In particular my brain was undamaged, so my mind could be restored to awareness when anaesthesia ceased. 

Read More...

 

 


 

 

 

 


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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Recollections of 1963

 

A Pivotal Year

It appears that the latest offering from Andrew Lloyd Webber: Stephen Ward, the Musical, has crashed and burned after four months in London.

On hearing this I was reminded of 1963,  the year I completed High School and matriculated to University;  the year Bob Dylan became big; and Beatle Mania began. 

The year had started with a mystery the Bogle-Chandler deaths in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney that confounded Australia. Then came Buddhist immolations and a CIA supported coup and regime change in South Vietnam that was the beginning of the end for the US effort. 

Suddenly the Great Train Robbery in Britain was headline news there and in Australia. One of the ringleaders, Ronnie Biggs was subsequently found in Australia but stayed one step of the authorities for many years.

The 'Space Race' was underway with the USSR holding their lead by putting the first female Cosmonaut into obit. The US was riven with inter-racial hostility and rioting.  But the first nuclear test ban treaties were signed and Vatican 2 made early progress, the reforming Pope John 23 unfortunately dying mid year.

Towards year's end, on the 22nd of November, came the Kennedy assassination, the same day the terminally ill Aldus Huxley elected to put an end to it.

But for sex and scandal that year the Profumo affair was unrivalled.

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis

This paper was first written over 20 years ago - little has changed.

Except of course, that a lot of politicians and bureaucrats have put in a lot of air miles and stayed in some interesting places around the world like Kyoto, Amsterdam and Cancun. 

And in the interim, wind turbines have become larger and more economic.  Wind power is discussed in more detail elswhere on this website.


 

Climate Change

Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis

 

Climate change has wide ranging implications for the World, ranging from its impacts on agriculture (through drought, floods, water availability, land degradation and carbon credits) mining (by limiting markets for coal and minerals processing) manufacturing and transport (through energy costs) to property damage resulting from storms.  The issues are complex, ranging from disputes about the impact of human activities on global warming, to arguments about what should be done and the consequences of the various actions proposed.  The following paper explores some of the issues and their potential impact.

  Read more ...


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