*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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>  Energy woes in South Australia


This week we watched the unedifying 'blame game' as the South Australian Energy Minister and Premier attempted to blame the Commonwealth; or the 'market place'; or anyone; for the inevitable outcome of past follies.
And the State has certainly had it's share of problems with its electricity. These can be put at the door of local over-enthusiasm for the National Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets that aim ‘to encourage additional generation of electricity from renewable energy sources and achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions’.
So is all the pain worth it?



>  Clean Coal

303px Carbon sequestrationEnergy

With the long predicted problems in South Australia and soon in Victoria  due to over-dependence on wind generated electricity (follow this link:  'Wind is seldom a good match for the customers’ consumption requirements...' ) clean coal is back in the news as a possible solution.
It may come as a surprise to some but coal is not carbon free. Nor is petroleum. Nor is 'natural' gas.
Coal-fired supercritical steam technology may get coal close to conventional gas but it comes at a cost and neither are 'clean'.
So when people speak of 'clean coal' they usually mean technology that incorporates a means of capturing the combustion by products - in particular carbon dioxide (CO2) and putting them somewhere other than into the atmosphere.
I've explored carbon capture and storage also known as carbon sequestration on several past occasions.  
I'm not a fan as there is an obvious; safer; less expensive; and technically mature; option already in widespread use. 



>  Australia and Empire

british empire 1922 tNews

The recent Australia Day and Invasion Day dispute made me recall again the late, sometimes lamented, British Empire.
Because, after all, it was the Empire that was the genesis of Australia Day.
For a brief history of that institution I can recommend Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson.
It may also have some relevance to US hegemony - Amerika über alles!



>  Burying my head in the sand

Losing my religion

The World has a new US President.

Watching President Trump's extraordinary Inaugural address I couldn't help feeling a sense of déjà vu.  It seemed familiar somehow.  Could this be a colourised version of a 1930's newsreel?   Was the speech plagiarised?

"From this day forward it's going to be America first. Their [a small group in our nation's Capital] victories have not been your victories... [this will be] An historic movement the like of which the world has never seen before... [serving the] reasonable demands of a righteous public... [We will] unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, [Jewish Bolshevism?] which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth... There should be no fear -- we are protected, and we will always be protected... we are protected by God. We are going to make America great again... America first."
Amerika, Amerika über alles! 
[Click on the bird to read a similar more original speech.]

But this time this man has his finger on the nuclear trigger.
So like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, waiting in trepidation for his tail to be burnt off, I've put my foreboding aside and continue to think instead about the moral dilemmas of less threatening men; or ancient beliefs; or travel; or even death itself...


>  Losing my religion

Losing my religion

In 2009 one time United States President Jimmy Carter in an article titled 'Losing my religion for equality' explaining why he had severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades.

As Jimmy says: 'Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.'

The modern dilemma for all moral absolutists is that morality is actually fluid and contingent on its context. Laws and mores change over time to make society work in the present context.



>  Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives

Egyptian Mummies

An exhibition currently at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, in conjunction with the British Museum, presents six mummies: the preserved bodies of individuals who lived and died in ancient Egypt between 1800 and 3000 years ago.
Although I've seen many Egyptian exhibitions, here and overseas, this is the most interesting to date.
Computerised tomography (three-dimensional x-ray scanning) to look under the bandages of mummies, is commonplace.  But this exhibition has gone a step better.  The tomography data has been used to build a virtual image at every layer so that visitors can see each body from the inside out: the skeleton and what was placed inside it; then out through the tissues and skin; to the sacred objects placed on the outside of body; finally through the layers of wrapping to the wrapped object we see in the display. The data has also been used to 3D print various objects that have been wrapped inside - like 'pass the parcel'. 
But I took away a lot more than that.  This exhibition bears on very purpose of those people's lives.



>  The Meaning of Death

Etherial Richard

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. 



>  Southern England

Port_Isaac thumb

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.



>  South Korea (& China)

P1100792 thumb

I hadn't written up our trip to South Korea (in March 2016) but Google Pictures gratuitously put an album together from my Cloud library so I was motivated to add a few words and put it up on my Website. Normally I would use selected images to illustrate observations about a place visited. This is the other way about, with a lot of images that I may not have otherwise chosen.
A few days in Seoul were followed by travels around the country, helpfully illustrated in the album by Google generated maps: a picture is worth a thousand words; ending back in Seoul before spending a few days in China on the way home to OZ.



>  Bali


At the end of February 2016 Wendy and I took a package-deal to visit Bali.
I had not been to Bali since 1973 and it has changed remarkably.
Back then Bali was was recovering from mass death and political problems and was low on the tourist agenda.
The only tourists we saw there were fellow travellers from the cruise ship we were on.
In Ubud and Denpasar chooks ran in the street and colonial buildings decayed.



>  Berlin

Berliner Dom

I've been to Berlin several times but have been reluctant to offer an 'off the cuff' summary of this complex city.
Instead here are some selected impressions that are by no means intended as a comprehensive analysis.




>  Recollections of 1960 - the U2 Incident

Movie poster

The 2015 Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies recalls the U-2 Incident, one of those seminal moments when the world would take a new path into the future.  In 1960 this otherwise mundane spy flight would swing the result of a US election and thus set the tone for the coming decade.  The new President was to make US confrontation with the USSR a hallmark of his term in office.  The Cuban Missile Crisis; escalation of the wars in Indochina; conscription;  draft dodging; protest; flower-power and a spate of assassinations; can therefore all trace their roots to this incident. 
On the positive side was the Peace Corps and the 'Space Race' that would lead to rapid technological advance. The technologies of the 21st century: communications and computers; new materials; 'and all that' came from there.



>  Skydiving

Coming Down to Earth

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.



>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data

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?





>  The McKie Family

McKie Ginger Beer

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.



>  A little fiction...

Book Short Stories thumb

If you have previously read one of my stories and enjoyed it you might like to have another look. 

An advantage (or disadvantage) of e-publishing is that writings are not cast in hot type and committed to a printed volume.  This allows an author to revisit them from time to time;  to re-imagine passages; to tidy up; and expand on ideas.  Thus they e-books are works in progress.

The risk is that stories get over-baked and ruined.  Let the reader be the judge.

Here are a few of a dozen I have published - click on their name to open them.

The Time Lord (science fiction?) was recently updated and extended. 

The Secret (a travel tale) is a similar length - it's been changed several times.

If you would like something shorter and more comic try A Twisted Pigs' Tale  (a twisted fairy story)

His Life in a Can (a domestic tragedy) is also a quick read but rather more dark.

The Password (another travel tale) will take you a little longer.  It's my fantasy revenge on the pair who stole my wallet in BA.

The Soul of the Matter (yet another travel inspired story) and April Fools' Day (paranoia on a ferry) are longer again.

But if you want to read a novel length story on your device then you should read The Cloud (a dystopian-Shakespearean science fiction). 









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In October 2012 flew to India and Nepal with Thai International and so had stopovers in Bangkok in both directions. On our way we had a few days to have a look around.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

We hired a Jeep


In Sicily we hired a Jeep to get from Palermo around the island.

I had my doubts about this steed. Our two big bags wouldn't fit in the boot. One had to be strapped in on the back seat - a bit disappointing.

At above 130, the speed limit, there's something odd about the steering – so much so that I stopped quite soon to check the tyre pressures. I was regretting my choice.

Reassured about the tyres we set off again.

On the plus side the fuel consumption seemed OK and the zoned climate control worked well.

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Gone but not forgotten

Gone but not forgotten



Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98.

I had an early encounter with him electioneering in western Sydney when he was newly in opposition, soon after he had usurped Cocky (Arthur) Calwell as leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and was still hated by elements of his own party.

I liked Cocky too.  He'd addressed us at University once, revealing that he hid his considerable intellectual light under a barrel.  He was an able man but in the Labor Party of the day to seem too smart or well spoken (like that bastard Menzies) was believed to be a handicap, hence his 'rough diamond' persona.

Gough was a new breed: smooth, well presented and intellectually arrogant.  He had quite a fight on his hands to gain and retain leadership.  And he used his eventual victory over the Party's 'faceless men' to persuade the Country that he was altogether a new broom. 

It was time for a change not just for the Labor Party but for Australia.

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