* take nothing for granted    
  • Sydney Harbour from Mosman

  • Uluru (Ayres Rock) - Central Australia

  • The Kalyan Minaret Bukhara Uzbekistan

  • Dubrovnik Croatia

  • Dushanbe Tajikistan

  • Bucharest Romania - from Palace of Parliament

  • 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

  • Cappadocia 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

  • Ha'penny Bridge over the River Liffey Dublin Ireland

  • Seville Spain

  • Alhambra Granada Spain

  • Mosque–Cathedral Córdoba Spain

  • Moscow Russia (from Moscow State University)

  • Trafalgar Square London England

  • Mumbai India

  • Udaipur India

  • Taj Mahal - Agra India

  • Varanasi (Benares) India

  • Madurai India (the cow insisted I move out of its way)

  • Kathmandu Nepal

  • Lake Iskanderkul Tajikistan

  • 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

  • Grand Canyon National Park Arizona USA

  • 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)

  • Flame towers Baku Azerbaijan

  • Havana Mummers Cuba

  • Bucharest Romania from Palace of Parliament

  • Registan Square Samarkand Uzbekistan

  • Bratislava Slovakia

  • Lake Bled Slovenia

  • Mount Ararat behind ancient Zvartnots Cathedral Yerevan Armenia

  • Kiriwina Island Papua New Guinea Dancers

  • Lake Sevan Armenia

  • Peace Bridge Tbilisi Georgia

Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2021

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Biology - we can't escape it

>  Now we are Vaccinated

Covid-19
Science

Are the fully vaccinated completely safe from Covid-19?
The short answer is no.  No vaccine is 100% effective.
But we are quite a bit safer. 

Read More...

 

>  Gaia

Gaia
Science?

During our recent trip to Central Australia, I found myself wondering if there is more or less 'life' out here than there is in the more obviously verdant countryside to the north south east or west. 

Perhaps the entirety of the Earth's biota - James Lovelock's Gaia - is optimised by 'survival of the fittest' to fully exploit the prevailing conditions, so that, at any one time, the total mass of living cells the planet can support has been maximised?

Then, maybe, given the present planetary environment, the total biological cake can't get any bigger - it can only  swap one: individual; species; order; phylum; etc; for another?

This is, of course, pure, unsubstantiated, speculation - born of my 'peripatetic musings'. What do you think?

Read More...

 

>  The Chemistry of Life

Egg and sperm race
Science

This article - that begins with 'What everyone should know' was written back in 2013 as an appendix to The Meaning of Life, my wide-ranging essay for my children about understanding: what we can know and what we think we do know.
Since I began The Meaning of Life in 1997 my children have, to my pride and delight, each surpassed my knowledge in these areas of medicine and science. But now I have grandchildren to inform.
I recently updated the brief chapter on viruses to include an image of a cell infected with Covid-19
Some readers might find it interesting.

Read More...

 

>  Medical Fun and Games

Prostate Scan
Medical

Recently I become aware of a medical problem that's exclusive to men - so if you are a woman, you need read no further.
I had prostate cancer. And according to Cancer Australia I was but one of nearly 17 thousand men to be diagnosed in Australia in 2020, most of whom were around my age. Indeed 50% of men my age has some level of prostate disease.
So, I've been having some medical 'fun and games' and my experience may be helpful, or at least interesting, to other men out there.

 

Read More...

 

>  The Prospect of Eternal Life

Eternally Damned
Philosophy

When I first began to write about this subject, the idea that Hamlet’s apprehension concerning 'that undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveller returns' was still current in today’s day and age seemed to me as bizarre as the fear of falling off the Earth should you sail too far to the west.

Yet it has become apparent to me that some intelligent, educated, people still identify the prospect of eternal life, in either heaven or hell, as an important consideration when contemplating their own life and death.

Read More...

 


Travel - in Australia

Last month we were fortunate to get in a trip into Central Australia before the latest quarantine breach (this time a driver transporting air-crew) and consequent travel restrictions.

 

>  Central Australia

On the road
Travel

This June Wendy and I, with our frequent travel companions, Craig and Sonia (see: India; Taiwan; Japan; China; and several countries in South America), flew to Ayer's Rock where we hired a car for a tour to: Uluru - Alice Springs - Kings Canyon - then back to Uluru to fly back.

 

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Overseas Travel - Remember that

When we reached retirement age Wendy and I determined to travel overseas twice or more each year.  As a result, my travel diaries on this website now encompass trips to some 65 countries. To some of these like: the United States; the United Kingdom; Germany; Italy and Turkey, there have been several trips with visits to many different towns, cities and locations.

But now due to the current pandemic our travels have been curtailed and even travel within Australia has been problematic as a result of border closures. So, in 2020 we were fortunate to get in just one trip before the closures began:

 

>  Cruising to Papua New Guinea

Ayasuluk Citadel
Travel

On the 17th February 2020 Wendy and I set sail on Queen Elizabeth on a two week cruise up to Papua New Guinea. 

Just six days after we returned another cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, would set sail from the same terminal in Sydney on an 11-day cruise to New Zealand.

By the time the Ruby Princess returned to Sydney on the 19th of March at least 100 passengers had become infected with COVID-19.  In the weeks that followed, the Ruby Princess would become infamous as the sauce of Australia's first, large coronavirus outbreak. Around 666 people (the devil's number) would soon test positive and 28 people would die.

We were fortunate indeed.

 

Read More...

 

>  Turkey

Ayasuluk Citadel
Travel

In August 2019 we returned to Turkey, after fourteen years, for a more encompassing holiday in the part that's variously called Western Asia or the Middle East.  There were iconic tourist places we had not seen so with a combination of flights and a rental car we hopped about the map in this very large country. 

We began, as one does, in Istanbul - the end of the Silk Road. 

 

Read More...

 

>  The Balkans

Peter_I_of_Yugoslavia
Travel

In September 2019 we left Turkey by air, to continue our trip north along the Adriatic, in the Balkans, to Austria, with a brief side trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. 

The Balkan Peninsula was among the first regions on Earth to be civilised. The ancient Vinča culture of the area developed Old European Script, the oldest form of writing known, and clay tablets have been found in the area dating back to around 5,300 BCE.

Consequently, it is a much contested geopolitical area, prized by conquerors and by those who want to capture the hearts and minds of their followers.

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>  The Caucasus

Caucusus landform
Travel

More Silk Road Adventures

One of the birthplaces of the Bronze Age, the Caucasus Mountains have long acted as a barrier between Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Sitting astride one of ancient humanity's most important trade routes, the Silk Road, added to their strategic significance.
Having followed the Silk Road from Xian and Urumqi, in China, across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (see 'In the footsteps of Marco Polobelow) our next step had to be to the Caucasus.
So, in May 2019 we joined an organised tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.

Read More...

 

>  Ireland

Hands Across the Divide
Travel

In October 2018 we travelled to Ireland. Later we would go on to England (the south coast and London) before travelling overland (and underwater) by rail to Belgium for a few days and then on to Berlin to visit our grandchildren there.
The island of Ireland is mainly rural and not very densely populated. It was unusually warm for October in Europe and Ireland is a very pleasant part of the world. It's not unlike Tasmania, and in many other ways familiar, due to a shared language and culture.  Yet it's history over the past few thousand years is labyrinthine in its complexity. Over two weeks we spent many hours in museums around both countries that share this island, fascinated.  As a result, this article contains a long, yet much abbreviated, 'Potted History'. There are also smaller articles on fourteen of the towns we meandered between in our trusty rental car. 
If my spin on the history is no interest to you, you can avoid the verbiage and philosophising. Take a shortcut.  I've put some of our photos into a Google Photos album, instead of making the article even longer:

Read More...

 

>  Central Asia

Amir Timur
Travel

In the footsteps of Marco Polo

In June 2018 we travelled to China before joining an organised tour in Central Asia that, except for a sojourn in the mountains of Tajikistan, followed in the footsteps of Marco Polo along the Great Silk Road.
In medieval times China lay hidden to Europe behind the veil of the terrifying Mongol Empire. Yet Venetians still traded in Chinese silk so at the end of the 13th century Marco Polo, with his father and uncle, followed the thread of silk all the way to China.
After his return he became a prisoner of war in Genoa where he related his amazing experiences at the Court of Kublai Khan to Rustichello da Pisa who subsequently published them as the Travels of Marco Polo.
The things they didn't know they didn't know so shocked and amazed educated Europeans that the Travels of Marco Polo is credited by some historians with initiating the European Renaissance and the collapse of monasticism, leading to the Scientific Revolution and the modern world. 
In Central Asia we too would learn things we didn't know we didn't know.

Read More...

 

>  Hawaii

Hawaiian Flag
Travel

We were there in February and had noticed that it was hot underfoot on Kilauea.

Less than 100 days later, on May 3, a 6.9 level earthquake shook the Island, damaging buildings we had stood in in downtown Hilo, including the Post Office. Several lava vents simultaneously opened east of the Kilauea summit and 2,000 people had to be quickly evacuated as poisonous gasses belched out.

Why is it always just after we leave that things get exciting?

See the May 2018 Addendum at the end of The Volcanos chapter at the end of the Big Island page... 

Read More...

 

>  United States of America - 'middle bits'

Old Glory
Travel

In October 2017 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.

 

Read More...

 

>  Japan

Shinkansen
Travel

Here is the story of our 2017 Japanese sojourn, when we took a short introductory package tour: Discover Japan 2017 visiting: Narita; Tokyo; Yokohama; Atami; Toyohashi; Kyoto; and Osaka.
Japan has been an important theme throughout my life.  Their unconditional surrender came exactly four weeks before my birth, as a result of the first A-Bombs. 
So that my life spans the nuclear age, the cold war, the space race, Japanese recovery, détente, the digital revolution, biomedical science, and the rise of China.
I couldn't help making one or two historical observations.

 

 

Read More...

 

>  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.

Read More...

 

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

Jongno Tower, Seoul, S Korea
Travel

The biggest news of 2017 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 since departing Korea I've brought this article back to the list a bit and added a further update. Yet irrespective of these 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.
 

Read More...

 

More Travel

Read more Travel...

 


 

Energy and the Environment

 

>  Australia's $20 billion Climate strategy

Steelmaking
Environment

According to Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, when speaking at the recent World Leaders' Summit on Climate:

"We are investing around $20 billion to achieve ambitious goals that will bring the cost of clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture to commercial parity"

I have some doubts about this strategy.

Read More...

 

 

>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data
Environment

Several friends and acquaintances of my generation continue to assert that the climate is beyond our control or that 'Climate Change' is a myth.
A friend who is sceptical about sea level rise, recently asserted that I was wrong when I claimed, that as a result of flooding during king tides, I had observed sea level change of six inches to a foot during a lifetime of ferry trips on Sydney Harbour. 
So I checked.
Between 1914 and 2007 sea levels at Fort Dension in Sydney Harbour rose by between 0.73 - 1.13 mm/yr. That means that during my lifetime the average sea level in Sydney Harbour has risen by 51 - 79mm (2 to 3 inches).
So my friend was both right and wrong.
He's right in that it's not possible that I have correctly remembered water levels well enough to distinguish a median rise of 65mm in a tidal range of 2.1 m.  Yet he is wrong in suggesting that there has been no sea level rise in Sydney Harbour AAP FactCheck.

Might I be mistaken in other ways?

Read More...

 

 

 


Miscellaneous

>  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...

 

>  Luther - Father of the Modern World?

Luther and the witches2
History

Continuing the religious theme, 2017 also marked 500 years since Martin Luther 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 in 2016 - Luther and the Witches - and to wonder how much impact this superstitious man might still have on my descendants, 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.

 

Read More...

 

>  Alternative Facts and other Untrue Tales

Parvati - Jodhpur
Fiction

Most fiction has its roots in real events.  Yet the flights of fancy (untruths) these inspire can be more fun.

Some of these tales can be read in a few minutes others like: The Cloud and The Craft, require a good bit longer.

 

 

Read More...

 

 


 

 

 

 


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Travel

Bali

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of February 2016 Wendy and I took a package deal to visit Bali.  These days almost everyone knows that Bali is a smallish island off the east tip of Java in the Southern Indonesian archipelago, just south of the equator.  Longitudinally it's just to the west of Perth, not a huge distance from Darwin.  The whole Island chain is highly actively volcanic with regular eruptions that quite frequently disrupt air traffic. Bali is well watered, volcanic, fertile and very warm year round, with seasons defined by the amount of rain.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Soul of the Matter

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's hot, dry and dusty when they finally arrive in Jaisalmer.  But then, how often is it not? 

In the markets a wizened woman of indeterminate age is using a straw broom to aggressively sweep the area in front of her shop. The dust will soon be kicked back by passersby or swept back by her neighbours; requiring her to sweep again and again.  She will do the same again tomorrow; and the day after; and the day after that.

Jennifer's mind is elsewhere. She's has dreamt of visiting exotic India ever since a client at the hairdressers told her, with enthralling details, of her adventures here.

They've arrived in the dusty city in the late afternoon, by road from Jodphur.   In spite of his preference to visit California again, she's finally persuaded Bruce that he might like India and should try something a bit less conservative.

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Energy woes in South Australia

 

 

 

 

South Australia has run aground on the long foreseen wind energy reef - is this a lee shore?

Those of you who have followed my energy commentaries published here over the past six years will know that this situation was the entirely predictable outcome of South Australia pressing on with an unrealistic renewable energy target dependent on wind generated electricity, subsidised by market distorting Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) (previously called RECs in some places on this website - the name was changed after their publication).  

Read more ...

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