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The other day I found myself killing time in Chatswood waiting for my car to be serviced. A long stay in a coffee shop seemed a good option but I would need something to read - not too heavy. In a bookshop I found the latest Dan Brown: Origin. Dan might not be le Carré but like Lee Child and Clive Cussler he's a fast and easy read.

A quick flick told me Professor Langdon was on yet another wild-goose-chase around the real churches; art galleries; palaces and tombs of Europe (in this case Spain), with another beautiful yet somehow unattainable woman. In that respect the good professor is not a James Bond nor even Jason Bourne.

I won't be giving much away by telling those of you who have not read Origin that the plot rests on a billionaire computer geek's pre-recorded 'proofs' that: life arises spontaneously as a result of the natural laws of this universe; and that with increasing intervention of technology humans are evolving - so that in a relatively short time our descendants will cease to be human.

While the thwarted multimedia presentation of these 'proofs' to the world makes for a fast paced thriller as the the bodies pile up, the presentation's eventual revelations turn out to be disappointingly mundane. 

Last century I began writing my essay for my then young children: The Meaning of Life in which both of the "breathtaking truths" (referred to on the back cover of Origin) are discussed as current ideas - two decades ago.  See the chapters on Life (particularly in respect of entropy) and Evolution (particularly in respect of technology).

So Origin is not very original. Well, what did readers expect?  This is a popular thriller not a paradigm changing scientific paper or a theological revelation (perhaps as a result of a new Marian Apparition?).

 

Post Script

Since writing this commentary the scientific world has been taken aback by the announcement a young scientist, He Jiankui, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he had successfully used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit a gene in several children.  Two girls, twins, have been born and are thriving and another gene-edited baby is on the way.   Thus Human evolution has been given a small shove forward and what is now just a trickle may become a flood.

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Travel

Hong Kong and Shenzhen China

 

 

 

 

 

Following our Japan trip in May 2017 we all returned to Hong Kong, after which Craig and Sonia headed home and Wendy and I headed to Shenzhen in China. 

I have mentioned both these locations as a result of previous travels.  They form what is effectively a single conurbation divided by the Hong Kong/Mainland border and this line also divides the population economically and in terms of population density.

These days there is a great deal of two way traffic between the two.  It's very easy if one has the appropriate passes; and just a little less so for foreign tourists like us.  Australians don't need a visa to Hong Kong but do need one to go into China unless flying through and stopping at certain locations for less than 72 hours.  Getting a visa requires a visit to the Chinese consulate at home or sitting around in a reception room on the Hong Kong side of the border, for about an hour in a ticket-queue, waiting for a (less expensive) temporary visa to be issued.

With documents in hand it's no more difficult than walking from one metro platform to the next, a five minute walk, interrupted in this case by queues at the immigration desks.  Both metros are world class and very similar, with the metro on the Chinese side a little more modern. It's also considerably less expensive. From here you can also take a very fast train to Guangzhou (see our recent visit there on this website) and from there to other major cities in China. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

My Art and Artists

 

 

One recreation that I find very absorbing is drawing and painting. 

Having once been married to an exceptionally talented artist (now Brenda Chat) I do not pretend great skill or insight.

I always drew and painted but living with Brenda was like someone who has just mastered ‘chopsticks’ on the piano being confronted by Mozart. 

Our daughter Emily has inherited or acquired some of her mother’s skill and talent.  

Emily and I once attended life classes together and I am awed by her talent too.  One of her drawings hangs behind me as I write.  It is a wonderful pencil study of a life class nude. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Manufacturing in Australia

 

 

 

This article was written in August 2011 after a career of many years concerned with Business Development in New South Wales Australia. I've not replaced it because, while the detailed economic parameters have changed, the underlying economic arguments remain the same (and it was a lot of work that I don't wish to repeat) for example:  

  • between Oct 2010 and April 2013 the Australian dollar exceeded the value of the US dollar and that was seriously impacting local manufacturing, particularly exporters;
  • as a result, in November 2011, the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) reduced the cash rate (%) from 4.75 to 4.5 and a month later to 4.25; yet
  • the dollar stayed stubbornly high until 2015, mainly due to a favourable balance of trade in commodities and to Australia's attraction to foreign investors following the Global Financial Crisis, that Australia had largely avoided.

 

 

2011 introduction:

Manufacturing viability is back in the news.

The loss of manufacturing jobs in the steel industry has been a rallying point for unions and employers' groups. The trigger was the announcement of the closure of the No 6 blast furnace at the BlueScope plant at Port Kembla.  This furnace is well into its present campaign and would have eventually required a very costly reline to keep operating.  The company says the loss of export sales does not justify its continued operation. The  remaining No 5 blast furnace underwent a major reline in 2009.  The immediate impact of the closure will be a halving of iron production; and correspondingly of downstream steel manufacture. BlueScope will also close the aging strip-rolling facility at Western Port in Victoria, originally designed to meet the automotive demand in Victoria and South Australia.

800 jobs will go at Port Kembla, 200 at Western Port and another 400 from local contractors.  The other Australian steelmaker OneSteel has also recently announced a workforce reduction of 400 jobs.

This announcement has reignited the 20th Century free trade versus protectionist economic and political debate. Labor backbenchers and the Greens want a Parliamentary enquiry. The Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) reportedly initially agreed, then, perhaps smelling trouble, demurred. No doubt 'Sir Humphrey' lurks not far back in the shadows. 

 

 

So what has and hasn't changed (disregarding a world pandemic presently raging)?

 

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