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In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

Much of our time was spent in states that briefly formed a separate country: The Confederate States of America. Thus slavery, The Civil War and its consequences loom large there.

The chapter 'Andrew Jackson's Hermitage' contains my version of the history leading up to The Civil War and beyond and provides a background to many of the locations we travelled to.  Readers with a good knowledge of American history; who violently disagree with my interpretation; who have no interest at all; or who have a short attention span, might like to skip that chapter and 'cherry pick' places that could interest them for other reasons, like Graceland or NASA or the Grand Canyon, from the contents table.

Near the top of our priority list were local museums.  History and natural history museums help to provide insights to the people and their culture and we visited lots including: two Presidential Libraries; the Martin Luther King Jnr memorial; the JFK museum in Dallas; Andrew Jacksons Hermitage; and many more.

Whereas history museums might have similar exhibits and information, every art collection is unique.  North America has some of the greatest art museums in the world.  These enabled us to see unique, influential and sometimes iconic, paintings, sculpture and other media at first hand. Yet it's difficult to give each great work the attention it deserves.  So I took pictures of many works that interested me for future reference and most of these can be seen in the various albums linked to these notes.

Eating, sleeping and shopping in a new location is always interesting and hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls along the way provided many opportunities to talk and interact with the locals and to observe them interacting with each other.  Local television and the car radio added colour (color).

 

 

 

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Travel

Cambodia and Vietnam

 

 

 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Merry Christmas

 

 

It's with much optimism that I wish you all a happy festive season and a prosperous 2023, after a 'bit of a rough spell'.

To echo the late Queen, 2020 was an annus horribilis: Terrible bushfires; then Covid-19 struck; followed by floods. 2021 was not a lot better, with repeated lock-downs and no international travel. Thankfully, 2022 was much brighter in Australia (unless one lived or did business on a floodplain).  It was the northern hemisphere's turn to have fires and to suffer drought.

And as I predicted at the outset, Covid-19 ceased to be a major issue - people are either dead; vaccinated; and/or have had the virus and survived. It's not quite Herd Immunity but the virus is no longer a worrying cause of death, even among those nearing the end of life.

When the virus first hit in Australia, following a mismanaged Cruise ship arrival, I was moved to speculate on how it might end.

 

Love in the time of Coronavirus Published 26 March 2020

"In the meantime I've been drawn into several Facebook discussions about the 1918-20 Spanish Influenza pandemic.

After a little consideration I've concluded that it's a bad time to be a National or State leader as they will soon be forced to make the unenviable choice between the Scylla and Charybdis that I end this essay with.

On a brighter note, I've discovered that the economy can be expected to bounce back invigorated. We have all heard of the Roaring Twenties.

So the cruise industry, can take heart, because the most remarkable thing about Spanish Influenza pandemic was just how quickly people got over it after it passed.

The history books tell us that the Roaring Twenties were a reaction to the end of the Great War. Yet the War was but one of the hurdles that had to be overcome. The Spanish Influenza pandemic was, more briefly, an enormous burden on post-war society - shutting down commerce, in the same way we are now becoming familiar with, and killing tens of thousands.

Although historians disagree over the numbers all agree that the Spanish Influenza pandemic killed a great number. The lowest estimate is 17 million worldwide while another puts it at between 24.7 and 39.3 million. Most, including the National Museum of Australia and Wikipedia, tell us that over 50 million people died worldwide. Globally, this is many more than died in the Great War (WW1). For example, the United States lost less than 120 thousand to the War - then over half a million to the pandemic..."

"So in the shadow of the dreadful losses in World War I, that are memorialised in our streets and parks and still remembered reverently at least twice a year, the pandemic that took many young women too, has been almost scrubbed clean from collective memory."

 

 

The best thing this year was our ability to travel overseas again and to visit Berlin and my daughter Emily, her partner Guido and their children, Leander and Tilda. I'm pleased to report that both grandchildren have very good English, in addition to their native German (Berlin style).

Those of you who read last year's message will find what follows familiar. I've barely changed a word.

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Opinions and Philosophy

A modern fairytale - in a Parallel Universe

 

I've dusted off this little satirical parable that I wrote in response to the The Garnaut Climate Change Review (2008).  It's not entirely fair but then satire never is.

 


 

 

In a parallel universe, in 1920† Sidney, the place where Sydney is in ours, had need of a harbour crossing.

An engineer, Dr Roadfield, was engaged to look at the practicalities; including the geology and geography and required property resumptions, in the context of contemporary technical options. 

After considering the options he reported that most advanced countries solve the harbour crossing problem with a bridge.  He proposed that they make the decision to have a bridge; call for tenders for an engineering design; raise the finance; and build it.  We'll call it the 'Sidney Harbour Bridge' he said; then less modestly: 'and the new crossing will be called the Roadfield Highway'. 

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