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Savannah Georgia

 

 

Savannah was the first British settlement in Georgia, named after King George II and thus the one time State capital and one of the oldest cities in North America.  It has since been eclipsed both as capital and in size by Atlanta but retains a southern charm that Atlanta lacks.

It was established on the Savannah river by James Oglethorpe, a social reformer and philanthropist, to provide land and a living to the 'worthy poor' of Britain who at that time were spilling out of the debtors prisons.   Among the crops that were brought from London and trialled by the would-be farmers was cotton.  This quickly became a cash crop in the south of North America feeding the cotton mills of Manchester and Birmingham.  But it was soon realised that the colony's ban on slavery would need to be lifted if the new entrepreneurs were to compete with the nearby Spanish and French slave states that had begun to grow cotton in competition. London duly complied and slavery thus became essential to economic success in this 'free market'.

Savannah is a very attractive city with pleasant parks and some fine old houses including the South's oldest public art museum: "with American & European works spread over 3 themed buildings".  The contemporary Jepson Center was featuring a Rodin exhibition which we decided not to fit in to our schedule, arguing that Rodin's work is replicated in many places.  So we parked the car midtown and walked the leafy streets to the river.  Very pleasant.

 


Historic Savannah - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

 

Wormsloe

Wormsloe is an Historic Estate established in 1736 by Noble Jones, one of James Oglethorpe's settlers, on Skidaway Island.  Noble Jones was the sort of 'jack of all trades' needed to establish a new settlement.  He was both innovative and well educated with: carpentry; surveying and mathematical skills; people skills; and hands-on technical knowhow.  It was he who surveyed and laid out the city of Savannah for Oglethorpe. He later became a member of the Royal Council and a senior Justice.

In many ways it was Noble Jones who was responsible for the success of the colony as he took charge when Oglethorpe was not present.  Like Oglethorpe he was opposed to slavery but in the end got overruled when the new settlers appealed to London.  Australians may remember that Governor Macquarie was similarly overruled and recalled when new settlers appealed to London.  Not in the interests of slavery but for the reverse, his policy of emancipating and elevating former convicts to positions of authority over free settlers. 

Initially Noble Jones built a fortified house on Skidaway Island that commands the river flats.  Again there is an Australian connection.  He manufactured lime by mining and firing aboriginal shell middens that had accumulated over thousands of years of oyster and other shell fish gathering by the natives.  This was then combined with more shells and sand to produce a soft concrete called 'tabby' that's particularly effective in absorbing musket fire.  Later he built a more commodious family home that still stands.   There's even a cricket pitch.  Probably one of the first in North America.

He's buried near the original fortified house, overlooking the river. 

 


Wormsloe Historic Estate - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

From Savannah we would return to South Carolina to Charleston to drop off the car and catch a flight to New Orleans.

 

 

 

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Travel

Egypt, Syria and Jordan

 

 

 

In October 2010 we travelled to three countries in the Middle East: Egypt; Syria and Jordan. While in Egypt we took a Nile cruise, effectively an organised tour package complete with guide, but otherwise we travelled independently: by cab; rental car (in Jordan); bus; train and plane.

On the way there we had stopovers in London and Budapest to visit friends.

The impact on me was to reassert the depth, complexity and colour of this seminal part of our history and civilisation. In particular this is the cauldron in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam were created, together with much of our science, language and mathematics.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Meaning of Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The truth of this statement depends on the changing and surprisingly imprecise meaning of the word: 'dead'. 

Until the middle of last century a medical person may well have declared me dead.  I was definitely dead by the rules of the day.  I lacked most of the essential 'vital signs' of a living person and the technology that sustained me in their absence was not yet perfected. 

I was no longer breathing; I had no heartbeat; I was limp and unconscious; and I failed to respond to stimuli, like being cut open (as in a post mortem examination) and having my heart sliced into.  Until the middle of the 20th century the next course would have been to call an undertaker; say some comforting words then dispose of my corpse: perhaps at sea if I was travelling (that might be nice); or it in a box in the ground; or by feeding my low-ash coffin into a furnace then collect the dust to deposit or scatter somewhere.

But today we set little store by a pulse or breathing as arbiters of life.  No more listening for a heartbeat or holding a feather to the nose. Now we need to know about the state of the brain and central nervous system.  According to the BMA: '{death} is generally taken to mean the irreversible loss of capacity for consciousness combined with the irreversible loss of capacity to breathe'.  In other words, returning from death depends on the potential of our brain and central nervous system to recover from whatever trauma or disease assails us.

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Chemistry of Life

 

What you should know

Most of us already know: that an atom is the smallest division of matter that can take part in a chemical reaction; that a molecule is a structure of two or more atoms; and that life on Earth is based on organic molecules: defined as those molecules that contain carbon, often in combination with hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, and may include other elements like sodium, calcium, phosphorous and iron.  

Organic molecules can be extremely large.  Familiar extremely large organic molecules include plastics like polyethylene and many proteins, like spider web.

Chromosomes are structures within the cells of animals and plants consisting of very large molecules of  DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid).   DNA stores and replicates information. It encodes the genes used by all complex living organisms on Earth to reproduce and function. 

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