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 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.

As the Ganges dominates north-eastern India so the Mekong River dominates this region. From the Tibetan Plateau it flows through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos and Thailand meandering more slowly as it crosses Cambodia and on into Vietnam.  Its plain is flat and fertile and numerous societies, cultures and religions have left their marks here. 

 

Not so long ago, in geological terms, Indochina was a lot bigger.  When humans first arrived it was possible to walk all the way to Java. The Gulf of Thailand across to Borneo and Java was a low-lying plain probably intersected by substantial rivers. 

Stone Age and early Bronze Age humans lost this territory and overland routes to inundation due to sea level rise and tectonic activity (making Australia even more isolated around ten thousand years ago);  this rise continues slowly today, ever-changing the shorelines.

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From Wikipedia:  Early Human Migration & Sea Level change 

With the advent of metals technology and organised agriculture, civilisation began to develop across these lands spawning trade routes, great empires, great tyrants and maybe a few benign rulers.  In turn, these cultures were a great breeding ground for religion; to give meaning and succour to the disadvantaged; to justify power and the rule of law; to give the powerful hope that their power would never end; and maybe, to encourage the well off to help those less so.   As one empire fell so another took its place; from dust unto dust; ‘for all is vanity’; to borrow from another religion.

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Travel

Poland

Poland

 

 

Berlin

We were to drive to Poland from Berlin.  In September and October 2014 were in Berlin to meet and spend some time with my new grandson, Leander.  But because we were concerned that we might be a burden to entertain for a whole month-and-a-half, what with the demands of a five month old baby and so on, we had pre-planned a number of side-trips.  The last of these was to Poland. 

To pick up the car that I had booked months before, we caught the U-Bahn from Magdalenenstraße, close to Emily's home in Lichtenberg, to Alexanderplatz.  Quick - about 15 minutes - and easy.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Royal Wedding

 

 

 


It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

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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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