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Australian readers will know that nuclear electricity has recently become an election issue. So, while Peter Dutton may not be my favourite politician, on this occasion he has my wholehearted support. It is not being over-dramatic to argue that the Country's future may depend on this.

I have long advocated replacing dirty, deadly and environmentally destructive coal-fired furnaces, and the mines that feed them, with relatively clean nuclear energy. There are a dozen articles on this website, dating back over twenty years, in support of this position. For example Click  Here...

 Cruas Nuclear Power Station in France My photo of the Cruas Nuclear Power Station in France - one of France's 18 nuclear power stations.
Comprising four pressurized water reactors of 900 MW each - totalling 3600 MW
Just three such plants would replace all the remaining coal burning generation in NSW

Click on the image to read more


At the same time it has not gone without my notice that PM, Anthony Albanese, has been a life-long opponent of nuclear energy - he has been a doctrinaire opponent - and has been a moving force in having bans installed by Labor (with the support of the Greens) across Australia. That was why his support for Australia acquiring nuclear submarines was such a surprise to me.

Energy and the Environment

With world media attention no longer on the Covid Pandemic the spotlight has moved on to the war in the Ukraine, and at least in Australia and the UK, to the rocketing cost of electricity.

>  Electricity Woes


The Federal Government, that came to power on a promise to substantially cut power bills, has had to concede, that instead, there have been substantial price increases.

During the election campaign the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy repeatedly asserted that the solution lay in increased wind and solar generated electricity, that he asserted were now cheaper than fossil-fuel generated electricity.

Meanwhile, in July 2022, Wendy and I had occasion to visit the town of Rønne on the small Danish island of Bornholm. There on the quayside were a dozen huge wind-turbine nacelles.

As I had some spare time on my hands, I looked on-line and discovered that they were Vestas V174-9.5 MW units for installation off the coast of Germany, for either the Baltic Eagle or Arcadis Ost 1 project. I compared the published project cost with other large energy projects around the world.

Suffice it to say, that wind-generated electricity is not price-competitive with modern fossil-generated electricity - it's just a lot cleaner.

The assertion that wind is less expensive to install than contemporary nuclear generation (per unit of deliverable energy) is also open to question. 

Huge wind farms are certainly more environmentally impactful and less aesthetically pleasing than a relatively inobtrusive nuclear plant.



>  Oppenheimer


Seeing this film got me thinking about nuclear power again.

On this website, there are numerous references to the potential benefits of this discovery, that was confirmed by the first atom bomb in the year I was born, and has formed a background to my entire life, both as the gift of new knowledge and as an ever-present threat.  That new knowledge has saved and/or extended my life on at least two occasions, while at the same time, radically transforming the society in which we all live.

And if you have a spare three hours, the movie, that is now being streamed on YouTube and Foxtel, is perhaps the best of last year's offerings.




>  Electric Cars again-and-again


Electric vehicles like: trams; trains; and electric: cars; vans; and busses; all assist in achieving better air quality in our cities. Yet, to the extent that the energy they consume is derived from our oldest energy source, fire: the potential toxic emissions and greenhouse gasses simply enter the atmosphere somewhere else.

So are they actually more environmentally friendly than conventional, petroleum-fuelled, vehicles, when substantially powered by coal, oil and gas?



>  Climate Change - a Myth?


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?





> Hong Kong to Singapore - 2024


On February 16th 2024 Wendy and I set-forth on a 20 day trip, revisiting old haunts in SE Asia.

From Hong Kong we made a brief side-trip to Shenzhen in China then embarked on a Cruise, sailing down the east coast, south, to Singapore where we spent a few days, before returning home: [Hong Kong; Ha Long Bay/Hanoi; Hoi An; Ho Chi Min City (Saigon); Bangkok; Ko Samui; Singapore]

If you are contemplating a trip to any of these destinations, or an ocean-going cruise, you may find these experiences of interest.



>  Canada and the United States - Part2


Part 2 begins in August 2023 in Florida, with a nine day cruise to the western Caribbean; then a flight back up to Boston and a drive through Massachusetts; Rhode Island and Connecticut to New York City, for five days; flying to Salt Lake City, Utah and Los Angeles, California, for three days, then back home, after six-and-a-half weeks since leaving.

Part1 began in Seattle and Vancouver  and followed our movements across Canada to Montreal.




>  Canada and the United States - Part1


Part1 begins in July 2023 with three nights in Seattle, Washington; then a bus journey north to Vancouver, in Canada, followed by a drive across the Rockies through: Kamloops and Revelstoke to Banff, where we were joined by our friends Brian and Kat, to drive up to Jasper and back, then on to Calgary. 

From Calgary we flew to Toronto for a couple of days before driving to Niagara Falls, then on to Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal. Twenty days in all.

Part2 starts in Florida, then the upper east coast and across the United States to Los Angeles, then back home to Sydney, after six-and-a-half weeks.



>  Southern Africa 2023


In April 2023 Wendy and I took a second package tour, this time to South Africa with our friends Craig and Sonia.

It involved two long flights, via Singapore, staying at quite a nice hotel in Cape Town before a few nights at a resort in Stellenbosch, in lieu of the cancelled Red Train, that was supposed to be a feature of the tour (more of that later).

From there we made our way north, via Johannesburg, to several days on safari in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve; then it was off to Zambia (and Zimbabwe) and Victoria Falls, before more fights home.



Our first overseas trip of 2023, was a package tour to Sri Lanka, booked, somewhat optimistically, amidst the Covid 19 lockdowns, over a year previously.

>  Sri Lanka 2023


Beginning in the capital Colombo, on the west coast, our bus travelled anticlockwise, in a loop, initially along the coast; then up into the highlands; then north, as far as Sigiriya; before returning southwest to Colombo.





Travels Past

I recently recalled our visit to Israel a decade ago.

>  Israel


Thinking about our visit to Israel, nearly a decade ago, I've been moved to wonder how many of today's terrorists were children in 2014, during the last full scale IDF attack on Hamas, when 17,200 Garzan homes were totally destroyed; three times that number were seriously damaged and an estimated 2,000 civilians died in the destruction?
How many saw their loved ones: buried alive; blown apart; maimed for life; then dismissed, by 'Bibi' Netanyahu, as: 'collateral damage'?
And how many of the children, now stumbling in the rubble, will, in their turn, become terrorists against the hated oppressor across the barrier?
Is this present purge a good strategy for assuring future harmony?

I commend my decade old analysis to you: A Brief Modern History and Is there a solution?  where I commented: 

The actual Israeli solution seems to be to eat away at the potential Palestinian State by degrees, first by allowing and even encouraging the Settlers to annex parts of the less populous West Bank and east Jerusalem.
At the same time Israel is systematically making the more populous but agriculturally richer Gaza Strip less and less viable. It is hard not to see the Gaza Strip as a besieged ghetto within which the population is periodically and devastatingly attacked for daring to fight back. It is surrounded by a wall and in-depth defences and blockaded from the sea. Many have likened it to Berlin during the blockade of that city. But unlike West Berlin it's not a place anyone would want to escape into.

Since republishing this article, I've received several worthwhile comments and have added the related links to the introductory addendum.  I commend them to you.



Over the years we've been to many interesting places. So, in this section I've decided to reprise another one from the past - even further back.

>  Cuba


It's now a dozen years since we went to Cuba.
Our visit was recently bought back to mind by my finding Graham Greene's "Our man in Havana" among my 'travel' film collection. The remarkable thing is that much of the atmosphere captured by the movie still feels authentic, having been there in 'real life'.
The wonders of travel!

So, I've embedded a link to the movie (it's on YouTube) at the end of this, otherwise unchanged, article.  If it's been some time, or you've never seen the movie, you can now enjoy it here.
Graham Greene, who also wrote the screen play, is known for his rather droll humour. Like having a wary Alec Guinness being invited into a toilet by a very camp Noël Coward.  An 'in' joke at the time (read more...) à la Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess?




More Travel:  Click Here


Biology - we can't escape it


>  The Prospect of Eternal Life


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.



>  Gaia


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?



>  The Chemistry of Life


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.




>  The McKie Family


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.



>  Alternative Facts and other Untrue Tales


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.






Long ago, in my essay to my children: 'The Meaning of Life' I suggested that: "...if we ever make computers (or computer programs) that evolve without our aid, memes may find computers a better medium for their future survival and evolution. That would threaten our existence or make us the unwitting slaves of technology". In addition, my novella: 'The Cloud' and its prequel 'The Craft' both posit an intelligent cloud.  Now several of my friends have asked me what I know about ChatGPT. I've had to confess that I'd never tried it. So, recently, I decided to rectify this.

>  Testing ChatGPT


As January 26th approached I decided not to repost my usual, unchanging, comments on the date and instead ask ChatGPT about the date. This is what it told me:

I have now seen Oppenheimer - the movie twice (see the review below). So I gave ChatGPT the task of explaining the background to the Manhattan Project and the development of the Atomic Bomb. This is what it told me:

Updating a broken link to the popular song of the period: How 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've see Paree?   in my article : Love in the time of Coronavirus, I'd made the point that it was the American 'Dough Boys' who introduced the Spanish Flue to the trenches of WW1, where it became the most deadly modern pandemic, killing up to 50 million when the troops returned to their homes. By comparison: Covid19 has killed 7 million (to date) while world population has grown four-and-a-quarter times. This relative success is entirely due to effective vaccines.

So, I asked ChatGPT to tell me about the song. This was what it told me: 

But how would it go writing fiction? Well judge, or try it, for yourself Here... It takes less than half-a-minute to write a thousand words or more.  By default it writes stories in the third-person around characters and/or places and/or circumstances that you supply in your request. To that extent, it is quite predictable but it gets much more interesting when you ask for a story in the first-person. Then it has to come up with a character's motivation.

In the context of a future, self-aware, World Wide Web trying to imagine what motivates humans (or machines?), I found this quite disturbing.
This is what Chat GPT wrote, when given a description from: 'The Craft' and asked to provide Margery's story in the first-person: 

For I am Margery, a modern-day witch, and I will stop at nothing to achieve my goals. With my familiars by my side, I will carve out my place in this world, bending reality to my will and ruling over all who dare to defy me. And woe betide anyone who stands in my way, for they will feel the full force of my wrath.

But for now, I bide my time, weaving my spells and ensnaring my prey, until the day comes when I will emerge from the shadows and claim my rightful place as queen of all I survey. And on that day, the world will tremble at the sound of my name, and they will know that Margery, the modern-day witch, reigns supreme.

 See: ChatGPT and The Craft  












I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

Read more: Berlin

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Password





How I miss Rio.  Rio de Janeiro the most stunningly picturesque city on Earth with its dark green mountains and generous bays, embelezado with broad white, sandy beaches.  Rio forever in my heart.   Rio my a minha pátria, my homeland, where I spent the most wonderful days of my life with linda, linda mãe, my beautiful, beautiful mother. Clambering up Corcovado Mountain together, to our favela amongst the trees.

Thinking back, I realise that she was not much older than I was, maybe fifteen years.  Who knows?

Her greatest gift to me was English. 

Read more: The Password

Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?




Back in 2015 a number of friends and acquaintances told me that Climate Change is a myth.

Half a decade on and some still hold that view.  So here I've republished a slightly longer version of the same article.

Obviously the doubters are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  For those of us of a 'certain age' our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that the climate is continuously changing. During our lifetimes the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought and flood relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

Read more: Climate Change - a Myth?

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