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>  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?



>  Oppenheimer

The Bomb

When we were in Canada in July 2003 we saw enough US TV catch the hype when the movie Oppenheimer, about the development of the Atomic Bomb, got its release. This was an instance of serendipity, as I had just ordered Joseph Kannon’s ‘Los Alamos’, about the same subject, for my Kindle. 

With a few hours to spare before our flight home, I went to the movies.  And I've written a review, something I don't do often. 

Conclusion: I liked it.  





>  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

Springbok in the Bush

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

Sri Lanka tour map

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.



In July 2022 we were able to travel to Europe, after a break of several years. 

>  Europe 2022 - Part 2

Wendy in Paris

In July and August 2022, in our first European trip since the Covid-19 pandemic, Wendy and I travelled to Europe and to the United Kingdom.

Part 1 of this report (below) touched on places in Germany then on a Baltic Cruise, landing in: Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Now, Part 2 takes place in northern France.

Part 3, yet to come, takes place in England and Scotland.



>  Europe 2022 - Part 1

Apex at sea

In July and August 2022, in our first European trip since the Covid-19 pandemic, Wendy and I travelled to Europe and to the United Kingdom.

Part 1 of this report touches on places in Germany; then on a Baltic Cruise, landing in: Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands.
It begins in Berlin to visit my daughter Emily, her Partner Guido, and their children, Leander and Tilda, our grandchildren there.




In 2021 we'd counted ourselves fortunate to get in a trip into Central Australia before the inevitable quarantine breach (a driver transporting air-crew) and consequent travel restrictions.

These ended in 2022 when almost everyone had received at least two vaccinations (we have had five to date); and/or contracted the virus; and a new varient made futher attempts at quarantine futile.

Like measles, and influenza, we now rely on 'herd immunity'.

>  Road Trip to Melbourne

Muddy Yarra

In February 2022 we were, at last, able to travel interstate to Victoria without and COVID-19 restrictions.
The virus is still active but less deadly and one by one the States are accepting that we now need to live with it.
So, it was off to Melbourne for a 'Luxury Escape'.


Read More....


>  Uluru - Alice Springs - Kings Canyon

On the road

In June 2021 Wendy and I, with our frequent travel companions, Craig and Sonia (see: India; Taiwan; Japan; China; and several countries in South America), flew to Ayer's Rock where we hired a car for a tour to: Uluru - Alice Springs - Kings Canyon - then back to Uluru to fly back.




More Travel:  Click Here


Energy and the Environment

With world media attention no longer on the Covid Pandemic, except in China, 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 new Federal Government, that came to power on a promise to substantially cut power bills, has had to concede, that instead, there will be 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, last 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.




>  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?




>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data

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?





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

Egg and sperm race

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.



>  Luther - Father of the Modern World?


Continuing the religious theme, 2017 also marked 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg and set in motion the Protestant Revolution.
It's caused me to recall an exhibition in Germany in 2016 - Luther and the Witches - and to wonder how much impact this superstitious man might still have on my descendants, two of whom are German.
My research and speculations made this article quite long enough. So if you're interested in the witch hunts Luther contributed to click on the linked album within and see the exhibition for yourself.




>  Alternative Facts and other Untrue Tales

Parvati - Jodhpur

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.














In October 2011 our little group: Sonia, Craig, Wendy and Richard visited Bolivia. We left Puno in Peru by bus to Cococabana in Bolivia. After the usual border form-filling and stamps, and a guided visit to the church in which the ‘Black Madonna’ resides, we boarded a cruise boat, a large catamaran, to Sun Island on the Bolivian side of the lake.

Read more: Bolivia

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.

Read more: The Meaning of Death

Opinions and Philosophy

Adolf Hitler and me




Today, with good cause, Adolf Hitler is the personification of evil. 

Yet without him my parents may never have married and I certainly would not have been conceived in a hospital where my father was recovering from war injuries. 

Read more: Adolf Hitler and me

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