*be sceptical - take nothing for granted!    
  • Sydney Australia

  • Luang Prabang Laos

  • Angkor Wat Cambodia

  • Halong Bay Vietnam

  • Yangon Myanmar (Burma)

  • Forbidden City Moat Beijing China

  • Great Wall Shuiguan China

  • Shanghai China

  • Terracotta Warriors Xian China

  • Giza Pyramids and Sphinx Cairo

  • Jemaa el-Fnaa Marrakesh Morocco

  • Damascus Syria - (Oct 2010 pre destabilisation)

  • Istanbul Turkey

  • The Sphinx ANZAC Cove Gallipoli Turkey

  • Saltzburg Austria

  • Cezky Krumlov Czech Republic

  • Prague Czech Republic

  • Champs Elysees Paris France

  • Oberbaum Bridge (over the Spree) Berlin Germany

  • Budapest Hungary

  • Rome Italy

  • Florence Italy

  • Venice Italy

  • Valletta Malta

  • Lisbon Portugal

  • Plaza Mayor Madrid Spain

  • Seville Spain

  • Alhambra Granada Spain

  • Mosque–Cathedral Córdoba Spain

  • Moscow Russia (from Moscow State University)

  • London England

  • Mumbai India

  • Udaipur India

  • Taj Mahal - Agra India

  • Varanasi (Benares) India

  • Kathmandu Nepal

  • Madurai India

  • Havana Cuba

  • Pyramid of the Sun Teotihuacán Mexico

  • Zócalo Mexico City

  • Buenos Aires Argentina

  • Ipanema Rio De Janeiro Brazil

  • Iguazu Falls Argentina-Brazil

  • Machu Picchu Peru

  • Lake Titicaca Peru-Bolivia

  • Queens New York USA (from the Empire State)

  • Boston USA (across the stern of USS Constitution)

  • Washington DC USA (from Arlington House)

  • San Francisco USA (from Alcatraz Island)

  • Los Angeles USA (from the Getty Museum)

  • Grand Canyon National Park Arizona USA

  • SaturnV NASA Houston Texas USA

  • Bucharest Romania from Palace of Parliament

  • Registan Square Samarkand Uzbekistan

  • Bratislava Slovakia

  • Lake Bled Slovenia

Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2019

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Life and Death

>  Love in the time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus
In the News

The recent breach of Quarantine and subsequent wildfire spread of Covid-19 has echoes of 1919 when the Spanish Influenza got loose after a breach of quarantine in Melbourne.
To that point Australia was effectively free of the disease.
An estimated 15,000 Australians died at a time when the total population was 5.3 million. The Australian population is now almost five times that number.

To date, like New Zealand, Australia, has suffered one of the lowest death rates in the world, less than 5 deaths per million of population. As of July 18 2020 the UK had 666 deaths per million of population; Sweden had 556 deaths per million and the USA 420 deaths per million.
But, as discussed here, these are still early days.

Read More...

 

>  The race for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

Coronavirus cutaway
Science

Developing; manufacturing; and distributing a vaccine is at the leading edge of our scientific capabilities and knowledge and is a highly skilled; technologically advanced; and expensive undertaking.
Yet the rewards are potentially great, when the economic and societal consequences of the current pandemic are dire and governments around the world are desperate for a solution and well over a hundred research teams have joined the race.

So when can we expect to be lining up for a jab?

Read More...

 

>  Conspiracy

Conspiracy
Good and Bad

Social Media taps into that fundamental human need to gossip. Indeed some anthropologists attribute the development of our large and complex brains to imagination, story telling and persuasion.
Among the imaginative nonsense that results are many erroneous rumours and conspiracy theories.
For example, at the moment, we are told by some that the new 5G mobile network has, variously, caused the Coronavirus pandemic or is wilting trees, despite not yet being installed where the trees have allegedly wilted, presumably in anticipation.
Of more concern is the claim by some that the Covid-19 virus was manufactured in a laboratory. Recently a malicious fabrication along these lines was attributed to Nobel Laureate Tasuku Honjo who has had to take pains to refute this slander.
So who is responsible for this malicious misinformation and what is their motivation?

Read More...

 

>  The Chemistry of Life

Egg and sperm race
Ideas

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.

Read More...

 

>  More on Technology and Evolution

He Jiankui
Ideas

2018 will be remembered for one thing in particular: this was the year that a scientist successfully took the Human genome into our own hands for the first time.

"Is this the beginning of the end of the 'natural' human race?"  I wondered at the time.

Dr He's stated goal was to protect the children of HIV infected parents from the virus by editing the CCR5 gene to prevent expression of a protein required for the virus' replication. Would this immunity be passed on to their children and to successive generations?

A year later, at the end of 2019, a new virus evolved and jumped to humans: Covid-19.  And like HIV, some people seem to be invulnerable while for others, particularly in some ethnic groups, it's fatal. So again geneticists are asking: "to what extent are genes involved?"

Read More...

 

>  The Prospect of Eternal Life

Eternally Damned
Philosophy

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.

 

Read More...

 


Travel - Remember that

>  The Balkans

Peter_I_of_Yugoslavia
Travel

In September 2019 we left Turkey by air, to continue our trip north along the Adriatic, in the Balkans, to Austria, with a brief side trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. 

The Balkan Peninsula was among the first regions on Earth to be civilised. The ancient Vinča culture of the area developed Old European Script, the oldest form of writing known, and clay tablets have been found in the area dating back to around 5,300 BCE.

Consequently it is a much contested geopolitical area, prized by conquerors and by those who want to capture the hearts and minds of their followers.

Read More...

 

>  Turkey

Ayasuluk Citadel
Travel

In August 2019 we returned to Turkey, after fourteen years, for a more encompassing holiday in the part that's variously called Western Asia or the Middle East.  There were iconic tourist places we had not seen so with a combination of flights and a rental car we hopped about the map in this very large country. 

We began, as one does, in Istanbul - the end of the Silk Road. 

 

Read More...

 

>  The Caucasus

Caucusus landform
Travel

More Silk Road Adventures

One of the birthplaces of the Bronze Age, the Caucasus Mountains have long acted as a barrier between Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Sitting astride one of ancient humanity's most important trade routes, the Silk Road, added to their strategic significance.
Having followed the Silk Road from Xian and Urumqi, in China, across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (see 'In the footsteps of Marco Polobelow) our next step had to be to the Caucasus.
So in May 2019 we joined an organised tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.

Read More...

 

>  Ireland

Hands Across the Divide
Travel

In October 2018 we travelled to Ireland. Later we would go on to England (the south coast and London) before travelling overland (and underwater) by rail to Belgium for a few days and then on to Berlin to visit our grandchildren there.
The island of Ireland is mainly rural and not very densely populated. It was unusually warm for October in Europe and Ireland is a very pleasant part of the world. It's not unlike Tasmania, and in many other ways familiar, due to a shared language and culture.  Yet it's history over the past few thousand years is labyrinthine in its complexity. Over two weeks we spent many hours in museums around both countries that share this island, fascinated.  As a result, this article contains a long, yet much abbreviated, 'Potted History'. There are also smaller articles on fourteen of the towns we meandered between in our trusty rental car. 
If my spin on the history is no interest to you, you can avoid the verbiage and philosophising. Take a shortcut.  I've put some of our photos into a Google Photos album, instead of making the article even longer:

Read More...

 

>  Central Asia

Amir Timur
Travel

In the footsteps of Marco Polo

In June 2018 we travelled to China before joining an organised tour in Central Asia that, except for a sojourn in the mountains of Tajikistan, followed in the footsteps of Marco Polo along the Great Silk Road.
In medieval times China lay hidden to Europe behind the veil of the terrifying Mongol Empire. Yet Venetians still traded in Chinese silk so at the end of the 13th century Marco Polo, with his father and uncle, followed the thread of silk all the way to China.
After his return he became a prisoner of war in Genoa where he related his amazing experiences at the Court of Kublai Khan to Rustichello da Pisa who subsequently published them as the Travels of Marco Polo.
The things they didn't know they didn't know so shocked and amazed educated Europeans that the Travels of Marco Polo is credited by some historians with initiating the European Renaissance and the collapse of monasticism, leading to the Scientific Revolution and the modern world. 
In Central Asia we too would learn things we didn't know we didn't know.

Read More...

 

>  Hawaii

Hawaiian Flag
Travel

We were there in February and had noticed that it was hot underfoot on Kilauea.

Less that 100 days later, on May 3, a 6.9 level earthquake shook the Island, damaging buildings we had stood in in downtown Hilo, including the Post Office. Several lava vents simultaneously opened east of the Kilauea summit and 2,000 people had to be quickly evacuated as poisonous gasses belched out.

Why is it always just after we leave that things get exciting?

See the May 2018 Addendum at the end of The Volcanos chapter at the end of the Big Island page... 

Read More...

 

>  United States of America - 'middle bits'

Old Glory
Travel

In October 2017 we returned from the United States where for over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations.
In these travel notes I've provided a separate chapter for each significant stop along our way, whether we stayed overnight or not.  My notes have turned out to be very long but could well have been much longer - as it's a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible and interesting.
Much of our time was spent in states that were for a short time in a separate country: The Confederate States of America.  Thus slavery, The Civil War and its consequences loomed large there. 
By far the longest chapter is Andrew Jackson's Hermitage - Tennessee that contains an explanatory short history leading up to that period and beyond that informs many of locations we travelled to.
Readers might like to 'cherry pick' chapters that could interest them for other reasons, like Graceland or NASA or the Grand Canyon, from the contents table.

 

Read More...

 

>  Japan

Shinkansen
Travel

Here is the story of our 2017 Japanese sojourn, when we took a short introductory package tour: Discover Japan 2017 visiting: Narita; Tokyo; Yokohama; Atami; Toyohashi; Kyoto; and Osaka.
Japan has been an important theme throughout my life.  Their unconditional surrender came exactly four weeks before my birth, as a result of the first A-Bombs. 
So that my life spans the nuclear age, the cold war, the space race, Japanese recovery, détente, the digital revolution, biomedical science, and the rise of China.
I couldn't help making one or two historical observations.

 

 

Read More...

 

>  Romania

Capitoline Wolf
Travel

Here it is at last.  I've finally given up my fight with Google Pictures and accepted URLs the length of small essays, just so that I can store my images in The Cloud.
The essay on Southern England uses the old Picasa image storage. But in the middle of writing this, a few days later, Google withdrew it and introduced their mega-URLs. Then, before I could get any further with a solution, I found myself in hospital.  See below.

Anyway I hope this was worth the wait - particularly for those of you who like to travel and have not yet been to Romania.

Read More...

 

>  Korea - addendum or: - How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Jongno Tower, Seoul, S Korea
Travel

The biggest news last year was on American Independence Day, the 4th of July 2017, when North Korea had launched a rocket that travelled vertically to reach an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) well beyond the orbit of the International Space Station. Thus demonstrating that they could put a nuclear weapon into orbit, to strike anywhere on the planet. That N Korea is not bound by The Outer Space Treaty, the convention that prohibits putting these weapons in orbit, is a point the media seemed to ignore.
Since then there have been even better performing rockets and an H bomb test.
So in the new year I've brought this article up the list a bit and added a further update.  Yet irrespective of these recent advances, not a lot has changed. 
As was already evident last July, it is now even more obvious that a land attack on N Korea would risk a retaliatory nuclear attack on the US or an indefensible ally like Australia and ,as ever, any solution needs to be diplomatic.
But like Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, we've learned to 'stop worrying and love the bomb'.
This is largely because of MAD - mutually assured destruction.
So, strangely, I find I'm not too worried.
Unless President Trump really is mad.

Read More...

 

More Travel

Read more Travel...

 


Miscellaneous

>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data
Environment

Bushfires started early this year and are the worst for many years.  We are in for a smoky Christmas.  As a result there have been more strident calls for action on climate change with some declaring that we are facing a 'Climate Emergency' [Read More...]

Yet several friends and acquaintances continue to assert that the climate is beyond our control or that 'Climate Change' is a myth.

Might this be true?

Read More...

 

 

>  The McKie Family

McKie Ginger Beer
History

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.

Read More...

 

>  Luther - Father of the Modern World?

Luther and the witches2
History

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 descendents, 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.

 

Read More...

 

>  Alternative Facts and other Untrue Tales

Parvati - Jodhpur
Fiction

Most fiction has it's 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 require a bit longer.

 

 

Read More...

 

 


 

 

 

 


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Travel

USA - middle bits

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Now I am seventy

 On the occasion of an afternoon tea to mark this significant milestone...

 

When I was one, I was just begun;
When I was two, I was nearly new;
When I was Three, I was hardly me;
*
*
*

But then I was sixty, and as clever as clever;
Wouldn't it be nice to stay sixty for ever and ever?

(With apologies to AA Milne)

 

Hang on!  Now I'm seventy?  How did that happen? 

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Six degrees of separation, conspiracy and wealth

 

 

Sometimes things that seem quite different are, when looked at more closely, related. 

 

Read more ...

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