Easter is upon us yet again. I know because the chocolate bilbies are back in the supermarket. Soon Christians will use the occasion of the Pagan festival of Eastre (Ēostre), that falls on the first full moon after the equinox, to remember that Christ deliberately died on the cross as their proxy; accepting the sins of the world through his sacrifice. The Ēostre Hare (Easter Bunny) will distribute the pre-Christian eggs and moon buns, reminding us that religions may change but pleasant customs are often more resilient.
But what ever your beliefs it is a fine time to enjoy the company of friends and relations.
Regular visitors to this website will know that I have been on about energy since the site's inception in 2010. Now that I've had the chance to say "I told you so" in the case of South Australia and suggest one solution - Read Here - I've revisited some with new statistics (kindly provided on-line by various government agencies) to confirm that the numbers still support my earlier arguments. Obviously they do or in this post-truth world I'd just be keeping quiet. In particular I've updated the Electricity Storage section of 'How does electricity work?' with South Australia as an example. For those who've recently read it - there are now new supporting data regarding energy production and costs.
Catching the ferry back from seeing Wendy onto the airport train on her way to Iran, I saw a girl with ash on her forehead and realized it was Ash Wednesday. What would I give up for Lent? Undoubtedly the obvious. Then the following day I was wearing a so called 'halter' monitoring my heart for 24 hours to see if death is imminent - perhaps at Easter? And that made me revisit this story, adding some additional personal details.
As Easter approaches I have revisited this story and added an epub download - for e-books.
In 2011 I had my wallet stolen on the train in Buenos Aries. So in this short story I imagined my anti-hero growing up in Rio - perhaps the child of one of the 'working girls' we had seen plying their trade along the beachfront at Copacabana. I gave him a terrible, misanthropic life and made the theft of my wallet as his final undoing.
With the long predicted problems in South Australia and soon in Victoria due to over-dependence on wind generated electricity (follow this link: 'Wind is seldom a good match for the customers’ consumption requirements...' ) clean coal is back in the news as a possible solution. It may come as a surprise to some but coal is not carbon free. Nor is petroleum. Nor is 'natural' gas. Coal-fired supercritical steam technology may get coal close to conventional gas but it comes at a cost and neither are 'clean'. So when people speak of 'clean coal' they usually mean technology that incorporates a means of capturing the combustion by products - in particular carbon dioxide (CO2) and putting them somewhere other than into the atmosphere. I've explored carbon capture and storage also known as carbon sequestration on several past occasions. I'm not a fan as there is an obvious; safer; less expensive; and technically mature; option already in widespread use.
I was recently restored to life after being dead for several hours.
'Really?' you say, 'dead?' What does: 'dead' really mean?
At one time a person who was no longer breathing; who had no heartbeat; was limp and unconscious; and failed to respond to stimuli, like being poked with a knife; or having their heart removed; was pretty certainly dead. Yet while a death certificate may well have been issued for me in the not so distant past, today we set no store by the heart or the lungs or even reflexes as indicators of life but rather the potential recovery of the brain and central nervous system.
Thus I was not actually dead. The colony of cells that is me remained relatively undamaged, still a viable living organism thanks to continuing oxygenated blood supply. In particular my brain was undamaged, so my mind could be restored to awareness when anaesthesia ceased.
In mid July 2016 Wendy and I took flight again to Europe. Those who follow these travel diaries will note that part of out trip last year was cut when Wendy's mum took ill. In particular we missed out on a planned trip to Romania and eastern Germany. This time our British sojourn would be interrupted for a few days by a side-trip to Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark (later posts to come). We spent the initial week in London and after our return from Denmark, toured about the West Country to Cornwall and then east along the South coast as far as Sidmouth.
The 2015 Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies recalls the U-2 Incident, one of those seminal moments when the world would take a new path into the future. In 1960 this otherwise mundane spy flight would swing the result of a US election and thus set the tone for the coming decade. The new President was to make US confrontation with the USSR a hallmark of his term in office. The Cuban Missile Crisis; escalation of the wars in Indochina; conscription; draft dodging; protest; flower-power and a spate of assassinations; can therefore all trace their roots to this incident. On the positive side was the Peace Corps and the 'Space Race' that would lead to rapid technological advance. The technologies of the 21st century: communications and computers; new materials; 'and all that' came from there.
I've been to Berlin several times but have been reluctant to offer an 'off the cuff' summary of this complex city. Instead here are some selected impressions that are by no means intended as a comprehensive analysis.
The recent Australia Day and Invasion Day dispute made me recall again the late, sometimes lamented, British Empire. Because, after all, it was the Empire that was the genesis of Australia Day. For a brief history of that institution I can recommend Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson. It may also have some relevance to US hegemony - Amerika über alles!
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.
Have you read this???
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What can I say about Cuba?
In the late ‘70s I lived on the boundary of Paddington in Sydney and walked to and from work in the city. Between my home and work there was an area of terrace housing in Darlinghurst that had been resumed by the State for the construction of a road tunnel and traffic interchanges. Squatters had moved into some of the ‘DMR affected’ houses. Most of these were young people, students, rock bands and radically unemployed alternative culture advocates; hippies.
Those houses in this socially vibrant area that were not condemned by the road building were rented to people who were happy with these neighbours: artists; writers; musicians; even some younger professionals; and a number were brothels.
He was someone I once knew or so I thought. One of those familiar faces I thought I should be able to place.
What was he to me? An ex-colleague, the friend of a friend, someone from school? In appearance he's a more handsome version of me, around the same size and colouring. Possibly slimmer, it’s hard to tell sitting. Maybe younger? But not young enough to be one of my children’s friends. I just couldn’t remember.
The stereotypical Australian is a sports lover and a gambler. Social analysis supports this stereotype. In Australia most forms of gambling are legal; including gambling on sport. Australians are said to lose more money (around $1,000 per person per year) at gambling than any other society. In addition we, in common with other societies, gamble in many less obvious ways.
In recent weeks the Australian preoccupation with gambling has been in the headlines in Australia on more than one level.