*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)

Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2015

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>  South Australian Blackout

collapsed grid pylon Melrose SA ABC News Tom Fedorowytsch t
Energy

South Australia has just experienced a total blackout. If you are interested in the possibility of this happening elsewhere you might want to re-read one or two historic articles on this Website:

Electricity Pricing was written in 2012 about the Carbon Tax that is no more.  But it outlines the operation of the National Electricity Market (NEM) - still current - and touches on the peculiar situation in SA and Tasmania drawing attention to the high cost of blackouts. It also points to aging grid (transmission tower) infrastructure in some States.

Read More...

Renewable Electricity was an earlier paper published in 2010.  It discusses the disadvantages of too a high reliance on Wind.  For example the turbines can't be run in a high storm, transmission towers or not and they can't easily be re-started if the grid is down. This paper forecasts problems in South Australia if they pressed on with too much wind.  Since then they have not desisted and have actually decommissioned base load generation.

Read More...

The vulnerability of our grid is not new news. In Electricity Shocks I encouraged readers to have a look at my daughter Emily's paper 'Sustainable Smart Grid', that points to these very risks.
As she says: "Brittle energy infrastructure is optimised for efficiency, but efficiency isn’t very robust. A robust system would operate even when part of the system fails. The smart grid has vulnerabilities that are not robust."

Read More...

 

>  Southern England

Port_Isaac thumb
Travel

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.

Read More...

 

>  South Korea (& China)

P1100792 thumb
Travel

I hadn't written up our trip to South Korea (in March 2016) but Google Pictures gratuitously put an album together from my Cloud library so I was motivated to add a few words and put it up on my Website. Normally I would use selected images to illustrate observations about a place visited. This is the other way about, with a lot of images that I may not have otherwise chosen.
A few days in Seoul were followed by travels around the country, helpfully illustrated in the album by Google generated maps: a picture is worth a thousand words; ending back in Seoul before spending a few days in China on the way home to OZ.

 

Read More...

 

>  Bali

Travel
Travel

At the end of February 2016 Wendy and I took a package-deal to visit Bali.
I had not been to Bali since 1973 and it has changed remarkably.
Back then Bali was was recovering from mass death and political problems and was low on the tourist agenda.
The only tourists we saw there were fellow travellers from the cruise ship we were on.
In Ubud and Denpasar chooks ran in the street and colonial buildings decayed.

 

Read More...

 

>  Greyhound Racing

Jack Lang
History

Rather bravely, the New South Wales State Government has accepted the recommendation of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound ​Racing Industry in NS​​W and announced the end of Greyhound Racing in the State from July 1 2017.  The Australian Capital Territory Government quickly followed suit. 
Some years ago I remarked, in an article on NSW history, that it was the NSW State Government that started the Greyhound Racing industry.  That was in the Depression, in the time of 'Big' Jack Lang, and a great deal of harm ensued.  Lang was later dismissed by the NSW Governor.  But it was not for further impoverishing families 'doing it tough'.  By that time dog racing had already become endemic in the State.

For 'Big' Jack Lang's role - Read More here...

Like many people, I have always been concerned about how attractive gambling can apparently be to people who can ill afford it.  If people like the Packers want to gamble for recreation or a thrill that's one thing but a mum or dad spending the rent and grocery money on a slim chance to get rich is quite another.  Greyhound Racing has always been targeted on these very people  Sure, poker machines are even more insidious but that has proven to be an issue that's just too much to bite off and chew. Greyhound trainers have made themselves an easy target.  It's hard to be cruel to poker machines and they don't need to be blooded on rabbits. 

For Gambling in Australia - Read More here...

 

>  A little fiction...

Book Short Stories thumb
Fiction

If you have previously read one of my stories and enjoyed it you might like to have another look. 

An advantage (or disadvantage) of e-publishing is that writings are not cast in hot type and committed to a printed volume.  This allows an author to revisit them from time to time;  to re-imagine passages; to tidy up; and expand on ideas.  Thus they e-books are works in progress.

The risk is that stories get over-baked and ruined.  Let the reader be the judge.

Here are a few of a dozen I have published - click on their name to open them.

The Time Lord (science fiction?) was recently updated and extended. 

The Secret (a travel tale) is a similar length - it's been changed several times.

If you would like something shorter and more comic try A Twisted Pigs' Tale  (a twisted fairy story)

His Life in a Can (a domestic tragedy) is also a quick read but rather more dark.

The Password (another travel tale) will take you a little longer.  It's my fantasy revenge on the pair who stole my wallet in BA.

The Soul of the Matter (yet another travel inspired story) and April Fools' Day (paranoia on a ferry) are longer again.

But if you want to read a novel length story on your device then you should read my latest: The Craft, a prequel to The Cloud (a dystopian-Shakespearean science fiction) still very much under development - my writing process on display.  WARNING The Craft contains adult themes and witchcraft and a couple of naughty words.

 

>  Recollections of 1960 - the U2 Incident

Movie poster
Recollections

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.

Read More...

 

>  Berlin

Berliner Dom
Travel

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.

 

Read More...

 

>  Now I am Seventy

RAF_Rehabilitation_Centre_Hoylake
News

An edited speech made on the occasion of a garden party to mark my achieving my seventieth year.

 

It's self explanatory.

Read More...

>  Skydiving

Coming Down to Earth
News

For my 70th Birthday Wendy took me at my word and bought me a voucher to go Skydiving.  I've always wanted to try it and 75 is a limit for insurance.

Read More...

 

>  Climate Change - a Myth?

Ice core data
Environment

Partly in response to my article Carbon Footprints (below) several friends and acquaintances have told me 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...

 


 

 

 


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Travel

Southern France

Touring in the South of France

September 2014

 

Lyon

Off the plane we are welcomed by a warm Autumn day in the south of France.  Fragrant and green.

Lyon is the first step on our short stay in Southern France, touring in leisurely hops by car, down the Rhône valley from Lyon to Avignon and then to Aix and Nice with various stops along the way.

Months earlier I’d booked a car from Lyon Airport to be dropped off at Nice Airport.  I’d tried booking town centre to town centre but there was nothing available.

This meant I got to drive an unfamiliar car, with no gearstick or ignition switch and various other novel idiosyncrasies, ‘straight off the plane’.  But I managed to work it out and we got to see the countryside between the airport and the city and quite a bit of the outer suburbs at our own pace.  Fortunately we had ‘Madam Butterfly’ with us (more of her later) else we could never have reached our hotel through the maze of one way streets.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Getting about

 

 


This article contains a series of recollections from my childhood growing up in Thornleigh; on the outskirts of Sydney Australia in the 1950s. My parents emigrated to Australia in 1948 when I was not quite three years old and my brother was a babe in arms.
 

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Opinions and Philosophy

The demise of books and newspapers

 

 

Most commentators expect that traditional print media will be replaced in the very near future by electronic devices similar to the Kindle, pads and phones.  Some believe, as a consequence, that the very utility of traditional books and media will change irrevocably as our ability to appreciate them changes.  At least one of them is profoundly unsettled by this prospect; that he argues is already under way. 

Read more ...

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