*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

  • Harem Khiva Uzbekistan

Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2019

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>  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.

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>  The First Man on the Moon

Kennedy and moon
In the News

At 12.56 pm on 21 July 1969 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) Neil Armstrong became the first man to step down onto the Moon.
I was at work that day but it was lunchtime. Workplaces did not generally run to television sets and I initially saw it in 'real time' in a shop window in the city. Later that evening I would watch a full replay at my parents' home. They had a 'big' 26" TV - the same size as my desktop computer screen - black and white of course.
Given the early failures, and a few deaths, the decision to televise the event in 'real time' to the international public was taking a risk.
But the whole space program was controversial in the US and sceptics needed to be persuaded.

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>  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:

See the Album...   

Read the Article...

 

>  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.

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>  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... 

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>  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.

 

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>  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.

 

 

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>  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.

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>  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.

 

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>  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.

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>  Electric Cars revisited

Hybrid car senses guilt
Environment

In 2005 I calculated that as a result of most of our electricity coming from coal burning; the inefficiencies involved in converting that heat to electricity; and the losses involved in transmitting and delivering that energy to the wheels; fully electric cars had a larger 'carbon footprint' than conventional, petrol driven, cars. 

Quite a bit has changed since then. So in the light of the present popular enthusiasm for all-electric cars is this still the case?   This time I took a different approach - comparing three 'real world' examples.

Read More...

 

>  More on Technology and Evolution

He Jiankui
Ideas

2018 will be remembered, long after President Trump's seemingly endless parade of White House dismissals, 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?  Time will tell. 

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?

 

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>  Through the Looking Glass

I've seen some wierd shit
Energy

Fans of the Reverend Dodgson's (Lewis Carroll's) work will recall some 'weird shit' in Wonderland like: Alice growing and shrinking; a disembodied cat coming and going; and babies turning into pigs.
These adventures are put into the shade by Alice's subsequent experiences: Through the Looking Glass. 
Recently I had to pinch myself to check that our screen had not somehow turned itself into Lewis Carroll's looking glass and sucked me through to the other side. 
Like one of their fanciful tourism advertisements I was told the Victorians are about to turn dirty coal (carbon) into clean green hydrogen (hydrogen).   Modern day Alchemists indeed.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves; Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe...

 

Read More...

 

>  The Meaning of Death

Etherial Richard
My News

On the subject of death, I was subsequently 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. 

Read More...

 

>  Skydiving

Coming Down to Earth
My News

In an earlier brush with death, 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. Not that I was likely to benefit from any insurance payout.  Skydiving accidents are usually fatal.

 

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>  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.

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>  Alternative Facts and other Untrue Tales

Parvati - Jodhpur
Fiction

Most fiction has it's roots in real events.  Yet the flights of fancy (lies) these inspire can be more fun. Some of these tales can be read in a few minutes others require a bit longer.

 

 

Read More...

 

 


 

 

 

 


    Have you read this???     -  this content changes with each opening of a menu item


Travel

Burma (Myanmar)

 

 

This is a fascinating country in all sorts of ways and seems to be most popular with European and Japanese tourists, some Australians of course, but they are everywhere.

Since childhood Burma has been a romantic and exotic place for me.  It was impossible to grow up in the Australia of the 1950’s and not be familiar with that great Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson’s rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s 'On the Road to Mandalay' recorded two decades or so earlier:  

Come you back to Mandalay
Where the old flotilla lay
Can't you hear their paddles chunking
From Rangoon to Mandalay

On the road to Mandalay
Where the flying fishes play
And the Dawn comes up like thunder
out of China 'cross the bay

The song went Worldwide in 1958 when Frank Sinatra covered it with a jazz orchestration, and ‘a Burma girl’ got changed to ‘a Burma broad’; ‘a man’ to ‘a cat’; and ‘temple bells’ to ‘crazy bells’.  

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Cloud

 

 

 

 

 Chapter 1 - The Party

 

 

 

This morning Miranda had an inspiration - real candles!  We'll have real candles - made from real beeswax and scented with real bergamot for my final party as a celebration of my life and my death. This brief candle indeed!

In other circumstances she would be turning 60 next birthday.  With her classic figure, clear skin and dark lustrous hair, by the standards of last century she looks half her age, barely thirty, the result of a good education; modern scientific and medical knowledge; a healthy diet and lifestyle and the elimination of inherited diseases before the ban on such medical interventions. 

It's ironical that except as a result of accidents, skiing, rock climbing, paragliding and so on, Miranda's seldom had need of a doctor.  She's a beneficiary of (once legal) genetic selection and unlike some people she's never had to resort to an illegal back-yard operation to extend her life. 

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

World Population – again and again

 

 

David Attenborough hit the headlines yet again in 15 May 2009 with an opinion piece in New Scientist. This is a quotation:

 

‘He has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a think tank on population growth and environment with a scary website showing the global population as it grows. "For the past 20 years I've never had any doubt that the source of the Earth's ills is overpopulation. I can't go on saying this sort of thing and then fail to put my head above the parapet."

 

There are nearly three times as many people on the planet as when Attenborough started making television programmes in the 1950s - a fact that has convinced him that if we don't find a solution to our population problems, nature will:
"Other horrible factors will come along and fix it, like mass starvation."

 

Bob Hawke said something similar on the program Elders with Andrew Denton:

 

Read more ...

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