*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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>  Mega Battery for South Australia

Have I still got the energy?Energy

Back in March 2017, with his characteristic hyperbole, Billionaire space explorer Elon Musk told South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill that his Tesla battery company could 'solve South Australia’s energy crisis within 100 days.'  Go Here - to revisit the South Australian 'crisis'.
Like the fabled mayor of Hamelin, Jay, desperate to save face after leading the State to the energy abyss, leapt at the offer. All his energy problems would be solved. 
Now the deal is signed.  The Pied Piper is to provide the world's biggest battery, a 100 MW/129 MWh Tesla Powerpack, in a 100 days... 'or your money back'.  
"Hooray for Jay!" shouted the media.
Meanwhile, Federal Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, cautiously welcomed the forthcoming delivery of "the 'world's largest' lithium-ion battery to help secure South Australia's power grid", while humbly submitting that: "it will not solve all the state's energy problems".  Was he implying that 100 MW is a drop in the bucket, in a State with 1,600 MW of rapidly fluctuating wind generation?  
In an attempt to regain the initiative he proposed his 'superior' solution, a big bucket indeed: 'package' pumped hydro-electricity.
Yet could both 'fixes' be woefully inadequate?  The cost of both these storage methods certainly brings water to the eyes.
Nevertheless, like Ol' Blue Eyes': 'ant and the rubber tree plant' both Jay and Josh have 'high hopes'.

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

Jongno Tower, Seoul, S Korea
Travel

The big news on American Independence Day, the 4th of July 2017, was that North Korea has launched a rocket that travelled vertically to reach an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles).
That probably means that they could put an H bomb in orbit. But although nuclear annihilation has worried my generation for most of our lives, starting with the first man-made satellites in the 1960's, 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.

 

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>  The Craft - Chapter 12 - The Cloud

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball
Fiction

This is a sample chapter from my somewhat saucy novella The Craft (be warned). It's a prequel to the earlier novella, also called The Cloud. So it's promoting or killing two birds with one stone.
If your interest is piqued go back to the beginning - don't click (Next >>)
Like painting, writing fiction amuses me, painting with words, but I acknowledge that I'm just a dilettante, messing about in retirement.  Yet some obviously find my stories amusing.  These two have attracted well over twenty thousand hits each and hundreds of sessions, in their various iterations, having evolved and grown over time.
Does practice make perfect? 
When I flick the pages at the remaindered book-stand at the Mall I'm quickly disabused. No perfection there! How on earth do all these books get edited, published and distributed - complete with cover art?  Most represent months or years of someone's life - now remaindered at less than the printing cost. And all those trees killed to no purpose.  At least I'm not guilty of that.

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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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>  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.

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>  Losing my religion

Losing my religion
Ideas

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.

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>  The Meaning of Death

Etherial Richard
News

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. 

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>  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.

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>  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.

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>  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.

 

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>  Australia and Empire

british empire 1922 tNews

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!

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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.

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...

 

>  Clean Coal

303px Carbon sequestrationEnergy

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. 

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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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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? 

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Origin of Life - according to God

 

 

Yesterday I had another visit from our neighbourhood Jehovah's Witnesses,  a pretty young woman and her husband, recently married.   Like Daniel (mentioned elsewhere on this website) before them, they had brought copies of The Watchtower and Awake; which I agreed to read if they were prepared to read my paper  The Life Eternal  (a refutation).

I keep a couple of copies of The Life Eternal for just such occasions and have also given a copy to the local Anglican minister and to various other active proselytisers in the area; with similar conditions.  Of course I know it will not change their position but I do like to have the debate and amazingly so do they; it beats the usual reception they get and they get some practice in trying to convert un-believers.  When they asked my position I quickly summarised that in the The Life Eternal

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