*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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>  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...

 

>  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.

 

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...

 

>  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 decedents, 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.

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?

 

Read More...

 

>  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
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
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.

 

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...

 

>  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

Egypt, Syria and Jordan

 

 

 

In October 2010 we travelled to three countries in the Middle East: Egypt; Syria and Jordan. While in Egypt we took a Nile cruise, effectively an organised tour package complete with guide, but otherwise we travelled independently: by cab; rental car (in Jordan); bus; train and plane.

On the way there we had stopovers in London and Budapest to visit friends.

The impact on me was to reassert the depth, complexity and colour of this seminal part of our history and civilisation. In particular this is the cauldron in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam were created, together with much of our science, language and mathematics.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Lost Magic

 

 

I recently had another look at a short story I'd written a couple of years ago about a man who claimed to be a Time Lord.

I noticed a typo.  Before I knew it I had added a new section and a new character and given him an experience I actually had as a child. 

It happened one sports afternoon - primary school cricket on Thornleigh oval. 

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?

 

 

Recently, an increasing number of friends and acquaintances has told me that Climate Change is a myth.  

Obviously they are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  

We don't need climate scientists to tell us that the climate changes. Our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that. 

During my lifetime the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

In the longer term we all have to rely on others. For example on scientists who have themselves examined ice cores or tree rings or sea level records or other physical evidence that can be dated. 

So I'm prepared to believe the scientists who have determined sea levels showing that fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago a hypothetical Australian could walk from Tasmania to New Guinea or an Irishman all the way to Java.

 

Changing sea levels during the past 20,000 years
 Source Wikipedia: Early Human Migration & Sea Level change

 

This rise has not stopped.  During my lifetime the average sea level in Sydney Harbour has risen by nearly a foot, in keeping with long term trends.  More water in the Harbour on average obviously has temperature and therefore microclimate implications.  There are thousands of well documented examples of changes like this that have climate impacts.

But like the tides there is great variability that masks the underlying trends.   For example 2014 was a record warm year in Sydney.  But in mid 2015 we were going through the longest cold spell in 45 years.  It snowed in Queensland!

Read more ...

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