10 December 2014

taxonomised, putting thoughts in boxes?

The problem is that with one blog, like this one, you pack so many different things in that it becomes as jumbled as one's own mind! :-)

A place for everything, and everything having its place!
Car park, Queensland Art Gallery Photo Stephen Tardrew 2014
So fissiparous tendencies creep in, a yearning to put things in separate boxes. Single travel events cry out for separateness, as with Japan earlier this year and now preparations for Mexico next year and so you split your brain and your writing into separate blogs for separate subjects.

And life gets a new focus, so you devote a blog to sustainable life in a suburban food forest. Soon enough writing things there that have a wider perspective.

And then someone urges, pushes me, to write more on the current murky strategic environment and the horrors of current Australian national policy... and I start another blog on that recently, separate again, so as to try to give focus and maybe avoid taint to more personal, more artistic stuff put here in the past. And from the strategic blog I have to link back to the garden blog.

Why write all this?  ... Doubtless old habits, compulsions to write. I scribble therefore I am. To paraphrase Descartes's cogito ergo sum ("I think therefore I am") and Aldous Huxleys futuo ergo sum, "I fuck therefore I am". Both of which have merits. But here on this non-paper, writing the visible expression, the articulation of meaning, and without that, what evidence of life. Perhaps if Descartes had not written so much, modern science would not have gotten so screwed up, by his separation of mind and body and his encouragement of reductionist thinking, the fantasy that if you study the nut and bolt you get to know the process of life.

I leave to any patient reader who has gotten this far to decide whether here and elsewhere my writing makes sense. Whatever, seize the dog.

11 March 2014

Back to blog - back to Brisbane

I have not posted to this blog for some months.

Reviving to put here some photos today while visiting Suse and Stephen in Brisbane.

Suse otherwise committed this morning, Stephen and I went to the Art Gallery.

Here some photos, for photos' sake not representative of the gallery. Exhibit items mixed merit, to our mind, but buildings in the art precinct impressive.

We begin at home, early morning...

[click on any image for gallery of all photos enlarged]

This is a wall of work by Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Among many past career experiences, Stephen has taught dance  :-)

These are details of a huge work

15 October 2013

a walk in the city

Weekend 12-13 October: From lunchtime in Marrickville then after dinner walk in King St Newtown, through the campus of Sydney University, from which both of us graduates, then Glebe Rd next morning; finally, back in Helen's wondrous front yard in Gerringong.

Lunch was at '2204' - cafe in Addison Rd, Marrickville. Great look, great coffee and food.
Wall detail 2204
The Australian Union Choir, see blog entry below

Enmore Rd

The writing on is on the wall, King St

This is a view through the fence from where I took the last photo, 3 second exposure, hand held

Entry to the quadrangle, University of Sydney

Well, the left door led, 50 years ago, to Anthropology, from whence Dennis's honours degree

Breezy exit from the quadrangle, view to city

Out in the dark, we found (by ear) one of the several pianos in the open around the university, family delight
Glebe Rd is somewhat upmarket from King St

refined in the morning as well as evening, thank you. Redheads roolz!

on opening bedroom door in hotel, Sunday morning

and back to Helen's front yard

where the mulberry is being manipulated

a chance encounter with the Australian Union Choir

In Sydney Saturday 12 October:

10 October 2013

timeline for climate 'tip'... strategic issues will be many...

Climate studies have spoken of how things might be in 2050, 2100, etc.

A study published in Nature today takes a different approach, endeavouring to pin down dates on which particular places may tip into a 'new normal' of hotter and wilder (including hotter, colder, more persistently extreme and violent) climate.

Reuters offered summary here, but it is worth looking at the openly accessible bits in Nature, including the three Figures at the bottom. All sobering.

Where on the maps there is the slightest suggestion that in some ways Australia (and Argentina) may lag a bit behind in the timeline, we will already be caught up in the many international strategic consequences as other places begin to suffer.

No discussion of this at APEC this week (but there is a reference to 'investment climate'), nor at the East Asia Summit, where the big background issue is sharing or not sharing oil under the South China Sea.

A small contest compared with those arising from climate change.

It's thirty years since surveys showed that the majority of young Australians expected to experience a nuclear war. Perhaps that, and the fact that it didn't happen, contributed to some generational attitudes including expectation that climate change won't happen or if it does, there's nothing to be done about it. There's sort of a hole in that thinking, in that even if one argues that itty bitty contributions by people in one country (albeit the richest in the world with one of the highest carbon footprints per capita) individual adjustment to big future problems at family and community level deserves forethought! Somewhere though, back in that period 25 years ago, we learned to look no further than the next 12 months in business planning. John Elliot, in the days when he presided over the Liberal Party in oblivion, knocked dead a series of his acquisitions, keeping only profit centres defined as being able to turn a whacking profit in the next 12 months with no view beyonder. While adding sugar to beer to draw in the young palates, more sugar in the IXL jam to make it cheaper.

Lord Krebs, President elect of British Science Association, in The Guardian today writes of the inadequacy of 'nudge' policies to change social attitudes. Would that we had nudge in Australia, land of fudge and not-budge.


I've saved my garden (I hope) from extravagant heat today (anticipated 38 degrees C, hottest October day on record) with water early in the morning.

And have been researching electric bikes. The electric bike industry reminds me of the PC industry about 25 years ago, with a hectic array of labels and qualities, back when still a lot of people liked to take the computers apart and put them together again (like cars, in 1910) and the really big challenge among bike options now, as for those things before, is to find one you don't have to improve and fiddle with and that's really fit for significant future outside the scrap heap. I think I may have found one, wait and see... :-)

04 October 2013

Climate gets real

I found this report of the climate scientist who reached the point of emotional realisation that it related to his own life very reassuring.

We have reached a point with the fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) where it's just dumb to pretend it's not real, to pretend major damage to the planet is not happening... and dumb just to keep nagging the academic truth. So good to see a scientist shift from earnest constant assertion to act like the doctor prepared to take the pills herhimself.

Of course it's not just the air, the weather. It's the sea, the soil and water generally. And things like bees. Bees? Yes, no bees, no pollination, no food. Pretty much, slow almost full stop.

Until fairly recently we had the prospect of sanity developing via price mechanism, with peak oil. But coal seam gas has pushed that off, while at the same time complicating the imperative of practical as well as moral realisation that if we burn all we have to burn, it will include our own species, pretty much. How to shift from mad consumption, with so much of 'advanced' civilisation employed marketing crap and self-indulgence.

I have to begin to resolve things myself. Though at 70 I am not going to see the 'catastrophe' 30 years from now.

Japan, China, Indonesia all now have carbon reduction goals far better than Australia's. The new Australian government disassembles climate policy; many Australians say we can't shift first.

But we can look at our leading responsibility given huge coal resources.
In 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) acknowledged that, in the absence of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, more than two thirds of coal, oil and gas reserves cannot be burnt before 2050 if we are to have a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 2°C. These are not great odds
of landing the plane safely.
[source: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/verve/_resources/Unburnable_Carbon_Australias_Carbon_Bubble_finalreport.pdf]

for there to be an 80 per cent chance of achieving internationally agreed targets of limiting global warming to 2°C, only 20-40 per cent of existing coal, gas and oil reserves can be burnt. - See more at: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/articles/media-releases/www.climateinstitute.org.au/unburnable-carbon.html#sthash.re3LZuJh.dpuf
 And the same document noted this - it's also a business sense issue, if people at board tables and heading programs in resource industries can think beyond the next promotion or bonus:
Reviewing all the measures in the key export markets for Australian coal indicated that all are taking action to reduce emissions. These countries in fact rank fairly high up the scale of effort. Notably, China has recently announced its plan for energy consumption to peak at 4 billion tonnes coal equivalent within the current five year plan. The IEA projects China’s coal consumption will peak within the next 10 years (assuming all policies currently announced are actually implemented). Beyond this, there is a global trend of a tightening regulatory framework for the coal sector, whether it be driven by concerns around cost, air quality, water availability, or climate change. This has resulted in heightened competition as coal producers are displaced from their traditional markets (eg the US). Technological advances and policy support measures are also seeing alternatives such as wind power become cheaper than coal generation, including in Australia itself now.
 I have written some more relevant to this at my sustainable home food forest blog, link in sidebar.
for there to be an 80 per cent chance of achieving internationally agreed targets of limiting global warming to 2°C, only 20-40 per cent of existing coal, gas and oil reserves can be burnt. - See more at: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/articles/media-releases/www.climateinstitute.org.au/unburnable-carbon.html#sthash.re3LZuJh.dpuf
for there to be an 80 per cent chance of achieving internationally agreed targets of limiting global warming to 2°C, only 20-40 per cent of existing coal, gas and oil reserves can be burnt. - See more at: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/articles/media-releases/www.climateinstitute.org.au/unburnable-carbon.html#sthash.re3LZuJh.dpuf
for there to be an 80 per cent chance of achieving internationally agreed targets of limiting global warming to 2°C, only 20-40 per cent of existing coal, gas and oil reserves can be burnt. - See more at: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/articles/media-releases/www.climateinstitute.org.au/unburnable-carbon.html#sthash.re3LZuJh.dpuf

28 August 2013


The situation in Syria, with consideration of how to respond to the use of chemical weapons there, arises in the middle of a national election campaign in Australia, when Australia is about to take up chairmanship of the UN Security Council.

I have written thus to Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr:

Dear Bob

We have not seen each other since days when you were environment minister and I was ambassador to China.

I wrote to your predecessor ten years ago thus:
http://aplaceof.info/peace/200309downer.htm in particular to say:

"...that since September 2001 we have been watching events and strategic responses unfolding as at the outbreak of war in 1914:

• Delusions of moral rectitude.
• Defence of imperial status quo.
• Nothing but narrow military options.
• Resort to alliances, hostility to thought.
• Vilification of the enemy, climate of fear and promotion of paranoia.
• Simplistic notions of victory, expectations of speedy end.
• Failure to address real wider issues.
• Enveloping sea of violence."

I do understand the awfulness of chemical weapons. I do nonetheless urge awareness that we remain in that slow-World-War-I-like situation of spreading war without sufficient consideration of non-military options. Theoretically democracies are less prone to war, but in reality it seems democracies slide quite easily to war but have immense difficulties finding ways of avoiding war and accepting terms for war cessation.

I remain of the view I have held since the early 1980s (Iran-Iraq, Israeli's march 'briefly' into Lebanon) that "...it is in the nature of modern war that it tends, more than anything else - certainly it does not tend to ‘victory’ - to import into the righteous invading countries the problems you seek to eliminate by invading."

Clausewitz did say that statesmen should regard war as an instrument of policy, but noted that war can tend to drive out policy and pursue its own ends. This is not a situation to be begun in Syria, it is a situation in which we are already embedded.

with best wishes to you in an awfully combined situation of domestic and international roles.


15 July 2013

metaphor: the downhill dribble of mind and politics

Today The Guardian carries a column from John Naughton of The Observer, on metaphor in intelligence systems combing everyday discussion searching for metaphorical mindsets, contriving to link it using a metaphor to the Chinese Government's approach to managing the media with a measure of subtlety, as one might manage engineered water systems. Article entitled:
The great firewall of China gets metaphorical: The Chinese government's increasingly sophisticated approach to censorship demands a new interpretation
 I offered a comment, then a followup comment, you will see I manage to return to my despond about Australian politics too:
The notion of metaphor can move the brain either to opening or to clickclacky simplification and dogma; The latter more evident in this discussion than the former.
I am very conscious in broader historical context (and it's quite useful to consider this metaphorically in terms of water if we keep the natural river and ocean and atmosphere water movement in view, not just human engineering) that for Chinese leaders and most [Chinese] citizens there is not much example to follow as sociopolitical model. Where to flow, where to break banks and sea walls; where and how to limit and control.
Metaphorically we might constructively describe much of the preoccupation of the developed world's polity as bottom pimple comparison and ridicule. Along with tsunamis of absurdism in avoidance of blindingly obvious critical problems.
Can we get enough empathy to see how difficult it is to run and ameliorate a country with 1.3 billion people .... without the help of R Murdoch, S Berlusconi, etc.
Pursuing the aqueous progress metaphor and its evidence of downhillism of the cerebral potential of Homo urbis, the evidence is there not just in the comments sections but also in those cute sections or footers which draw us, like the flush of toilet bowls to what is most popular.
Were I to have command of a large and complicated country just for any moment I trust I would try a bit to keep the citizen brain away from self-destructive addition to useless water flows by dribbling behind the levee banks of wankerie.
I am carried forward towards a national election in Australia by media which by and large, vaguely insightful that we will get a leader choice between hubris and mucus, fail to see in the mirror that that is about what most of them offer themselves.
My second comment more elevated perhaps:

It is rewarding to go back to John Naughton's earlier article to which he links and to which this is also a link.
This article by Ray Peat is insightful on metaphor:
Academic authoritarians, language, metaphor, animals, & science
When something new is noticed, it excites the brain, and causes attention to be focused, in the “orienting reflex.” The various senses participate in examining the thing, in a physiological way of asking a question. Perception of new patterns and the formation of generalizations expands the ways in which questions are asked. When words are available, questions may be verbalized. The way in which questions are answered verbally may be useful, but it often diverts the questioning process, and provides rules and arbitrary generalizations that may take the place of the normal analogical processes of intelligence. The vocabulary of patterns no longer expands spontaneously, but tends to come to rest in a system of accepted opinions.
So, generally, even the new must fit the old moulds. How should we proceed to awareness of the moulds by which our brains are strangled daily.
To imagine that reporting in some idealised western circumstance is somehow pure suggests we should at least metaphorically revisit the tabloid sub-editor's table around which I trembling crept as a copy boy, fifty years ago, and to which journalists approached with varied degrees of courage, their stories written one sentence per single A5-ish piece of butchers' paper, loosely pinned together, for subeditors to throw in the bin, re-order, part-remove, rewrite, calling in the miscreate at some point to explain comparative wisdom, authority and marketing insight.
What Ray describes is the inevitability of spin, conscious, subconscious, unconscious; denied or contrived . Who says who should have charge of that? That's the question.
 I wonder why I write comments... I suppose I have some notion that anything that goes to the internet trickles down eventually somewhere and may kick a neurone usefully, maybe not. But we outside the spheres of notoriety can expect no more, failing public indecency, a heavy price for notoriety.

When I had a tractor I would pass the time while driving hither and thither composing letters to government ministers and auditors general; seldom later sent. Like those composed in the restless night, they were often less meaningful if one attempted later transcription. I suppose that in terms of management of my frontal lobes, like other people theirs, offering comments is thus valuable, especially now I am 70, uncommitted to any employer, needing to do something definitely different from Sudoku.

It is important, I think, when writing, to say something new. Including neological contribution to the language.

As to providing supplementary comment, there is that thing that happens when you press 'send' or equivalent: The "oh-I-should-have-said" phenomenon.

When I trained for the foreign service, an eminent (within those walls) senior diplomatic figure gave us some golden rules. I relate three, to give the third of them proper context:

[1] "If yew mest merry, merry menny." (I offer accent to show superciliousness, say it aloud with curled lip, a tad pizzicato with a little timbre of inharmonicity and nasalisation.)

[2] "When you are planning the dinner party, ensure you have the right mix of tall poppies and short poppies. Remember tall poppies are never comfortable unless they have some short poppies with whom to compare themselves."

and thirdly, he said

[3] "Beware of esprit d'escalier. Write what happened in the foreign ministry, not what you thought of going out the door." Note that when spoken, this has great impact given the pizzicatoliness of [1] and extension of that through pronunciation of repeated poppies in [2]... this flows into a contrapunted slithery sound of scathing cadence in [3]. +++

Nowadays I don't have to worry about [3] because most of the people I've been talking to are in my head.***

As regards that esprit d',  Sir Harold Nicolson once said, as I once read but can't find citation, he had never seen a record of any conversation in any foreign ministry archive in the world in which the author of the record did not win the argument.

For fun, see the high dudgeon of Herbert Highstone regarding Nicolson here and the diversity of his commentary here. And see, see, he learned to think about a thousand rageable things while working on the farm, I'm sure.And Herbert always wins, same glorious fate of most others who write comments. I have, to put Nicolson around another way, seldom had a discussion with anyone who was wrong.

I think that the plaster on the wall will be dry enough for me to go and paint now... :-)


+++ how you say things is almost everything, as the actress may have said to the bishop.

***The novelist's privilege. Great chance of avoiding the straight jacket or psychopharmacologist:
 "No no, you don't understand, the voices are OK, I'm a novelist!"