Monday, 26 November 2012

Points to watch when moving to Alaska.

Hey Ethel!
Where’s that old orange settee?
What Gran’pappy Scruggs gave to me?
I’m sure the pantechnicon
had all the furniture on
back at Gall’tin Tennessee!

 Hey Stanley!
You bought that settee new at Sears
and sat on it drinking for years.
caused disintegration;
the house falling down round your ears!

 Hey Reader!
Take heed of the moral here showed,
(such wisdom is rarely bestowed).
“If you’re moving house,
be sure your old couch
is in with the rest of the load!”

Sit back on your favourite chair and enjoy more poems and stories by clicking on  Magpie Tales.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Wells of wisdom.

How does one deal with an illogical argument? I am talking about the common error of extrapolation, where one set of facts apparently disproves another but when logic is applied, both sets of facts are shown to be true and independent.

I came across just such an argument last week, and because it challenged one of my pet concerns, I was forced to take another look at my premises. The argument was about climate change, and my friend Ross attempted to convince me that Climate Change was a myth, perpetrated by interest groups. He showed me evidence, based on ancient rainfall records around the Nile as measured in the depth of a well, going back thousands or years.

Those records suggest weather events occur in a twenty-one year cycle. He then claimed that current weather extremes were no more than expressions of that cycle. Ergo, climate change was not the cause. I read the evidence and it was compelling, except for one thing. There was a logical disconnect. The twenty-one year cycle had nothing to do with Climate Change. Climate change will alter long established cycles, some dramatically, particularly if sea currents change in direction and/or intensity. But has cause-effect been established between Climate Change and recent weather extremes experienced in North America, Pakistan and Eastern Australia, for example?

Last year’s Brisbane floods were not quite a record, New York’s storm surge was not quite a record, and in Pakistan records were not kept so to claim a simple cause-effect is ‘dangerous’. However, I did hear that Mississippi flooding reached one in five hundred year levels four times in the last twenty years. The chance those floods were a natural deviation are millions to one against.

It seems likely Ross’s twenty-one year cycle has been lifted in its entirety to a new level of intensity by higher energy levels retained within the global climate system. The twenty-one year cycle can be superimposed over the general climate change trend so they are both true.

Then Serendipity intervened with bad news and good news. The bad news came with the ABC show Catalyst that examined a hundred years of Australian weather records and showed the continent has heated by an average one degree, driving tropical and sub-tropical fish species south and caused extremes of temperature that was illustrated by birds falling from the sky. Then yesterday on RN Radio, as I drove along the shore, reinforced by rock walls against sea surge, that a simple experiment on Heron Island into ocean acidity proved beyond doubt that by the end of this century, that is, when babies born now are only a little older than I am now, no sea creatures that evolved to be calcium dependant will have survived. Such creatures include corals and those with shells. So what was the good news?

For the first time since European settlement of the Australian continent, energy use has fallen. Australians have the highest uptake of solar technology in the world. We are still the highest per capita polluters, but there is a glimmer of hope.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Decisions, decisions!

One look,
it took.
Miserable out;
staying in!

Some are born into the most inhospitable environments and of those, most stay.
I still wonder why, but in truth the answer is in my own behaviour. I too go out.
Thanks again to Tess at Magpie Tales for the prompt and opportunity to go where otherwise I would not.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Slaughter house.

Where a million
children died
for kaiser, president and king.

And in the end,
a victory yields
but rubble, bones and grief.

A sad reminder from Magpie Tales and Felix Vallotton that war has reached its use-by-date.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

What we talked about at the U3A meeting this week.

I was about to write about the Obama win and how welcome that is to we foreigners. You might well say it is none of our business, but in fact US foreign policy has been Australia’s foreign policy for over seventy years, with our troops supporting US troops in every conflict during that time, despite misgivings in our electorate that is strengthening as we concentrate on relationships within our region. We see Obama as more likely to negotiate solutions than to embark on another ‘shock and awe’ adventure than a Republican Commander In Chief.

Preschoolers in Beijing. 
Instead I will tell you of a most interesting conversation with a Chinese woman who emigrated to Australia twenty years ago, but visits her family in China. The context was a U3A group that discusses current events, and as she was there, was asked about elections in China and what she thought would be the direction taken economically and politically.

 She said the fear in China was politics of the Left, now fighting a rear guard action as community expectations are reflected in the current administration’s promotion of greater individual ownership and rights. She said the new aspiration was to own a home and to afford that, workers are demanding a larger slice of the pie. What seems to have been forgotten by the very wealthy here and in the US but understood there, is that higher wages for workers are spent in the domestic economy, the largest market for home produced products.

It seems nonsensical to give greater wealth to the wealthy in a developed economy, hoping they will start new businesses to create jobs to produce what workers, who continue to have wages eroded, are less able to afford. She also filled in detail of how the one child policy works, and said access to social security for the retired and access to education and jobs for girls had ended the shameful killing of female babies driven by fear of a miserable, unsupported old age.

Couples can have more than one child, but the second child is not supported by the state so there is an economic disincentive. But, she says, couples are now happy to have small families, contrary to what we hear outside the country. With child care available to most as part workers employment packages, children receive plenty of social interaction. In rural areas where there is less opportunity for girls to earn wages, she says families have more children. It is a bit rich for us to still criticise China for what we perceive as lack of civil rights, considering how far it has come since its Communist revolution and large scale social intervention while we still fail our less fortunate.

Its political system in the modern era has delivered food to the table of all, while developing a mind boggling export machine. Our ‘woman inside’ said its focus is on economic development, not military expansionism. So to continue talking about ‘containing China’ will force them to investment in expanding their military forces and hardware, which she says is not their wish.

 PS. If Climate Change and its threat to human habitation on this planet is to be halted this side of extinction, we need to invest heavily in renewable technology while we still can. For that to succeed, China must be be a full partner, so I do not wish to see them try to match the US, which spends (I read but have not verified) 40% of the global military budget. The scare campaign waged against Obama’s 10% reduction in military spending during the election seems to have failed, so watch for a ramped up rhetoric as the political/military machine feels the pain.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sensible shoes.

Dear Edward, my love, you’re an idiot.
I'm amazed you could even consider it.
I’ve set you aglow
In these boots, but you know,
By time they’re unlaced you’ll be over it!

 A likely story, you say. Well, for the real thing, go to Magpie Tales where poets and storytellers gather every Monday, west of the IDL and Sunday in the east.