Letter to my grandson (xii)

Most every day that I see you, you seem to have mastered something new. Increasingly, it’s new words that you are increasing your mastery of the world around you. Your cousin, has come to visit and Nana Di gave you both the little box of milk with a straw and a little hole that the straw goes into. I watched you both thread the straw into the hole and begin to drink the milk. For some reason, I was astounded, such a very fine motor skill and to such little boys. I’m obviously getting out of touch.

Last week, there was an interesting example of the way you go about this business of mastery. You love hiding behind the washing when it is hung on the line, prompting us to call out “Where is Winton. I can’t see Winton.” You run out from behind washing, clearly enjoying the sensation that it provides as you run through it and in surprising your grandparents.

You’ve changed the rules on that and now run full tilt across the courtyard into the washing.

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Usually, the washing slows you down as you fall into the garden but, on this occasion, you crashed, full tilt and mouth first, into a large earthenware pot.  You know when a small child is hurt. There is normally a five second delay between the accident and the first  bellow of pain. You were clearly hurt.  Kisses and cuddles followed.

You have a remarkable pattern of recovery. You don’t do it gradually. Suddenly, you’re better and wriggling out of the arms of your comforter and back out into the courtyard.

And then, remarkably, you charged across the courtyard and straight into the same towel but, this time, slowing  yourself before you hit the earthenware pot. You retraced your steps and charged again. Same result. Satisfied, you came inside to play with your rubbish truck.

Not yet two years old, you have also mastered books.  Once, you were happy for an adult to read to you.

But, in your typically independent way, those days seem to be slipping away.



I fear that once you have learnt to read, stories on Grandpa Tim’s knee will be few and far between.  I’m already preparing your first reader made up of list of your first words so I will only have myself to blame.

You also seem to be developing a great talent for art, well at least I think so.

You are also a master of the art of happiness, one of things of makes you joy to have around. Your mum is particularly good at capturing your happy moments.

And chocolate, you are very good at chocolate.


Rising sea levels could swamp that Malcolm Turnbull’s boat jetty

This week has seen bad news on climate change  from opposite ends of world

Unexpectedly Widespread Permafrost Melting Could Set Off A Greenhouse Gas Timebomb

Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly

The melting of the permafrost means the rate of change  in global temperatures will accelerate and the planet will become warmer faster than we expect. These increasing temperatures will accelerate the melting of the ice sheet in the Antarctic.

The rate of change will become exponential and the difficult aspect of exponential rates but of change is that we really don’t know how bad it’s going to be until it has got really bad.

We will be seeing rises in sea levels that will inundate many cities that our currently above sea level. For cities like Jakarta which regularly floods during the monsoon and during high tides, it will become even worse and large parts of the city will become uninhabitable. The city that probably numbers more than 20 million (no one really  knows how many people live in Jakarta because nobody has ever counted) this will be a huge humanitarian disaster with millions of people displaced.

Meanwhile, in Australia, our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is preoccupied with shifting 2% of income tax collections from the federal government to the state governments. A marvellous exercise in irrelevance.


 Rising sea levels could swamp that Malcolm Turnbull’s boat jetty

The 1916 Easter Rising

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin.

Hundreds of thousands of people crammed the streets of the Irish capital on Sunday to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising against British colonial rule.

The legacy of the rebellion, which was crushed by British armed forces in six days of street fighting in central Dublin, are complex and still fiercely debated, but there is no doubting the popular enthusiasm for the event in nation that has had little to cheer about in recent years.

The Proclamation of the Republic (Irish: Forógra na Poblachta), also known as the 1916 Proclamation or Easter Proclamation, was a document issued by the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising in Ireland proclaimed Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom. The reading of the proclamation by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office (GPO) on Sackville Street (now called O’Connell Street), Dublin’s main thoroughfare, marked the beginning of the Rising.


Its main points were

  • that the Rising’s leaders spoke for Ireland (a claim historically made by Irish insurrectionary movements);
  • that the Rising marked another wave of attempts to achieve independence through force of arms;
  • that the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army were central to the Rising;
  • “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”
  • that the form of government was to be a republic;
  • a guarantee of “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”, the first mention of gender equality, given that Irish women under British law were not allowed to vote;
  • a commitment to universal suffrage, a phenomenon limited at the time to only a handful of countries, not including Britain;
  • a promise of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. Although these words have been quoted since the 1990s by children’s rights advocates, “children of the nation” refers to all Irish people;[1]
  • disputes between nationalists and unionists are attributed to “differences carefully fostered by an alien government”, a rejection of what was later dubbed two-nations theory.



In all 16 were executed and became known as “The Martyrs”


The events inspired what is probably one of W. B. Yeats’s most famous poems and  One that certainly ranks in the Parthenon of English verse.

Easter 1916

W. B. Yeats1865 – 1939
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud, 
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute to minute they live;
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be, 
Wherever green is worn, 
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.


Climate Change Crunch Time

We have known for some time that the melting permafrost was going to be a huge problem. This is because the permafrost holds methane which is far more pernicious greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The release of methane will further accelerate the exponential rate of change in the release of greenhouse gases. It’s a very simple little feedback loop and it means climatic disaster

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The problem with exponential change is that for a while you don’t notice it. Once you’ve noticed it, it’s often too late to stop it.


And this is why this report is so concerning.

Unexpectedly Widespread Permafrost Melting Could Set Off A Greenhouse Gas Timebomb

Carbon dioxide and methane are indubitably the two most potent greenhouse gases. Vast reservoirs of both exist within the world’s permafrost, which is hydrated soil that has remained below the freezing point for two or more years. Remarkably, these permafrost soils hold almost twice as much carbon than that found in the atmosphere – and one study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows them thawing all across the northern hemisphere.

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Thanks to consistently warmer summers, permafrost in Russia, Alaska and Canada is being “uncapped;” icy wedges that form at the top of the permafrost were observed to be almost universally melting even in the coldest regions of the Arctic. These wedges make up around 20 percent of the upper permafrost volume, so their melting is exposing massive areas of concealed, deeper permafrost.

The situation is a variation on the famous lily pad problem.

The lily pads on a lake double in size every year. By Year 10 the lake is completely covered.

(i) When is the lake half covered?

(ii) When is the best time to solve the problem?

The answer to the first question is: Year 9.

The answer to the second question is: Year  1 and if not then, immediately.


Turnbull blancmanges on DD

I have decided to coin a new verb for Malcolm Turnbull’s political decision-making based on the desert the blancmange which food scholar Terence Scully Suggests is derived from bland mangier, “bland dish”, reflecting its often mild and “dainty” (in this context meaning refined and aristocratic) taste


So the new verb will be “to blancmange” which is a form of vacillating only slightly wobblier and in a beige colour.

The Age reports that  “Mr Turnbull has charged Senator Day with stoking crossbench support for the bill – if it does not pass, they would face a double dissolution election in which most crossbenchers would likely lose their seats.”

Having secured a change to Senate voting, purportedly to clear out the un-democratically elected cross bench, Turnbull appears to be blancmanging on the issue of a double dissolution by giving the crossbench some wriggle room.

Senator Michaelia Cash, seen here with ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and who is emerging as the government spokesperson on everything, appears to be no stranger to the art of blancmanging.


Senator  Cash warned the government will only negotiate with the crossbench on the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill as a bloc of at least six, and will not accept any amendments that would “compromise the integrity” of the proposed industry watchdog.

If Turnbull is unable to secure a double  dissolution, then the changes to the Senate voting  will be of no effect. In fact, they may produce exactly the opposite outcome to the one that was intended.

A normal election will not clear out the existing crossbench and runs the risk of electing another group of senators, democratically elected or otherwise.  This will make managing the Senate even more difficult. This will be exacerbated by the Turnbull and Abbott governments’ complete inability to compromise and negotiate with cross bench senators.

Turnbull has prepared the ground for a Senate double dissolution that would allow the Australian electorate an opportunity to have an upper house that really reflects the voting intentions of the people. But now he’s blancmanging and  the opportunity for decisive leadership is slipping away as it has on so many other issues.

Have a nice pudding.


The good thing about changes to Senate voting

In discussing the impact of the changes to Senate voting, Amanda Vanstone observes that the changes will affect three groups:

“The third group, about whom we hear little, is the Senate candidates from the major parties – Liberal, Nationals and Labor – who are not the highest on their party’s ticket. They could lose their seat to an independent because of the smaller quota required under a double dissolution. It doesn’t suit the independents who want to be seen as the victims to have any focus on the fact that these senators from the major parties face the same challenge.”


 Amanda Vanstone never faced the scrutiny that will now be directed at Senate candidates

She also notes that there is a second group of senators who will fall foul of voter anger. Expect Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi to have a difficult job being elected.

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 The door’s that way

One of the good things that may emerge from these changes is that the Australian electorate may now start taking their preferences in the Senate more seriously. It will also be easier because they won’t need to number preferences from 1 to 100 (or how many candidates may be standing).

Given that 25% of the Australian electorate vote for minor parties, there is a distinct possibility that there will be an increasing number of independent senators elected, particularly if the minor parties are able to arrange transparent preference swaps with candidates who have similar political persuasions.  If this were to happen, we can expect a similar number of independent centres to be elected. The difference will be that this time they’re likely to reflect the will of the people rather than some arcane set of preference swaps.

The next election, be it a normal one or a double dissolution, may see a significant change in the Australian political landscape as the major parties lose control of a delicately balanced Senate. Jacqui Lambie has shown that, wants in the Senate, a politically savvy Senator  can attract significant media attention that enhances their chances of re-election.  There is a very good chance that it will be extremely difficult to dislodge Lambie, even without the powerful financial support of Clive Palmer.

There is a distinct possibility that the traditional patterns of election for Senate candidates of the major parties will be drastically changed. People who vote below the line will be able to pick and choose which senators they elect, even if they continue to vote for of the major parties.

This means that people like Labor Senator Joe Bullock, who was given the No 1 position on the Western Australian ticket for the ALP.  Bullock, a long-term union official and opponent of same-six marriage, was elected after series of back room deals within the Labor Party.


The situation now is that being first on the ballot paper may not necessarily ensure your election. And no bad thing.



Do not download Mackeeper

When you are looking for software to clean up the junk files on your Mac, you will come across Mackeeper, a free download. When you download it, it only does half the job and sends you to a webpage that will complete the job for a fee. If you decide to pay the fee, the software does not download. Instead you’re asked to call a free call number. When you do that, the almost incomprehensible young woman with an American/Asian accent tells you that they are unable to download the software. You are then directed to the wrong website and, strange to say, the problems on your Mac are far too great for them to solve unless you pay a subscription, around AU$500 to download the rest of the software.

This is a scam.

If you are in doubt, Google Mackeeper reviews. They are unrelentingly negative.

Here is just one example:

MacKeeper has been described by various sources as highly invasive malware* that can de-stablize your operating system, adding that it is unethically marketed, with a history of making false advertising claims, by a company called Zeobit, and a rip-off.

In an earlier incarnation when I first used it, Mackeeper was easy to download and operate. I ditched it because I was advised that it took up too much background memory. Unbeknownst to me and since then, the company has been taken over by a group that is using it as a sophisticated scam. The problem is that originally, the software was an efficient way of cleaning up your Mac but now it is bound up in an unethical scam that uses deceptive marketing to promote the product.

Letter to my grandson (xi)

I had a wonderful experience with you at swimming lessons last weekend. I’m a regular member of the backup team and cheer squad at swimming lessons and after the lesson your dad, you and I have a swim together followed by a shower and a chocolate bar. You’re getting to be pretty keen on chocolate.

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This Sunday, you noticed a water bubbler where people were having a drink and, naturally, you wanted a turn. The bubbler have a small bowl and spout with a handle that controlled the flow of water.

I picked you up and held you over the spout and turned on the water flow. You being you, this lasted about 10 seconds and you pushed my hand off the handle and took over yourself. You didn’t understand the relationship between the flow of water and the pressure on the handle so you got a face full of water and came up looking rather surprised but also delighted. You did it again and shrieked with laughter. But you very quickly worked out how much pressure to exert on the handle so that you got exactly the right level of water flow so that you could drink it. Drinks were followed by faces full of water and shrieks of laughter.

But then you did something that surprised and delighted me. You reached up with your left hand and put it on the back of my head and pushed my head down so that I could drink some water too. When my head was in position, you pressed to handle just hard enough for me to drink and not get splashed.

Nana Di often remarks that you have a talent for relating to adults and recently Koula, who works at the pharmacy and whose heart you have of obviously stolen, said you were the most beautiful child in Richmond. And who am I to disagree.

Letter to my WA grandson (ii)

You have just completed the first week of your visit with us and now you, your mum and dad are now off to the airport to fly to Queensland for your uncle Nick’s 40th birthday at the watersides.

I’ll miss your beautiful brown eyes and your happy little face looking up to me. I know you’ll be back five days for another week stay but after that it’s back to Western Australia and another long absence.

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When you first arrived a week ago, it was like the last visit. You clung to your mum and had no cuddles for either Nana Di or Grandpa Tim. But later in the evening,  your uncle Simon came round and as he was leaving, you ran over and gave him a big goodbye cuddle. After he had left, you happily transferred into Nana Di’s arms and after that it was cuddles all round.

Before you arrived, your dad had been telling us about some of your more unruly behaviours: throwing things out windows, sweeping the contents of shelves onto the floor etc. So when I got my first cuddle, we went around the house and I explained to you the  little things that you were not going to be doing: throwing things out windows, sweeping the contents of shelves etc.  It’s worked pretty well so far except I omitted “locking dad out of the house” which you managed yesterday.

You have a real fascination with locks and catches. You’ve worked out how to open our front gate and, obviously, how to lock the sliding fly wire at the back door. Last night, I watched you working on the key of the sliding glass door which has a deadlock.  you had to stand on tiptoes to reach the key but you persevered. You experimented on the number of techniques but eventually you worked out how to get the lock to work. Remarkable for  a little boy who is not not two yet.

One of our first expeditions was Laikon Deli where you had your first Richmond baby chino on your last visit. You have become somewhat more discriminating since then.

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Certainly, the friand was given a fairly thorough appraisal and ultimately got the thumbs down.


Monday was Winton’s babysitting day so we had both of you together and that was quite an experience. By nature you are a quiet and well-behaved little boy, your cousin however  has a level of demonic energy that you do not normally display.


That is, until you are in his company. Usually, when you put two little boys together you expect them to be about twice as much work as either one of them on their own. You two are quite different. The combination is not additive, not multiplicative, it appears to be exponential.  It was like having a couple small tornadoes in the house. Winton went up a couple of notches at the excitement of having you around and you joined the party.

Nana Di likes to play a game with Winton that involves a couple of large balloons which can be thrown, kicked and jumped on with hilarious effect. Having the three of you play this game was like having a small riot in the hallway. The balloons are approximately one third the size of a small child but can be easily carried. The effect is to turn the small child into pinball as they ricochet off the walls and into each other. It was a riot in pretty much every sense of the word. Great fun, but 12 hours of fun that that level of intensity was absolutely exhausting.

We took you both to the park which was a great success. You both love open spaces. You are fascinated by dogs teamed up with the first you met.


Later you found a small poodle and a tennis ball. The dog was not too keen on you while you insisted on throwing the ball at it but once you got the idea of throwing the ball away so that it could chase it, the little poodle became a firm friend.

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You and your mum had great fun on the swings just like you always seem to do.


You and Winton are fast becoming great friends. One of the things that was interesting about your last visit was that the two of you did a lot of things together: follow each other around the house, sitting in a corner together.

boys together

When Winton came round this morning, he ran down the hallway calling out your name. It’s difficult to explain to a little boy that someone has gone away but I think he understood that you will be coming back next week. I’m sure there will be more adventures and expeditions, certainly if Winton has anything to do with it.


Senate voting reform might bite Malcolm Turnbull on the bum

The argument to support voting reform in the Senate has been that the crossbenches been dominated by a group of people who were elected unintentionally as result of preference deals done amongst minor parties and who were in parliament with a fraction of a decimal point of the primary votes.

This is quite demonstrably a case but whether it is a bad thing or not is a moot point.  Clearly, many people do not know where their preferences are going when they vote for a minor party and their preferences may be allocated to people they would have chosen not to vote for.

Nearly 25% of the electorate votes for minor parties in the Senate.  The hope of the Government and the Greens is, that under the reforms, this 25% will be directed by preference to the major parties.

But the Government and the Greens have probably misjudged that 25%. The first important aspect of this is is that that they have chosen not to vote for the three major parties and will probably continue to do so. The second important aspect is they will now be much more careful about the way their preferences are allocated.

There was a move by the cross benchers to form some alliance to save their political skins. This proved to be impossible given the vast ideological and political differences within this group. But it is not unlikely, and indeed quite possible, that like coalitions of minor parties may emerge to capture 25% that will not vote for the major parties.

If this does happen, then such coalitions could exert significant influence on Senate voting patterns.

One thing that can be pretty certain is this: 25% of the Australian electorate will be pretty pissed off at what they will see as the removal of their democratic choices. Malcolm Turnbull should not expect them to swing their behind the Coalition or the Greens.

What he may see is that high profile senators such as Ricky Muir, Jacquie Lamby,  Glenn Lazarus and David Leyonhjelm will be elected by a bloc of  disgruntled “up-yours” voters.

One of the laws of physics is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I suspect Malcolm Turnbull and the Greens have not accurately estimated what the reaction is going to be.