Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Circumnavigating Australia and New Zealand

Christina and I are at Rosebud, Victoria at the bottom of Australia. We're spending a week at the Nepean Country Club but on Friday will be returning to the Bellerine Country Club to spend a few days with friends Michael and Gayle before heading off to Sydney and a cruise around Australia and New Zealand.

The Bellerine Country Club is an up-market over 55s/retirement village adjoined a golf course. There are numerous occupied houses and additional houses are being added weekly.

How did we happen to be here? Well, originally we were travelling to Nuriootpa in South Australia to check out The Vines Retirement Village but daughter Meredith had to attend a medical appointment at Adelaide and grandson Tory was on school holidays and it all just happened.

Meredith and Tory accompanied us to Adelaide and Meredith wanted to visit friends in Melbourne, so we finished up extending our trip. Meredith and Tory flew back to Alice Springs leaving Christina and I to carry on with the rest of our holiday.

A day before driving out from The Alice, we received a very good offer to join the cruise going round Australia and New Zealand and as our friends Michael and Gayle were on the cruise, decided to sign up.

We are looking forward to the cruise, which will be our third with Princess Cruises.

I'll keep you posted about the cruise as internet availability and motivation allow.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Problem with Evolution

The main problem with evolution is that people don't understand it. At most, many people know what evolution means ie, the dictionary definition, but they don't study it sufficiently to grasp how it works.

This leads to people making silly claims like, "if we evolved from apes, how come apes are still here?" Anyone who has studied evolutionary biology knows that at one point in evolutionary history, humankind branched from apes becoming a separate species.

My grandson, who is 13, and I have been having some interesting discussions about ethics, religion, evolution and other topics. He's doing ethics and religion at school, but not evolution because it goes against the school's religious teachings. I'm filling in the gaps.

In so doing, I'm taking as much care as I can to not impose my views upon him, but to give him sufficient knowledge to critically analyse what he hears at school, elsewhere and from me and to decide what he believes.

During our discussions about evolution I showed him Richard Dawkins excellent title, "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution." It's a bit advanced for him to read yet, but it has some excellent diagrams about design failures in animals and humans.

For example, both the vas deferens of human males and the vaso vagal nerve of giraffes has been stretched awkwardly in a manner that would not have been done by an intelligent designer. The former was stretched when testes, which were once internal organs, descended from the body. The giraffe's nerve stretched as the length of giraffe's necks increased.

One was done to ensure fertility and the other to ensure food in tall trees could be accessed. Both survival strategies.

Next, we spoke about the large number of human births that don't go as well as they should. With a grandmother who is a midwife, information about the imperfection of the birthing process is easy to get. Maybe if the birthing process had been designed by someone smart enough, it would work much better than it does. He understood my logic.

Finally, I tried to explain to him the concept of irreducible complexity but, I'm not sure he grasped it fully.

We touched on the fact that birds evolved from lizards and that the evolutionary progress can be seen both in the fossil record and in some reptiles that are still present. We've left that for another day.

I love my grandson very much and enjoy our in-depth discussions about such often discussed matters. If I can get him to think rationally about life, the universe and everything associated with it, I will be forever happy. There are too many people who believe things that are irrational and that can't withstand intelligent scrutiny.

If you are still confused by evolutionary biology, I highly recommend Dawkins' text because it is easy to understand and gives a sound coverage of very complex topics.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Specially for Tina Miranda on MY Birthday

My birthday card
When you are as old as me you try to forget your birthdays.  After all, how many does one really need?

On 12 April I arose at 6:30 am and headed off for my Sunday morning golf game with buddy Darrell.

By the time I arrived home, I found that my wife had arranged a family barbecue for that evening and I had to contribute to the preparations.
Still suffering from that deep depression that golfers often get when they finally realise they are no Tiger Woods or Adam Scott, I had to energise myself and sweep our outdoors, covered area and otherwise prepare for our feast. On my birthday no less.

So much for letting your birthday slip by without anyone noticing. I don't need a celebration, I've had 68 anniversaries of my birthday already and every day I wake up happy that I'm still here and that everything still works. Well most of it anyway! That's celebration enough.

Then I received a message from Tina Miranda, the heart, soul and hub of the Miranda family. Tina wanted to know when she could expect to see my birthday post on this blog. Can you believe that?

Well, although nobody bothered to take any photos of our barbecue, or in fact any photos period, I thought I had better keep my good friend Tina happy. So here is a shot of one of two lovely, high tech shirts Christina bought me. (Note the Alice Springs Golf Club logo. Before you play golf, you've got to look like a golfer, right?)

Daughter Meredith and grandson Tory bought me a pair of Mr Marvel under pants (no, I'm not showing them here) and a box of Callaway golf balls (as if I lose that many).

Son Dale bought me a massive Toblerone chocolate and others bought bottles of wine,

My daughter in law, Yen bought a lovely chocolate cake from Wendys which was a good end to a lovely dinner with a variety of meats and salads and a few boiled potatoes.

I'd already shouted myself a carton of Asahi Japanese beer and managed to drink one bottle of that and perhaps two glasses of sangria for the evening. Hardly a wild night, but at my age, six bottles of beer and half a bottle of red wine is a big evening.

So, Tina, if you are reading this, because of you I had to write this almost meaningless post when I really had no intention of doing so.


PS: Thanks for thinking of me Tina ... love you and yours

Thursday, February 05, 2015

From Brisbane to Sydney By Rail

When I studied Modern History at evening school many decades ago, my text book was intelligently titled, "From Frankfurt to Fra Mauro", the period of history which was then considered "modern".

On commencing classes, I had no idea what had happened in Frankfurt and to be honest, I've since forgotten, but I knew from watching Armstrong take humankind's first step on the lunar surface what had happened in the Fra Mauro Highlands of the moon. (Congratulations once again Neil.)

By comparison, the trip from Brisbane to Port Macquarie was completely mundane and it's probably a ridiculous comparison to make. However, in the mundane lives we ordinary people lead, it is often possible to make insignificant events significant by comparing them with other events. So, if you are still with me, here goes.

Experienced people like my wife and me get a serious discount on railways ... purely because we are experienced. Some refer to it as being "seniors", but I prefer the experience angle. We purchased our tickets for about half price and chose the First Class option rather than cattle class as we didn't want to bump shoulders with lesser beings and more importantly, there is more room to stretch one's weary legs.

Our friends Jeffrey and Sue dropped us off at the Brisbane Central Railway Station at some ungodly hour ... It was still dark for goodness sake. But we managed to wend our way through the cafeteria to the little shed on the platform where a lovely lady weighed our baggage and told us they were overweight because railways staff cannot handle anything heavier than 20 kg (poor bastards).

As a midwife, Christina handles birthing mothers that are akin to small whales, well over 20 kg. No wonder she has "nurses back". Does she whimp out? Never.

Anyway, we two "experienced" people whose arteries are probably partially clogged, whose joints ache with arthritis and who lie awake at night listening to the disorder of our veins, lugged our baggage onto the train with relative ease. We then sat in our comfortable seats and waited to depart.

Although nothing can compare with the efficiency and effectiveness of the German Railway system, the New South Wales Railways Xpress did depart right on time. The carriages were clean and comfortably furnished.

We glided our way south through the suburbs of Brisbane towards the Gold Coast and shortly after through the northern region of New South Wales. Daylight arose soon after our departure from Brisbane and we noticed that all the countryside was beautifully green and spread with grass and trees. Recent rains had obviously had an impact.

As the train headed towards our destination, we were able to visit the buffet car to buy a cup of coffee and some croissants for breakfast.

There were surprisingly few people in our carriage and I expect the rest of the train, which meant we could stretch out into other seats and noise was minimal.

When we arrived at Wauchope near Port Macquarie friend Caroline met us and drove us to our timeshare property, the Vacation Village.

As we unpacked our gear and prepared for the week ahead at Port Macquarie, we discussed how pleasant the train journey had been and contemplated the next leg to follow from Port Macquarie to Sydney at the end of the week.


PS: "Seniors" can buy $2.50 combined rail, train and ferry tickets for use anywhere within the greater Sydney Metropolitan area and close surrounds. We spent a couple of days travelling on the train visiting Kiama to the south of Sydney and Katoomba to the west. Not a bad deal.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Making of Australians

On Australia Day I was delighted to attend my second Citizenship Ceremony where immigrants to Australia become Australian citizens.

The first was at Tennant Creek in the early 60s when two of my work mates became Australian citizens. Both were from Europe; Austria, I think and it was simply a matter of attending the Tennant Creek Court House where the Clerk of the Court handed each a Certificate of Naturalisation, welcomed them to our mob and shook their hands.

It was a low key affair that took 10 minutes; no speeches, no celebratory drinks or any fanfare, although I do recall the two who were naturalised and a large number of their friends did migrate to the Tennant Creek Memorial Club where they drank and made merry until the early hours of the morning.

Australia Day 2015 was a much nicer affair. Fifty-three people accepted the gift of Australian Citizenship and all that entails. Among them were friends of our family, Vivek and Tina and their two children Shaun and Reanne whom you can see in the photo above. 

The family is of Indian origin from Mumbai, however, they lived for many years in Kuwait before immigrating to Australia.

At the ceremony, which was planned, organised and executed by the Kenmore Rotary Club, a welcoming speech was given by a local government member, new citizens read one of two pledges, the first for those who believe in God and the second a secular pledge with almost identical wording. 

Our newest citizens were then called to the stage where they were handed their Certificates of Citizenship, congratulated and photographed with the Australian, Queensland and City of Brisbane flags in the background.

Our friend Tina presented an excellent speech of thanks on behalf of the new Australians that elicited a warm and loud round of applause from the crowd of a hundred or more people.

A female singer sang the Australian Song, the chorus of which is “I am, you are, we are Australian” and of course at one stage we sang our beautiful National Anthem, Advance Australia Fair.

Both new and old Australians were invited to recite a general pledge of elegiance to Australia which we did enthusiastically.

Light refreshments followed as people milled about having additional photographs taken, congratulating our newest citizens and enjoying the special moment in the lives of those for whom the ceremony was held.

While I don’t know any of the other 49 people whose citizenship was confirmed, I believe my friends are an example of the kind of immigrants Australia needs and can benefit from. They work, pay taxes, comply with Australian laws and support our values which are very similar to those of India. It’s certainly a matter of India’s loss and our gain, however, India with its larger population probably hardly notices they aren’t there.

Numbers of Australians, even some who were immigrants from Italy and Greece or the rest of Europe post-WWII are against immigration and would like to see it stopped. Most of us realise the benefits that come from increasing our population with intelligent, educated, hard-working people who share our values and principles.

It’s probably true to say that Australia needs immigrants more than the immigrants need Australia.

We were only 26 days into our new year and already this was a great start to what we hope will be a wonderful year ... The Making of Australians.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Delights of New Year's Roast

Over the Christmas/New Year period Christina and I decided to keep our food and cooking to the bare minimum so we wouldn't do what we usually do and find ourselves with a lot of left-overs after the festivities.

In past years we've had left-overs lost in the dark depths of our refrigerator and too many eventually end up in the bin. We hate wasting food, water or anything else for that matter.

Did that work? Almost.

We did manage to keep our left-overs to a minimum, but then on New Year's Day, I cooked a rather large part leg of salted pork.

It was much larger than we wanted, but it was all we could get at Woolworths, so Chris bought it and I put it on the BBQ for a couple of hours and the above is the result. It was absolutely delicious.

Only yesterday we sliced off the little bit of pork left on the bone and have frozen it to eat at a later date. Christina put the bone into a pressure cooker and knocked up a brew of soup with chick peas, onions, carrots and a few other vegetables.

Why have I posted this? Not to make you hungry, but to tell you that contrary to what Christina says, I DO COOK sometimes.

Hope your New Year is progressing well as is ours.