Daily Archives: February 19, 2009


Yes, WordPress has just offered a new theme. What do you think of it? It was a bit of work to set up because of the sidebar configuration. It does (just) cope with the widest pics as well, though I will be careful not to make them too wide from now on. It does look best in Internet Explorer (IE8 anyway)… OK in Firefox. Looks fine in Opera.


Now I have mastered the new options feature you may see why I chose Vigilance. Pretty, isn’t it?

I have switched English/ESL and Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07 to variants of this theme. The photo blog and Ninglun’s Specials won’t change as there would be too much correction of over-large photos involved. Anyway, I want to keep those photos big.

Update 2

I changed my mind about Ninglun’s Specials. Now I am back-editing “bleeding” pics – that is, those that spill over into the side bar. It’s well on the way though.

Comments Off on Seduced!

Posted by on February 19, 2009 in site news


Three blogs from Iraq or Iran

Once upon a time (2003-4 especially) Salam Pax was one of the most famous blogs in the world. It has also appeared in book form. Now it has revived after a long hiatus, appearing now with its archives intact on WordPress.


Always very human and very witty in the past, Salam Pax is back on form. See also I want Baghdad to feel like home again.

I have been out of Iraq for almost two years now. The Baghdad I left in 2007 was not the city I had grown up in and loved. She had become so different, so violent, so not herself that I didn’t feel I was abandoning her.

I remember the moment when it felt as if leaving wasn’t a choice, but a very clear necessity. I was sitting in my pyjamas on the ground in our front garden; my father, mother and aunt crouched beside me, also in their pyjamas. Two American soldiers pointed these absurdly large rifles at us and an unnecessarily aggressive Iraqi translator hissed: "We know you have explosives in this house. It’s better for you to tell us where they are than us going through the whole place and finding them." …

So, two years later, after all that, what on earth am I doing back here?

I wish I could say that it is a wider general trend of Iraqis returning. If you were following the news after the US "surge" and the widely publicised improvement in the security situation since that time, you might have the impression that Iraqis were returning in big numbers. The truth is many of those who did go back left shortly afterwards again, having found their homes occupied by other people, or their neighbourhoods still unsafe. But many of those kept returning, bringing more family members with them: one foot in Iraq and the other holding the door open just in case a quick retreat was needed. That’s where my family and I are now.

Since the war started, Baghdad has become for me the sort of place where you can never really judge how it is until you are there. Listening to the news from afar can be confusing and rarely gives you the full picture. When I moved to Beirut three months ago the picture got slightly less blurry. And now I want to see if the situation really has improved….

The other very famous Iraq blog Baghdad Burning – published as two books! – has not yet re-appeared. It is still worth reviewing the archives, however.

The third blog comes from Iran.


It is well worth visiting. 

And I have to acknowledge finding this one through Dangerous Creation, which itself has found more focus in recent times and has attracted a following from a number of new readers. My relations with that blog have been troubled, as many of you know, but it is only right to mention it in this context since without it I would not have seen Neo-resistance. If you have been to DC lately you’ll have formed your own opinion; I still look in on it and there are things to think about there, even if my blog is chalk to its cheese. This — Neo-Human, All Too Neo-Human – is pure coincidence, referring to The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq and written in 2007; but it is an odd coincidence.

Comments Off on Three blogs from Iraq or Iran

Posted by on February 19, 2009 in blogging, Iran, Iraq, other blogs



Our wet spell in Sydney seems to have receded…

Caught its departure yesterday afternoon.

018feb 001

But what a massive inundation Queensland has been having! North Queensland flood damage bill tops $210m.

Floodwaters have steadied in the isolated Gulf of Carpentaria, as authorities estimate flood damage across Queensland will exceed $210 million.

Floods have affected more than 62 per cent of the state, with 36 councils currently assessing damage to highways, roads and buildings.

The latest damage estimate is $210 million and rising, a spokesman for Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts says.

The Barkly Highway in northwest Queensland has been significantly damaged…

Carpentaria Shire Council chief executive Mark Kelleher says floodwaters have steadied in the shire. But he expects road access to Normanton and Karumba to remain cut for at least another month….

All that water has to go somewhere, and much of it, south of a certain point roughly around Mount Isa I believe, will find its way down the inland river system – usually dry – into, eventually, Lake Eyre. One expert I heard on ABC Radio National’s “Bush Telegraph” the other day said that there were three cubic kilometres of water in the pipeline, so to speak. Now that is a lot of water!


There has been flooding also in NSW. See Torrential rain a ‘mixed blessing’ for Australia.

As torrential rain continues to fall across parts of Australia, the rivers, lakes and estuaries from the far north to the back of Bourke are about to spring to life.

Some of the rain that has caused floods in parts of New South Wales will flow out to sea.

But the water that has inundated Queensland will slowly make its way south to the normally dry salt plain of Lake Eyre.

The parched Murray-Darling Basin, though, is unlikely to benefit at all.

The rain that has been pounding northern Australia over the past month and the east coast of New South Wales this week tells a story of this country’s very particular topography.

Richard Kingsford, is a professor of Environmental Science at the University of New South Wales.

"If we look at north Queensland to begin with, basically there are those rivers that run north into the Gulf of Carpentaria and that’s where we’ve got a lot of flooding around Karumba and Normanton," he said.

"If then you move south into the catchment where the rivers basically run inland, the rivers of the Georgina, Diamantina and then Coopers Creek, all of those rivers eventually will make it into Lake Eyre if there’s a really big flood."

Professor Kingsford says the flooding of the delta system in the Gulf of Carpentaria is a mixed blessing.

"Obviously these floods can cause incredible damage in terms of stock losses and so on, which is what we’re seeing up there, but you do also rejuvenate some of these river systems," he said.

"So we’d expect a flush of productivity in terms of the vegetation and that will help with fish and water birds and all of those things that are part and parcel of the cycle of river system."

Further west, the bone dry salt plain of Lake Eyre is set to bloom…

We can expect to see quite a few food items rising in price, of course.

ABC has a special on the Queensland floods.

Some of the people on my blog roll have been reporting the NSW situation, particularly in and around Bellingen: see Pip Wilson and Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite.

Comments Off on Our wet spell in Sydney seems to have receded…

Posted by on February 19, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, environment, events