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Yes, yesterday was amazing if not entirely unique

You have to go back to 1942 to find similar visibility issues at Sydney Airport.

Annex Across the Pacific (link on pic) was apparently a hit at the time. It was the year before I was born.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has some facts and figures.

EIGHT years of drought, and record temperatures that have baked outback soils dry, were blamed for yesterday’ s dust storm that turned Sydney’s sky red, and the sun blue.

Scientists estimated 75,000 tonnes of dust were being blown across NSW every hour in what may have been the most severe dust storm Sydney has seen since the droughts of the 1940s.

NSW, said John Leys, a scientist with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, was now experiencing ”something like 10 times more dust storms than normal”.

”In the last two months we have been getting a major dust storm once a week,” said the scientist who helps manage DustWatch, which has a network of 32 monitoring stations across the state. ”We have been getting more and more of them [dust storms] over the last seven years.”

Dr Leys was reluctant to say it was the result of climate change. But he noted, ”we are getting the hottest summers we have ever had. We have had droughts for eight years.” …

The Other Andrew has some great shots. Here’s one.

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Can you see the Opera House?

See also: Sally: here and here; Julie.

Update

In a comment on yesterday’s post Kevin from Louisiana congratulates me on not attributing the dust storm to climate change. There is a good reason not to: no individual event can be attributed to or not attributed to climate change with any confidence. It is only as a pattern of unusual events emerges that one might start extrapolating. That is pretty much what Dr Leys says above.

However, Herald cartoonist Alan Moir did make the leap today, and fair enough to make a point about possibility – it is possible, after all, that yesterday’s event is of the order that we might anticipate if the majority of scientists who accept the idea of anthropogenic climate change are right – and as you would know from my side bar note I am inclined to go with that majority.

moirillo600x400-600x400One stat that appeals to me is that what passed over Sydney yesterday was the equivalent of 25% of Uluru (Ayers Rock) ground up into powder!

It goes from what I said that it is also rather presumptuous to be sure that yesterday had no relation at all to climate change. Piers Akerman, as is no surprise, is of course convinced on no scientific grounds whatsoever that it is not and proceeds to make the usual arguments against doing anything, though there is room for discussion – though possibly it is a luxury we will live to regret – about whether what the government has proposed is well considered or not. Trouble is though that climate change as such really is not a matter of politics; if indeed it is a natural process in train as we dither, and if indeed the hypothesis so widely accepted that this time round our impact has been both considerable and measurable is proven, it won’t really matter what political position we adhere to. We will end up resembling old King Canute giving orders to the tide.

 

Speaking of John Howard

It should be clear from the replay for today that I was not a fan in 2004. I have softened just a little since then – just a little. 😉 And Mr Latham was a bit of a disaster, wasn’t he?

However, checking my fellow photo-bloggers on City Daily Photo I saw this from Nottingham Daily Photo in the UK.

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Surely that ogre is just a coincidence?

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2009 in blogging, British, John Howard, other blogs, photography

 

More on Indonesian terrorist bombing

See also Not again!

1. From Tikno in Kalimantan: Fatwa against terrorist

Dear readers, I create this post because I heard many terrorism issues that tend to be associated with Islam as religion. But through this post I want to say that it is NOT TRUE. If you say that it is personal responsibility, then I’ll say yes. I know some of you may be asking within the heart "Why you say that?"

Well, here is my explanation:

1) I’m strongly believe that there are still a lot of good Muslim, even far more than you imagine. I live in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, and I have many Muslim friends here. They (my Muslim friends) are also condemns terrorism action…

2. From Rob Bainton in Sydney: Noordin M Top claims recent Jakarta bombings

Rob was a long-term Indonesian resident until just a few months ago.

… The sooner anti-terrorism forces catch this man the better. Otherwise, Indonesians can be assured of one thing; he will continue to build bombs designed to kill as many people as he can for as long as he can. He, and his group, might be targeting foreigners, but history shows he is not adverse to killing Indonesians as acceptable collateral damage in the pursuit of his goals.

Violence is not the answer. It will never resolve our differences and it will never allow us to move forward to a place where we all live in peace and harmony with one another. People of all faiths must denounce violence as a legitimate means to an end; violence is not legitimate and it never ends.

What distinguishes these two posts from anything I might say is that they are based on deep experience of the context and people concerned. What distinguishes the hope and counsel they offer from the usual punditry or over-generalisation is that same authority and authenticity.

 

Kevin has a blog – and other thoughts on blogs

You can check the Prime Ministerial blog here. I haven’t joined yet.

kevinblog

I wonder if it will get through the Great Firewall of China. Perhaps too Kevin from Louisiana might subscribe so that he can make his comments directly. 😉

See today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Blog standard approach brings PM to the people.

NINE months after taking the Twitterverse by storm, the Prime Minister has turned his hand to blogging. But Kevin Rudd’s cautious approach to accepting comments from readers has led to a cool response from some of Australia’s leading bloggers…

The blog won qualified support from one of Australia’s most prominent bloggers, the "Girl With a Satchel", Erica Bartel, who argued it was a way for Mr Rudd to bypass traditional media and talk directly to his constituents.

"A Prime Minister interacting with his public can only be a good thing," she said.

"If the blog is to resonate, and not be written off as a gimmick, it will have to be authentic and genuine, by no means an obvious ploy to pimp party politics."

Other bloggers were sceptical of Mr Rudd’s commitment to the medium, pointing to the strict limitations he was imposing on comments left by users, usually the lifeblood of blogs.

In addition to the common prohibitions on defamatory and abusive content, the rules for Mr Rudd’s blog say that comments will be accepted for only "five business days" from the time the post is published, be moderated by his staff strictly during business hours, cannot include links to other websites, and are limited to 300 words…

I suppose the limitations are unsurprising; one can imagine there might otherwise be more comments than anyone could reasonably handle.

My own comment policy

I don’t over-encourage comments here either, closing posts (when I remember to) after around two weeks. This is partly to limit all the spam I have to check, because while Akismet catches 99.9% of the spam you still have to read them all in case some are mistakes. The About page and the What’s New? sticky post are always open, however, and I have a Contact page, so I don’t think I am being too mean. I do reserve the right to edit or delete – the first sometimes for the sake of the commenter, the second for legal and/or ethical reasons.

Learning from other blogs

One of the benefits of surfing lots of blogs on BlogExplosion is seeing what works and what doesn’t work.

Now I know my photoblogs take a while to download because I display decent size photos rather than thumbnails – but I like the look better that way and apologise to any for whom the download time is a problem. Same applies sometimes to this blog, but there is a graphics-free version as well. On the other hand I have noticed some blogs that have lots of third-party widgets and ads, not to mention flash and so on, which simply don’t download in the 30 seconds given by BlogExplosion. This seems to me rather self-defeating. What do you think?

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2009 in Australia, blogging, Kevin Rudd, other blogs, web stuff

 

Meet some blogs

These three come from the BlogExplosion widget on NEIL’S SYDNEY ON BLOGSPOT. They have attracted me by their content and/or design. The images are linked to the blogs.

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The author describes himself and his pseudonym thus: “Wilmaryad Ben O’Scallas is the love child of Irish author, Oscar Wilde, and Greek-American opera genius, Maria Callas. Wilmaryad comes from a faraway land. A land of sea, rain, sun, snow and sand. Where he has to swim against the tide. And where gay love has to hide.” A very human document.

A9

“…the portfolio, journal, and personal blog of filmmaker/editor, Luke Fandrich. Check out my original shorts, edits, and festival work from past and present, read up on my observations as a former film student, share in my general production woes and successes – then COMMENT and REVIEW to share the view from your side!”

Future in Our Hands by Aussiegall

“Today is the six-month anniversary of Gaiatribe: Ideas for a Thinking Planet.  This blog was launched on January 14, 2009.  So far, it has established favored subject areas and attracted a following of regular readers.  I would enjoy further input from you regarding this blog’s progress and possibilities.” – 14 July 2009.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2009 in blogging, other blogs

 

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Some things that tickle me

My other favourites

If you go to the renamed Neil’s Sydney on Blogspot you will find in the sidebar a widget called BlogExplosion – my blogmarks. While surfing via BlogExplosion I sometimes bookmark blogs that attract my attention because of their design or something about the content. Go to that widget and see what I have found.

On Neil’s Sydney photo blog is another set of favourites, this time from City Daily Photo. Here they are

These will give you much pleasure!

And I am sure you are aware of my Google Reader which I update at least once a day.

My daily dose of mindless TV

Yes, when I can, I watch Deal or No Deal at 5.30 on Channel Seven: “The show that pits ordinary Australians against an insidious banker intent on thwarting their chances at walking away with $200000.”

I admire the quiet assumptions the show makes about what an “ordinary Australian” is – no fanfare, no drum roll – and this is a power for good. Last night for example:

deal

And what a character she was! She walked away $100,000 richer. She had hoped for a few thousand to set up an ice-cream van!

 

Welcoming Russell Darnley OAM

My former colleague at SBHS Russell Darnley has entered the blogosphere. I mentioned Russell a while ago in Islam has about 1.3 billion followers worldwide. He was in Bali at the time of the bombing and wrote about it; the full text is in that post.

“I want to write about the overwhelming manifestation of selfless human love and care I have experienced.”

It’s obvious that the tragedy in Bali has brought great grief to the lives of many Australian families. For those of us that have been intimately involved in the tasks of ministering to the needs of the injured, attempting a body count and counselling the grieved friends and families of the missing it has been a demanding task.

This has been a task made more bearable by the massive upsurge of goodwill and the magnificent cooperation that has emerged in the face of this tragedy.

There has been little time to reflect on the intentions of the perpetrators. Our energy has been elsewhere. With the evacuations complete and the forensic process now underway there is time to write.

My first task was to survey a network of private hospitals surrounding the Sanglah public hospital for walking wounded. There were none. What first confronted me was the youth of the patients. Sure there were people of my own age but many were Rugby and AFL players from Australia. As a Rugby coach I found an immediate affinity with lots of the young guys that were lying, not always gravely injured, but bewildered about the whereabouts of missing teammates. I could only ask them to have hope and if the inclination took them, to pray for their friends…

Many thousands of people have assisted in the relief effort. Their care of the sick and dying and the respect they have shown for the dead have filled me with great hope.

The overwhelming majority of Indonesia’s 230 million people I am sure are deeply appalled by the wanton violence. Bali in particular is now confronting the prospect of a significant economic downturn if tourism is no longer seen as safe and viable.

I can only conclude with the words of the Denpasar (Badung) Fire Brigade Crew that I happened to talk with yesterday as a walked back to Sanglah Hospital from the Garuda office.

“Tell the Australians that Bali is safe. We can guarantee this. We will protect them. Tell them that we want them to come.”

Now he is out there for you all to read. I commend his blog to you.

russell 

Speaking of blogging friends, thanks Jim Belshaw for your kind words today.

 

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Borrowed plumage

I have often enjoyed DeusExMacintosh on Skeptic Lawyer, but today’s entry is a corker!

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The image is linked to the original.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2009 in America, other blogs, satire, USA, weirdness

 

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Quote of the week: Naj on Tehran

I have in the past mentioned the blog Neo-resistance, “…an Iranian woman. I am tired of hearing Iranian women are chained creatures who need sympathy or liberation. I am not a feminist; that is why my tales are those of resilience.”

I would have stood behind Ahmadinejad, if he had not become the face of fascism.

I would have been now cheering the glorious images of a massively attended election, over 42 million out of some 49 million eligible voters participating in the election.

I would have been posting images of happy men and women, rural and urban, rich and poor, lined up to vote.

I would have been standing tall in front of the world, and would have said "look, Iran is not the backward dictatorship that your media is projecting it to be."

I would have … ONLY if the "passionate outbursts after soccer game"-as stupidly uttered by that ugly man–were not faced with bullets and batons!

I would have … ONLY if the headquarters of the opposite parties to Ahmadinejad had NOT been raided, tear gassed, and closed

I would have … ONLY if the foreign journalists were not kicked out and the internal reporters were not intimidated

I would have … ONLY if I had not seen pictures of ununiformed, ugly, angry men holding knives to unarmed gigolos

I would have … ONLY if the result of 42 million votes were NOT released in less than 24 hours!!! If the election monitors were allowed to monitor the count!!! If there was at least a small gesture that "sure, we do re-count for the respect of our democratic process, instead of shedding blood!"

This is NOT religion versus democracy …

This is fascism versus humanity …

— 15 June 2009

Here is one of pictures she posted yesterday.

Violence_Rally

Click on the picture to see more.

 
 

Classics all, each in its own way

According to the Encarta Dictionary, a classic is:

1. work of highest quality: something created or made, especially a work of art, music, or literature, that is generally considered to be of the highest quality and of enduring value
The novel has become a 20th-century classic.
a design classic

So I begin by noting I have been reading Jane Eyre again lately. Most would call that a classic.

Stretching the term to blogs, I would regard Stuff White People Like as a classic of its kind on the grounds of quality of writing, intelligence and satirical edge – the latter because of rather than despite its surgical skill on quite a few attitudes I myself uphold. It seems the author not only holds up a mirror in which I sometimes see myself; he is skewered too, and knows it. But mirrors can be good. There is nothing mean about this satirical blog, however; it is genuinely amusing. I have been following it for some time and it is in my Google Reader collection. That items now appear less frequently is a mark of the author’s success. Not bad for a WordPress.com blog, eh!

The author, Christian Lander, is in Sydney at the moment. See There’s a lot to like if you’re a middle-class leftie.

CHRISTIAN Lander is living an internet-age fairytale. In January last year, the 30-year-old PhD dropout was working as an advertising copywriter in Los Angeles. He started a blog, Stuffwhitepeoplelike.com, to amuse a couple of friends. In March, with up to 1 million people a day visiting the site, he scored a book deal and by July Stuff White People Like was on The New York Times best-sellers list. He’s in Sydney on his third book tour, while a sitcom based on the idea is in development.

"Six months from idea to best-seller," he says. "2008 was a pretty awesome year."

Lander’s blog skewers the sacred cows of white, leftist, middle-class culture. Lander’s own culture, that is.

"Truth is such a huge part of good comedy," he says. "I write from this Lonely Planet type distance, but realistically I’m just trashing myself over and over again. I wrote an entry which was Knowing What’s Best For Poor People. It was the worst indictment of me because I really believed it."…

Have fun going through his back entries.

Also here in Sydney, Rugby League generally and the Cronulla Sharks in particular have been a PR nightmare. My grand-nephew, a Sharks supporter, has even invited me on Facebook to join a group called “Save the Sharks!” Well, they do need saving, as even more strange revelations, not all of them about group sex – though not as far as I know with each other, continue to surface. Mind you, these days, despite spending my first 26 years in The Shire, I rather support South Sydney at the moment. Of late they have been doing rather well, and are jealous of their image too.

All this brings me to my third classic. If ever someone produces a slim volume of the Classic Columns of Miranda Devine today’s effort would merit inclusion: Natural men scolded into timidity. I think Miranda would well understand Jane Eyre’s adherence to Mr Rochester, though there have been columns that might lead one to think she may have preferred St John Rivers – but then he is, after all, a Calvinist. Today she tackles the real men of Rugby League in a manner more than defensive of the sweaty jockstrap.

As the mother of two junior rugby forwards, the wife of a former prop and daughter of a one-time flanker, it is time for me to come to the defence of violent sports and the men who play them.

The attacks on former Footy Show star Matthew Johns, rugby league and men in general – branding them as dangerous predatory brutes who need to be chained, scolded and nagged into submission – have gone too far.

The initial criticism of Johns was warranted, after revelations last week that he and his Cronulla Sharks teammates, during a 2002 tour of New Zealand, engaged in a gang bang with a naive 19-year-old woman, who in the ensuing years became so distressed about her degradation she tried to kill herself.

But since then, Johns has been crucified, with demands he name his teammates, sponsors threatening to pull out of rugby league, a school principal banning NRL players from visiting classes and mothers stopping their sons playing the game.

You always know when zealotry creeps into a story there is another agenda at work – and that is that the Johns case is a beachhead in the war against masculinity, waged by those who think the only difference between men and women is cultural.

This notion of a socially constructed "gender" has been the central idea of the women’s studies movement since it began in the 1960s, with its aim to produce an androgynous utopia. But the culture has changed and there are still men who refuse to act like women – damn them – even if they do have smooth, hairless chests…

Well, I agree that Matthew Johns has been crucified, but you can see where Miranda starts on another agenda of her own. That’s “objectivity” in the Devine world, no doubt, but the column is truly a classic in its own way. Unlike “Stuff White People Like” it isn’t satire, though it unintentionally comes close.

 

A very neat photo blog

I found this via BlogExplosion: matthew millens photoblog. It’s really well laid out and minimal. I can’t replicate this on my WordPress.com freebie, I’m afraid, but it’s a brilliant use of a rather mysterious theme called Sandbox.

Not so minimal, but I think OK, is an old new template I have decided to run with for a while on my photoblog. It does work best on a wide computer screen.

I have also started a series in sepia and black and white. It will run for five days. Many of them will be reworked from older colour photos, but I may also take some deliberately in monochrome.

Here’s an example, not on the photoblog but specially for this blog.

19jan 009a

That was taken in Moore Park, Surry Hills.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2009 in other blogs, photography, site news

 

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End-game in Sri Lanka

It appears the military phase of the dreadful civil war in Sri Lanka is virtually over. The origins of that war do seem to have been in a series of genuine grievances. I saw this at a micro level at SBHS in the late 90s and early 2000s. Tamils, mostly of Sri Lankan origin, were in the top five language groups – way behind Chinese though. I taught a class that had a small group of Tamil Tiger supporters – that is, they were at about age 14; by age 17, as one of them told me, they had been turned off by the suicide bombing tactics and general terrorism of the Tigers, though still supporting the Tamil cause. He drew parallels with the IRA.

It isn’t my purpose today to go into this awful post-colonial conflict, except to note the civilian cost has been horrendous and continues to be so.

600_SRL_200511_WFP-Nick_Keyes_0004 Rather I remind you that fellow blogger Peter Voegtli (Worldman) is now in the thick of it. Having come out of retirement after returning from Darfur, Peter, now 66, has gone to Sri Lanka as part of the UN World Food Programme effort (pic on right).

In his latest Twitter Peter reports: “WE WILL HAVE 20’000 REFUGEES TODAY TO FEED. A BIG THING! — 11:31 AM May 16th.”

I also find it interesting that in the midst of all this Peter still posts, when he can, his wry and often very interesting memories and observations, and reads the posts of those of us he follows. His latest entry (17 May) is about trolley buses: Hello Old Fart, Hello Thom. I can’t help thinking that some who favour deadly serious blogs that “change the world” and pooh-pooh the personal and trivial as an abuse of the blogosphere should note Worldman’s blog and think about his context. I commend Peter’s sense of balance, and rather envy it, I have to say. His optimism is a tonic and an example to us all. I am very happy to have made his acquaintance via the Net.

Spare a thought for Peter and the organisation he works with, and spare more than a thought for the people of Sri Lanka.

 

Other bloggers have been so busy!

I’ve just added 33 entries to my Google Reader picks, and “unshared” 33 from the “tail”. There’s so much good stuff to read there that I invite you to give me a rest today and go over there and explore. 🙂

AV (Five Public Opinions) hasn’t blogged in such a long time though… Not since 9 April.

Not quite as long, but Marcellous hasn’t reappeared since the Cooks River festivity in April either.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2009 in blogging, other blogs, site news

 

Four from Surry Hills Library: 2 – and two OzLit blogs

star30 star30star30star30 ozshortstories_logo.indd Aviva Tuffield (ed), New Australian Stories, Melbourne, Scribe 2009.

This eclectic anthology of new stories showcases some of our finest short-story writers and proves that the short story is alive and well in Australia. From seasoned practitioners of the form through to rising and emerging stars of the short-story firmament, New Australian Stories caters for all tastes. There’s humour, mystery, drama, and even some delusion and deceit. Whole lives are captured in just a few satisfying pages. Ideal for dipping into and perfect for those seeking inspiration and escape, this collection is designed for your reading pleasure.

Contributors include: Cate Kennedy, Amanda Lohrey, Carmel Bird, Tony Birch, Nicholas Jose, Paddy O’Reilly, Max Barry, Margo Lanagan, Lenny Bartulin, Michael McGirr, Georgia Blain, Chris Womersley, Patrick Cullen and many more.

Perhaps it’s just me, but while agreeing there is plenty of variety I was struck by how many of the stories are concerned with ageing and dying. I do commend this anthology though. Nicholas Jose is in good somewhat comic form on a not quite as adventurous as she would like fictional grandmother. Wayne Macaulay’s “The Farmer’s New Machine” offers a somewhat Gothic solution to an agricultural problem. Isabelle Li looks at the ageing and dying issue from a Chinese Australian perspective in “A Fishbone in the Throat”. Paddy O’Reilly’s “Breaking Up” is admirably concise and takes the title in an unexpected direction. Chris Womersley’s “The Possibility of Water” is very clever.

I could mention many more; there are very few duds.

Scribe is one of Australia’s treasures – an independent publisher. The future of such ventures may be under a cloud in these times, not helped by the Book Supermarket-friendly mooted changes in our publication laws, an issue the founder of Scribe takes up in his blog. It is also mentioned, though with less apprehension, by this reviewer.

If short stories are biopsies, then the writers of New Australian Stories are skilled surgeons. The best short stories can conjure a past and a future out of a segment of present. Lots of the stories in this collection do this well. Highlights for me included Abigail Ulman’s Chagall’s Wife, whose tale of a high-school student angling for the attentions of a teacher easily evokes the nonchalance and unexamined alertness of burgeoning sexuality. It also stands out for its lean, direct prose; most of the other stories have a tendency towards fleshier prose which can sometimes be less effective. Another stand-out was Vivienne Kelly’s The Third Child. In this story, Frances writes yearly letters about her unchanging life to an aunt who lives abroad. Kelly’s restraint is admirable and pays off in an unexpected way; it’s a breathtaking story.

In relation to the talk of eliminating the territorial copyright provisions, there has been some fear that if it were to go ahead, uniquely Australian voices and stories would be lost. I get the feeling that the production of this kind of book will be negatively affected by major changes to the Australian parallel importation laws; I’d guess that the risk to independent Australian presses of putting out works by new (to books) Australian authors put is offset by their domestic sales of big-ticket overseas titles and books by established local heroes. The way the Productivity Commission is going (i.e. arbitrarily hedging their bets), if you love short stories, you should buy books like these and make them bestsellers in their own right.

And that is from the first of some new (to me) literary blogs I found while searching for New Australian Stories. It’s 3000 BOOKS // LET’S TELL MORE STORIES.

Another is Angela Meyer on Crikey Blogs: LiteraryMinded.

 

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