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Don Aitkin

Christchurch, Anning and the Egg-boy

By | Other | 70 Comments

When I learned of the massacre at Christchurch, a city of which I am fond, I had an immediate sick feeling. Somehow I had expected something like this for a long time — a sort of retaliation for the senseless ISIS bombings in Europe and Bali. Sooner or later it was going to happen. Then came a second even sicker feeling when I learned that the perpetrator was an Australian. That’s all we need. There will be a response before long, and probably in our country. I’m not sure that I can be usefully alert; I am certainly alarmed. I…

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A new Children’s Crusade

By | Other | 103 Comments

In 1212 another Crusade to the Holy Land took place, and this one now has the popular name ‘the Children’s Crusade’, because it is thought to have been prompted by visions that came to children in France and Germany, and because many children apparently took part in it. Some were sold into slavery. The name was also given to a civil rights movement in the USA in 1963. What we saw last week could be given the same appellation, though this time the focus was on ‘climate change’, not civil rights (unless you draw a long bow) or the Holy…

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Whose science are we talking about?

By | Other | 116 Comments

[Word Press has upgraded me to a new level, some aspects of which I do not understand. Hence the failure to supply proper links save one. I hope to do better next time.] For thirty or so years, from 1980 to 2010, a good deal of my professional life was taken up with assessing applications for money to allow individuals and groups to carry out the research they wanted to do. That led me into the arcane world of peer review and careful assessment. I learned a lot — about intellectual mafias, about arrogance, about the search for knowledge, truth…

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On the downfall of George Pell

By | ABC, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 69 Comments

I should begin by saying that I am not a Catholic, and not even a Christian in any practising sense. I have said this before, but it is a necessary opening to this essay. I add to it the fact that I have never spoken to Cardinal Pell nor heard him speak save on television, though I have read a good deal of what he has written. With these caveats in mind I would argue that the sentence on Pell was wrong in terms of natural justice, for the details of the alleged crime were simply improbable in the extreme. They…

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Oh dear, elections are approaching

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Politics, Society | 20 Comments

For weeks now there have been short election ads urging viewers to vote for a new party, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party. The really old ones amongst us, that is, people older than me, will remember another UAP which flourished in the interwar years in part because of a Labor split. But there have been no ads from the majors. It hardly matters, since the nightly news telecasts have abundant image and text about the coming election and the daily promises made by the leaders. But I guess we’ll see a proper Labor or Coalition ad once there is an…

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There’s nothing like a good ban!

By | ABC, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 34 Comments

The ABC announced the other day that the ACT Government was considering a total ban on single-use plastics, like plastic bags, knives, forks and other picnic and fast-food essentials. The relevant Minister said that the Government thought a ban was a good idea, but the community ought to be involved, so there would need to be a discussion paper. We in Canberra have a lot of discussion papers. What effect they have on public policy is rarely clear. Before I could gather my own voice, I heard my wife say, loudly, ‘What a silly idea!’ and I agreed. It is…

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Climate change: has anything actually changed?

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics | 436 Comments

For some time now my only exposure to the world has been through five minutes of radio news on Classic FM, plus some TV news at 6 pm (how much I get is affected by our dinner time at this nursing home). But, bit by bit, I’ve been hearing and seeing more. The coming elections in Australia and NSW have rather passed me by, though I have become more impressed than I once was by the Prime Minister’s capacity to speak cogently and apparently without notes. The issue that has grabbed me most, especially in the last few weeks, has…

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Whatever happened to him?

By | Other | 10 Comments

Thi is a short bulletin to let interested readers know what happened and why I have been silent. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in July and the effect has been increasing fatigue and discomfort. I have hardly noticed the news, for the last few months, and the world seems to be much as it was when I did notice the news. I hope to write something more substantial now that I have most of my data and machines with me in the nursing home where I now live. My thanks to the many who have sent good wishes.

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An unexpected hazard of using email

By | History, Language, Media, Society | 29 Comments

I was an early user of desktop computers, and I think I bought my first Apple IIe in 1988. Throughout a series of ISPs and an apparently unending set of Apples I have had a relatively untroubled run with these devices. Indeed, I wonder how I ever managed to write and publish without them. It was certainly a much slower process in the days of typewriters. Well, what follows is instructive. Read on. The English is not great. I have redacted my password and my email address, and done some editing for neatness. Hello! I’m a programmer who cracked your…

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