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Books that have been important to me #5 The California detective: Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Society | 2 Comments

There is a time, when you are young and a reader, where you range widely, dipping into a genre here and another there. Long long ago I dipped into Agatha Christie, then saw The Mousetrap in London, and ranged over the English detective literature. I didn’t go back, really, but did so recently for one Agatha Christie, which I read in an hour or so and thought quite thin. C. P. Snow, about whose novels I wrote some time ago, did quite a good one, A Coat of Varnish (1978), where both the protagonist and the detective at the end know who…

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Can blog posts be better than journal articles?

By | Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 97 Comments

The Dutch experimental psychologist Daniel Lakens asked this question on his website, and I thought it was worth distilling for mine, since I have had a lot to do with journals and more recently with websites. There has been a deal of discussion recently about the lack of effective replication in both the medical area and others, so the rules about publication are worth thinking about. Before the ‘peer review’ cheer squad starts to chant, I should tell you that Lakens’s goal is to improve the quality of journal articles, not to replace articles with blog posts. He offers five reasons…

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The Social Cost of Carbon

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 51 Comments

I was going to write about Earth Hour once more, and for the last time, when I realised that it seemed to have passed its use-by date, for it seemed to have been almost unnoticed. There was no sign of it in Hobart, where I was on the hallowed night, and I couldn’t find out much about its effects in Canberra, where I have been for past Earth Hours. Earth Day passed too, without much fuss. So I have gone on to a subject I have been playing with for some years now, which is caught up in the phrase, ‘the Social…

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Mr Abbott as class bad boy

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 154 Comments

Mr Abbott launched a book the other day, and the speech, which you can read here, instantly led to what I now think has been a media beat-up. His short address has become a further indication, for some in the media, and of course for the Labor Party, of the growing destabilising of the Government and the fragility of the Prime Minister. In fact, I think that Mr Abbott’s speech and its content deserve much closer reading. I should probably qualify what follows by saying that I do not agree with some of what Mr Abbott says, but he is absolutely right in reminding…

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Another passage to India

By | Books, History, Humour, Language, Music, Religion, Society | 3 Comments

While I have been at least twice to every Asian country save Mongolia and North Korea, South Asia has passed me by (vice versa, more accurately). I’ve not been to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, I visited Sri Lanka only briefly and a long time ago, while India I’ve been to once only. There’s no good reason. I had a very bright Indian doctoral student who has remained a friend through life, my eldest daughter travelled over India on her way home from London (which made her vegetarian for a decade), I think Virat Kohli is a superb batsman, and I have…

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Two more books, on an important union, and on climate change

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

This essay is a discussion about two books, widely different in their story. Each was given to me by its author, a friend. They are both excellent accounts, and I recommend them to readers. The first, by Dr John O’Brien, is about a trade union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). O’Brien is an academic who was also an office-bearer in the NTEU. The second is about climate change, and was written by a geologist, Dr Howard Brady, who has some distinctions which flowed from his work, notably about the past climate history of Antarctica. O’Brien’s book, National Tertiary Education Union. A Most…

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The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 145 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

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What is exceptional about Australia?

By | Books, Environment, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Religion, Society, Sport | 136 Comments

A year or so ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book on Australian ‘exceptionalism’ by the book’s editor, William Coleman, whose father Peter was my local MLA when I lived in Sydney. William is a well regarded reader in economics at the ANU. I was tempted, but I had a lot of other writing on my plate, and finally said he should try others. Well, he did, and they include Geoff Blainey, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater, Phil Lewis and John Nethercote.  The book is out (Only in Australia. The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism,…

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The message still hasn’t sunk in

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics | 129 Comments

Nearly a fortnight after Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States we are still reading commentary in the media that suggests the writers still can’t believe it. Something has gone badly wrong with the world, and that bad wrong must be put right. The day after the result Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club (for which outfit, climate change and the need to stop it are more important than anything else) put out this message: This hurts. There’s no way right now to ease the shock and dismay of what we’re facing this morning. The pain is real — and so much…

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Globalism and globalisation (and internationalisation)

By | Books, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 50 Comments

A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to…

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