Category

Society

Doing things properly

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 83 Comments

For some time I have wanted to write a piece on the virtue of doing certain things properly, and the final stimulus came on the occasion of a bus trip to Lightning Ridge, which was great fun, educational and most enjoyable. In the bathroom of a certain motel I saw this little sign. Dear Guest, In the course of a year we wash thousands of towels, and doing so uses thousands and thousands of litres of water and tons of detergents that can be harmful to the environment. If you care about the environment as we do, you may wish…

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Finkel’s Cave

By | Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 227 Comments

There is an embarrassment of subjects to write about at the end of the week. I had my eyes on the UK General Election, if only because in 1964, now 53 years ago, I worked as a behind-the-scenes analyst on the BBC’s election night coverage, and then became part of the Australian election night coverage for the next nearly twenty years. It is too early to say too much about the outcome, other than to me it seemed a bit of a re-run of the Brexit referendum. There will have been much more than this, of course, especially with respect…

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The Alternative and the Real Trump

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 57 Comments

When an elected political leader get into office, the media wait to see if he fulfils any of his campaign promises, and will often needle him or her about an  apparent slowness to do so. With President Trump it is rather the office. He said that if elected he would withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and he has now done so. Instead of saying,’Well, he’s done what he said he would do’, there seems to be a chorus of incomprehension. ‘But surely you only said those things to get elected’ seems to be one theme. ‘How…

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

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Society | 26 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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Social Justice

By | Education, History, Politics, Society | 75 Comments

‘Social justice’ is a term that trips easily from the mouths of politicians and of others on what would be seen as the Left in our society. It is one of those things, like motherhood, that you can’t be opposed to. More widely, it is a favourite term of those in the United Nations who see the disparities in wealth and development across the world as inherently unjust. It is generally agreed to be a term coined by a Catholic philosopher in the 1840s, and owed its growing popularity to the conditions for people in the expanding towns and cities…

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Gary Banks nails it

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Media, Politics, Society | 59 Comments

For years now I have puzzled at the whole mess of our energy policy. People keep telling us that soon (or now) solar-panelled electricity, or wind, or something, will be cheaper than coal, so we should be transferring, at once. Such oracles never tell us about the hidden subsidies that would make this really true, if it were apparently true. I’ve given up responding. It is plain to me that wind and solar cannot power an electricity grid without abundant base-level fossil-fuel energy. Well, along comes Gary Banks to tell it as it is. For those who don’t know of…

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Ending ‘the violence of prostitution’

By | Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 19 Comments

A young woman (I’ve seen her photo) called Andrea Tokaji had a piece in one of our local newspapers, which I read quickly and then read more slowly and carefully. She is ‘a PhD candidate on gender-based violence’ and the Founding Director of Fighting for Justice Foundation. It’s an interesting website, and is largely about bringing and end to ‘human trafficking’, which includes sexual slavery, forced marriage, organ removal and forced labour. The International Labour Organization puts the current numbers at about 21 million, about two thirds in forced labour and a quarter in sexual exploitation of one kind or another. In…

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Mathematics, my father and me

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Politics, Society | 47 Comments

(Robyn Williams, of the ABC’s Science program, read my piece in Quadrant about how my own world-view came to be formed, and asked could I do an Ockham’s razor broadcast about my father, mathematics and me. This is the outcome. It was broadcast on Sunday March 12th and interested readers can download the audio  here.)   If you grew up in New South Wales in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, there’s a good chance that you studied maths with the help of the textbooks written by two high school teachers, A. G. Aitkin and B. N. Farlow. I knew the…

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Books that have been important to me #4 Barbara and Allan Pease: Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps

By | ABC, Books, Education, Health, History, Humour, Media, Society | 160 Comments

In 1998, my wife and I were driving through northern New South Wales, and had the radio on. Margaret Throsby introduced her guest, Allan Pease, told us the name of his new book, and said something like, ‘Now I want to take issue with you at once about the title. I can read a map as well as any man!’ ‘How do you do it?’ he asked. ‘Well, I point it in the direction we are travelling and it’s straightforward.’ ‘That’s exactly the point of the title,’ he responded. ‘Most men can read a map however it is pointed, but most…

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Standing up against Nannies

By | Education, Humour, Media, Politics, Society | 113 Comments

I’ve written a few times (here, for example) about ‘the nanny State’, and the way in which well-meaning people want to protect ourselves from ourselves by making illegal things that we like to do. Of course, virtually all domestic law is about protecting us from us, but every now and then I want to cry ‘Enough!’ And I do so in this essay, which is about the efforts of a Green MLA in Canberra to protect us, or more specifically, her grand-daughter, from the wicked writing on Wicked camper vans. If you haven’t come across a Wicked camper van, then here…

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