Sunday, 11 January 2015

The historic Tasman Peninsula

Today, after a sleepless night with the news my uncle had succumbed to cancer in the morning, Mummy, my brother and I, very sad about it, nonetheless decided to go to the Tasman Peninsula. This peninsula, with the typical hilly, green terrain of Tasmania, is infamous for its penal settlements and as the site of the 28 April 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, where Martin Bryant killed thirty-five people in a shooting spree. This tragedy led to demands for the banning of private ownership of automatic and semiautomatic guns and a gun buy-back scheme, which most outside of radical Trotskyists and the libertarian right (as you will know, I have never ridiculed either of those groups) believe to have reduced crime.

Mummy told me firmly not to ever talk about criticism of Howard’s tightening of gun laws when we decided to spend our last day in Tassie on the peninsula, and to look at the scenery. The weather was slightly cooler than the previous day, but remained very warm and with a hot sun in Tassie’s clear air, as we drove the same way out of Hobart before turning towards the peninsula.

The Tasman Peninsula was chosen as a convict settlement largely because it was difficult to escape from due to the narrowness of the land bridge and the steep cliffs. As we drove across the narrow highway into the peninsula, we saw one of the earliest convict prisons in Tasmania. it was fascinating to look at it inside because, despite being unrestored, it gave some interesting details of convict life, which are especially interesting to me because I am fascinated with rural life.

After this, we drove further into the Peninsula, into wetter forests than found near Hobart owing to the heaver rainfall, but soon turned to the sea, where my brother took a long dip despite not having any appropriate swimwear. I chose not to but had terrible trouble sitting down on the rocky shore and was very nervous as Mummy saw down on some hard twigs and rocks.

Next we drove into a low forest on typically poor and leached soils to look at some major ruins. In comparison to previous drives around Tassie, this one was very hard and on unsealed roads that fortunately were dry and not difficult for a small Hyundai. The ruins were almost completely destroyed but still recognisable as a prison, and the vegetation was intact enough to show numerous Superb Fairywrens (Malurus cyaneus) on what was in fact quite dry ground. The walking was definitely tiring and the red-brown soil clearly quite dry despite the region’s humid climate, so I enjoyed out return to the black Hyundai for the day.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A taste of Western Tassie

Today, the third day of our holiday, we decided to take a long drive to Lake Pedder, the lake famous for its role in environmental protection of South West Tasmania after the Hydro-Electric Commission (now known as Hydro Tasmania) managed to drown the original tarn to create a major power dam.

In contrast to the previous day’s journey to Richmond and Swansea, we knew Pedder would be far from even basic provisions, so after we awakened after a poor sleep due to noise from a fully opened window, we went to the Hobart Market which was open for this Saturday morning. The shops we had visited on Thursday were tough to recognise because of the market (though I eventually did do so) and there was a wide variety of the gourmet food for which Tasmania has become renowned. I did buy a pork and bacon sausage – we cannot have large breakfasts in out small hotel room – and it was very tasty.

We had to embark upon the trip almost immediately after returning to the room, so we boarded the car with provisions of apples, bananas, rolls, paté and cheese, and searched for the road to Pedder. Once Mummy had found the road to Pedder after an early detour in the lower Derwent Valley, we drove steadily across very varied and hilly terrain so typical of Tasmania. At first there was hop-growing country, then dry sclerophyll forest, then wet sclerophyll, areas of rainforest and then plateau moorland as we approached Lake Pedder and the company town of Strathgordon. I had dozed off at times during the trip, but still saw some beehives and flowering shrubs that were different from the vegetation I knew in Victoria. There were some closed beehives for the famous leatherwood honey what I sometimes buy despite its high price in Woolworths.
This is a view of Southwest Tasmania from the company town of Strathgordon.

This is a picture of Southwest Tasmanian scenery – cool, wet and bleak – from the road.
When we reached Lake Pedder and Strathgordon, we had a simple but very tasty lunch and had our first look at the quiet, lonely moorland scenery, which Mummy admired for its silence rather like Sara Maitland did Scotland’s moors (where she has lived for a decade) in her 2008 A Book of Silence. Mummy in fact compared Western Tassie with Scotland, a comparison which I understood because of reading Maitland – whom I knew for a long time beforehand and recognise as a modern heir to the Catholic Decadents of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. I consequently came to look more closely at the landscape and its cool, wet, windswept moors, as well as the animal life – on a brief look at the forest on the way I had heard a beautiful small bird but could not recognise it.

The trip back – even if I was criticised for talking about topics like stigmata and inedia – was actually more interesting that the outward trip. We had a beautiful afternoon tea of coffee, carrot cake, and an orange and almond cake similar to one I cook frequently at home – only denser with coconut added. An unusual sight was a group of Superb Fairywrens (Malurus cyaneus) on the opposite side of the Derwent, which I knew were fairywrens although I could not see them. As I looked more carefully for birds, I saw another fairywren on the way back to out Hobart hotel, as we saw a number of fruit orchards (especially cherries) that were not visible going to Pedder.
This is a picture of the Derwent River as seen on the highway to Strathgordon.
The trip was extremely enjoyable and the weather, with an easterly flow, unusually fine in the normally hyperhumid southwest of Tasmania. Around midday there was some blue sky for the first time in out stay in Tassie, and the warm sun made the weather – which ranged from 20˚C in Hobart to a mild 14˚C in some of the cool forests – considerably hotter than it felt yesterday.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A first glance at Tassie

On Thursday morning, I went for the first time to Tasmania – whose weather my consistent praise had long made my mother and brother wish to take me.

I regrettably had only four hours sleep on Thursday morning – though it was very good sleep given the hot, humid night that resembled an equatorial climate – and despite a delay from refuelling we got to Hobart in good time and despite an inordinate delay getting a rental car we still had a lot of time to look at Hobart itself.

Hobart is a hilly, sprawling city, surrounded by fairly steep green hills and a deeply indented coastline. The city itself is of only moderate size, with no more than one hundred and seventy thousand people, though the central business district where we were staying is still fairly dense. Many Hobart streets – including some very wide ones – are one-way, which severely confused Mummy when she tried to drive though them. We climbed to the top of Mount Nelson, which gives even on a wet, misty day impressive views of Hobart, and then descended the mountain to have a look around Battery Point, where we had an ice cream and sat on the wall overlooking the water.

Although the weather yesterday was rainy despite the total rainfall being listed as a moderate 5.4 millimetres or 0.21 inches – 10 mm in a January day has been reported in Hobart 154 times since 1894, with 25 mm or more on 34 occasions – it was by no means unpleasant as it was merely warm and cloudy with a breeze. We had a good look at the shops near Hobart’s port, and I had a really nice chicken burger for lunch with some cheese. We then had another walk around the pier and port, during which we managed to see numerous interesting sights and old buildings.

I was too tired to do much after we did a little shopping and had a ham and cheese roll for dinner, so I slept very soundly this morning. We had decided yesterday that we would go to Swansea – the place in Tassie that I have often claimed as having absolutely the best climate in Australia and one of the half-dozen best in the world – and we saw not only more Hobart sprawl and the hills, but even got to feed some tame grey kangaroos at the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary in Bonorong. Although almost all marsupials are nocturnal, we could actually see Tasmanian Devils outside, though they were mainly very old animals that were not breeding. Many of the animals at Bonorong were injured on roads – this is common with the beautiful Tawny Frogmouth – and could not survive in the wild but were still very interesting to watch. In fact, looking at the Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) attracted so much of my attention that I did not focus on the Tasmanian Devils.
Here I am feeding a number of tame grey kangaroos at the sanctuary.
We also saw wombats, a tiger snake, and lorikeets at the sanctuary.
These are some female Tasmanian Devils at the sanctuary. They are normally nocturnal, but were active while we were there at around 10:00
We next went to the historic town of Richmond, which in common with so much of Europe and East Asia where agriculture can no longer compete with land-rich Australia and Africa, has become devoted to tourism. Richmond actually was a very well-maintained small town owing to its history – with the oldest bridge and oldest Catholic Church in Tasmania – and we saw some rails for the first time along with some unidentified small birds under the bridge. Lunch was a lovely steak pie, but we heard sad news about my uncle being close to death.

We went again on winding coastal roads to Triabunna and Swansea, where we turned round since the ferry to Maria Island was unaffordable. The scenery changed notably from the relatively fertile ‘black earths’ to the typical ancient red texture-contrast soils (‘Acrisols’) of Australia – found elsewhere at so high a latitude only in much wetter climates on very poor parent materials in California. Most of the towns, whilst not so “touristy” as Richmond, were still influenced by tourism – a fate normal in so many places as they cannot compete (due to expensive land and labour) with Australia and Africa in their former mainstay of agriculture. At Swansea, I was very nervous on the beach about getting sand into my clothes and walked about aimlessly on the beach before briefly sitting down. I had a large cappuccino but my brother thought I was too rude asking for more chocolate, and then we returned to Hobart. After a rest as I remained very tired, I went to look for a Chinese meal for dinner, which Mummy and I ate more fully than we usually do with Chinese take-aways at home. There was the unusual feature of duck with the rice and a fried noodles, as almost our last action before going to bed still tired.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The effects of masculinisation on the Enriched World – by a liberal paper

The problems radical secularisation is gradually creating for most of the world have been noticed by the ultraconservative press for a long time, but it is surprising and striking to see the liberal (or supposedly ultra-liberal) New York Times publish an article ‘An Aging Europe in Decline’ by Arthur Brooks that suggests the very liberal nations of Europe and East Asia are likely to become much less significant in the future due to their extremely secular culture and consequent low to lowest-low fertility.

What Brooks shows is that a relatively brief halt in the relentless decline in fertility has long ended, and that Europe, like Japan since the 1990s, is likely to suffer a continuous economic decline as its aging population prevents investment for future generations. The most telling fact that Brooks finds is that fewer than half of all adult males are looking for work in Italy, which suggests simply that Italy’s welfare state – unaffordable with predicted old-age dependency ratios of one-to-one in 2050 – is basically making the youth not wish to work but simply to have as much leisure as possible.

They do not wish to ask whether they can do anything for society, but how much pleasure they can get. Governments, unable due to union power to lower wages to more economically and ecologically realistic levels – in fact Northern Europe’s wages and prices would in these terms be the lowest in the world rather than the highest – simply meet the demands of an extremely selfish youth. From this perspective, people are liabilities in the quest for more leisure because of the care they demand vis-à-vis machines that inherently lack emotional sensitivity. Thus, in Europe and east Asia both the young and the business community prefer machines to people on both financial and emotional grounds.

I can testify from forty years of wanting to get everything from a nation whose mineral resources allow it to actually give this that a life of welfare is pure narcissism, because the motives I gained were to do nothing but play and get what would give me the shortest-term pleasure but numerous long-term pains, from:
  1. a broken-down house and even badly-damaged books and machines
  2. little hope of obtaining useful employment
  3. obesity that costs me a lot in clothes and even bike repairs
This sense that Europe is becoming a “continent of leisure” actually can be applied to outsiders as well, as tourism becomes the economic bedrock with the virtual disappearance of agriculture and manufacturing due to scarcity of land and excessive regulation. Contrary to popular criticisms based upon climate change as a central issue, climate change is actually a further argument for less regulation at least in northern Europe. As some land formerly too cold becomes climatically less unviable, while land in the Mediterranean-climate zones become arid, northern Europe will not only be more comfortable but also more suitable for crop farming.

The fact that people prefer to move to Australia with:
  1. exceedingly bad environmental and transport policies
  2. the threat of climate change making its cities and farmlands into deserts as is already happening in Perth
  3. a limited welfare state, and
  4. poor quality of life especially on hot days
instead of to the environmentally and socially progressive Scandinavian nations or to Canada is proof big government has its flaws, and that these flaws can only be felt in the heart, not analysed logically. The Enriched World is now so defeminised and “de-empathised” that its populace views empathy, compassion and other deep feelings almost as evils because of the limits on personal freedom emotional rapport poses at a very deep philosophical level – both to radical individual freedom and equality.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A look at our house today

Today, after having had a leaky hose for many years, Mummy finally encouraged me to do something about it.

I went to Bunnings in Northland – it is problematic how most hardware shops in Carlton have closed down – and I had trouble finding paint for Mummy to touch up the house since Wattyl I found to have closed down quite a long time ago.
This is our new garden hose, complete with brass joints and a special gun for cleaning the courtyard.
Mummy was very pleased with the new hose, and despite difficulties attaching the brass joints (which I imagine as much more durable than cheaper plastic though Mummy said brass was not worth the price) the hose worked perfectly.

It is unfortunate that – in part due to a school move by Mummy over this summer – the garage is extremely cluttered although we both hope to clean out a lot of old paperback books. I am thinking that after the plastering is done once we are back in Tasmania, I will look for a rubbish service to remove the “big” junk from the garage as soon as possible. To this end, I put the old garden hose in the bin since it did easily fit.
This photo gives an idea of how cluttered with old junk our garage is – not helped by my brother’s refusal to throw out old computers. One can see mattresses and couches that should be been removed in 2008 or 2009 still there!
It would be wonderful if something could be done to turn the garage into another room – I at times dream of using it to help people in a big way by providing those without with a home or even travellers – but I know how much that would cost and how little time we have to do even the basics with myself looking less and less like a job, Mummy nearing retirement and my brother in Sydney.
This shows a typical picture of me lying down in my bedroom – here reading the wonderful eighth volume of ‘Handbook of the Birds of the World’