On The Trail Of The Lone Pine

If you are a weblog columnist, rather than just a weblog reader, you may have experienced this before; you go to your ” Draft ” column and find a title that seems unfamiliar. You open it and find that it is just that – a title with no essay underneath it. As you are the only one with access to your dashboard, you know that you wrote that line…but have no idea what the heck you intended to say with it.

It is like a signpost to a wilderness. That title at the top of this is just such a one.

Well, wildernesses are supposedly valuable and everyone tells us they are being swallowed up by encroaching suburbia – perhaps if I wait long enough someone will build a strip mall or a tyre dump on that page and it will stop being a blank. I would welcome this, as it would at least give some meaning, albeit vile, to my mind.

We were often told in the 60’s and 70’s to let our minds run free and to imagine that we had a right to do everything. That was a fine idea for white, middle-class westerners who had dinner waiting on the table that night and a prospect of the same every for day for the rest of their lives. The Africans, Asians, and South Americans had the prospect of being downtrodden by powerful overlords. The Eastern Europeans and Chinese had the prospect of the same thing by the faceless Party. Their minds were only allowed the freedom of wondering where the next meal would come from.

Well, times is changed. The Chinese are getting regular meals and feeling more confident in their ability to do things. The Eastern Europeans have changed the old Party for the new Czars. The Africans and the South Americans still get the old recipe. And the West gets the prospect of joining them. I hope Australia can dodge it.

Of course it may only be a matter of time before we see the next regional war – the trick will be to avoid being drawn into it. I am hoping that the Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, and Persians will finally settle their differences over religion and territory by diplomacy instead of the good old-fashioned way…But they are who they are…As long as we can avoid being the shore upon which their burned-out warships wash up, It may serve to clear the air wonderfully. I shouldn’t wonder if Africa and South America could not do with a bit of this same old-fashioned practical diplomacy themselves. If nothing else, it would take their minds off football.

The North Koreans? They are a problem for the South Koreans and the Chinese and the Japanese and the Russians and themselves. A half-salvo from an OHIO and they are no-one’s problem anymore, ever. And they know it.



A Pile Of Pooh

The news that Communist China is banning pictures of A.A. Milne’s characters from internet use came up as a slightly hilarious story in Facebook. Apparently the character of Winnie The Pooh is used as a substitute for the head of the Chinese government in mild political satire. The Japanese Prime Minister is likened to Eeyore and the former American President has been depicted as Tigger. None of the drawn messages are rude, but the fact that they allow the Chinese people to poke fun at authority is considered too dangerous.

I am not surprised at this attitude in Asia. The perceived dignity and prestige of the mighty are so very much more valued than free speech, that no deviation from any sort of party line can be expected to be tolerated. It’s as much Confucian thought as it is Communist.

Personally I think the Chinese leader is making a mistake. If you are going to be seen personified in anything, a child’s favourite book character would seem to be a charming and lovable image to put forward. The world is full of enough monsters as it is… take a good name when you can get it.

Good Morning, America.


It is a good morning. It’s election day.

It’s the day your ancestors earned with Lexington, Saratoga, and Yorktown. And you kept it with LEXINGTON, SARATOGA, and YORKTOWN. Good for them and good for you.

Go vote. Vote for the candidate you think is best for the job. Vote according to your own opinion – not the memes of Facebook or the television’s paid commentators…or the umpteen dozen polls that have flooded the net. You have a brain. Use it.

And disregard the overseas detractors that say the country is doomed. They’ve been saying that since 1774 and they’re wrong. The nation has survived war, famine, disease, and pestilence for over 200 years and it will do so for 4 more no matter who gets to be President.

I can examine the records of the chief executives of the US for the last 68 years and find loudmouths, crooks, and political pansies. Sleazers, geezers, and breezers. Loons, toons, crackers, and coons. I can also find genuine patriots, heroes, and able planners. In every administration, each President has made seriously good decisions, and seriously bad ones. They have also all had pieces of good luck and bad luck. The country has survived.

Go out there and do your duty – and do it with pride and pleasure. Regard it as a holiday for your spirit. The rest of the world can govern themselves for a day ( or not…) while you govern yourselves.

The rest of the world will not shut up yapping – the internet and their own egos will make sure of that – but they cannot go into that ballot booth with you.

The Guild Firmly Endorses The Righteous Decision Of The Duck Government


The Central Control Committee of the All-People’s Righteous Thirty Second Conference of the Backstabbers Guild of Australia has issued a definitive statement endorsing the correct stand taken by the Duck Government In Beijing* against the arch-hegemony of the terrorist collaboration between the running dog imperialist forces of the American navy and the Dalai Lama.

No longer should the all-mass of people be forced to listen to the defence of these kulak-inspired revancist counter-revolutionary dangers to peace. How dare the European Union allow the spiritual terrorist to visit their small and insignificant countries while spreading the poisonous doctrine of kindness!  Do they not know that it displeases the Central Committee of the Duck Communist Party?

The resolute workers and defenders of the Righteous Ducks Of Heaven, except we do not officially believe in heaven, will stand up to this as they have resolutely stood up to the American neo-colony of the Philippines and the ungrateful cousin ducks of Vietnam. As we write this sand dredges are being prepared for action and will be sent wherever in the world that the Tibetan arch-fiend is welcomed. They will valiantly dredge up everything they can, separate out the valuable bits, and dump the rest in a pile in whatever waterway they can find.** This will show them.

Note: The 5-yearly flooding of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers with starvation and disease will now take place yearly due to the absence of sand dredges required elsewhere. Residents of the Yellow and Yangtze flood plain are requested to dig their graves beforehand to avoid the rush.

Practical help will be rushed to the Central Committee by the Central Control Committee as soon as bags are available. We have reports in from Eucla, Norseman, and Balladonia and we are pleased to see that sand has been discovered***.

  • *As opposed to the Duck Government In Taipei. Or, as we prefer to refer to it…in Formosa.
  • ** The Dutch have welcomed us dredging anywhere we like as long as they get the sand to build a dike. As usual, they have declined to pay for it.
  • *** No need for this footnote, but the stars come in packs of three.



At Least Don’t Bomb the Plastic Airplane Factory


A plea to the US Navy.

Fart about as much as you like with the Chinese on the sand island they dredged up in the South China Sea. Sail by, make rude gestures, do ELINT…anything you like. But please do not Tomahawk the Chinese factory inland that is going to produce 1:32 scale B-17 kits until there are enough of them out on the market to supply Australia*. I want one of those kits.

Actually, you can probably cool it until the next typhoon goes through and then you can pick up the troops stationed there with a scoop net and deposit them back in Hong Kong. They’ll be soggy, but grateful. Remember 1945.

  • Well then you can, but is it actually worth it? Where are we going to get flat-pack furniture from IKEA then, eh?

The Designed Life – Part Three – Air


Right, here we go. Pencil, pad and coffee…

You need air to live, and air to feel good. If you live in Beijing this is no small matter. None of the stuff you have available locally is any good…move.

For the rest of us we need air in our habitation that is clean and temperate – we cannot design the outside environment, but we can do the inside bit. So let’s get smart. In our dwellings, ( Western Australia ) summer heat is the menace. Get hot and you get sad. So when you design your room(s)…or go looking for someplace to live that someone else has designed…look for ones that can be cooled. Dark rooms. Rooms underground. Rooms with high ceilings. Rooms like we used to get before air conditioning.

These rooms will be bastards to heat, though, when winter comes. Western Australians traditionally forget that winter is cold and every year they find it out anew. Then they run off and piss away money on inefficient little heaters that gobble up electricity or gas. If they would plan a little ahead – like you may do with your pad and pencil, they would build thick walls and insulate the ceiling – and take up the slack in heating with warm woolen clothing.

The really wise designer might even realise that the two seasons need two different rooms, and divide the available space accordingly – one section for summer and one for winter. After all, royalty had summer and winter palaces – why not designate one side of the house for hot and one for cold and build accordingly? More outlandish things have been done. This could even extend to a deliberate choice of white walls and roof covering for the summer side and dark shades for the winter side. It could be quite a little celebration to do the internal house moving at each solstice.

Electrical air conditioning? Fine if you need it to fight the design that has been foisted on you by the house builder or the council. Use it as much as necessary, but box clever in how much of the area around you that you condition. Whole of house may mean hole of wallet. Hole up and hull down and you will save.

Air movement inside your house will be closely tied in with noise movement. I have people in my house who are football fans at intemperate hours and it has required some little skill to get their sound to stay with them while I try to sleep. Plan for this. Place air blocks and you will have sound blocks.

Finally, do not forget that outside air movement can be a friend or foe as well. Quite apart from watching the reports from Tornado Alley, we have all seen houses or rooms situated in such a way as to catch every stray cold wind in winter while avoiding cool breezes in summer. Play smarter. Also remember that fresh air blowing compost and trash smells away from the house is a blessing – do not park the bins upwind. Do not expect a potting shed or garden storage to make the patio fun.

I Hate You – A Bushel And A Peck


If you are the person who is controlling the weights and measures decisions in the United States…you bet your pretty neck I do. Doodle oodle oodle…

This seems like a mean sort of a way to start the blogpost today but I am really on the side of the angels – particularly the ones that want to do carpentry, cooking, or car maintenance. We also have a smaller division of the heavenly host who are making model structures who would like a say as well.

I am a fan of most things American, if you exclude about 25% of the citizenry and a fair amount of the political and financial system. But I do like the military and the food and the cars and the model train layouts. To be fair this can also be said about Great Britain, France, and Germany but you have to adjust that percentage I mentioned…I used to have American citizenship, though I never got to use it to vote for or shoot anyone, and I still maintain a solid affection for the country.

But what the heck is the deal with the imperial measurement system? Why are you – one of the most advanced technological societies on Earth – still measuring out 3/16″ of anything. I get miles…miles are a distance that you can comprehend, particularly if some mindless gym teacher in the 7th grade makes you run one just before lunchtime. Feet and yards are pretty easy, too…but ells, pints, gills, roods, and all the other leftovers of the English countryside have been left to rot out in the fields – even by the Poms. They might squawk on about a pint but they are drinking 500ml of flat warm beer.

Cooking with cups, half cups, teaspoons, demitasses, and all the other historic measurements is a wonderful thing – a recipe for a different result every time. We’re not all Nigella and we don’t always succeed. We would be, and in Australia are, far better served with grams of butter and mls of milk. Hard to decimalise eggs, mind, particularly if you have cold hands and the chickens are skittish.

The model boat builder who makes a German plan has the wonderful advantage of drawings that are measured in mm and cm and can add and subtract dimensions to use up materials or make a different scale. The US builder is stymied by the 3/16″ and 1/12th of 4/8ths of damn all attitude on the part of the designers. It’s not their fault – they are not getting a chance to go past the world divided into 12 or 13 or possibly even 14 that the Imperial system envisages. Someone in Foggy Bottom has decided it is never to be.

So get with it. And get with us. Us being China, Japan, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. We might not be good industrial singers but we’re all on the same page and the chances of harmony are a lot better.

Doodle Oodle Ooodle Ooddle-Ooo