Sunday, January 21, 2018

A poke in the eye

Not entirely sure that I should have watched this YouTube of a procedure I'll be having tomorrow,  but it at least shows how eyeballs can take quite a lot of poking around in them.

About The Post

It seems a fair guess that Spielberg decided to make The Post because you can imagine every single element being utterly disdained by Trump:

*  key character:   a woman forced by circumstance to make her own way in a male dominated corporate world, and succeeds;

*  said woman makes an important right (not Right) decision in the public's interest, contrary to what the powerful men in the White House want;

*  lying politicians undone by a whisteblower and dedicated reporters willing to take risks;

*  a talk heavy story - hardly any guns or fights at all.

The perfect anti-Trump movie!  It's hilarious to think  that the White House asked for a screening (not sure if it was given);  I suspect Trump would have just said "no thanks" if told it was on, or walked out after 10 minutes claiming boredom.

I thought it was very good - not earth shatteringly remarkable, but a well directed, largely well acted, and (from what I can gather) only mildly fictionalised recreation of an important moment of US history of particular resonance to politics today.    There are one or two pretty static bits of background exposition near the start, but the story picks up speed and ends up quite engaging and satisfying. 

Even though it shares the same inevitability of Bridge of Spies, in that it is a true story and we pretty much know the ending, I thought it was significantly better than that movie, which I really felt had no surprises or complexity of any kind.   I remain a bit puzzled as to why so many reviewers praised it so highly.

One other point of comparison with Bridge:   this may seem minor, but there was something about the look of the rooms and streets in that film that seemed to me to look too much like a fake recreation of the era.   (Not sure that any other viewer in the world was thinking about art direction as I was, but there you go.)   On the other hand, The Post somehow looked to my eye to be much more convincingly of its day.   There, I've made some art director happy.  Unless it was the same person for both movies, of course.

Spielberg's use of hand held camera in some sequences is, as usual, fluid and not unsettling as it is with some other directors.   He just knows how to add subtle interest to scenes via camera movement and framing.   I think, to be objective, that there were a couple of "overtalking" scenes between characters that did not ring true (I think Spielberg used to do this in some of his earlier movies), but this is a very minor quibble about a movie in which, in large part, my Spielberg admiration was amply satisfied.

Late comments on the Last Jedi

Yes, I know you've all been waiting for my opinion on this.  No?  I don't care, you're getting it anyway.

I thought it was just OK.  Let's do this in dot form, and I guess you might not want to read it if you still haven't seen it:

*   For a movie for which I had taken much effort to avoid reading spoilers, I found there was a disappointing lack of important ones.   And did everyone like me suspect that Leia was going to be killed off (perhaps via a late re-write), given the unfortunate demise of Carrie Fisher?   Speaking of her, I have to note this, if I haven't before in this blog:  her voice/accent in both Force Awakens and this one did bother me.  In the original movies, I thought she strived for something a bit mid-Atlantic (it helps to sound a bit British if you are playing royalty, after all.)  But in the revivals, she has sounded like she had spent the intervening years is some smoky New York bar roughening up her throat.   I didn't care for the effect.

*   It's a more than a bit embarrassing to admit, but I do get some of the alt.right-ish backlash against the number of women in the movie.  What's been going on in the Resistance?   Did they start sacrificing men to some volcano or something?   Were the members of the Rebellion who didn't bother turning up at the end all guys who got sick of the positive discrimination policies under Leia?   "Ha!  I got overlooked for promotion 6 times for ethnic girls who kept flunking their X Wing course before they lowered the standards, and you think I'm coming running when you need me?"

Really, I quite liked the multi-cultural-ing of Force Awakens, and  Rogue One, and didn't mind that they had female leads, but with the increase in the number of women in (what seems)  every single scene in Last Jedi,  I thought the politically correct motivations are starting to look just too obvious.   That, along with the key theme that "men are too impulsive and gun happy to understand strategy and are going to get us all killed", and even the morally ambiguous position of Luke Skywalker through most of the film, all indicate a serious case of over-compensation for the lack of female roles in the first three movies.  (By which I mean, movies 3 to 6.)    In fact, not that I care at all about the prequels, but I would guess the amount of female presence in the Star Wars series if graphed would look something like this:

(Sorry I misspelt Abrams)

*   I'm not convinced that Rian Johnson is all that good a director, particularly of light sabre fight scenes.  I thought the whole confrontation with Snook's henchmen was very underwhelming, with a set that looked too simple and fight choreography that had too many silly, unnecessary spins and twirls.   I think JJ Abrams did a substantially better job in Force Awakens.

[Gee, this is coming out way more negative than I anticipated.]

*  What did I like?   Some of the jokes were pretty good, and I don't mind the general theme of Luke having a crisis of confidence, given that the Jedi just keep on seeming to stuff things up with some of their decisions.  Mark Hamill was pretty good in the role.    I guess I don't even mind the theme that you don't want to let old style, fundamentalist religion bog you down to seeing what's right and good.    But that also leads to the main problem with the film:

*  The on-going problem with the series is that it can't seem to decide on the nature of the Force, or give a coherent account of it in terms of evil.  Yes, it has a theodicy problem.

It is almost certainly not worth over-analysing a nebulous term written by a young director with a vague idea of inserting a mystical element into his fantasy universe, but when you read articles like this one (a semi defence of the awful idea of the Force as mediated by Midi Chlorians) you can see that writers and viewers of the movies have been trying to make sense of it, but failing.

This article in The Atlantic discusses the substantial change in the nature of the Force in this latest movie.  I suppose that, in principle, I don't mind the democratising idea that anyone can be a Jedi (or use the Force), but it does just seem to come out of nowhere, doesn't it?    I mean, if the series had done something like have a Buddha or Christ figure who, at some sort of universal level, had come to bring the Force to all, that would make sense?  But the sort of burbling on by Luke, Rey and even Yoda (although I was pleased to see him, and in puppet form), just didn't do near enough to clear up the change.  Or the nature of the Force.

Another in depth discussion of the movie by David Roberts explains that he felt the movie kept indicating it wanted to make a clean break from a good/evil dichotomy, but eventually pulls back from it.   I'm not sure I agree - I think the movie just leaves the nature of the Force vis a vis good and evil more confused than ever.

I don't know whether this will ever be capable of proper resolution.  I fear it would take some character to sit down and give a 20 minute lecture to clear up the matter, and it's not going to happen.

*  But anyway, it's not completely forgettable, like the prequels.  It's probably fair to say I enjoyed it at the time of viewing more than this analysis would indicate, but some movies do suffer a bit when you think about them too much.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Some Trump Youtube mockery

I found this Colbert clip, talking about the details of a Trump affair that it seems everyone during the campaign had forgotten about, to be particularly hilarious:

Which reminds me of this bit of art that was on twitter recently:

While I was on Youtube, the Trump mocking parody songs of Roy Zimmerman, who seems to have around for a long time, but I hadn't heard of him before.

He's a pretty good singer, and even if you think at first that the look or lyric is not so clever, each song usually gets to one or two lines that are very funny indeed.  For example, you have to get to the chorus in this one:

Or this, where one line in the middle is very LOL:

Friday, January 19, 2018

About Hillary

The other night, I saw a repeat run of The Graham Norton Show featuring Hillary Clinton, when she was promoting her book about the loss of the election.

As noted in this piece of commentary, she came across as nice, sharp and emotionally together.   I kept thinking "this is the woman about whom the Right wing internet idiot machine kept finding so called "experts" to claim that she was virtually on death's door during the campaign.  Aren't they embarrassed to see this?"   But I've never heard anyone from that side express any regret about that conspiracy nonsense...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rough figures on Apple

So, Apple is boasting that it's going to pay $38 billion in tax when it brings its overseas pot of money back to the US.   (Ireland and Europe sound worried that this means they miss out on the tax they've been chasing from Apple for years - showing that they've been played for suckers, I reckon.)  

Trump and Republicans are crowing that this is what happens when you reduce corporate tax rates by 40% (from 35% to 21%).  

But wait a minute:   how much tax does the US collect annually from companies?   According to this site, in 2015, it was $342 billion, roughly.     So, using that figure, a 40% drop in the amount of tax collected due to Trump's new rates would mean revenue of $205 billion in lieu of $342 billion.   A drop of $137 billion (!). 

Add in $38 billion from Apple, and that brings revenue back up to $243 billion, still down to 71% of the tax collected in 2015. 

Let's be (what I suspect is) generous and allow other companies paying (say) a further $30 billion in tax on monies coming home to the US.   That would bring it up to $273 billion, or 80% of the 2015 tax revenue.*

Of course, Apple investments in the US should generate more personal income tax from workers, (and payroll taxes?) so there will be some improvement on that side of the ledger. 

But, don't these rough figures indicate that the gain to US revenue by big, but one-off, repatriated profit tax payments like those from Apple will come no where near making up for the lost revenue from a permanent massive corporate tax rate cut?

*  My guestimate might not be far off - according to this article, it's been estimated that repatriation taxes could bring in $338.8 billion, but over ten years.   If it was spread evenly, that would be $34 billion or so a year.

PS:   Incidentally, any renewed investment by Apple in the US is, I would imagine, hardly likely to benefit the ageing, white, non college educated Trumpsters in rustbelt areas who find it hard getting work, or well paid work.   What's the bet that Apple will in fact, soon enough, be pressing Trump to ease up on his anti migration vibe so to let in the skilled foreign workers that they need for their new investment?

And Slate points out how people are easily misled by Apple PR machine, when they are spouting "billions and billions":
The press release predicts that between its “current pace of spending with domestic suppliers and manufacturers—an estimated $55 billion for 2018—Apple’s direct contribution to the US economy will be more than $350 billion over the next five years.” In other words, Apple will keep buying stuff from other U.S. companies. This is not a patriotic act of charity. Apple is literally saying it will continue business as usual. That alone accounts for $275 billion of its $350 billion forecast.

As for the rest of that total? In a mystifying bit of self-aggrandizement, the company is counting its $38 billion repatriation payment as another “direct contribution” to the U.S. economy. This is money they are required to pay by law. “A payment of that size would likely be the largest of its kind ever made,” the company helpfully notes. This is only true because Apple spent years making money hand-over-fist while doing everything in its power to avoid taxes. 

Finally, we get to the company’s actual plans to invest in the U.S. Here, we learn that “Apple expects to invest over $30 billion in capital expenditures in the US over the next five years and create over 20,000 new jobs through hiring at existing campuses and opening a new one,” which will initially “house technical support for customers.”

PPS:  I know that tax, especially (it seems) the US tax system, is complicated, and it's likely I'm missing something significant.   It is just "rough figures" after all...

Catching up on some links

Some stuff that interested me over the Christmas period:

*   Tim Lott at The Guardian complained that modern writers of "literary fiction" no longer interest him because they are bad at plot and basic storytelling.   I suspect there is something to that.

*  Did you see the story ABC TV news was running over Christmas about the terrible situation with potable water in Jakarta?   It was startling how bad the situation was in the city, and now I can't find the link.  Must be there somewhere, I would expect.  But Googling around shows me that the situation has been bad for a very long time, with the problem being pinned by some on the water utility being privatised 20 years ago.  That has now been undone due to litigation, and it's the government's direct problem again.  Private companies don't always do it better, it seems...

*   Good advice:  Don’t listen to Gwyneth Paltrow: keep your coffee well away from your rectum

*  Yet another The Guardian link:  about a trend to keep bodies of deceased loved ones at home for a period of mourning and how funeral directors help facilitate it.   (There's a cold plate the body is put on.)  It's a bit of a tribal thing for many, but I think it does make some psychological sense that it would help the mind process the loss.

*  I sort of like folk Catholicism for its liveliness and its cultural interest, but does it have to be as dangerous as a photo essay at The Atlantic (showing a massive procession in the Philippines from a couple of weeks ago) indicates?  Two examples:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thought this was the case

I had thought that this was the case - as so many friends and relatives have been to Japan in the last decade, whereas it had not seemed to be that big a destination for Australian tourists 25 years ago. 

Here's an article at the ABC putting numbers on my suspicions, and confirming them.   Australian and Japanese tourist numbers have changed dramatically:
Well before China's economic growth drove its citizens to seek out Australian beaches and koala cuddling sessions, it was Japanese tourists filling the pockets of operators in the 1980s and '90s.
The peak was in 1997 when more than 814,000 made the journey south.

Two decades later, in 2016, the number was basically half, with only 417,900 making the same trip.

By comparison, in 1997 some 101,460 Australians made the trek to Japan, of which just 41,520 were tourists.

By 2016 the number had sky rocketed to 445,237 — of which 398,193 were tourists. That's a 959 per cent increase in the number of Australians taking a holiday in Japan over just two decades.

Do NOT let this guy on Fox News Breakfast

So, some dude from the University of Waterloo (where?  Ontario I see) has an article on The Conversation seemingly advocating that the next year is a good time for the US to carry out a "surgical" nuclear strike on North Korea:
Properly used, nuclear munitions can result in a minimum of radioactive or long-term contamination, or mass destruction —far lesser consequences than if North Korea actually detonated one of their crude nuclear weapons.
Do us a favour, Rupert, and don't get him on Fox News morning show and have Steve Doocebag nod approvingly.  

So, it's just intense personality and character defects, then?

Surely I can't be the only person to be somewhat disappointed that Trump isn't on the way out due to cognitive issues?   (Come on - it's not like I'm wishing ill on a saint - or even your average sinner.  He's an obnoxious, racist, dumb, narcissistic, serial adulterer from way back.   Willing to pay off his casual sex partners just before an election, too.  It's rumoured there were many other payments made.)  Mind you, the test he underwent is the simplest one (which is of the kind I saw the doctor give to my Mum when she was developing dementia):
At the president’s request, Jackson said that he reviewed a number of cognitive tests and then administered the Montreal Cognitive Assessment during Trump’s first presidential physical exam on Friday afternoon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The 10-minute exam is designed to detect mild cognitive impairment, generally in older patients. Trump answered all 30 questions correctly, Jackson said.

The test includes asking a patient to name several animals, draw a clock with the hands at a certain time, copy a cube and recall a short list of words, among others. Jackson said he has “no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues.”
I can't get to comments at the Washington Post, but I wonder what other doctors are saying about the test as a general reliable guide to mental functioning...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Galaxy positioning system

Oh my - seems like only a year or so ago that I was posting about pulsars being proposed as a sort of GPS system for spaceships in the solar system or beyond - but it was 2012!

Last week, in Nature, it was reported that they can indeed be used that way:
From its perch aboard the International Space Station, a NASA experiment has shown how future missions might navigate their way through deep space. Spacecraft could triangulate their location, in a sort of celestial Global Positioning System (GPS), using clockwork-like signals from distant dead stars.

Last November, the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) spent a day and a half looking at a handful of pulsars — rapidly spinning stellar remnants that give off beams of powerful radiation as they rotate. By measuring tiny changes in the arrival time of the pulses, NICER could pinpoint its location to within 5 kilometres.

It is the first demonstration in space of the long-sought technology known as pulsar navigation. One day, the method could help spacecraft steer themselves without regular instructions from Earth.....The team plans to repeat the experiment in the coming months, hoping to reduce the margin of error to one kilometre or less.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My favourite recent anti-Trump reading

Well it's been a busy couple of weeks in Trump conversation in the media.  

Here are some recent passages and links that I thought rang very true:

Mike Allen at Axios made the case that, even though Fire and Fury is a book very high on "truthiness" rather than pinned down journalistic accuracy (and fellow Axios writer Jonathon Swan has complained long and hard about that aspect of the book), it does paint a big picture which Allen and other journalists fully accept as accurate.   How could it not be so when so many people in the White House were leaking against Trump to the press right from the start of this woeful presidency?:
...there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book's scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.
But read the whole thing, if you missed it.

 * David Frum's summary of why Trump has supporters at all is spot on:
In 2016, there were voters who genuinely, in good faith, believed that Donald Trump was a capable business leader, moderate on social issues, who cared about the troubles of working class white America—and would do something to help. There may well still be some people who believe this—but nowhere near enough to sustain a presidency.

What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway. Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him; conservative-media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the culture wars he provokes; rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country.
*  Also in the NYT, Nicholas Kristof summarises Trump's threat to democracy, which has always been clear to those not blinded by culture war point scoring and conspiracy think:
Two political scientists specializing in how democracies decay and die have compiled four warning signs to determine if a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:

1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules. 2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents. 3. He or she tolerates violence. 4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.

“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, both professors at Harvard, write in their important new book, “How Democracies Die,” which will be released next week.

“With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century,” they say, which sounds reassuring. Unfortunately, they have one update: “Donald Trump met them all.”

We tend to assume that the threat to democracies comes from coups or violent revolutions, but the authors say that in modern times, democracies are more likely to wither at the hands of insiders who gain power initially through elections. That’s what happened, to one degree or another, in Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, Ecuador, Hungary, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Poland and Peru.
Kristof says he is not saying that he thinks American institutions won't successfully thwart Trump's anti democratic tendencies, but he does worry:
It matters when Trump denounces the “deep state Justice Department,” calls Hillary Clinton a “criminal” and urges “jail” for Huma Abedin, denounces journalists as the “enemy of the American people” and promises to pay the legal fees of supporters who “beat the crap” out of protesters. With such bombast, Trump is beating the crap out of American norms. 

And the most distressing thing about Trump is the demonstration of how many people for selfish and often shallow reasons (Ha! look at how he sticks it to Leftists) will happily live - and even endorse - such anti-democratic rhetoric and behaviour in the so-called leader of the free world.  

*   I was surprised about the extent of some of the relatively moderate commentator push back arising from the deficiencies as journalism of  Michael Wolff's book:  in particular David Brooks in the New York Times actually coming to Trump's quasi-defence, noting that many people have had meetings with him where he at least came across as something less than a drooling madman.   Great!   Jonathan Chait makes a somewhat snarky, but accurate, response:
Four days ago, David Brooks broke the news in the New York Times that President Trump is actually a sober-minded and competent public servant. “People who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised,” he reported. “They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by.”

It is safe to say that this column has not aged well in the short time since its publication.
Chait goes back over the remarkable story of how Trump demonstrated with certainly how he takes his lead on issues from Fox News, when he tweeted against his own administration's policy when someone on Fox News breakfast encouraged him to do so.  

How absurd and dangerous is this?   The only good thing to be said about Trump's tweeting habit, I suppose, is how the public knows directly what an empty headed, easily manipulated, narcissist person he is.  No need for historians to tell us.
 Chait also notes the many bizarre claims in Trump's WSJ interview of last week, including claims of treason for an FBI agent having political views.  Chait concludes:
It is obviously true that, in a large country, a broad spectrum of opinion will inevitably produce excesses on every side. Even a president as deranged and racist as Trump will be talked about, by somebody, in excessively harsh terms. Yet Brooks’s conclusion that Trump critics have on the whole exaggerated his flaws, that Trump is in fact reasonably well informed, affable, and sane, does not seem to be a reasonable conclusion at all. Instead it is an expression of Brooks’s unavoidable tendency to impose a sheen of normality on a political party that is anything but.
William Saletan made the obvious point in Slate about Trump's boasting of his intelligence:
 What Trump doesn’t understand is you don’t convey intelligence by asserting it. You convey it by demonstrating it. The more you talk about it, the more suspicious people become. They wonder why you’re vouching for yourself instead of doing your job and letting others vouch for you. And they wonder why you feel the need to keep talking about it. The real message of your constant boasting isn’t that you’re smart. It’s that you’re insecure.
Saletan is pretty good on Trump being a bigoted racist, too.  Lots of other writers have written a similar sort of piece, citing many examples from Trump's life.  But Saletan does it with many more links and in greater detail than most. 

An invention worth noting

I just found a link I had saved but, it would seem, never posted.  From 2013, in Slate, a short history of airconditioning.   It's a pretty hot weekend where I am in Brisbane, so it's topical.

The first modern, properly air conditioned building was apparently this:
It was introduced to the public on Memorial Day weekend, 1925, when it debuted at the Rivoli Theater in Times Square. For years afterward, people piled into air-conditioned movie theaters on hot summer days, giving rise to the summer blockbuster.   
So modern aircon is less than 100 years old.  Huh.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A holiday 23 million years in the making...

Well, perhaps not a holiday exactly:  more a short break over Christmas for 5 days to Mount Tamborine, barely an hour from where I live, and up behind the Gold Coast, so usually 2 to 4 degrees cooler than Brisbane or the coast.  We never stayed up there before, but I couldn't be away from work for too long this year, so we went there instead of a beach holiday.

We stayed at a holiday rental house in the streets behind the very touristy (and not that interesting, really) Gallery Walk at Eagle Heights.   I had never driven in the residential streets behind Gallery Walk before, and what a pleasant surprise they are.   The houses are a mix of old and new, but many are are in a cottage style, and cooler weather gardens are very common, as well as tree lined streets, some with spectacular views to the coast.  Some examples:

This isn't actually the house we stayed in, but just an example of a charmingly done cottage style house and cottage garden of a type you virtually never see in Brisbane, but of which there are many up at Tamborine.

This is the inside of the one we stayed at, and it was  the nicest holiday rental house we have ever been in.  Heaps of good cooking equipment in the kitchen (handy if you are doing a Christmas dinner), plenty of money spent on furniture, fully ducted airconditioning, beautiful bathrooms (I should have taken a photo), and for winter, a big central fireplace.   It's called The Maple and The Nest (booked through Stayz, not Airbnb), and I recommend it.

These doors:

which featured in my Christmas greeting post,  led to this wisteria covered courtyard - can you imagine how this would look when the wisteria is in flower?

Anyway, Mt Tamborine is sort of a plateau area, with a population of around 7,000, I think I read, with residential development around some small but still pretty national parks.   General photos of the area:

 A house with a view to the coast.

 The view to the west.

And some typical national park scenery:

 Strangler figs:  lots of strangler figs.

The other things Mt Tamborine does well:   craft beer, pizza with beer, cheese, avocados, and bread.

I think the Fortitude Brewing Company (which is big enough that some bars in Brisbane have it on tap - including my favourite bar, the Paddock Bar at Rydges next to the Brisbane showgrounds) is just the most consistently pleasing SE Queensland craft brewery, and its home is at Mt Tamborine.  The bar there does great pizza too, and the local cheese place (which is really high quality as well) is in the same complex.  We bought a "growler" and took some hoppy IPA home - it was great.

Around the corner from where we staying there was a small bakery, but it make some distinctive and fantastic sourdoughs, and was open every day over Christmas.  It's in a group of local shops that is off the main road, and hardly anyone seemed to ever be there, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find such high quality bread - try the German beer bread, you'll like it.

There are many small farms on the plateau, and avocados are plentiful, and they are often left on "honesty system" road side stalls.  We had some very good quality ones,  and some great red rhubarb and cucumber, but I suspect in other seasons the range of veges would be higher.   Stuff left out on the roadside in the middle of summer probably has a limited life.

There are tourist attractions based on tree top walks and flying foxes and the like, but they do seem pretty expensive and we didn't bother trying them.  Just lazing around instead, and the kids had their bikes to get around a bit, but it was still pretty hot and the ducted aircon was always attractive.   It was a pretty pleasant stay.

So, why the title to the post?

Well, the small Tamborine Heritage Centre (worth a quick visit, to learn a bit of local history) had this picture which caught my attention:

If you can read it, towards the right, they have marked a plateau area as "Tamborine Mountain".   What I didn't realise before was that this entire area had, 23 million odd years ago, all been under a huge shield volcano, the central remnants of which are the present Mount Warning in the Tweed Valley area, about 55 or so kilometres to the south as the crow flies.

Now, I could have guessed from the shape of Mt Warning, which looks very similar to the Glasshouse Mountains north of Brisbane, that it was, like them, the central core of an eroded volcano.  (I think most people from Brisbane with vague geological interest know that about the Glasshouse Mountains?   I mean, one in particular - Crookneck:

 ...looks very much like a central volcanic plug.)

But I had no idea that Mt Warning was the centre of such a huge volcano in height and extent.   And that, if you look at the geography of the area now, the eroded caldera is clear:

And here's a NASA image of the same area:

As the NASA website says:

Australia, the only continent with no current volcanic activity, is home to one of the world's largest extinct volcanoes: Tweed Volcano, shown in this 3-D stereo image pair. Eruptions here ended about 20 million years ago. Twenty million years of erosion have left this landform deeply eroded yet very recognizable as a caldera with a central peak--the erosional stub of the central pipe that carried magma upward to Earth's surface.

I feel I should have know this before, even if I didn't do geography or geology in high school.

And what was Australia like 23 - 20 million years ago?

Well, it seems it had broken off from Antarctica by then and was still heading north.   (Antarctica was cooling because of its new surrounding southern ocean, although the ice sheets had not yet formed - that was only about 14 millions years ago.)

According to the Australian Museum website, the early Miocene (23 to 16 million years ago) featured this:


  • Northern Australia was covered in lush rainforest.
  • The Miocene was a time of enormous richness and variety of plant and animal life in Australia, equal to that found today in the rainforests of Borneo and the Amazon.


  • In Australia the early relatives of many of familiar present-day animals had evolved including possums, kangaroos, koalas, bats, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, frogs, millipedes, beetles and many kinds of birds.
  • Many less familiar animals also lived in Australia during the Miocene such as, marsupial lions, flesh-eating kangaroos, cleaver-headed crocodiles, thunder birds, horned turtles and strange 'thingodontans'.
Land of the flesh eating kangaroos, and a giant shield volcano not far from where I live now.  How interesting!

Speaking of ancient living things, a public park at Tamborine has a few bunya pine trees planted, which are a magnificent tree except for this problem:

That's a pretty good reason for their relative lack of use as a park tree.  I really only recall seeing some in their natural habitat up in Bunya Mountains National Park, when I was a teenager.

Here's one the cones at Tamborine, with my pale looking foot (and starting to look old) ankle for scale:

And how long have they been around?   Well, relatives like it has been around since the Jurassic (175 million years ago), apparently, so I presume it is likely that they were here pretty much in their current form when the Tweed volcano was spewing lava a mere 20 million years ago.

So there you:   I went on a holiday and learnt something about prehistory I didn't realise before.

Remarkably few in my family (read - none) find this as fascinating as I have....

Friday, January 12, 2018

A minor observation...

I've been meaning to opine on this all summer - and last summer too, when I think he also had the job.

Hamish Macdonald, the young-ish journalist who sits in for Fran Kelly as host of Radio National Breakfast over summer, is actually better at the job than Fran.   I don't dislike her, but Macdonald is often more direct and blunt with interviewees, and the show just feels, I don't know,  livelier?

Gradually building up to activity...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Not convinced this is a good mannequin look

As spotted in Sydney,  last year.   Don't think I ever posted about that weekend trip..

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

More mildlife

This summer's possum lodger is a very laid back customer.   Last year's would hiss and resent offers of fruit; this one takes it gently from the hand.   Nice...

Monday, January 08, 2018

Friday, January 05, 2018

Still busy

I didn't intend a blogging halt lasting this long, but I've just been exceptionally busy at work, and to a degree, at home.   And what a lot there is to link to at the moment re Trump, climate change, aliens (or lack of them), volcanoes, beer, cheese, bread and avocados.   (The last 5 topics will be dealt with in my first proper return post - there is a connection.)   But back to work again for the moment...

Monday, January 01, 2018

... and a Happy New Year

I'll be posting again soon,  but for now: