Australia’s worst politician?


olssonViews are bound to vary about who is your least favourite politician in Australia. Right now, my candidate would be Councillor David Olsson of the Yankalilla District Council. Why? Read on. Continue reading

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Tony’s Angel

tony-blairTony Blair freely admitted (but only after leaving office) that his faith was “hugely important” to the decisions he made.

This week, he has made a speech telling us that the Brexit referendum result was wrong, and that the people should now change their minds.

I wonder if he was told this by a messenger from his God?  And if so, was it the same angel Continue reading

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Ban the Book

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationI do not get nearly as much time as I would like, these days, to read, but I did recently seize the opportunity to read the History of the campaigns 1780 and 1781 in the southern provinces of North America by Lieutenant-Colonel[1] Tarleton. I had previously come across the somewhat glamorous figure of Banastre Tarleton for the purposes of my book 500 Fenwicks (still not finished).

Banastre Tarleton was a descendant of the Shakespearean actor (the subject of John Dowland’s beautiful lute piece Tarleton’s Resurrection). He was the son of a successful merchant in Liverpool; he early wasted his inheritance gambling and womanising before joining the Army, and then distinguished himself as the most successful cavalry officer fighting on the loyalist side in the American Revolutionary war, particularly in the southern campaigns, running from the loyalist capture of Charleston[2] in 1780 to the siege of Yorktown in 1781. That is a war which the loyalists would certainly have won but for the massive intervention of the French, hugely jealous of British success in North America, which was so expensive to the French as to drive them to virtual bankruptcy, and hence sow the seeds of the French Revolution. It was also a war which, perhaps not surprisingly, has been massively romanticised by Americans. At the time, also unsurprising, the Rebels were not big fans of Tarleton.[3]

After the war, Tarleton wrote his book about the campaign. It is interesting for its historical content, of course, but also for some serendipitous reasons.

He obtained promotion very fast: a mere cornet in 1775, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel within 5 years, at the age of just 26. He was essentially a cavalry officer, commanding loyal Americans, but his unit, which came to known as Tarleton’s Raiders, also consisted of some mounted infantry and horse-drawn light artillery (3 pounders). His unit was famous for moving at very rapid speed, and achieving several victories over the rebels despite being greatly outnumbered. He would have been about the same age or younger than most of the Americans he commanded, and from the side of the Atlantic, but was obviously held in great affection and admiration by his men for his skill and bravery.

One curious thing about the book is the way that Tarleton spelled Scottish names; hence eg M’Arthur, not McArthur or MacArthur. It is a fashion which has long passed, but is not that illogical. After all we have O’Reilly etc in Ireland and D’Estaing etc in Continue reading

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Whitsunday on Monday

The Whitsunday Islands are apparently a misnomer; because of a mix-up with the International Date Line, Captain Cook thought that he had come across them on Whit Sunday. It was actually Whit Monday.

They turn out, nevertheless, to be very beautiful.


Curiously, the biggest of the islands – Whitsunday Island itself, Continue reading

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Recent quizzes have proved overly hard. So here is an easier one. Where and what is the live animal in this photo, taken at home yesterday?


Hint: it is not Continue reading

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Le Pen is mightier than the Bored?

fillonThe New Statesman has opined that

No, the fall of François Fillon doesn’t mean Marine Le Pen will win

This follows, of course, revelations that Fillon, the former darling of the centre-right in France, has had his nose in the trough a bit too deeply, even by French standards, by paying his wife “wages” of hundreds of thousands of Euros of taxpayers’ money for doing, it seems, no work at all. Perhaps the French, who are usually quite relaxed about these things, have been roused from their usual boredom by the fact that the wife is Welsh. It might have been OK if she were a Parisienne? Fillon looks to be finished as a runner.

Anyway, since the New Statesman is typically wrong about everything, this might well mean that the road is indeed now rather more open for Marinne Le Pen to win the forthcoming French presidential election.

I watched the whole of Ken Clarke’s speech in the House of Commons on the Brexit vote. He did not look or sound at all well, and cut Continue reading

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Delightfully simple, or far too difficult?

where-we-export-to-graph_0Having  listened to a great deal of commentary about the complexity attach it on to the Brexit negotiations, I have come to the conclusion that there are two separate projects underway, one which is comparatively straightforward and the other being very complex.

The straightforward project is leaving the European Union. As the Prime Minister has said “Brexit means Brexit”. And so the answers to all sorts of questions ought to be very easy Continue reading

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Quiz VII

quiz-viiSame general drift as Quiz VI.  But the answer is not the same . Oh Continue reading

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Quiz of the Day VI

quiz-viNo one was able to answer Quiz V. So I have made this one dead easy.

What is denoted by this map? You have to click on the image to run the animation.

I composed this largely to try out the new Excel mapping facility, which is quite fun.

To make it just a shade harder, turn off Continue reading

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Swimmingly Bad Lies

swimmingI have remarked before that the stock response to skin cancer – slap on more sun screen – actually causes more skin cancer, not less. A fact which is bad news for the huge industry of producing and selling the stuff, and so rarely reported.

Recently, there has been a spate of drownings in Australia. Predictably, the stock response – take more children to swimming pools and teach them to swim – is equally fallacious. See for example Good swimmers drown more often than non-swimmers: How openwater swimming could feature in beginner swimming Torill Hindmarch and Mats Melbye Norwegian Life Saving Society at

It is commonly said, “The best insurance against drowning is learning to swim”. But the figures tell us something else. While approximately two-thirds of those who drowned where considered ‘good swimmers’ (2), almost all drowning accidents take place closer than 15 meters from possible rescue and more 50% closer than three meters from possible rescue. Why couldn’t they swim to safety?

One might assume that good swimmers to a greater degree engage in water related activities, equally, the figures say nothing about how many survive due to good aquatic skills. Figures from a Survey made by Norwegian Swimming Federation indicate that only a half of the Norwegian population can be classed as ‘competent’ swimmers. Combining these figures one can conclude that learning to swim in fact doubles the risk of drowning.

Research shows that certain age groups and genders have a higher incidence of drowning. It also shows that although it is no significant difference between the self estimated aquatic skills and the real aquatic skills, in the exposed group there was a low estimation of the risk in specific situations (3).

The reason is not hard to see. Non-swimmers do not go swimming. The better swimmer a person is Continue reading

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