Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wetlands Wildlife

It's Australia Day today and so I have the day off work. Got up early to walk with the missus and the dog. Good idea to go for a walk early - just take a look below at the Bureau of Meteorology's forecast for the next week. Anyway, I noticed a few birds out and about at the nearby wetlands and thought I'd return to take a few photos.

Wetlands Wildlife Photo Album

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What The Heck Is An Avish Life?

Anybody know what an avish life is? Strange headline on today - The avish life of file-sharing kingpin Kim Dotcom

And their slogan is "Technology - Switched On". I'd say that the spellchecker was switched off. It's not some East Ender speak, innit?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review - Plotting Hitler's Death by Joachim Fest

I purchased this book secondhand at the Save The Children Fund Giant Book Fair. It cost $12 which I thought was quite pricey but it was in mint condition. Retail price was $45. The German resistance to Hitler is not a subject that's been discussed too much in the West, I feel. So, I thought that it would make for some interesting reading.

You'd be forgiven to think that this book would be all about Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg and his assassination attempt that was depicted in the movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise. Stauffenberg isn't really spoken about until chapter seven. I have seen the movie but found it a little difficult to relate to or follow as I wasn't aware of the story behind it.

Apparently there were 16 assassination attempts on Hitler but not all of them are mentioned in this book. It focuses on the main proponents of the resistance, a term not coined until after the war, and their inability to agree on a plan to put an end to Hitler's rule over the years. For too long they waited for the right moment or for justification to launch their coup and also fought amongst themselves whether Hitler should become a victim of tyrannicide or not. Their Christian beliefs made it difficult for them to commit to assassination. The book is slow going to start with as not very much happened that was exciting between 1933 and 1944 in terms of assassination attempts. They were too busy planning, not obtaining enough support or too scared to carry through with a plan whilst their conscience pressured them. Can't say I blame them when living in a police state however.

The book makes it reasonably clear that the Allies did not assist the German resistance as their every move was considered to be treasonous. Hindsight tells us that one man's treason could be the whole world's saviour.

The most interesting point about the book is the incredible depth of research that has obviously taken place. It is written in such a manner as you can almost feel that you were in the meetings of the German resistance or in Hitler's Wolf's Lair at the time of Stauffenberg's assassination attempt. There is so much depth that it is almost like reading in real time. There's no jumping around to lose track of time. It is beautifully written and, I feel, an outstanding piece of work. Highly recommended for historically important events that haven't received the significance that is deserved. A fabulous book although quite slow in parts.

Two things slightly disappointed me. Firstly, the fact that my version was printed in the US and written with US English spelling. Minor gripe from a pedant though. And secondly, the captions on many of the photos revealed too much of the upcoming work that would have been better not to have been revealed a page or two too early.

Time for some quotes:

- Even more decisive, however, were Hitler's tactics, which quickly undermined the willingness of the republic's supporters to take action. They had always assumed that the Nazi leader would stage a coup and had prepared themselves exclusively for this eventuality. But Hitler's experiences during his long rise to power, especially the well-remembered failed putsch of November 1923, had persuaded him that it was best not to be seen seizing control through overtly violent means. Having risen to chancellor through constitutional channels, he was not about to stigmatise himself as a revolutionary.

- A coup achieved through legal channels was something thoroughly unknown. The classical literature on resistance to tyrants, stretching back to the days of the ancient Greeks, dealt exclusively with violent seizures of power; there was no talk of silent takeovers through outwardly democratic methods, of obeying the letter of the law while mocking its spirit. By leaving the facade of the constitution in place, Hitler hopelessly confounded the public's ability to judge the legality of the new regime, to choose whether as good citizens they should feel loyal to it or not.

- It always required an element of terror, he (Reichenau) said soon after assuming his new position, to purge a state of all its rot and decay.

- The presidency was the last bastion of army independence. This office and the powers attached to it were all that separated Hitler from outright dictatorship. (It was Hitler's merging of the offices of president and chancellor, which was an open violation of constitutional law, which provided him with absolute authority in Germany.)

- Venerable institutions are much more commonly laid low by their victories than by their defeats, especially when the true nature of those triumphs is disguised - as it so often is - or when it transpires that they are not in fact victories at all.

- During the Fritsch crisis the F├╝hrer had confided in a member of his cabinet that Beck was the only officer he feared: "That man could really do something." (Ludwig Beck was anointed to become the provisional head of state should Stauffenberg's assassination attempt have been successful.)

- Dictators do not allow themselves to be driven into things, because then they would no longer be dictators - Manstein's comment at the Nuremberg trials.

- "We should have gone to war in 1938. That was our last chance to keep it localised. But they gave in everywhere. Like cowards they yielded to all our demands. So it was very difficult to initiate hostilities." - Hitler

- "You can't wage ware with Salvation Army methods." - Hitler referencing the brutality used against the Poles in 1939.

- In the years that followed, it was these brilliant successes, much more than opportunism or personal weakness (although they also existed), that generated the mysterious confidence in Hitler's genius that always seemed to resurface despite setbacks.

- Only a complete collapse and widespread acceptance of the inevitability of defeat and the ensuing chaos could create the necessary preconditions for the great internal revival on which the future depended.

- Most of the politicians and military leaders whom they unsuccessfully courted in London, The Hague, and Washington still believed, however, that these Germans were committing "treason" and therefore regarded them with contempt. There was no appreciation of the fact that the opponents of the Nazi regime felt guided by new principles and laws whose legitimacy did not end at national borders.

- Canaris - exemplified the dilemma of many torn between emotion and reason. They felt proud of the restoration of German might yet were well aware of the repellent ways in which it had been achieved. They took great professional pleasure in their successes yet despaired over the "gangster methods of the regime." They recognised that a catastrophe was looming for which they bore some responsibility yet felt paralysed by such honourable principles as duty, loyalty, and a job well done.

- He (Hitler) had once said that avoiding such a predicament (the waging of a two-front war) was a fundamental principle of German foreign policy. "Time, always time!" he later grumbled.

- To Mussolini he (Hitler) said that he felt like someone who had only one shot left in his rifle as night began to fall.

- Their motives (Hans and Sophie Scholl) were amongst the simplest and, sadly, the rarest of all: a sense of right and wrong and a determination to take action. (Siblings arrested while throwing hundreds of leaflets from the gallery of the atrium at Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich speaking out vehemently against the regime and the moral indolence and numbness of the German people. In a special session of the People's Court, they were tried in less than three and a half hours and sentenced to death with their executions taking place later that day.)

- ... the attitude of most of the officers: their indecision, their narrow-mindedness, their ambivalence, and ultimately their servility.

- A dictatorship cannot be put on a democratic footing over night." - Julius Leber

- "He who has the courage to act must know that he will probably go down in German history as a traitor. But if he fails to act, he will be a traitor before his own conscience." - Stauffenberg

- "But even worse than failure is to yield to shame and coercion without a struggle." - Stauffenberg

- ... the German resistance remained what it had always been: an expression of feelings that may well have been widespread but that only a tiny minority was prepared to act on.

- Far from representing a tightly knit social elite hoping to regain its lost preeminence, the opposition to Hitler consisted of a motley collection of individuals who differed greatly in their social origins, habits of thought, political attitudes, and methods of action.

- German philosophy is often said to be rather removed from reality, and this characterisation certainly holds true for the German resistance.

- Public reports of the trials were quickly cut back and then stopped entirely in what was probably the most searing propaganda defeat the regime had ever suffered.

- No amount of success justified the government's crimes.

- On the night of July 20, 1944, Hitler addressed the German people by radio, claiming that "a very small clique of ambitious, wicked, and stupidly criminal officers forged a plot to eliminate me and, along with me, virtually the entire leadership of the Wehrmacht." (The officers were stripped of their military rank so as to be tried in the People's Court and they, and their families, numbered in the thousands in fact. Their numbers were so great that Hitler eventually forbade reporting on the trials or the subsequent executions.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

When did Tasmanian child abuse constitute business?

OK, so I'm not aware of all types of business that people partake in but just when did Tasmanian child abuse constitute business? A rather strange headline aggregated by Google News into the Business section this morning.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Good Thing Greater Western Sydney Chose That Name

The newest AFL team, Greater Western Sydney, or GWS, should be glad that they chose that name. If they had called themselves the Sydney Funnel Webs, after the spider of the same name, they may have been unfortunate enough to have drafted fallen-from-grace former AFL footballer Brendan Fevola. Fev, as he is more widely known, appears to have been bitten by a spider recently and ended up in hospital. That wouldn't have been good publicity, would it?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 - Day 15

Overnight it was pouring with rain which made me very glad that I looked at Cradle Mountain last night as it would be shrouded in cloud and an utter disappointment today. And so it proved to be. After breakfast I looked for some fuel but it was $1.965/L at the visitor centre and I asked if fuel would be available in the town of Moina, some 24 kms away. A woman who lived in Perth but worked at the park said that it would be.

In a bid to conserve fuel I drove at 60-70 km/h which was a good idea as the cafe/servo at Moina was closed for winter. Winter which finished six weeks ago mind you. The nearest fuel was, you guessed it, at the visitor centre 24 kms back up the road (and up the mountain). I decided to drive to Staverton and was a little disappointed to find only three or four houses and one antique fuel bowser. Knocked on a couple of doors to ask where the nearest petrol station was and one guy told me that it was 15 kms down the road (in Sheffield). Drove very slowly until we reached Sheffield then discovered a petrol station that was completely automated. I must have driven for close to 25-30 kms with the low fuel light coming on and off.

On the journey to put fuel in I'd noticed a sign for a town called Nowhere Else and decided to backtrack to investigate. Turned out to be nothing more than a couple of farms. Bit of traffic about though.

Back in Sheffield I found murals all about the town. No wonder they call it the Town of Murals. Very pretty and a great tourist attraction. Bought some souvenirs and asked for directions to Marakoopa for the caves to which the shop owner quickly provided a map.

As I approached the turnoff for Marakoopa Caves I noticed that we only had a few minutes until the next tour started - but we weren't the last to join. Brian, the guide, gave a great tour complete with stalactites, stalagmites, mightytites, flow, melted cheese, straws, pendutites, two rivers and glowworms! He has done more than 1755 tours. We went 400m inside the cave and weren't disappointed. The fine for breaking off some of the furniture for a souvenir is $15,000 and they've fined three people to date. Tour finished at 1pm and we headed to Perth, Tasmania. I drove quite slowly as fuel was getting low once again.

By the time we arrived in Perth it was raining quite heavily. No postcards available, except at the post office which was closed, so we hunted for food. I ate a wallaby sausage at Utsi - a cafe made from a converted church. The lady at the visitor centre at Cradle Mountain had said to try the food there. Finally found a place that sold food, the restaurant at the petrol station, and we had nachos and a King Island pie. Not bad.

Asked for directions to the airport, as there were two ways to go. They told me the quicker way which was about three kilometres further - not that I had the fuel for it.

Well, I'm sure that the car was out of fuel. My rental agreement was that I purchased a tank of fuel and any fuel that was in the vehicle was free for Avis. They weren't getting any freebies from me, not after the insurance incident at the start of the car hire. At Avis' desk the girl tried to inform me that the total price payable would have fuel added to the rental/insurance, etc, but I pointed out that I had paid for a tank of fuel. After telling her she was then able to inform me that I was correct. Their slogan, "We Try Harder", may be correct in that they try it on. Not a pleasant experience, really.

Quite a queue for the check-in for Qantas Link. And right behind us was a Japanese family that took the cave tour with us. Down in the waiting lounge there was a Jetstar flight that was delayed for 30 mins. We started boarding at our scheduled departure time and so were some 20-25 mins late in leaving. With a 150 km/h headwind we weren't going to make up any time into Melbourne. No probs as we had four hours to kill anyway.

Melbourne-Tassie Trip 2011 Photo Album No.3 - See photos 105-162.

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 - Day 14

Early start to the day as the cruise on the Gordon River started at 8:30 am and we had to be ready before then. Brekky and check out to take care of before finding parking all day for $2.

Boarded the Lady Jane Franklin II amongst the 89 passengers and we had a seat in the middle of the lower deck. But we were free to wander around on all decks. The captain, Rob, took us through Hell's Gates, at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, and the entrance was only 65ft wide. Our ship was 9.5m wide, a smidgen over 31ft, so there wasn't much room for error. Met up with the Davies couple, from yesterdays train ride, and said hello.

The cruise through Macquarie Harbour, at a cracking pace, took us past some salmon/trout farms. With no natural predators the fish do quite well. As we approached the Gordon River the pace slowed considerably. This was to protect the river bank.

I wondered about the lack of birdlife on the river and it turns out that the river is too deep for normal waterbirds near the bank. All of the big Huon pines have been harvested from the area by convict labour in the 1820s and 30s, and by the piners in later years, so there wasn't a lot of big trees to see.

We stopped at Heritage Landing and The Boy was given the job of counting chimneys created by burrowing crayfish, of which we didn't spot one (probably because they are nocturnal). He reached 1,031 in the 30 minutes that we were there.

The ship turned around and lunch was served. Luckily I noticed that the pasta had pesto as The Boy had quite a bit on his plate and with his allergy that could have been very serious. New plate required. Lots of tasty salmon to eat.

Cruised back to Sarah Island which was settled by convicts in 1822. A total of 131 ships were built in 12 years (96 in the five years that Captain David Hoy was in charge). We were given a tour by Jane Flanagan, from The Round Earth Company, and that was very informative. After the play last night I wanted her to be our guide.

Once back on dry land I did some searching for decent souvenirs and went to the sawmill. There is a huge fine for cutting down the protected Huon pines so only driftwood, which doesn't rot, can be used. Therefore the wood is quite expensive. Bought a mixing bowl and spoon for the missus.

Back in the car and The Boy remembered where the road to Zeehan was. Some dumb woman stopped in front of us, in the middle of the road halfway down the highway, with no indication, just so that she could take a photo. And it was in a spot where overtaking was not allowed! Some people should just not be allowed to drive vehicles. Full stop.

Much to my disgust, and against of the guarantees I had been given, it wasn't raining when we reached Zeehan. Strahan has only 40 days a year when it doesn't rain and we enjoyed two of them consecutively. I planned to visit Montezuma Falls nearby but with a three hour return journey on foot I thought "bugger that".

Drove into Cradle Mt - Lake St Clair National Park and had another person stop in front of me in a no overtaking zone - on a bloody steep hill this time! Stupid tourists should be barred entry into Tasmania. It would seem that idiot drivers flock to Tassie.

Cradle Mountain itself was experiencing clear skies and great views. Called into the YHA to book a room and they upgraded us to a 4-bunk room at no extra charge. In fact, we had the 6-room bungalow to ourselves. Bought some very expensive groceries also.

Across the road to the Visitor Centre to buy a Parks Pass but as it was already ten past five they had shut for the day. Was fortunate enough to see an employee and asked about the pass and she showed me the after hours pass, of which there were only two left to buy, and told me how to fill it in. I put $24.75 in coins into the envelope only to discover that I couldn't put it into the box.

Drove into the park which has some 40 one lane sections until you reach Dove Lake near the mountain. Had to fill in a booklet detailing our planned walk - to Dove Lake boat shed and Glacier Rock at Dove Lake. Certainly came in a bit colder and the clouds finally came in. Beautiful walk and fantastic scenery. A terrific place to visit.

The drive back to our accommodation was about 18 minutes without traffic so we certainly picked a good time to visit. Tea time and then off to our room. The tiniest bit of rain fell at 8pm.

Melbourne-Tassie Trip 2011 Photo Album No.3 - See photos 41-104.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mission Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol

Seeing as it was the holidays and new movies were in the cinemas, coupled with some free movie tickets, we decided to go out and watch something. After seeing Tintin the previous week we narrowed down the selection to the following:

Mission Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol
Tower Heist
War Horse

After watching the trailers we deemed that MI4 was the best choice. Thought that we'd better get there a little early in case it was busy. With it being the last day of the holidays you couldn't be sure.

I parked the car where the missus said to even though it wasn't anywhere near where I wanted to. We tried to get in through the food hall area entrance but the doors were locked. Managed to talk our way through one shop that they were doing renovation work on. It was then that I remembered that I'd left my bag in the car and would have to retrieve it. Bought the tickets first and then headed out to go the long way around to return to the car.

As I entered the car park I saw a couple of guys pull up and start to walk inside. They looked a bit loose. After the long walk, reminiscent of when I first shopped at the Galleria and couldn't remember where I had parked my car (it is a big shopping centre with a BIG car park) I was in and driving towards the entrance where the cinema was situated.

Waited a few more minutes before entering before the start of the movie. The room was getting close to packed. And of course someone was sitting in our seats. There was a father and son who hadn't read the numbers properly so they only had to move over a few seats. But two guys, and guess who they should turn out to be, were in our seats. One of the guys, whom I'd seen in the car park, was upset that I wanted the seats that I had been allocated. He began to argue that they were his seats and that he was in row N. Well, my ticket was for row M and he was sitting in it. Then he tried to tell me that the alphabet went L, N then M. What a bloody dill. Even the father sitting nearby couldn't believe his ears. Well, it turns out that the people sitting behind these two were in the wrong seats as well. This guy even tried to argue that there were plenty of seats and it didn't matter. I made it quite clear that it did matter as we were a family of three and wished to sit together in OUR allocated seats. He and his friend finally moved. What a dick.

Talk about Mission Impossible. Tom Cruise had it easy compared with us just trying to obtain our seats.

Brilliant movie which everyone enjoyed. Full of action, stunts, fighting, great special effects, action, some humour, intrigue, and did I mention action? I would thoroughly recommend this movie and it is why you go to the cinema.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 - Day 13

No hassle this morning as our West Coast Wilderness Railway ride wasn't until 10:15 am. Yu-Jin and I walked to IGA to buy food for breakfast - pancakes. Took forever to cook without butter didn't taste very good. Played a bit of totem tennis and then I realised that my booking was made but I still had to collect the tickets and get to the station. Upon collection of the tickets I was informed that we had to be there at 9:45 so we still had a bit of time.

The lady giving the tour had only been doing it for three weeks and it was her first day with the whistle and flag. Her commentary was a bit muddled and she wasn't really confident in her delivery. Give her time though.

The stories that were told made the journey better. Train ride was OK, lunch was nice but the photo opportunities were few and far between. Quite difficult to obtain a decent photo at times. It is the case that the pollutants from the Mt Lyell Mine contaminated the Queen River and then the King River. No fish or wildlife can live in either river. Perhaps in 100 years time, after rehabilitation, the wildlife may return.

We had 40 minutes to wander around Queenstown until the coach left so wander we did. Not a great town to see either. The coach took 50 minutes for the journey, which took me 33 by car, and we watched a DVD entitled the West Coasters.

After the drive back to the railway station I visited Peoples Park and took the short walk to Hogarth Falls. Quite nice and I learnt that ferns only unfurl one new frond each year. Not really productive then.

Back at the YHA we went for a walk with Vince (co-owner) and Finn (his dog) around the area and past the beach. Best way to learn about the place is to take a walk with a local. The Boy and I played a few more games of pool and I had a chat with a South Korean who had trained in Melbourne to become a pilot. He was travelling around Tasmania by bus.

The Boy and I had dinner at the tavern. Schnitzels, veal, not too flash. Veggies left a lot to be desired.

Melbourne-Tassie Trip 2011 Photo Album No.3 - Photos 1-40.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 - Day 12

Good start to the day. A hearty breakfast to attempt to finish off all of the food that Loic had prepared for us. Left at about 9:30 am for our five hour drive to Strahan and the first turn I took, on the Southern Outer, was the wrong way. Soon corrected that. Drove into Hobart looking for directions to Bridgewater or Glenorchy. Managed to head the correct way and we were on our way.

As we didn't get caught behind log trucks we made good time. In the Gordon-Franklin National Park we stopped at the Nelson Falls and walked to the 35m high falls. Pretty impressive, as were the snow covered peaks in the area. Not a great deal of traffic in the area but plenty of narrow and windy roads. It brought out the rally driver in me - albeit in a Hyundai Getz 3-door.

The entrance to Queenstown was like a moonscape and certainly not what I'd come to expect in Tasmania. Got caught behind a truck for about 2km from within Queenstown but luckily he wasn't headed down my turn off to Strahan. Managed the drive, not including the waterfall stop, in four hours for just over 300 km.

Strahan is situated on the Gordon River. Considering that the population is only 637 there seems to be accommodation for thousands. It's just that our accommodation was pretty difficult to find and it is a case of what I was anticipating to be the easiest to locate was, in fact, the most trying. Irony, eh? Stopped in town for a bit to eat and found that all of the specials had sold out at the bakery/cafe. After locating our accommodation, pretty much by accident as it isn't well sign-posted, we had a snack and a couple of games of pool before I decided that we should see a play entitled "The Ship That Never Was" by The Round Earth Company. The Boy took some convincing to come along. I was annoyed to find that the entry fee had increased, in relation to the pamphlet that I'd read, but for children under 13 it was a gold coin donation and so was actually cheaper that I had planned for.

The pantomime was great and The Boy and I both got to play parts. Talk about a good laugh and an interesting story to boot. The Boy enjoyed it far more than he had expected to. If you are in town you can't afford to miss it.

Walked into town and up to View 42° restaurant and bar for a pizza and drinks. Nice. On the way back to the YHA we stopped by the supermarket to pick up some breakfast but it was already close. Only open till 7 pm and not 12 am like Hobart and Launceston. Shower and bed.

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 Photo Album No.2 - Photos 201-238.

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 - Day 11

After brekky we jumped on the Southern Outlet and headed down to Huonville. I wanted to use my expensive tourist pass to obtain a free jet boat ride. The weather was quite variable and some of the hills were a bit too much for the car on the way. Weird roads in Tassie too. Gotta really pay attention to where you are going and which lane you need to be in.

Visited Huon Jet Boat Company. We were the only customers which justified my decision not to make a booking. They even waited a little longer in case anybody else turned up. Which they didn't. Still had to pay $10 ea instead of $72/$49. Needed to throw on a few extra layers of clothes and a life jacket as it was going to be cold. They waited for the rain to clear, and made reference to a snow front, before taking us out. Our driver was Andy and he gave us a great ride. We went some 12km upstream at speeds of 75-80 km/h. There were a number of high speed spins and bumpy rapids to go over. We really enjoyed ourselves and The Boy even asked for extra spins.

I planned to look through Huonville for arty things but there didn't appear to be any of those kinds of shops. So I ended up driving straight out of the place. Next stop - Mt Wellington.

Didn't take long to get back to Hobart, as the roads aren't bad, but the road up the Mountain isn't quite so good. The drive up the Mountain is over 10 kms long. I was worried about the car hire agreement which states that the car can't be taken above the snow line. We stopped the car at The Chalet, 1000m above sea level, and walked a fair way up the road. Enough snow for us to have a snowball fight. I copped a few hits to the back but The Boy got a nice one to the face. It snowed during our walk.

After finally seeing a car come down from the summit which wasn't covered in snow I had confidence to drive to the top. Actually, the road was still dry so there wasn't much to worry about.

The summit was very windy with snow falling. I collected some snow in a bottle and had a look at the observation area. Hobart started disappearing from view quite quickly as another blanket of cloud made its way over. Great view though.

The 10 kms descent took about 18 minutes. Drove around Hobart, through Battery Point and into Sandy Bay so that I could do some shopping for lunch. Back to the Signalman's Cottage for some hot chook. The afternoon was one of TV and napping. At night we looked at the city from the lookout on Mt Nelson.

Melbourne-Tassie Holiday 2011 Photo Album No.2 - Photos 153-200.

Short Holiday in Bunbury

It's always nice to get away for a few days over summer. This year we visited Bunbury for a couple of days. The weather was kind, although hot and humid. New highway made the trip quite quick. Lady who looked after Hunter took good care of him and even removed most of the matted hair around his ears - I'm very grateful. Didn't do a heck of a lot, other than shopping, eating, and swimming at the beach and in the hotel's pool and spa. But what else should you do on holiday?