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1558 Elizabeth became queen of England at twenty-five and so began the Elizabethan Age.

1869 The Suez Canal opened to shipping traffic. A Pharaonic canal once existed but was lost due to neglect. This canal began in 1854 employing 2.5 million workers, of whom 125,000 died on the job! That is from Wikipedia. Today 14% world trade passes through it, mainly to the states of the Persian Gulf.

1875 Occult spiritualist Mme Helena Blavatsky founded the American Theosophical Society. Let the table rapping begin! Spiritualism with spectres, table raps, séances, and more became a trope in the popular culture. The harvest of dead in the Great War gave it re-newed impetus.

1913 The first ship passed through the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean. It was an enormous strategic asset to the United States for three generations. I read McCullough's book years ago and found it excellent.
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1970 Douglas Engelbart patented the first computer mouse. It was ridiculed and disparaged by the experts. Behold below Mouse Number One.
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534 Justinian declared his code of laws. It codified and simplified Roman law as it stood at the time for the Eastern Empire at Constantinople. Been there and see some of his works.
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1821 William Becknell reached Santa Fe on the route that became known as the Santa Fe Trail. Kate's mother grew up in New Mexico.
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1913 Marcel Proust published ‘Swann’s way,’ the first volume of 'Á recherche du Temps perdue.' Read most of it.

1945 UNESCO founded in Geneva. It has done many good works.

1989 South African government of F. W. de Klerk rescinded the Separate Amenities Act, the first step in dismantling apartheid.
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1791 At Rose Hill in NSW grape vines were planted which survived and started Australian wine cultivation. The site is a race course now and the grapes have gone to the Hunter Valley.
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1881 American Federation of Labor was founded in Pittsburg uniting crafts unions for the first time. Samuel Gompers became its president and remained that for twenty years. We have a graduate of Samuel Gompers High School down the street.

1904 King Gillette patented the Gillette razor blade. Royalty indeed. King was a family name which his parents bestowed on him as a first name. I never use anything else but Gillette.

1920 Forty-one nations opened the first League of Nations session in Geneva. Below is the unofficial logo of the League.
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1948 Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King retired after 22 years in office. His anointed successor was Quebecois Louis St-Laurent. King was never without a dog as a familiar. He no doubt occulted his long dead mother, as he frequently did. I meant to type 'consulted his mother' but, well, 'occulted' fits. His peculiarities are discussed in other posts on this blog. Go for it!
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1732 First professional librarian in North America, Louis Timothee, was hired in Philadelphia at the Library Company which still exists. He was a multi-lingual protegé of Benjamin Franklin. Hmm, librarians.

1889 The American journalist, Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman), followed the footsteps of fictional character Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. She started in Hoboken and came back 72 days later. She had made a career as an undercover journalist whose exposés of the conditions in a workhouse, an asylum, and a factory made her name. I have flown around the world a couple of times when those tickets were cheaper than point-to-point return tickets.
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1922 The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) began the first daily radio broadcasts from Marconi House which I have walked by it in Aldwych a few times. Still listening to the BBC4.

1971 NASA's Mariner 9 entered Mars' orbit after 167 days in space. This was the first craft to orbit Mars and returned 7329 images over the course of its mission. Confession time: I have small Mars globe on my desk which is partly based on the data from Mariner 9.

1994 The Eurostar passenger trains between London, Paris and Brussels was launched carrying passengers through the newly completed Channel Tunnel, the train reaches speeds of 186 MPH or 299 KPH. Ridden EuroStar a couple of times but not the one pictured below mysteriously abandoned in the Ardenne forest of Belgium.

1474 Near Belfort, a Swiss army without William Tell defeated a French effort to conquer Switzerland in the Burgundian War. The threat united the peoples of Alps as never before and they stayed that way.
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1835 Texas proclaimed its independence from Mexico, and became an independent and sovereign state (until 1845) with Sam Houston as its first president. A biography of Houston is discussed elswhere on this blog.
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1895 First shipment of canned Dole pineapples from Hawaii. Still shipping. We have been to the original Dole plantation on Oahu, and another on Maui. Yum, yum.

1953 ‘Robin Hood’ was banned from Indiana state school libraries because it was communist. Oh, oh, watched it every Thursday evening about that time. Did not know he was Red Robin, thought that was a bird in the spring.

1981 The Canadarm, a robotic space arm (the first of five) was deployed on the Space Shuttle Columbia. They were used on more than 90 missions over 30 years. They originated in a Quebec engineering firm.

1859 Jules Leotard performed the first flying trapeze circus act in Paris wearing a garment he designed for the purpose which has since borne his name. Cannot say I have ever donned one.

1900 Art Nouveau style dominated the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) in Paris which closed after 50 million visitors. The style uses natural forms, following the Arts and Crafts movement of the previous century. The Exposition disseminated it around the world with those millions of visitors. An enduring example are the Métro entrances like the one pictured. Been on many a Métro ride.

1919 Brothers Ross and Keith Smith with two others in the crew flew from England to Australia in 27 days. Prime Minister Billie Hughes of Australia offered a prize of £10,000 for the first flight from England in less than 30 days to develop an air link to Old Blighty. That was a fortune at the time. There were six starters but only one finisher. Flown the Kangaroo Route many a time, all in less than twenty-seven days. Whew!
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1923 Adolf Hitler was arrested for attempt to seize power during Beer Hall Putsch. We forget that the Nazi party vigorously campaigned in many elections and won many of them. That was the voice of the people. For details see my chapter ‘Democratic Theory and Practice' in Australian Politics, Rodney Smith (ed.) (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1989, 1992, 1997), pp. 35-50.

1966 Buzz Aldrin took a selfie performing extra-vehicular activity in space during the Gemini program. Aldrin remained a tireless advocate for space exploration and a bane to flat earthers. Go, Buzz! Check him out on You Tube.
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1675 German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz demonstrated integral calculus for the first time to find the area under the graph of y = f(x) function. The foundation calculus as some know it today, but not me.

1880 Irish tenants and harvest workers employed in Ballinrobe by land agent Charles Boycott ostracised him, leading to the term ‘boycott.’ Boycott was refused service in shops, drapers, livery stables, saloons, and people crossed the street rather than pass him by. It was a giant cause célèbre at the time and led to army intervention to force labor. While Boycott worked for Lord Erne who owned vast acreage, it was Boycott himself who was target because he was regarded as arrogant, oppressive, and brutal. He became, briefly, a hero in England and wasshowered with honours for taking the whip to those primitive Irish.

1918 The armistice to end The Great War came into effect. Amen. The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald for this date is behind a paywall so I used the freely available one from the New York Times. During the war it was called The Great War. Afterward the Department of Defense asked U.S. President Woodrow Wilson about filing the mountain of paperwork generated for the war, he said call it 'The World War' because it involved action around the world. On how it all started there is no better source that Barbara Tuchman, 'The Guns of August' (1962). This book influenced the Cuban Missile Crisis.

1933 One of the worst windstorms of the Dust Bowl blew from South Dakota to Kansas and on to Texas. and lasted more than a week. In one year an estimated 850 million tons of top soil disappeared in the wind, some of falling as far away as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia. First came insects, then drought, and then wind. Then the cycle repeated itself until there was nothing but dust left over a five-year period. The times they were apocalyptic.
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1975 Australian Governor-General John Kerr dismissed the elected government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The history wars over this event continue. I was listening to the radio at home when the news came. The exercise of the powers of the Governor-General were destroyed in their exercise may be the judgement of history. Nicholas Hasluck's novel 'The Dismissal' (2011) is a long cool worm's eye view of this totemic event when the goal posts moved.

When What
1871 At Ujiji near Unyanyembe in Africa Henry Morton Stanley said, "Dr Livingstone, I presume?” David Livingstone was one of many who sought the origin of the Nile River. Below is a map of his treks.

1903 Mary Anderson patented a “window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice, or sleet from the window.” She got the idea riding electric street cars in rain. It became standard equipment on automobiles by 1913.

1911 The Andrew Carnegie Foundation took legal form. One of its major efforts was to build free public libraries like the one in which I learned to read and read. The Carnegie Foundation built the building ain 1903 before the Foundation was incorporated and the local community paid for its collection, staff, and upkeep. Been unable to shake the habit ever since.
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1928 The first installment of ‘Im Westen nichts Neues’ by Erich Maria Remarque was published. He had been in the western trenches at 18, wounded five times: gassed, shot, bayoneted, hit by shrapnel, and shot again. In 1933 the book was burned and he fled to Switzerland. In 1938, his German citizenship was revoked on the grounds that he had NOT done war service, making him a stateless person. In 1943 his sister was judicially murdered for his crimes. Her surviving sister was charged 495.80 Reichsmark for the murder. Sounds like something Faux News would make-up, but all too true, unlike Faux News.

1969 Sesame Street debuted on PBS television. It was conceived and promoted by Joan Cooney, a former documentary producer for public television. Muppet characters, created by Jim Henson, are as varied as the human cast, like the crew of the Enterprise in 1966. Imagine how many of the original cast today would be excised by President Tiny Twit.
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1925 Robert Millikan presented evidence of cosmic rays to the National Academy of Sciences at Madison, Wisconsin. A graduate of Oberlin College where the sky did not fall when women were admitted, he showed the extraterritorial origins of the energies he and others had recorded. Many other kinds of energies from space have since been identified. He got a Nobel Prize. We have been bombarded with such cosmic rays.

1961 The Professional Golfers Association (USA) ended the caucasians only rule (reaffirmed in 1960) in a year when a darling of the South African apartheid regime, Gary Player won the open. It was the last major sports organisation to end this explicit racism and did so with reluctance only after repeated litigation by individuals, clubs, and associations. It was finally coerced into it by Stanley Mosk, Attorney General of the State of California, who had threatened to disrupt a scheduled tour with court orders, subpoenas, and writs. Speaks for itself.

1972 Discoveries of bones in Tanzania by the Mary and Louis Leakey caused the origins of humanity to be revised backward by one million years. These two were inveterate diggers, shifters, analysers who spent most of their lives in tents in Kenya and Tanzania. EVeryone's family tree got longer as a result.

1980 Iraq and Iran War started and continued until 1988. After half a million deaths, it ended at the status quo ante without any change of borders or attitudes. It was largely trench warfare, featuring poison gas, child soldiers, human wave attacks, prisoners used as human shields with dissent groups from each country siding with the other to add to the mayhem. Within each country it was also the excuse for ethnic cleansing.

1989 The Berlin Wall opened for the first time since 1961. It was about 150 kilometres in all, and about 140 people were killed trying to cross it, including two just a fortnight before it crumbled. Amazed me at the time, like the Cold War, the Berlin Wall seemed immutable and eternal, and then it fell over. Been there and seen Checkpoint Charlie and more, a couple of times.

392 Emperor Theodosius of Rome banned all pagan worship in the empire in favour of Christianity. Christians celebrated by murdering pagans.

1519 Henán Cortés met Aztec emperor Montezuma in Mexico City. It turned sour soon enough, chocolate or no chocolate. We have been there and hope to see Montezuma's feather cape in Vienna sometime.
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1602 The Bodleian Library at Oxford University opened. Thomas Bodley, a graduate of Merton College, had married a wealthy woman and when she died, he offered to rebuild the library at Oxford University which had suffered during the English Civil War. Both the collection and the building had been sacked by soldiers of the battling armies of Christians. There was a time when readers had to purchase a copy of the catalogue to use the library. Been there.

1895 In Wurzburg Germany, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen observed X-rays which made the invisible visible. X-Rays were used within two years to locate bullets for surgeons. The 'X' meant the source of the radiation was unknown at the time. Had a few.
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1946 Nova Scotia, Viola Desmond refused to leave a whites-only area in a movie theatre. She was jailed, convicted, and fined. Unlike Rosa Parks, Desmond had no organised support and went it alone. Her likeness now graces the $C 10 bill. Nova Scotia had been a terminus for the underground railroad that transported runaway slaves north.
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1605 The Gunpowder Plot of Guy Fawkes failed. The plot was to displace King James I with a Catholic and annihilate protestants. He had twenty barrels of gun powder in the cellars under parliament where the king was scheduled to appear.
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1872 Susan B Anthony was arrested in Rochester, New York for voting for U S Grant in a presidential election. She refused to pay a fine and the court declined to take any further action. She was a tireless campaigner for womens suffrage.
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1893 Twenty-year-old Willa Cather began publishing a column called 'As you like it,' in the Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln. She loved the Great Plains and its peoples, new and old, and more.
We have made pilgrimage to Red Cloud more than once.
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1935 Parker Brothers company launched Monopoly, a game of real estate and capitalism at the height of the Great Depression. Played many a game of that.
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1956 The ABC’s first television broadcast. JD was still reading the news to me in 1974.
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1572 A supernova (SN1572) was observed in the constellation now known as Cassiopeia. Many observed it including Tycho Brahe in Denmark. He was not the first to see it but his measurements and analysis were the most precise and comprehensive. We went to a planetarium named for him in Copenhagen and saw his observation tower in Prague, too.

1917 The Bolshevik launched a coup d’etat against the Kerensky government in the Winter Palace, now know as the Hermitage. They entered the white dining room at 2:10 AM to arrest the remnant of the provisional government cabinet. Kerensky had left to mobilise loyal troops and kept going. I heard him give a talk as an undergraduate. We have shuffled through this room and down the stairs the Bolsheviks came up.
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1867 The Canadian House of Commons met for the first time with Conservative John A MacDonald as Prime Minister.

1870 Louisa Ann Swain in Laramie Wyoming became the first woman to cast a vote in a federal election. In 2008 Congress designated 6 November as Louisa Swain Day. We have been to Laramie but in our ignorance we did not see this statue in front of the Women's History House.
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1962 UN General Assembly voted to condemn South African apartheid and called on member states to boycott it.
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1999 Australians voted against becoming a republic in a national referendum. Only in the Never-Never Land of the ACT did the republic secure a majority. It was a dreary campaign in which the self-styled Republicans vied with each other for the spoils of the victory they assumed, rather than working for it. That is, individuals modestly put themselves forward as the president of a future republic, including some known to me personally. Yuck.

1879 James Ritty, saloon keeper of Dayton Ohio, patented the first cash register to reduce pilfering by bar tenders. Bars, I have known a few.
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1890 The Prince of Wales opened the first London Underground station in a deep-level tube line, the City and South London Railway, between King William Street (close to today's Monument station) and Stockwell. Electric locomotives towed carriages with small opaque windows, nicknamed padded cells. Used the Tube many a time.
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1922 Archaeologist Howard Carter found the entrance of the tomb of King Tutankhamen. A water-boy stumbled under a load and dislodged stones that revealed a cut step. Carter had been digging in Egypt for nearly thirty years and realised the potential significance of such a step, covered it with earth, and telegraphed Lord Carnarvon, his patron, to come and have a look. Seen King Tut artefacts at museums here and there, Sydney and Berlin.
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1924 Nellie Taylor Ross and Miriam Ferguson were elected the first and second women governors of Wyoming and Texas, respectively. The sky did not fall in either state, despite that being widely predicted. Nor did either of their male opponents commit suicide at the shame. Been to both states.
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1993 The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union, paving the way for the free movement of people and goods and the Euro. In the end of year round up in 1993, the ABC Television news did not feature this treaty but did include bus crashes in India, and grass fires in California. Ah news-judgement is what the national broadcaster is famous for. Drove to Maastricht once to confer with a colleague about a project and found the geography in that area is hilly, very unlike elsewhere in the Netherlands.
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1507 Messer Gherardini commissioned a painting of his wife. It’s still not done. The painter was an inveterate revisor and carried it around for nineteen years daubing at it now and again, and then watching the paint dry. It was in his possession when he died in France as a guest of the King and it passed into the patrimony of that nation. Gherardini never got back the deposit he had paid.

1892 The first automatic telephone exchange went into service in La Porte, Indiana. The public demonstration was greeted with much fanfare, including a brass band and a special train run from Chicago. Guests included power company executives, journalists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and two representatives of the Russian czar. Almon B. Strowger, a local undertaker, conceived and built it. The Strowger switch remains vital to the inner workings of many a telephone. For years afterward some people preferred to call an operator rather than use this new fangled iPhone.Stowgear handset.jpg

1913 First modern elastic brassiere was patented by wealthy New York socialite born Mary Phelps Jacob. When dressing for yet another ball she rejected the proffered whale bone corset and told her maid, 'Bring me two of my pocket handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon ... and a needle and thread and some pins.' Together they fashioned the handkerchiefs and ribbon into a simple bra. The elastic came in the next iteration. After the dance she was besieged by other women who wanted to do likewise. She founded the Fashion Form Brassière Company but had little interest in running it and sold it for a pittance. She was already wealthy and stayed that way.

1930 The mile long Detroit-Windsor tunnel opened. An engineering wonder at the time because it had to be very deep to get under the lake bed. At four dollars the toll was about half the cost of using a ferry to transport an automobile across the lake.

1953 Clarence Birdseye marketed frozen peas, heralding the frozen foods advent. The first test marketing was in Springfield Massachusetts as pictured below. Birdseye was an entrepreneur as a child and naturalist from birth. His family and friends called him Bugs because of his fascination with creatures great and small. When he left college he worked for the United States Department of Agriculture where he saw great bounty in food go to waste, and in the west and northwest he experienced freezing temperatures. These two came together in his mind. In time he sold the company for a mint and used the money to continue experimenting on food preservation to the end of his days.

1698 Scottish settlers made landfall in Panama, establishing the ill-fated Darien colony. The Scots hoped to export haggis, bag pipes, and wool to Central America, having denounced evidence of the climate there as false facts. The Scots had decided they needed an empire to rival England.
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1868 New Zealand became the first country to adopt a standard national time. Local time was gone.
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1922 The Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service (Qantas) established its first regular passenger air service (between Charleville and Cloncurry). Pictured is its first passenger. Customer service has remained unchanged since.
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1948 Despite unanimous predications and polling Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in the United States presidential race. Truman was gracious in victory and Dewey was dignified in defeat. So different from today. There is plenty of video on You Tube.

1960 Penguin Books was acquitted of the charge of publishing obscenity -- the use of four letter words -- in the case of D. H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover.' The trial was the best free publicity this overwrought and boring novel ever had. The defence was 'literary merit' per an act written, introduced, and steered through by Roy Jenkins.

1512 St Peters in Rome was opened to the public to view Michelangelo’s artwork on the ceiling. They are still viewing it.

1755 An earthquake followed by a tsunami and then a fire destroyed much of Lisbon, killing as many as 90,000 people. We have been to Lisbon and saw some markers of the extent of the flooding.
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1914 The first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops departed from Albany in Western Australia for the Great War in Europe. These men were all volunteers. Little did they know what they would find in Belgium.
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1982 Honda opened a factory in Ohio, the first Asian automobile company to manufacture in the USA. The first automobile is pictured below. We had a Honda Accord for years, but ours was made in Japan.

1986 The first case of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- mad cow disease -- was diagnosed in England.

1517 Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. The Reformation was ignited. Erik Erikson’s psycho-biography ‘Young Man Luther’ (1958) is none too flattery. I read it in graduate school.

1587 Leiden University opened its doors after its founding in 1575. I was affiliated with it for a semester to use the library while at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies.
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1913 The first trans-continental road for automobiles — the Lincoln Highway — was dedicated, passing through Kearney Nebraska, where there is a monument over I-80 we have visited.
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1941 Mount Rushmore monument completed after 14 years of work. We have been there but James Mason was nowhere to be seen, but there were plenty of cornfields nearby. With Doane Robinson, Gutzon Børglum conceived and executed the monument. His Danish parents lived in Nebraska. A Trump tower will overshadow it in the near future.
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1984 Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Gandhi) was murdered by her Sikh bodyguards. Because of disturbances among Sikhs, they had been re-assigned to other duties but she countermanded that order with this result. Her father was Jawaharlal Nehru an acolyte of the Mahatma and she knew him from her childhood.
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1811 A lady published ‘Sense and Sensibility;’ she was Jane Austen. It was her first published novel.
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1838 Oberlin College (Ohio) admitted women, the first higher education institute in the US to do so. The sky did not fall. It remains an excellent school.

1938 Halloween. Twenty-three year old wunderkind Orson Welles broadcasted his fake news adaptation of H. G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ on CBS radio to the consternation of millions. See Hardly Cantril, 'The Invasion from Mars, a Study in the Psychology of Panic' (1940). This radio broadcast is discussed elsewhere on this blog.
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1973 The first bridge over the Bosporus opened, linking Europe and Asia. There are three now and a tunnel. We saw this one from a ferry in 2015.

1995 Quebec voters whispered ‘Non’ (50.6% to 49.4%) to sovereignty in a turnout of 94% of eligible voters, i.e., about 5,000 votes from nearly 4 million. It was the third referenda on this theme since 1980 and the closest vote. Polling beforehand indicated ‘Oui’ would win comfortably and that prediction galvanised more voters to the polls to vote ‘Non.’ Another referendum must be overdue.
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1863 The Red Cross was founded at a meeting in Geneva, stimulated by businessman Jean-Henri Durant and lawyer Gustave Moynier. There were eighteen government delegations from Europe and many individuals. These two men influenced the Swiss government to host and sponsor this and future meetings. We donate blood whenever we have any to spare.
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1923 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk declared Turkey a republic (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti). I discussed a biography of this remarkable man elsewhere on this blog. We spent a fascinating two weeks in this museum of the world.

1945 Gimbel’s department store in New York City (1897-1987) sold first Biro ballpoint pen for $12. About $170 today. In Argentina Hungarian refuge László József Bíró found a way to get the ink to flow yet be dry on paper. It first went on sale in Buenos Aires as advertised below. A version of this was the (Milton) Reynolds Rocket sold by Gimbels. Its sales matched its name, selling a thousand in one day. (Marcel Bich bought the patent and now we have BICs.)

1969 First computer-to-computer link was established in ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), forerunner to the internet. The aim was to combine computers to magnify the computing power available at any one place for research. Below is the log of the first successful message. Contrary to legend it was not designed in the hope of withstanding a nuclear war.
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1982 Alice Lynne Chamberlain was convicted of the murder of her child with circumstantial evidence. The media frenzy was a grotesque tsunami of bile. The dingo had more defenders than Ms Chamberlain. The stronger she was in the face of adversity, the more the media attacked. Decades later the conviction -- produced as much by trial by media, as by evidence -- was quashed, and she was paid compensation for a ruined life. Meanwhile, the mediaistas gave each other awards for their unscrupulous sensationalism.
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1636 Harvard College was founded. It was the first institution of higher learning in United States. Spent a semester there, deep in the basements of Widener Library.

1793 Eli Whitney applied for a patent for the cotton gin, ushering in the planation and slave economy of the south in the United States. He got the idea from seeing a cat scratch at its fur to get burrs out. When cotton could be cleaned efficiently and effectively, then large scale production made sense.
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1916 First Australian referendum on conscription for military service in the Great War was defeated. The event is so encrusted with later appropriations and self-serving distortions it is hard now to grasp the issues as they were seen at the time.

1919 United States Congress passed the Volstead Act to enforce the 18th Amendment which had been ratified by 36 States. President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed the act earlier and it took Congress but three hours to override with a two-thirds votes. It was repealed in 1933.
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1998 Glen Murray was elected mayor of Winnipeg, population 600,000+. He was homosexual and said so. He later held several provincial cabinet portfolios until retiring in 2017. The sky did not fall. Been there for a conference once upon a time.
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1275 First recorded mention of the village of Amsterdam. Been there many times and read Geert Mak's 'Amsterdam: a Biography' (2001).

1659 Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevens who fled England in 1656 to escape religious persecution were executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heresy. Good Christians everyone.
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1838 State of Missouri ordered the extermination of all Mormons in the Missouri Mormon War. The survivors went upriver to Nauvoo and there followed the Illinois Mormon War. They then went west to Utah, where followed the Utah Mormon War. Good Christians everyone. N.B. Etienne Cabet bought Nauvoo from the Mormons for his Icarian followers. Been there a couple of times on the very Big Muddy.
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1938 DuPont Corp announced the new synthetic fibre, nylon. It was used for toothbrushes at the start, replacing hog bristles. Shortly thereafter it went into stockings, and it had a patriotic patina because the silk for silk stockings came through Japan. Choosing nylon rather than silk was the American choice in that trade war.

1954 ‘Disneyland’ premiered on television, which included Frontierland and Tomorrowland. Watched it every Sunday night for years. Read a biography Walt Disney which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog: Michael Barrier, 'The Animated Man' (2007).

1825 The Erie Canal of 363 miles opened, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. It produced an economic boom along its route and made Buffalo a sea major port for products from Chicago and points west as well as from Canada. It is often forgotten that the United States has northern and southern sea coasts. I have been to Syracuse and Utica on the route.
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1905 Sweden conceded independence to Norway in a peaceful though rather fraught conclusion to tensions. Pictured below is a monument to that event. Been to Sweden a couple of times but want to go to Norway to see the giant paper clip. Yep.
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1922 Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was appointed Head of Antiquities in Baghdad, one of her very many claims to fame. In this job she organised the systematic identification, documentation, and preservation of the human heritage to be found there. She also did some of the finding. She was here, there, and everywhere in the Middle East.

1958 Pan Am began flying passenger jets from New York City non-stop to Paris in a Boeing 707 which made the world smaller, and smaller. There was a brass band send-off. I flew with Pan Am once.
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1986 Bill Bruckner entered Baseball's Hall of Infamy. Mookie Wilson ran out the ground ball, as few millionaire players do today while the white ball eluded Bruckner's glove and the Red Sox found another way to lose. Members of the Red Sox nation have forgiven but not forgotten this error. Seen the Green Monster with my own eyes.

1415 Henry V at Agincourt prevailed over a French force five times larger with the long bow made from Welsh Yew wood. The elasticity of the yew gave the bow a range greater than anything else, making it the artillery of the day. Its arrows struck with sufficient force to penetrate a knight's armour. It was good night for the knights. Hundreds were killed before they came within range of their weapons. Hundreds more were killed after surrendering.
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1616 Dutch sailor Dirk Hartog became the first recorded European to set foot on Australia's western coast, and he left a message at Cape Inscription, Western Australia.

1854 At Balaclava the Light Brigade by mistake charged into death and legend.

1955 The Tappan Stove Company sold the first microwave oven. It was wall mounted and in today's US dollars cost about $12,000. It weighted about 700 pounds. The wall and the weight were insulation.

1971 United Nations seated People's Republic of China and to expel the Nationalist government of Taiwan.
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1861 Western Union sent the first telegram coast-to-coast in the United States from San Francisco to Washington D.C. The message had to be repeated along the way.

1889 New South Wales Premier Sir Henry Parkes called for federation of the Australian colonies at Tenterfield in NSW. He continued to argue the case for unity thereafter. He was the first, loudest, and most consistent advocate of Australia as a single entity on economic, defence, and moral grounds.
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1897 First newspaper comic strip appeared in the New York Journal, ‘The Yellow Kid.‘ This rag was a Hearst newspaper printed on yellow paper, as the Financial Times today is printed on pink paper, leading the Hearst press being called Yellow Journalism as short hand for the Fox News of the day.
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1929 Black Thursday – the first day of the stock market crash which began the Great Depression. Thus began the Great Depression that lasted for a decade. So far Hillary has not been blamed for this.
Black Thursday.jpg

1946 The U.N. charter was ratified by the then 5 permanent members and 46 member states. The agencies of the UN have done much good since then.
UN Charter.jpg

When What

1760 The first Jewish prayer book was published in North America. A milestone in religious tolerance.
Jewish 1829.jpg

1915 25,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in NYC for the vote, this gathering became the League of Women Voters. I worked for the local branch of the League a few times when in high school and then college.
League of Women Voters.jpg

1956 The Hungarian revolt against Soviet domination began with a large and peaceful protest. The peaceful protest led to reaction, reprisal, and repression and a Hungarian diaspora. There were many in Edmonton.
Hunary 1956.jpg

1963 Dr Who aired with William Hartnell. Still airing. Who'd a thunk it!
Dr Who i.jpg

2001 Apple released the iPod. [Words fail me.]
Ipod 1.jpg

1721 Peter the Great became emperor of all the Russians, and a quite few others. I once found this statue referred to as depicting Catherine the Great in a book by two journalists. Thus was confirmed many of my suspicious of the fourth estate. Seen it with my own eyes.
Peter Great horse.jpg

1884 Twenty-six countries adopted Greenwich Mean Time as longitude zero, with 24 time zones, at conference in Washington D.C. Greenwich was the focal point of a great many nautical charts and maps and was chosen because of that.
G M T map.png

1938 Chester Carlson (1906-1968) invented the photocopier in the family kitchen. He tried to sell the machine to IBM, RCA, Kodak and others, but they see no use for a gadget that makes nothing but copies. He called it xerography meaning literally dry writing as distinct from the wet process of mimeograph. He made several fortunes out of it and gave most of it away, including a good deal to the United Nations. Below is the first exposure he made.
xerographic first image.jpg

1975 USAF gave Sergeant John Matlovich a General Discharge because he had publicly declared his homosexuality. This charge denied Matlovich pension and health entitlements. A court later found for Matlovich. The medals were for killing, and the GD was for loving, he said.

1978 Pope John II was inaugurated. Polish born, he held on until 2005. He galvanised the papacy like few others and became a world leader in more than name.
Pope John Paul II.jpg

When What
2137 BC Two Chinese court stargazer, Hi and Ho, made the first extent record of a solar eclipse. Hi and Ho? Irresistible.

1790 The French Revolutionary Government chose the Tricolor to replace Bourbon standard as the national flag. Red and Blue were the colours of the patron saints of Paris, Denis and Martin. The Marquis de Lafayette suggested adding the white as a traditional colour of France. Seen many of them.

1854 Florence Nightingale went to Crimea with 38 nurses during the Crimean War. We passed by one of her hospital sites in Istanbul once upon a time.
Nightingale f.jpg

1879 Thomas Edison demonstrated the first commercial light bulb.
Edison bulb.jpg

1944 The Provisional Government of Charles DeGaulle enfranchised French women.
women vote france.jpg

480 BC Greeks defeated Persians at Salamis in a naval engagement. Accordingly all those Greek words related to politics entered into Europe, e.g., democracy.

1097 Members of the First Crusade arrived at Antioch (Antakya) and set about destroying any and everything. Such was their Christian enlightenment. It is in that part of Turkey that lies between Aleppo Syria and the Mediterranean Sea.

1820 The United States bought Florida from Spain. The insects came at no additional cost. Been there.
florida sold.jpg

1947 The House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) targeted Hollywood. Elia Kazan, Gary Cooper, Robert Taylor (of Grand Island), Walt Disney, and Jack Warner happily named names like Katherine Hepburn and Edward G Robinson among others as dangerous radicals. N.B. that Ronald Reagan steadfastly refused to name anyone. David O. Selznick was one of the few major figures in Hollywood who resisted HUAC. Members of HUAC loved the publicity that came from ruining lives and careers. It was the unacknowledged monster that roved Hollywood for a decade.

1973 Queen Elizabeth II opened the Sydney Opera House. Work had begun in 1958. When looking at it today remember it was done by slide rule, hand, and eye. Most the cost was born by a lottery run for years. Been there many times.
Opera Lottery.jpg

202 BC Roman general Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal at Zama, ending the Second Punic War. Scipio prevailed against Hannibal where many previous Roman commanders had failed. Scipio was an innovator. He greatly simplified commands, delegated authority downward, and overcame the elephants by letting them pass through the lines with the lines closing behind them against the Hannibal's infantry.

1812 Napoleon began the retreat from Moscow. What defeated him were General Typhus and General Hubris. General Winter deliver the coup de grace. Elsewhere on this blog there is a review of Andrew Roberts's excellent biography of Napoleon that goes into more detail about his Russian campaign. The graphic shows the advance and retreat as diminishing resources, from the brilliant Edward Tufte's book 'The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.' It is often cited as the most elegant and intuitive presentation of a mass of data at a glance.
Nappy retreat graphic .png

1917 Salvation Army Officers Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon delivered doughnuts to front lines American troops in France. They carried weapons and sported gas masks, along with the doughnuts to give to the dough boys. There were hundreds of Salvos in rear areas doing the cooking and packing. What if any relationship there is between this nickname -- doughboys -- and doughnuts is much discussed on the inter-web.
Donuts trenches.jpg

1943 Streptomycin was isolated by researchers. It became the first antibiotic effective against the scourge tuberculosis (which the anti-vaxxers wish to bring back). The researchers thereafter engaged in a long and torturous legal battle over the subsequent the glory and gold. Penicillin was the first antibiotic, and this was the second.

1954 Britain ceded Suez canal to Egypt by treaty and withdrew the 80,000 troops it had there. In a last spasm of colonialism two years later Great Britain went back into the Canal in one the most catastrophic foreign policy blunders of the ages. The irony is that the blunder came from the hand of one of the most experienced diplomats England ever produced.
Brit leave suez.jpg

When What

1888 Thomas A Edison patented an Optical Phonograph (movie) projector.

Edison optical.jpg

1907 The Marconi company began commercial wireless service between Nova Scotia and Ireland.


1912 Serbia and Greece declared war on the Ottoman Empire over Macedonia. This was the First Balkan War and a prelude to World War I.


1949 Work began on the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric project, one of the wonders of modern engineering. It was built by post World War II immigrants and it is still powering the east coast of Australia. It was in part social engineering.

snowy moutains.jpg

1973 OPEC embargoed oil sales to USA and other Israeli allies.


1648 The Boston Shoemakers create the first trade union in North America. Why is no sporting team in Boston call the Shoemakers? Huh? Answer me that!


1851 Herman Melville published 'Moby Dick.' For reasons now lost, I read it both in high school and college. The student edition I had was abridged to delete much of the whaling and sailing detail.


1909 New South Wales surrendered 2,400 square kilometres of land for the Australian Capital Territory. In the field pictured below the planned city of Canberra arose. Been there many a time and hope to go ago in December to see an exhibition from the British Museum.

ACT 1909.jpg

1929 English Privy Council ruled that women are persons in the law. The Premier of Alberta had named Emily Murphy, a municipal court judge for a decade, to a Senate vacancy. She had been the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. The Federal Government rejected the nomination and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the authority of the Government of the Day to do so. Murphy and four associates, all member of the Alberta Legislature, pressed the case to the Privy Council in London, which in time ruled that women were persons and so qualified for the Senate. After 1949 such an appeal was no longer possible. Sometimes it is nice to have a higher authority on the job.

Em Murphy.gif

1954 Texas Instruments marketed the first transistor radio. I listened to many a ball game on a transistor radio (sometimes under the covers). It was another step in the miniaturisation of communication.

Transistor radio.jpg

When What

1901 A Congressional vote to censure President Theodore Roosevelt failed by one vote. The cause? He had invited Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) dinner at the White House, saying that Mr Washington was a great American. He was an emancipated slave. I read Edmund Morris's three volume biography of the remarkable Teddy some time ago. I read Washington's 'Up from Slavery' as a boy.
Booker T washington.jpg

1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first American birth control clinic in Brooklyn. A police arrest followed. A biography of her is on my long reading list.
Sanger arrest.jpg

1934 The Long March began; it lasted 368 days and covered 6,000 miles. As many as 50,000 died en route. From this ordeal Mao emerged as the unquestioned leader of the Communist Party of China.
Long March.png

1970 The October crisis deepened with the declaration of the War Measures Act. There were 8000 armed troops on the streets of Montreal and Gendarmerie royale du Canada made 500 arrests without habeas corpus. Minister of Labor, Pierre Laporte was murdered in retaliation. Strangled with his crucifix chain by one of kidnapper while the others watched.
WMA troops.jpg

2002 Bibliotheca Alexandrina opened in commemoration of the Library of Alexandria that was lost in antiquity. A smoker did not use the ashtrays provided.

1529 Sultan Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire folded his tent and abandoned the siege of Vienna and retreated before the winter struck, so much wiser than either Napoleon or Hitler. I am told his tent can be seen in the Arsenal in Vienna and we hope to see it soon.

tent vienna.jpg

1917 The French Army executed Dutch woman Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari, 'eye of the day' in Malay) by firing squad at Vincennes. When stupid French strategies were repeatedly defeated, there could only be one explanation. Witchcraft! Some things never change.

Mata Hari.jpg

1928 After a four day trip the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin landed in Lakehurst, NJ, ushering in a new era of lighter than air luxury Trans-Atlantic travel. That is what the posters said. We saw some specially designed lightweight luggage for Zeppelin flights at the Handbag Museum in Amsterdam.


1935 Il Duce's Italians invaded Ethiopia. The League of Nations proved unequal to the challenge this war brought. Haile Selassie made a remarkable plea in Geneva for intervention. There are clips of it on You Tube. Frank Moorhouse's 'Dark Palace' (2000) recounted some of this drama. I once spend a couple of days in the archives of the League of Nations in Geneva reading index card records.


1964 Nikita Khrushchev was ousted as secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR. Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin took over. It was a frightening time of uncertainty on the Platte.

Khrush out.jpg

When What

1066 William of Normandy defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings (not on Platte or Hudson). 'Foyle's War' made it all better until Christopher got all holier-than-everyone-else.

1890 The man from Abilene (Kansas) was born: Dwight David Eisenhower. Been to the house where the six boys grew up.
Ike House.jpg

1926 A. A. Milne published ‘Winnie the Pooh.’

1947 Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound in Bell XS-1. A milestone on the way to space flight. Immortalised in Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Right Stuff.'
Wolf book.jpg

1962 USAF U-2 reconnaissance planes photographed installations of Soviet-made missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in Cuba. In school we trooped to the basement and did duck and cover drills just like this.
Atomic War kids.jpg

13 October ……..

When What
54 Nero became emperor of the Romans. The rest is history.

1792 George Washington laid the cornerstone of the White House, which was completed eight years later. John Adams was the first president to occupy it. Seen that.
Stone White house.jpg

1933 Sydney's first 'electromatic vehicle actuated controller' (traffic light) was installed at the Intersection of Kent and Market streets. Waited there. (In 1965 Canberra got its first set.)
Traffic light sydney.jpg

1958 The bear was found in Paddington Station. Been there but no bear was sighted.

1983 Back when greed was good the first public cell phone network began operations in Chicago using the Motorola DynaTAC phones the size of a brick. The company was Ameritech. Mine's smaller than yours!

When What
1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue to the Bahamas. The date was first celebrated in the United States in 1792. There are many memorials to the Genoese in Spain. Seen this massive crypt in Sevilla.
Columbus crypt Sevilla.jpg

1576 Rudolf II became Holy Roman Emperor. Rudy II dabbled in alchemy, the occult, and automata. He had little interest in imperial duties but loved the laboratory and workbench. One result was the Thirty Years War over religion, as Protestants and Catholics murdered each other to prove they were Christians. Occasionally united in the desire to murder Jews. We walked through his Prague palace on that hill which later had far more unsavoury residents.
Rudy II.jpg

1918 Norman Lindsay published ‘The Magic Pudding.’ It came with mother's milk for generations of Australian children.

1823 Charles MacIntosh began selling raincoats in Scotland. The ‘k’ came later. The image is an 1892 model. It took much trial and error to get to the contemporary versions. We bought ours in Dublin from a man with an Italian name and an Irish accent.

1984 The Vancouver SkyTrain was completed with 64 kilometres of track. World’s longest automated light rail. It is one of the lasting benefits of the Vancouver Expo. Almost all of it is elevated. I rode on it once when in Rain City. Did it inspire the ill fated Sydney monorail which is now long gone?

1899 Second Boer War began as the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State declared war on Britain to gain control of mining areas. The conflict lasted three years and ended in the annexation of the Boer Republics into British South Africa. (The First Boer War was 1880-1881.) The Netherlands whence came the Boers remained neutral in both conflicts. About 20,000 Australians took part, including Harry Morant who killed unarmed and defenceless Boer prisoners and a clergyman who had witnessed these murders. He became an Australia hero. Below are Boer irregulars at Mafikeng.

1939 FDR read Albert Einstein’s letter about an atomic bomb. It is a terse, short letter of less than two pages. Little Boy and Fat Man followed in 1945.

1950 CBS began colour TV broadcasts in limited areas. A set that received colour could not receive black-and-white and vice-versa. CBS marketed its own receiver for a time.

1987 An extensive sonar search did not find anything in Loch Ness but empty beer cans. The search went on for three days and cost more than a million pounds to truck the equipment in and out and employ the technicians. Facts convinced no one, just like today.

2001 The Polaroid Corporation began descent into bankruptcy. Edwin Land made the first instamatic in 1947 as a toy for Christmas. The hundred or so at Bloomingdale's sold out instantly (ha, ha) and it went into mass production in the next year. It was so successful that it became the corporation. I used one in the office for years to take pictures of students.

1886 Dinner jacket worn to a ball in Tuxedo Park, NY becomes known as a tuxedo. Tuxedo Park was and is an enclave of the rich on the Hudson River. Pictured is one such estate.
Tuxedo park.jpg

1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in Great Britain.

1957 U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower invited Ghanaian foreign minister to dinner at a public restaurant in Washington D.C. to apologise after he was refused service in Dover Delaware.
Ike 1957.jpg

1970 La crise d'octobre a commencé au Québec. The Federal Government declared a state of siege and put the army on the streets of Ottawa, Quebec Cité, and Montréal.
October 1970.jpg

2013 Canadian Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She wrote mostly short stories, a lot of them, and won all the literary prizes there are in Canada. The mint struck a commemorative coin on the occasion.
Munro coin.jpg

768 Charlemagne crowned himself King of the Franks. He went on to unite most of Western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire. He came to be called the Father of Europe because of that.

1000 Leif Ericson landed in Vinland in North America, perhaps I'Anse aux meadows in Newfoundland. Been there.
Leif 11.jpg

1635 Massachusetts Bay Colony expelled Roger Williams because he had opposed punishing religious dissension and confiscating Indian land. He went on to found Rhode Island as a haven for religious freedom. Ironic, isn't it that those seeking religious freedom in the new world defined that as the freedom to punish others on religious grounds and to steal. Never been to Rhode Island.

1779 Ned Luddite led riots against spinning cotton machines in Manchester. His relatives today eschew ATMs, the Opal Card, and self-check with lame excuses. Drove through Manchester once.

1874 The General Postal Union Treaty was signed by twenty-two nations, agreeing to deliver each others' mail. It became the Universal Postal Union. Have licked many stamps but no more.

314 Emperor Constantine became Great by defeating his rival. Big Connie moved to Byzantium to consolidate this victory. We have been there and saw lots of images of the big guy. The city on the Bosphorus became known as Constantinople for the next two millennia, though it was never officially so named.

1840 An Hawaiian constitution was declared in Honolulu. Been there (often, but not often enough). It was done to show the British that Hawaii could govern itself and to lure investment from the United States.
Hawaai const.png

1873 O'Leary's cow got blamed for the Great Chicago Fire. Who spoke for the cow? Not Elsie. The fire burned for three days in wooden Chicago, killing at least 200 people, and it consumed Abraham Lincoln's hand written copy of the Emancipation Proclamation which had been on display along with other Lincoln memorabilia.

1897 Franz Jospeh I named Gustav Mahler director of the Vienna Court Opera. The appointment was bold because of the toxic anti-semitism of Vienna. In fact, the position made Mahler a target for the venom.

1956 Don Larson. That is all that needs to be said to a baseball fan. The journeyman Larson reached a pinnacle that no one had done before that day and which no one else has done since. He pitched a perfect game in the World Series. It remains a unique achievement. I watched on television with my dad.

1806 Ralph Wedgwood patented carbon paper in London. Carbon paper? We pay deference to it every time we use the CC address line in an email.
Carbon paper.jpg

1913 The Highland park Ford factory started the first assembly line on a conveyor belt carrying the automobile chassis past work stations.
Assembly line.jpg

1959 The Soviet spaceship Luna transmitted the first pictures of the far side of the Moon. No doubt there are pinheads who deny the reality of either the pictures or the far side, or both.
Luna 3 far side.jpg

1999 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Adrienne Clarkson Governor General of Canada. All previous GGs had political or military careers. She was a journalist. All previous GGs were white-bread. She was Chinese. I met her once at a political science conference in TO. Her husband was on a panel with me. He probably didn't think of it that way. Snob. This posed picture came from the Canadian Nation Library web site.

2003 The Terminator became the governator: Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California. After the comic opera of the Gray Years in California I welcomed the coming of the Terminator, much to the muffled irritation of Bubbles and Curly in the outer office. I hope that they now know better.

A dose of history, right here.

1781 Siege of Yorktown began in a joint Franco-American operation. This led to the final American victory over the British. It was a combined land and sea operation with a French fleet and Alexander Hamilton's artillery.

1847 ‘Jane Eyre’ was published by Currer Bell. Huh? Yes, Charlotte Brontë used a masculine pseudonym so that snowflake he-men would not melt.

1876 American Library Association was founded in Philadelphia, a fount of learning since Benjamin Franklin set the precedent. The ALA raised and spent money on books for public libraries, and lobbied Andrew Carnegie for more.
Am Lib Ass.jpg

1903 Australian High Court convened for first time in Melbourne. It required a great deal of nit-unpicking to free it from the London Privy Council.
High Court.jpg

1973 Yom Kippur War started. It brought the United States and the Soviet Union into a confrontation that derailed President Richard Nixon's long and carefully contrived policy of Detente.
Yom Kippur War map.jpg

1582 Gregorian calendar standardised in Catholic Europe. It's on the wall. We have been leaping every four years since. It replaced the Julian calendar which had to be reset every ten years. For calendar fun see my previous post on the French Revolutionary Calendar. Tuesday will never seem the same again.
Greg's calendar.jpg

1789 Women from Paris marched on Versailles (been there) to demand bread. And Marie said….
Women versailles.jpg

1880 Alonzo Cross patented the first ball-point pen. Used (more than) one.
Cross pens.jpg

1947 First televised US presidential speech by Harry Truman. It was about food conservation and the Marshall Plan. He asked for meatless Tuesday and poultry-free Thursdays and one less slice of bread a day. I know we complied. It was a bipartisan appeal. Former President Herbert Hoover joined it.
Harry TV.jpg

1984 Mark Garneau became the first Canadian in space (since Jean Drapeau landed). Monsieur Garneau crewed on a Challenger space shuttle flight.

1863 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November to be a national day for Thanksgiving. He was prompted by the Union victory at Gettysburg. It has remained thus since. The previous practice of Thanksgiving had been ad hoc and on various dates across jurisdictions, and not a national holiday.
Thanksgiving Linc.jpg

1906 An international conference on telegraphy in Berlin established SOS as the signal of distress. Three dots three dashes three dots, ergo: ...---... It does not stand for anything, but was chosen because it was distinctive.

1927 A trans-Atlantic telephone call between Canadian Prime minister McKenzie King and British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin occurred.

1935 Tasteless egg whites were dubbed Pavlova after Anna.

1952 The British explode an Atomic bomb on Monte Bello Island in North West Australia. Britain is still paying compensation to the aboriginal people who were there exposed to radiation.
Monte bello.jpg

1492 Spanish drove Moors out of Granada. Been there. Napoleon ordered the destruction of the Al hambra. It survived that order and that man. Seen that.
Al hambra granada.jpg

1866 J. Oosterhout patented a tin can with key opener. Eaten some sardines from such a tin.
tin key.jpg

1903 President T Roosevelt closed the post office in Indianola MI because citizens had attacked Minnie M. (Geddings) Cox (1869–1933), the post master because she was a woman, worse, a black woman. She had been appointed in 1891.

1919 Cogadh na Saoirse: Dáil and Sinn Féin outlawed. Seen the pock marks in the central Post Office.
IRA 221.jpg

1947 Mahatma Gandhi marched for peace in East-Bengali to reduce conflict between Muslim and Hindi. Neither of these camps were as amiable as the British.

1815 The Congress of Vienna started. It brought stability to Europe for nearly a century. A precursor of the United Nations and also the European Community.
Congress of Vienna.jpg

1847 Maria Mitchell became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The first woman to be inducted. She was a stargazer, a Massachusetts Quaker who taught at Vassar.

1850 The University of Sydney was founded. It preceded Cal 1868 and the LSE 1895. It followed Toronto 1827.

1867 Karl Marx published the first value of 'Das Kapital.' He preferred seat G7 in the Reading Room of the British Library. Sat there.
Marx Kap 212.jpg

1946 A dozen major Nazi leaders were sentenced to death at Nuremberg. No comment necessary.

1199 Moses Maimonides published 'The Guide to the Perplexed' in Córdoba. Been there but still perplexed.

1791 'Die Zauberflöte' with that aria from the Queen of the Night premiered with Amadaus Mozart conducting the orchestra in Vienna. Been there and heard that.

1902 Rayon patented. Worn that but no more.

1938 The Munich Accords signed. (Been there.) Alas. See Robert Harris's superb reconstruction reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Members of the Chamberlain family have said that the Prime Minister meant to say 'peace for a time.' The paper in his hand is not the Accord but a letter signed by Adolf Hitler pledging peace.

1953 Auguste and Jacques Piccard descended 3150 meters in a bathyscaph and returned. Not me.

Pick one to tell someone else. No cheating. One only. Which will it be? Why will it be that one?

480 BC The Battle of Salamis in which the Athenians defeated the Persians. Themistocles's proclamation is on display in Athens. Saw it in 2007.
Themistocles stone l.jpg

1863 Georges Bizet's 'Les pêcheurs de perles' (The Pearl Fishers) opened in Paris and has not closed since. Been to that Opera House.

1903 The land of Prussia required licenses for automobile drivers. Got one myself, but not from Prussia most of which is now in Russia and Poland. The Kaiser went on a picnic.

1982 The Tylenol murders in Chicago which remains a cold case, and which led to the tamperproof packaging of medicines in blister packs and more. The first six victims.
Tylenol 6.jpg

1997 The link was established between mad cows and people in England.
Mad cow.jpg

Come and get it. The day's history lesson.

1542 Portuguese Juan Cabrillo became the first European to see California when he sailed into San Diego Bay on a mission for the Spanish crown. He claimed it all for his patron.

1904 A woman was arrested for smoking in New York City. She was a passenger in an automobile minding her own business, when....
Woman smoke.jpg

1922 Benito Mussolini led the March on Rome.
Musso Rome.jpg

1941 Ted Williams finished the season at .406, the last major league baseball player to achieve that potent consistency.
Teddie hit.png

1959 NASA's Explorer VI took the first video of the earth from space. There is video on You Tube but the files are too large to load on this blog.
Ex 6.jpg

1066 William the Conqueror left Normandy for Hastings on D for departure day.

1540 Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits swearing an oath of personal loyalty to the Pope. Hence known as the Pope's army.

1825 George Stephenson inaugurated the Stockton and Darlington Railway to haul coal from Newcastle.

1905 Albert Einstein published a paper that included the incantation.

1962 Rachel Carson published 'The Silent Spring.' She is pictured testifying before Congress in the days when facts and science were considered important in Washington D.C.
Carson r.jpg

Sometimes what does not happen is even more important than what does happen. Read to the end to see why.

1580 Francis Drake returned from three-year circumnavigation. And without GPS.
Drake route.jpg

1829 Scotland Yard founded to investigate crimes. The property had belonged to a Scot.
sctoland Yard.jpg

1913 Panama Canals locks began raising ships.

1960 First televised presidential debate in Chicago. Cool Jack versus intense Dick.
Jack and Dick.jpg

1983 Stanislav Petrov took time to think and then did not act. The bells rang, the buzzers buzzed, the lights flashed, the countdown voice droned minutes to impact, the computers calculated the death toll, and two hundred subordinates looked to Colonel Petrov to act. Details on Wikipedia.
Petrov s.jpg

Time to take your daily dose of history.

1513 Spaniard Vasco de Balboa saw the Pacific Ocean, having crossed Panama. The first European to see the vast Pacific. No relation to Rocky.

1926 Henry Ford introduced in his Michigan plant the forty-hour week with five days of eight hours of work. The arrangement was conditional on performance and completely at the company's discretion. Ford wanted the best workers. It took unions to extend the practice and legislate it.

1942 United States War Labor Board urged employers to offer equal pay for women for equal work in war industries. Mouthed in D.C. and ignored far and wide. No surprise to Rosie. Although why the Labor Board did so is a mystery. Was this Eleanor Roosevelt's influence. I'd like to think so.
Rosie rivetter.jpg

1996 Ireland's last Magdalene laundry closed. These establishments started to rehabilitate fallen women, became punishment sentences, and finally slave labor. Estimates say at least 10,000 women toiled in these sweat houses along with their girl children. They figure in some of Benjamin Black's Quirke novels, some of which are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

2005 In Northern Ireland, the IRA laid down its arms. Amen.

1529 Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent began the siege of Vienna.

1664 The Dutch surrendered Manhattan to the British.

1908 The first Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line.
Tin Lizzie.jpg

1959 Republican President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which held at Bastogne, to protect school children in Little Rock Arkansas from Bible thumping gorgons baying for blood. Little Rock school.jpg

1979 Compuserve offered online services to consumers.

1642 Harvard College graduated its first class. No witches. None there the semester I was there either.

1806 Meriwether Lewis and William Clarke returned after three years in the wilderness without GPS but with Sacagawea. Part of the trip was along the River Platte.

1846 Berlin Observatory observes Neptune, right where it was supposed to be. Famous for its storms now as shown below.

1884 Herman Hollerith patented a tabulating machine. The start of the pocket calculator.

1932 Saudi Arabia became Saudi Arabia. [Witticism needed.]
Saudi thug.jpg

Which one would you tell your nearest and dearest? Why that one?

1499 The German, Italian, French and Romansh Confederation Helvetia declared itself to be the nation of Switzerland, leaving the Holy Roman Empire.

1656 In Maryland an all woman jury heard the case of Judith Catchpole (no relation to Eric) on the charge of infanticide. Her defence was that she had never had a child. The jury concurred.

1735 British Prime Minister Robert Walpole moved into a house at 10 Downing Street.
10 Downing St.jpg

1862 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

1947 A Douglas C-54 flew the Atlantic on automatic pilot.

The usual rules apply.

1521 The mad monk published a New Testament, i.e., Martin Luther.
Luther text huge file.jpg

1792 Revolutionary France abolished its monarchy. Failed. Kings returned, twice over.

1893 Frank Duryea drove a gas-powered vehicle with an internal combustion engine. So do we still.

1937 'The Hobbitt' was published, and it is still in print.

1949 Mao declared the People's Republic of China to exist in a performative utterance.
Mao speaks.jpg

Choose one item to tell others. Which shall it be? Why that one?

1951 67% of Swiss voters reject women's suffrage. Those voters were all men.
Swiss Anti-Suffrage Poster.jpg If women vote, they will neglect their children. Tweet logic.

1954 FORTRAN runs on a computer for the first time. It is short for Formula Translation. Ugh, well do I remember using in grad school and not once since then. Whereas the French I preferred as served me far better.
Fortran card.jpg

1963 Lake Burly Griffin is completed after fifty years.
Lake BG.jpg

1979 Lee Iacocca became CEO of Chrysler and performed miracles. In retirement he became an advocate of bicycles.
Lee Iacocca.jpg

1990 The Germanies ratified unification.

The rule is choose one item only to tell others. Which shall it be? And why?

1870 Prussian siege of Paris began (ends January 1871). During the siege the Paris Commune occurred. Meanwhile, what's for dinner?

1893 New Zealand legislates for universal female suffrage. Kate Sheppard, suffrage leader.

1928 Mickey Mouse’s screen debut. Is the Mick still in business?

1955 Juan Perón deposed in coup d’état. Perón resisted the advice to fight back, having seen the devastation of the Spain after its civil war years ago; he accepted exile.

1991 Otzi the Iceman found after 5300 years. Late home from the store.

1634 Anne Hutchinson arrived at Massachusetts Bay - an important religious figure at odds with men, the Puritans. She was driven out of the Bay and welcomed in Rhode Island.

1846 The Brownings elope - poets two whose work passed my eyes on Saturday mornings in Poetry.

1850 Fugitive Slave Act passed in US - one of the festering sores of the Civil War.
Fugitive act.jpg

1851 First issue of New York (Daily) Times - still fit to print.
NYT One.jpg

1948 Margaret Chase Smith with 71% of the vote elected to Senate - the first woman so elected when Republicans still were human.
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Director Webb refers to her staunch and bipartisan committee efforts to get funding for the Apollo program.

Choose only one to tell others.

1683 Antoine van Leeuwenhoek peered down his telescope and saw bacteria. We are not alone!
Tony bugs.jpg

1787 The United States Constitution was ratified with the three-fifths clause and other compromises. Never been to Philadelphia.

1835 Charles Darwin arrived at the Galapagos Islands and sat down to think.
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1900 Queen Victoria assented to the Commonwealth of Australia Act - been there!
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1961 Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash. There is a review of a biography of the priest of peace elsewhere on this blog.

1620 Mayflower leaves Plymouth to find rock - Kate has been there

1810 Mexican rebel against Spanish rule - been to Mexico
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1908 William Durant incorporates General Motors - had Chevrolets

1956 First Television broadcast in Stralia - watched 9
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1975 PNG independence - nada
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1588 The Spanish Armanda lost - Thomas Hobbes was born.
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1917 Alexander Kerensky formed a Republican government in St Petersburg - saw him give a talk once.

1928 Alexander Fleming noticed penicillin - had plenty of it.

1935 The Nuremberg Laws were enacted in Nazi Germany - no comment

1981 Sandra Day O'Connor became a US Supreme Court judge

1741 George Frideric Handel completed 'The Messiah' - heard that

1812 Napoleon in Moscow's Kremlin - been there
Nap Mos.jpg

1939 Igor Sikorsky's first helicopter - never done that

1959 The Soviet Union landed Luna 2 on the Moon - nor this

2001 Ansett Airlines bankrupt - I became an unsecured creditor, i.e., I had a pile of Frequent Flyer points now worth nothing.

On this day in history, ignoring the International Dateline and all that relativity jazz.

122 AD work began on Hadrian’s Wall.
Hadrians wall.jpg

1759 The French lost North America on the Plains of Abraham - been there.

1814 Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner - been there
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1847 Chapultepec Castle fall ends Mexican-American War - seen there

1955 A Swiss patents what became known as Velcro
Velcro man.jpg
George de Mestral's experiences picking burrs off his dog led him to think up Velcro. Well that is one explanation. The other is that the Vulcans told him in return for rocket fuel.

From time to time some have said my handwriting was imperfect. Ha! To recognise perfection when seen is a lost art.

Below is documentary proof that I reached perfection in handwriting in an age when such things mattered.

Writing Palmer.jpeg

The Palmer Method, despite vigorous opposition from the forces of darkness, supplanted the evil Spencerian Method with its serifs, whorls, flourishes, circles, and crosses. Those forces rebounded with the Zaner-Bloser Method, note that it took the combined efforts of two, to displace noble Palmer. Their triumph did not last long, as that method fell before the onslaught of the D’Nealian Method. No doubt prevailing today is the Twit Method suitable for Tweets.

In short, all has been chaos since Palmer was displaced.

Arthur Palmer (1860-1927) stripped pen(wo)manship of meaningless whorls and flourishes in the name of efficiency, hence the adjective ‘Business.’ (Although what customer of Telecom, Telstra is the cover name now used, Optus, or NAB would ever think efficiency had anything to do with business?)

Judging by the date, this certificate must have been at the conclusion of elementary (my dear Watson) school when I left the halls of Longfellow PS. The rigours of the examination have been blotted out of my memory.

The Hastings (NE) School Board in its wisdom named the elementary schools within its remit after poets and novelists, e.g., (Nathaniel) Hawthorne, (Henry Wadsworth) Longfellow, and (Louisa Mae) Alcott. There is also Morton school named for a less well known writer, Thomas Morton. Think what schools would be named after today? Shootings? Drug addled football players? Yak show hosts?

‘Australian Financial Review’ of 28 July 2017.

Why is it that large projects continue to be undertaken and to repeat the same mistakes of all those which went before them, that is the question? Flyvbjerg explains the recurrent attraction of mega-projects along four intersecting and interacting vectors: they are technological challenges, they are politically attractive, they create a constituency of profiteers, and they are aesthetic.

Mega-projects by definition have not been done before and so engineers, designers, builders, technologists, find them stimulating, ready and willing to give it a try. Look at the sails of the Sydney Opera House, and remember they were made and fitted by hand, long before lasers.

Megaprojectsf cover.jpg

The political attraction is in the grand project that will define an administration, or even an era. Think of the those pyramids in Ghiza.

The profiteers are the facilitators, the bankers, consultants, fixers, the lobbyists, financiers, and all those others in the middle, who do not build anything but without whom nothing can be built. Then there are the builders themselves, the construction firms and their employees, and their insurers and suppliers. ‘Profiteers’ is my word, not his.

Finally, there is the aesthetic dimensions anticipated in the completed project by designers, artists, and users.

Despite all of this impetus many, many mega-project go awry. Before getting to that, a few definitions. A mega-project is big, over a one billion USA dollars. For examples, in addition to those passed by above, consider the Canadian Firearms Registry, the Big Dig in Boston, Channel Tunnel, Viaduc de Millau, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, North Sea Protection Works in the Netherlands, and that black airport in Montreal, Mirabel.

The most common failure of such projects is cost overruns, some of which are truly astonishing, like the Sydney Opera House that came in — sit down, Mortimer— 1,400% over budget in real terms.

The second most common failure is missing the target completion deadline and running on and on, and here I think of another example close to home, though it may not have hit the billion dollar price tag, the OPAL public transport card system, a three-year project that took fifteen years before the first tap. (OPAL users will get it.)

The third most common failure is to return the benefits asserted for the project. Investors lose a lot of other people's money in mega-projects, even in the private sector, e.g., the Chunnel. Every rider on EuroStar is still being subsided by the financiers who invested the pension funds they manage into that hole under the water while paying each other six-figure bonuses for their wit.

With these failures, other matters recede, but there are also failures regarding the environmental impact of mega-projects. Is it any wonder that the public is cynical about the projections and promises made?

The failures are so numerous and catastrophic that one wonders why we keep doing it. It certainly undermines confidence in the financial projections, the pace of construction, that management of labour, the environmental impact assessments, projected use and earnings, the alleged rate of return on investment, not solving the problem the project was supposed to solve, and more. The litany of such failures makes fascinating, if morbid reading.

Yet this reader wondered if that was the whole story. Impressive though the data in Flyvbjerg’s study is, much has been omitted. For a start the study concerns only failures, and not successes, and there is a long list of mega-projects on Wikipedia that seem to be successes, again including some close to home like the desalination plants in New South Wales and Victoria which proceeded so smoothly no journalist could make up a story about either of them. The unerring eye of hindsight on display in this account is like Barbara Tuchman’s successful but superficial ‘The March of Folly’ (1984).

What foresight distinguishes successful mega-projects from unsuccessful ones? No enlightenment comes from this account.

Flyvbjerg also omits one crucial constituency in his rather jaded four part explanation: The public. When commenting on the political attraction of mega-projects and the interest of the profiteers, Flyvbjerg’s explanation is cynical self-interest. That is why I used the work 'profiteers.' Hmm. Doubtless a factor, but generative or decisive?

What is the political benefit from the colossal failure? If failure is so likely, why take the risk? Maybe that caution explains the long delays with the Opal Card.

Those who stand to profit may also have more complex motivations about the challenges and competitive opportunities. Ready as I am to disparage others, preferably those about whom I know nothing, I reserve judgement on this.

There is a missing player in the epic of mega-projects and that is the general public. The mega-project can create, stimulate, and capture the public imagination which the media then reflects and amplifies. It would be a brave political leader, pension fund manager, or designer, to reject the public pressure that can be conjured for such projects. Another local example was the millennial Orange Grove project in Sydney that had a considerable popular following. A state government minister who rejected that development because of skepticism about the projections would have be crucified by the same journalists who lit the fires when the project fell.

The public is missing in another respect, as an opponent of some mega-projects. Surely one reason for the costs of the Big Dig in Boston was sustained and calculated strategic and tactical opposition of several publics. The bill for the litigation must have been enormous. Indeed public opposition has stymied many mega-projects, e.g., a third Sydney airport.

Bridge miss.jpg Bridge-building Italian style.

In this short newspaper reprint Flyvbjerg omits that recurrent five-ring circus of the Olympics which illustrate the popularity of mega-projects regardless of the cost over-runs. Olympic bids are wildly popular and hosting the Olympics is even more popular to all, but the die-hard spoilsports like me. One of the masterminds of the Sydney Olympics once privately said it was worth the money for the lift it gave to public awareness and pride.

Nor does this analysis include defence projects or military planning where there are many failures to be sure, but there have also been some spectacular success in projects the complexity of which dwarf even the largest mega-projects. Note that NASA did put astronauts on the moon and bring them back. These examples suggests plans and forecasts can work. Why sometimes and not others?

Defence projects are legendary for cost over-runs and that is as true in Australia as anywhere else. Those Collins Class submarines are an object lesson, and I hope PhD students are examining the details. In order to mobilise the public support to spend money on competitive submarines, the government had to insure that the boats were built in Australia and that the work was spread around the country, so that there was an informal coalition of parliamentarians and community groups who supported the project because of the money to be spent in their electorates. None of that is cost efficient in the short term, and probably not in the longer term. But it is political necessity. Ditto the financing has to be distributed to create support.

Collins_Sydney-hero.jpg A Collins class submarine in Sydney Harbour

At a formal dinner once I sat next to a Royal Australian Navy officer who was in submarines, and inevitably I asked him about the Collins submarines. He had a lot to say about how excellent they were, but when I asked him about the cost over-runs and missed completion dates, he said that it always happens. [Pause.]

If so, then why were not such costs and delays built into the original planning, just as the builder who did our kitchen had an allowance for extras in money and time to cover the unforeseen? If foreseen, then why not integrate an allowance for the unexpected into the process? That was my question. His line by the way was the official navy line at the time as subsequent research showed. ‘No big deal, it always happens.’ If so….!

Much of the four sublimes, as Flyvbjerg calls them, are generated, empowered, and enabled by the public appetite for such projects, and according to the fount, Wikipedia, many are in fact successful. That term ‘sublimes’ grates on this reader. It seems forced and uninformative.

No doubt in the full text of the studies Flyvbjerg has done of the massive data set he has complied with care and wit such niggles are resolved.

Bent Flyvbjerg.jpg Bent Flyvbjerg

While this article was in a newspaper this week, I read virtually the same text in 2014. Slow news takes on a new meaning.

For years Bent Flyvbjerg’s book ‘Rationality and Power‘ (1999) held pride of place on the syllabus. The abstract title came down the the ground with a thump in the study of the building of a bus terminal in Aalburg, Denmark.* What a story! What a story-teller! Altogether it was what social science should be but seldom is, wise, contextualized, plain spoken, dispassionate, located within major intellectual currents, and modest. This study also shows the public enthusiasm for such projects and the distortion of the original project necessary to achieve a coalition to realise it. By the time all of the interests which wanted a piece of the project got it, it was distorted beyond recognition.

That was democracy at work, not dastardly financiers, unscrupulous politicians, air headed aesthetes, or pastry faced tech heads.

*Many travelling students sent me pictures of the bus terminal at the heart of this study, for which much thanks.

It was a day like any other. The dog demanded a walk and food, and more of each. Coffee was worshipped.

Then I went to unload the dryer from last night’s washing. No sun for several days had led to a laundry crisis.

As I unloaded the dryer I came across two pairs of Lightfoot work socks as pictured.


Puzzling, but as this load of washing included the cleaning rags that Paola uses, I connected the socks to the rags and the rags to her. Elementary. Somehow her socks had got mixed up with the rags. Perhaps they fell out of a bag she brought, and she did not notice when scooping the lot up. Who knows.

Mystery solved, I made a mental note to return the socks to her and to ask how they came to be there.

Ah huh. I left the socks among the cleaning materials and thought nothing more about the matter until her next scheduled appearance. Dutifully, she appeared and then said, ‘What are these socks doing here!’

She disclaimed the socks in no uncertain terms. ‘Not mine.’ I explained how I had come across them. ‘Not mine.’ she reiterated. “It is a good brand,’ I said. ‘Not mine,’ she repeated, slowly so I would get it.

I now have two additional pairs of socks. Not the sort I would have chosen for myself, but sturdy and comfortable.

Is this the washing machine compensating me for all the odd socks lost in the wash these many years?

I clocked up one hundred, that is, 1 0 0, visits to the Newtown Gym on my last annual membership. That has been a goal for years, but in the last five years I have only managed ninety plus visits on a membership. The Newtown Gym is upstairs over Civic Video and the ANZ Bank on King Street next to the old Post Office.


My annual membership pays for itself after fifty visits. Were I to pay the per visit fee on each session, at fifty the cost would equal an annual membership. Get it? In that sense all trips to the Gym after fifty are free. During the working years fifty was the goal.

Gym logo.png

The routine is to rise at 7:00 a.m. and we walk the dog around the Camperdown Park while drinking the coffee we get from Russell at the Varga Bar on the way to the Park.

varga bar.jpg The blurs are us moving along!

Katie continues on home to the white orb - Majic’s bowl - to satisfy the inner puppy, while I peel off for the Newtown Gym two - four times a week. Après le Gym I return home for ablutions and eats. Doing it this way integrates the Gym into the day and gets it done. What doing it this way requires, is a conscious decision to dress for the Gym when we leave home. Morning appointments, mean I cannot go everyday. Phew!

Dr King.jpg The mural is visible from the weight room and the Upper Torso Trainers.

Dressing for the Gym? In addition to the sweat pants and shirt, which sometimes do get sweaty, it means taking along a water bottle and some amusement, either a book (or Kindle) and the iPhone.

I do some stretches in the continuing effort to reduce infernal leg cramps to which I am liable and shift some medals to see if they are still heavy. They are.

I avoid Saturday mornings, leaving these to the taxlings who crowd the Newtown Gym. Sunday mornings are very quiet as they recover from Saturday night. It is the noise as much as the crowd on Saturday morning. The classes are conducted to noise, er, music, that is ear-splitting. Are all gym class instructors in the pay of hearing-aid manufacturers? They are certainly going to make themselves deaf, if no one else. The blast from this noise blankets the exercise bicycles in an auditory miasma that I avoid. Some of it even seeps into the weight room.

Being at the clichéd edge, I use a gym app to keep on track and keep motivated.

Gym book-0.jpeg The day book. I used to get through four or five of these a year, now it is one or two.

Gym book-1.jpeg The gym app

This gym app has proven more reliable and durable than the Jaw Bone Up I had or the Garmin I now wear as a watch.

In between bursts of high intensity training on the bicycles (upright and low by turns) or the Upper Torso Trainers, I listen to podcasts. The best companion is ‘In Our Time’ from BBC4 hosted by Lord Bragg. He is a consummate seminar leader, and each week he leads three experts through forty-five minute discussion on this or that pitched at a general audience. This is intellectual candy of a high order. The topics are many and varied from archeology, physics, life sciences, history, literature, and more. He does one a week for about thirty times in a year. A considerable backlog of podcasts is now available on the BBC4 web site and I have been selectively going through them.

Somehow he manages to get the experts to slow down, spell it out, cut the armour-plated qualifications, eliminate the incomprehensible technical details upon which their careers were made, and talk on a level that an interested auditor can follow, whether the subject is imaginary numbers, Etruscan pottery, the human gut, Byron’s ‘Childe Harold's Pilgramage,’ stellar spectroscopy, or water molecules.

In Our Time.jpg

When his Lordship is not available, I turn to the daily ‘Writer’s Almanac’ with Garrison Keillor. More than once I have followed up one of Keillor’ s passing references, this podcast is short, to read John Hassler’s wonderful novels or to be stimulated anew by Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

writers almanac.jpg

And there is always ‘Lake Wobegon Days’ out there on the edge of the Prairies.

For those who must know everything, on days when I do not go to the Newtown Gym, I lift some hand weights on the balcony of the Ack-comedy and do some leg stretches there, watching the world go by, or watching the traffic jam back-up on Erskineville Road. There are some days when I do neither the Gym nor balcony routine.

Close readers, are there any other kind, will notice that is ‘annual membership’ and not a year of which I write. The membership is suspended when I travel. Last year that probably amounted to five weeks. Ergo the one hundred visits occurred over a period of fifty-seven weeks, not fifty-two. Surely that makes someone feel better.

Varidesk has landed. Varidesk is in use! Varidesk?

In 1979 I read Scott Berg’s biography of 'Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius' (1978). On Perkins’s genius more at the end along with some other explanations of abbreviations and unusual terms used below.

berg cover.jpg

Perkins worked standing up.

perkins.jpg Max Perkins

When he joined Scribner’s one of the conditions he stipulated in his contract (I am trusting my memory on this, so check away) was that a standing desk be built into his office by the company. He may have used one earlier either as a journalist or accountant; this I cannot remember.

The standing desk was common in the 19th Century. Scrooge did not provide a chair for Bob Cratchit.

crachit desk.gif

Aware of standing desks, over the years I have seen a few. When personal computers were mounted on stands, as they were in the 1990s in the DOS days, I arranged the first one I got so that I stood at it for a few days but the stand just did not accommodate that and I gave up; the mature thing to do in that case. Of late I have tried standing at my desk and tilting the iMac screen up, and that works but my arms just are not long enough to do more than poke the keyboard or jiggle the mouse, which is enough when watching the TF2 News but nothing else.

From time to time I have read about standing desks as an antidote for we screen lumps who sit in front of a computer for hours and hours a day. I recognise myself in that characterisation. I have tried other remedies for the sedentary day. For years I put the landline telephone on a book shelf some feet from my chair so I had to get up to use it and stand while doing so. Good as far as it went. Now I have no landline and the iPhone never goes cold. I dare not put it somewhere because there it would remain until it rang. That is, I would forget it when it out of sight and go out without it. How then to ferret out crossword puzzle answers or reply when High Command calls?

Once I had classes to go to several times a week and (too) many committee meetings to attend. These got me up, and I always stood in classes for an hour or three at a time. The committee meetings were often in the quadrangle, a short hike away. The best part of these meetings was the walk there, but walking back was not so good since I often replayed the nonsense in my mind as I did so. I heard some of the most astoundingly bad arguments in some of the meetings. Really, the excuses students made for late work were better. But I digress…and find it quite enjoyable. I also had to go to the library a lot more than I do now though I still go.

These days there are no classes and committees and few library visits to stir me. I had thought to trek each day to a nearby delicatessen for lunch but that did not take. I had thought to go to one of the innumerable nearby coffees shops for an afternoon brew everyday, but… well, I don’t very often. When I have a visitor the yes but that is once a week at most. Sedentary. That is the word.

The health Nazis have again been extolling standing desks I noticed. A few journalist have tried one out and squeezed a feature piece out of it in one of the local rags. None of these accounts cover more than a week of using one and so hardly convincing, albeit a week is an eternity in a journalist’s attention span.

Most of the examples of standing desks are just that. A special purpose desk at which one stands, at which one can only stand. There is no sit option. It is all or nothing. Toss out my desk (and it is a special one, not from IKEA) and get a standing desk. If it does not work out, recover the desk. Huh? How would any of that work. Not well is the short answer. Yes, I know I could also pitch out my desk chair and get a stool to perch on, but perching is not sitting.

(Aside, RyanAir tried to get approval in the United Kingdom for flying passengers standing up and strapped to seat backs. That failed but I am sure it will come again, like Mitt Romney [just wait and see, remember cockroaches can survive for months on their backs]. If you think I am clever enough to have made that up, well thank you for the flattery, but if you look hard enough on the web confirmation will be found.)

Then along came Varidesk. [Sound of trumpets!]

One of the periodic surveys of the ills of sitting and the virtues of standing came along. There among the treadmill desks where the user powers the cell phone charger pacing along while typing away up top included the Varidesk. It combines a standing option with a sitting option. That got my attention.

(Best leave the treadmill desk in silence.)


I had a look at the web site, more than once, and now that clever user specific software is putting Varidesk advertisements all over the Safari screen, and Facebook, too. That advertising annoyed me but I am big enough to cope with annoyance, hardened by the experience of all those committees mentioned above. I measured. I posted questions on the Varidesk website which were quickly and effectively answered. I pondered some more. I discussed it with the Great One. I went around in Libra circles. That was in 2014. I delayed over Christmas and New Year.

Then I resolved that in 2015 I would get one and use it. My thinking being that the flexibility it offered of converting from standing to sitting and back meant I did not have to stand all day everyday. If I used it standing an hour a day, and yes I will time it for external discipline, I would be doing myself some good.

Come the new year I found a few reasons to put it off, but then in a mad moment I placed the order on the website, and bang! A New Years’ resolution fulfilled! Within a couple of hours a notice hit the email inbox to say it was on the way from a warehouse in Brisbane. I ordered a big one to accommodate the two monitors I use, figuring that half measures would be an excuse not to stand at all I closed that option. What I ordered was a brute of 48 inches in length and 50+ pounds in weight. (Unimetricians will have to convert that for themselves; I cannot be bothered now because I am in the narrative flow.) Then I got an email from the courier company saying it was en route. All good. Two monitors? One for the chapter text and the other for the references in EndNote (or sometime as a cricket match).

Here is the master plan. I ordered it to be delivered to the private office I use around the corner on the grounds that the courier would carry the brute up the one flight of 15 stairs plus the five at the front door. That was not something I wanted to do. It is easier to get things delivered to home since there is more often someone there at the times couriers arrive (often 7 am). When I ordered it for the office I filled out the box for special instructions, asking for a call ahead because if I am not in the office I am usually only a few minutes away [home, gym, park, coffee shop], but experience told me no one pays any attention to those boxes, which are there to comply with ISO9000 certification, not to be used. Still do what you can do.

Then, one day upon arrival at the office I found the courier’s card. I had missed him by 15 minutes. Blast it! I had assumed that the road trip from Brisbane would take another day and had made no special effort to be at the office early on that day.

I went to the courier’s website and rescheduled for a day I was sure to could stay in office all day. Fine. Expectations built. Then the day before the appointed day I got an email telling me it would be delivered that day! Crikey! I re-arranged some tasks to be sure that I could sit there in expectation….until 6 pm before giving up and going home. Nothing. Now what? Though there was no card had I somehow missed it again? I checked the website again and found a plethora of largely incomprehensible tracking information that left me none the wiser about what, if anything, had happened that day.

The next day about mid-morning I got another email saying it would be delivered that day by 5 pm. That sound very definite and I took root in the office with the balcony doors on the street wide open. Every time I heard a diesel engine throb I bolted to the balcony to espy the delivery truck. A surprisingly large number of diesel trucks traverse Erskineville Road and the tailback of traffic puts them within my earshot. Up and down I went. Not sedentary that day, I can tell you! Whereas on most office days I get 5000 steps that day I got 8000. (Yes, I measure my sedentariness with a step counter. Ever since I did a term paper on the Cartesian method in graduate school I have been a busy little measurer.) Up and down and at 4 pm nothing. It was Friday and Monday would be the next time it might come. Up and down I went.

Then [just when all seemed lost] …I heard another diesel in idle, much horn honking and I looked onto the street and saw a five ton truck double parked, not quite blocking traffic but passing it was challenge for eye-hand coordination with inches to spare. The truck bore no logo. There was a driver in an orange visibility vest walking around the truck and along the street looking for numbers. No GPS? I yelled at him. I yelled again. He looked up and we communicated over the street noise as peak hour traffic increased. He was the Varidesk fairy come to deliver. He wanted to drop it at the door but I played hard to get and told him I could buzz him in but could not leave the room. A lie. I wanted him to lug the brute upstairs and when I saw it come out of the truck I knew I was right. Some drivers might have resisted but this one did not, and in time he came along, after shanghaiing a passer-by to help him carry it upstairs. I signed his chit, gave him a drink of cold water (it was a hot day), and $10 for his trouble. Off he went.

I surveyed the massive box.


If the Varidesk within is four feet, the box was five feet long. Maybe a little more. It was by now the witching hour and I did not want to start unpacking it, so I left it and when home to report. ‘Brute?’ The box says 38.5 kilograms. That is over the standard airline limit for a heavy bag of 70 lbs.

The next day, Saturday, I dragged the beast near the desk, unpacked, and arrayed it. I managed to lift it onto the desk by using steps and lifting one end at a time. The steps were a foot stool and then a chair. And a lot sooner than I expected I had it in place and the computer back at work. I shifted the computer gear onto the book shelf behind the desk and then slid it onto the Varidesk. I did not have to turn anything off.

Unpacking it was a task. It was well cushioned by many specially designed pieces of double ribbed cardboard. Once all the packing was removed, I eased it out. I have kept the packaging. When I asked on the website if there was someplace where I could see a Varidesk in action I was told to keep the packaging and send it back if I did not like it because there is no display model in Sydney, or anywhere else. That is the business plan. The testimonials I had read on the Varidesk website were good and more varied and substantial than the journalistic accounts but all them referred to a month’s use and no more. That seemed too short to convince me, a honeymoon not a marriage.

I got it in place. I have moved it up and I have moved it down. Several times.

in place-2.JPG

I typed this standing to this point and I have now shifted to sitting. When it is elevated there are several different locked levels and I am testing them to find the one that works best for me. I will also have to get used to carefully bending down to open desk drawers so as not to clonk my head on straightening up. The same drill that is needed with the rear hatch of the Mazda.

IMG_1111.JPG See!

I will use my red owl egg timer to track my use. Did I say that already?

Owl timer.jpg

There is also a companion app on the Varidesk website to time sitting and standing and I will explore that and report another time.

Bledders can expect further reports on Varidesk. Stay tuned.

The experience with the courier could have been worse. One courier company I have experienced drops the card without ringing the bell and dumps all deliveries at the nearest depot. Doing it this way means the courier moves faster and basically makes only one stop per depot zone. It thus offers a cheaper price for this lack of service. It also means I have to lug home the object of my desire from the depot, and sometimes that is quite a load. In this case impossible, doubly so because the local depot, a newsagent on King Street, is nearly inaccessible by car. It is no one’s job at the depot to help a punter get the goods into the car. That is very clear. To see the pile of boxes in the Aladdin’s cave at the depot is to understand, partly, why. There would be no end to it.

Explanatory Notes.

Perkins was the Scribner’s editor who discovered and brought to publication novels by William Faulkner, Scott Fitzgerald, and Tom Wolfe. Readers owe him lot. None of these three was easy to work with or to convince Scribners' board to accept. Faulkner’s little world of Yoknapatawpha County did not light up New York City’s masters of culture. Fitzgerald never hit a deadline no matter how many times it had been extended and advances ran through his fingers as though he were one the rich characters in his novels. Worst of all was Wolfe whose prose poured like Niagara Falls, 900,000 words at a time to be cut into a novel a quarter that size by Perkins.

DOS is Disc Operating System that spun the disc and blinked a green light long before Windows.

'Unimetricians' are those who know only the metric system. Me, I am bimetric and can do inches or centimetres, pounds or kilogram.

TF2 is the Télévision Francaise 2, or just France 2. I record the evening news from SBS and watch it as my French lesson three or four times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. It runs on SBS without subtitles.

Thomas Wolfe was a big man, nearly as big as his books. He was 6’ 9” and wrote on a standing desk of his own, an ice box. I have seen pictures of his composing in long hand on the refrigerator top and flicking the pages into a crate. He would do this for 36 hours at a time and then fall to the kitchen floor and sleep on a pillow he left there for that purpose. This crate might run to several thousand pages which would go to Perkins for typing and editing! Out of this maelstrom came ‘Look Homeward, Angel,’ ‘Of Time and the River,’ ‘Web and the Rock,’ and ‘You can't go home again.’ Each runs to 500 pages after the Perkins fine tooth comb.

Avid bleaders know that I collected, sorted, described, and analyzed one year’s worth of junk mail in the letter box at the Ack-comedy in Newtown.

The totals were impressive and depressing, the more so when multiplied by the number of postal addresses in Newtown. Several tons of unread material each month.

Now that I knew the world, I set about changing it. (An echo of one of Karl Marx’s more declamatory remarks.)

Junk Mail slot.jpg

I had thought to stem the tide of junk mail in my own letterbox and then promote that method to others in the name of the Junk Mail Liberation Movement, of JuM_LiM, as I styled it. Some organization, effort, and persistence would pay off, I thought. Hope makes fools of us all. (Hark, that is Aristotle at a far remove.)

In the action phase, I started to keep a register of every item of junk mail in my letter box, sending it back to its origin with a letter, email, or note asking that no future items be delivered to my box number.... I did not expect it to be easy but I am made of stern stuff, after all I sat through StarTrek Into the Darkness. After that experience, anything seems easy.

I registered the first fifty items I received over a two-month period. A direct approach with a personal request, phrased ever so politely, would get attention, and lead to action. Well, that is what I thought. Hope, it deceives all.

Indeed I had feedback from one of the first I contacted that was contrite and apologetic. Ah ha, thought I, this is the right track. That was a King Street estate agent.

Not to be. Within a week I got another junk drop from that very same estate agent. There are many agents in the office and though one was contrite the others happy trespassed on my letter box to dump their junk.

In another case, since the junk drops were every two weeks, I sent three letters to one local restaurant asking to be excluded from the junk drops. To no avail. They just kept coming.

I sometimes used the Contact Us feature on web sites, or direct email. In other cases I found a postal address, either on the company web site or in the online telephone book, and sent a letter. Some web sites had no address, no email, and no Contact Us, but only a phone number and I drew the line there. No telephone calls. Nor would I go to the local restaurant (ever again) and demand exclusion. The exercise is not about confrontation, but rather to try to find a user-friendly way to diminish the tiresome tide of junk dumped in the letter box.

I also searched the web for ideas. Australia Post, amid denials that it ever delivers junk mail, suggests a No Junk Mail sticker. Tried that. For the Hair Splitters I added a No Unaddressed Advertising Material sticker. I also studied the Australian Catalogue Association web site. Its advice was focussed on addressed catalogues, as was the Australia Post web site. This advice is repeated on many other green web sites, as if it does any good, such is the paucity of creative thinking. Addressed catalogues are not the problem.

There are many web site offering a variety of No Junk Mail stickers but none that evaluate the effect of this stickers. I have it is only slightly greater than 0, but not much. Harvey Norman and Mitre Ten junk mail walkers respect my sign but not any others.

junk mailman.gif

The problem is individual flyers from all manner of small businesses. The problem is not catalogues from major retailers, at least not any more.

But I did notice when I looked further afield that in both Britain and the United States there are more resources to a householder in the resistance to junk mail. The letter box is, after all, private property, and throwing one’s trash into it is a trespass. That conclusion has been reached in some jurisdictions in Great Britain. The United States Postal Service has also been vigorous in preventing interference with the mails, e.g., letter boxes stuffed with junk so that the mail cannot be inserted. All of that is better than nothing, but it does not seem to have much effect in either country.

Indeed I have seen that the cataloguers from major retailers in Australia argue that their catalogues are read by recipients (usually based on survey of shareholders’ households, always inspect the data). Be that as it may, the major retailers in my case do respect the No Junk Mail stickers. It is the local, minor retailers who do not.

In that debate I noticed that the industry association for producing the paper that the junk mail is on, also has lobbied against any legislation that would diminish the amount of junk mail in Australia. Think about that. It’s jobs...first to make the paper and then to dispose of it. Largely unproductive and more than a little destructive work, but work all the same. In the same vein I found a few angry diatribes from individuals who claim to derive a livelihood as a junk mail walker defending their right to dump trash in my letter box, and denouncing any complaint as a threat to their livelihood.

No doubt some hardworking Germans said the same about gas chambers.

What I was looking for was some way to report the offenders, if for no other purpose than social awareness. I found no recourse available in Sydney, in New South Wales, or in Australia.

In the end, a few weeks ago I gave up this round of my war on junk mail and scrapped the register I was keeping in a spreadsheet. This is a truce, not a peace. It is round two with the prospect of a round three reserved.

A bleader is a reader of a blog.
The Ack-comedy is my private office in Newtown.

A blizzard of juvenile advertisements penetrates the blog every day, between 20 and 40 a day. It is an unwelcome task to delete them. So I have barred comments for the time being to avoid this trouble. Though I welcome comments, I do not welcome spam in any form. The ratio of spam to comment must be 1000 to 1, so I decided to stop comments.

There is a video on You Tube that summarizes the Best and Brightest Showcase for IVth Honours Research. The address is below. Cut-and-paste into the browser address line, and have a look.


I also loaded it directly onto Facebook.

Hyperlinking does not work on this platform.

I groused about the junk mail filling up the letter box at Ack-comedy so much that I decided to do something about it. I put one sticker on the mail box banning junk mail and when that seemed to do no good, I added a second larger one that appealed to the Green conscience.


The second sticker did not seem to have any effect either, though there is one honourable exception mentioned at the end.

In the absence of riding shot gun on the letter box, I decided to compile a year’s worth of junk mail from ANZAC day 2012 to ANZAC day 2013. Bear in mind that the building alone has 42 letter boxes so everything I received is a fraction of the total in this building let alone the surrounding streets. Since we live around the corner I dealt with a repeat of the same items at home where they went directly from the letter box to the council recycling bin, usually without going in the front door.

But to return to the description, here is what I found. The pile measures 10 centimeters in height.


It contained 241 separate pieces and weighed 1.935 kilograms. A propos of the context, multiply that number of 241 by 42 and conclude that 10,122 items of junk mail were delivered to 1 Linthorpe Street or 84 kilograms of dead weight.

The items fell into a few categories. Real estate; restaurants, food, and drink; government and politics; and miscellaneous. To review each in turn, real estate contributed 52 pieces of which I could reuse 3 in my personal recycling effort, that is, print on the blank back side. They varied from handsome cards to 256-colour brochures and flyers. I responded to none of them. The effort and cost of design, printing, and distribution was wasted in its entirety as is the effort of recipients in disposing of it, the council in paying for it to be collected and trucked to a recycling centre....

The restaurants ran to 70 items. Many were from pizza places usually emphasizing delivery. None came from the restaurants we frequent on King Street, I am happy to say. I am unhappy to say that 24 pieces, more than a third of restaurant items and a tenth of the total of all items came from a single noodle bar on King Street. With dogged persistence these 24 items were each very plain and all identical. No colour, no flair, but repetition and more repetition. I have sworn never to eat there and to tell others not to do so either. It seems to be my only form of reciprocity. Yes, I thought about going it and asking to be excluded but apart from cementing my reputation as a nutter, I could not imagine that accomplishing anything.

I thought about inserting some photographs of offending items but decided against it as that would only give them more exposure.

Another stack was a newsprint item call the Inner City Weekender. Never having opened one, I have no idea of its contents, but I suspect much advertising for real estate and restaurants.

Then there is the government and politics pile, numbering 33. This pile included many notices about works on the roads and nearby rail line. Others were notices from the City Sydney Council about waste removal and recycling. Then there were others that were, let us say, community building notices, inevitably featuring local councilors or the Mayor. I will accept these as necessary. I was able to recycle 6 of the items for printing.

During this period there was one local election for the City of Sydney. A dozen or so items were letter drops by office-seekers, known as rent-seekers in economics.

Finally, we come to miscellaneous of 85 items. Most of these came from small businesses offering services from carpentry, to foot reflexology, house cleaning, dog walking, and the like. These are all very small businesses.

There was also a drop from a retirement home in distant Lane Cove, and however distant Lane Cove is in kilometers, in ambience it is an alien world compared to Newtown. There was also a drop from one giant corporation, Telecom. Yes, I know that in order to distance itself from its own incompetent past it changed its name to Telstra, to usher in a new era of incompetence. But under the make-up it is Telecom unalloyed.

A quick look at Google is depressing. There are online ads, several, to recruit junk mail walkers all over Sydney. And an even more depressing is a news item that claimed junk mail did work. I suppose one hit in a thousand pays for it.

Technical matter for nerds.

The Ack-comedy is the private office I use in a nearby apartment building.

Junk mail is material in the letter box that is not addressed by name. See the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising_mail

I excluded post addressed to previous occupants, which I dutifully mark Unknown at this Address and Return to Sender and drop in the slot at the Newtown Post Office. [I have printed Avery labels to affix to such returned mail.] I also excluded mail addressed to me, though there is little of that these days.

I have excluded from this account the largest single item. The Inner West Courier which is dropped on the mail boxes porch, a pile of 30 or so wrapped in plastic. It remains there four or five days until the building attendant dumps them in the trash. Maybe I should borrow one such pile for a weigh in and count. Since it is never in my letter box I left it out for the moment.

Nor did I emphasize the mess these unwanted items lead to on the porch. Though there is a disposal basket left there for such detritus some dwellers cannot seem to hit it, so many items are on the floor, left there for others to pick up. Maybe I should photograph that, too.

One honourable exception: The Mitre 10 drops are occasionally to be seen hanging out of other boxes but not from mine after the second sticker. Clearly the dropper takes note of the signs and excludes some. Thank you Mitre 10. There may be others who also exercised a like discretion but I did not detect them. The Mitre 10 examples shows that the others could do so, as well. Thus they act knowingly and culpably.


I recently published a piece titled 'Approaches to Learning and Teaching: Some Observations,' in Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis, Volume 33 (2012), pp: 65-71.


To have a look: select, copy, and past the link below into a browser, and click enter.


The tools for underlining and hyperlinking remain off-line.


Those good old days! Before Dawkins. (Don't know what a Dawkins is? Hit google for "John Dawkins.")


We are taking another winter vacation in Waikiki.


Over the next weeks I will post my own exit poll on my four decades at the University of Sydney.


"Are you a reader?"
Should one admit to being a reader? That is the question.

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I keep going on about the dangers of passion.

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I offered my arguments for plod over passion awhile back. Bleader, if you missed it do not pass Go until you have. It is on 12 August 2008. Click here http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/theoryandpractice/2008/08/professionalism_over_passion_a.html


The attached file is the text of a talk I gave on teaching a time ago. It is based in part of research into learning in higher education, but of course reflects my own experience.
Click on it and have a look.

Download file

Click on the icon below to see a message of greetings to students enrolled in GOVT3993 in 2009.


Plod makes the world go around, not the boring declaration of passion.

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That means goodbye.


Culture good, but so is commerce.


The cry of every commuter.


Who does subtitles for a 175 minutes film and then throws them away?

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Utopian communities are efforts to put theory into practice.

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Who can resist the obvious. We are all celebrities.

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I am desperately seeking Deutschlandspiel .

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I got this unbidden email a few days ago. At first I thought it had something to with this blog, though I found that unlikely.


Utopia in theory and practice. It's all in the black.

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If the celebrities are leaders, who are their followers? And why?

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Journalists have long since given up reporting facts and letting viewers and readers draw their own conclusions.

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Download file


In October and November, when my duties as Acting Director for the Institute for Teaching and Learning at an end, I took two weeks of annual leave, and another week to conference leave. For the first two weeks it was family affair in Waikiki. Ahh…
Then I went on to – wait for it – Ottawa for a conference. Quite a change in climate. Along the way I stopped to visit still other family in Hastings.

I am still learning about picture sizes, links, and the like. So this entry is pretty uneven.

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A record of my visit to Nagoya University and Tokyo in September 2006. Some business and some sight seeing. All in all we found Tokyo and Nagoya very accessible. Arigato!

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How can a university that thinks of itself primarily as a research university (in say selecting, tenuring, and promoting academic staff) ensure good quality teaching? Students and taxpayers think a university exists mainly to teach students, but few members of a research university think that. Indeed some think that teaching is at the expense of research. What can be done to keep a balance between the two?

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What’s the story on literal translations?

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Edwina asked about refereeing, Tash about popular press, and Lilian about links to classics.


I travelled for three weeks, mainly to attend two conferences (in Utrecht and in Coventry) to represent the University. While travelling I alsol did some library research.

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Below is a link to my publication list. Gradually I am adding links to electronic sources.

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Thoughts on the canon of poltical theory and life.

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